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Many women reject the risks associated with hormone replacement therapy to treat their menopause symptoms and instead seek relief from alternative sources. As menopausal women face fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone, they will likely experience symptoms including hot flashes, insomnia, depression, breast pain, and mood swings.
Luckily, there’s an array of natural remedies available to help you cope. Just make sure to speak with your doctor before you begin taking any supplements or herbs.
Black cohosh is among the most popular and longest-studied natural hot flash remedies for women who don’t want to turn to hormone replacement or antidepressants to treat their menopause symptoms.
Black cohosh is derived from a plant in the buttercup family, and it has been used for centuries. You can take black cohosh in many forms: capsules, tablets, or mixed with water.
It is thought to behave similarly to serotonin in the brain. This behavior includes easing feelings of depression and regulating body temperature. Despite this, according to the National Center on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), research to date remains mixed. Overall, the effectiveness of black cohosh as a reliable menopause treatment remains to be demonstrated.
Vitamin D is an essential building block for a healthy body. It promotes healthy bone renewal, normal cell growth, and hormone balance, which are all important for menopausal women. Vitamin D is often referred to as the sunshine vitamin, as your body produces it in response to sun exposure.
As women age, their ability to absorb vitamin D decreases, heightening their risk of bone density loss. This makes the need to incorporate vitamin D into their diets that much more critical.
To get your recommended daily dose of 600 international units (IU), step outside for a 15- to 20-minute walk. Be sure to wear sunscreen and a hat to protect your skin. If it’s rainy or you can’t get outside, take the sunshine vitamin in capsule form.
It’s also important to pile your plate high with foods containing high vitamin D content. Such foods include sardines, tuna, wild salmon, fortified dairy products, and eggs.
Many women find relief from their menopause symptoms through acupuncture. Skeptics argue that acupuncture benefits are purely the result of the placebo effect, but doctors confirm that acupuncture is a reasonable alternative to hormone therapy for women suffering from menopausal depression and hot flashes.
Many insurance plans cover acupuncture, among other alternative treatments. Check your coverage before you make an appointment.
It’s time to jump on the mindfulness wagon if you haven’t already. Mindful deep breathing such as that practiced during yoga and meditation has a proven calming effect on the mind and can ease menopausal anxiety and hot flashes.
As soon as you feel a hot flash coming on, prepare. Begin by inhaling through your nose to the count of four. Hold your breath for seven counts. Then, exhale completely through your mouth to a count of eight. This is one breath. Try to complete this cycle two more times.
Among the most popular herbs used in the United States, St. John’s wort has long been an alternative treatment for menopausal mood swings, improved sleep, relaxation, and reduced depression and anxiety. Derived from a wild flowering plant called Hypericum perforatum, the leaves and flowers are harvested and dried. They can then be brewed in a tea or taken in a pill or liquid form. Make sure to ask your doctor before you begin taking St. John’s wort, as it might interact with other medications. Scientific studies affirm that while St. John’s wort is effective for treating mild depression, it works no better than a placebo for treating severe depression.
Ginseng is an herb used for its therapeutic health benefits for as many as 5,000 years by the Chinese, Koreans, and Native Americans. It may be used to treat menopausal symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, and stress because it’s considered a "normalizer" and an "energizer." You can take ginseng in different forms including tea, powder, and extract.
Continual evidence supports the notion that yoga can help relieve irritability and depression brought on by menopause. Women report that yoga relaxation and stretching techniques help stabilize their moods while improving their overall well being.
Try a gentle yoga class once or twice a week to get the most benefits. Once you learn the basics, you can carve out some personal time to practice in the comfort of your own home.
These alternative therapies may offer consumers solutions to assist in treating menopausal symptoms. As with any treatment, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor first. This is especially true if you plan on taking any herbs or supplements.
General health and fitness go a long way in reducing symptoms. Therefore, stress reduction, exercise, and yoga can be helpful.
Written by: Lisa Cappelloni
Medically reviewed on: Aug 18, 2014: George Krucik, MD, MBA
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