by Kimberly Allen, RN
Menopause is the natural end to the reproductive years of every woman and many women are looking for natural remedies for the uncomfortable symptoms that accompany the change in their bodies. In the past hormone replacement therapy or HRT has been the standard treatment. However, in recent years researchers have discovered that the use of the synthetic estrogen and progesterone used in traditional HRT increases a woman’s risk for developing other diseases like breast cancer and heart disease. This is probably the number one reason women as well as health care providers are actively seeking more natural alternative treatments to relieve the symptoms associated with menopause.
One of the most important tools you can use to help you manage your menopausal symptoms is your diet. There are certain foods that you should avoid like large quantities of caffeine and carbonated beverages which can increase bone loss. Its also important to limit the amount of commercially raised meats as they are corn fed so they contain significant levels of saturated fats which reduces the body’s ability to metabolize estrogen. It’s also important to limit your sugar consumption as increased sugar intake can impair the immune system as well as the livers ability to metabolize estrogen. Start increasing your daily consumption of foods that are high in phytoestrogens which have plant based estrogen known as isoflavones like soy and certain seeds like flax and sesame seeds. Do not consume foods with GMO soy, use only organic soy. It’s also important to eat more whole grains like wheat, oats and brown rice as well as more fresh fruits and vegetables. Nuts like almonds and cashews also contain phytoestrogens. A recent study published by the Journal of British Menopause Society reports that controlled studies with red clover supplements, which are isoflavones, showed significant improvement in the rate of bone loss, as erll as improvement in cardiovascular health. It also showed that red clover supplements reduced the number of “hot flashes” as well as significantly reduced the number and severity of night sweats.
There are also several popular herbal remedies that have been reported to relieve the symptoms of menopause like Agnus Castus which is also known as chasteberry extract. It is used to help regulate the hormone fluctuations associated with menopause. However, it is only effective if you are not already taking hormone replacement therapy. Black cohosh or bugbane is another phytoestrogen that is a woodland perennial member of the butter cup family. As with other phytoestrogens it is reported to reduce many symptoms of menopause like mood swings and depression as well as the “hot flashes” and vaginal dryness. There are also several other herbs that have been recommended for relief of menopausal symptoms including ginseng and evening primrose oil.
There are also certain vitamins and mineral supplements that can help reduce the symptoms that accompany menopause. Vitamin E can help reduce the “hot flashes” and night sweats while vitamin C helps to reduce the capillary fragility and help with the absorption of vitamin E. Calcium helps to prevent osteoporosis, however, many experts say the best calcium is not the most common, calcium carbonate, but microcrystalline calcium hydroxapatite calcium (MCHC), or calcium citrate as the calcium carbonate is not always fully absorbed. It is also important to include magnesium to assist with the absorption of calcium.
It’s important to remember just because the label says “natural” doesn’t mean it’s safe. There are numerous products out there with additives etc that may not be as “natural” as the label implies. In the past “natural” products have not had to meet the same strict regulations as pharmaceutical drugs. However, recently regulatory authorities developed a system that assesses the dosage and quality of the supplement as well as labeling information, does the label provide appropriate information like side effects and drug interactions. The system is called Traditional Herbal Medicine Scheme (THR). All products that have the THR logo on their packaging or label have been approved by this system. Only products that are of high quality have the THR logo on their label.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.