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Alternative Options for Menopause

Marianne Madsen Marianne Madsen July 19, 2021

Your period is getting irregular. You’re hot when no one else is. You don’t sleep well, and sometimes you wake up in a sweat. Your mood changes in a heartbeat. You’re putting on weight even though you’re eating the same things you always did. What’s going on?

 

If you said, “menopause,” you might be right. All the above are some of the symptoms that your body is naturally changing, just the way it’s supposed to.

 

As we age, our bodies change. It’s important to remember that there’s nothing “wrong” with you as you enter menopause. If you can remember back to another time when your body was going through major changes, such as menarche (your first period) or pregnancy, you’ll remember that there were some uncomfortable things that happened then, too, but, again, those were completely natural things that occurred. Menopause is the same way—it’s what naturally happens. Of course, for some women, menopause occurs surgically or chemically, which is more of a shock to the body systems. No matter how you enter menopause, there are likely to be some symptoms that you may want to address with a complementary or alternative approach.

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Menopause - Alternative Treatment

Menopause - Alternative Treatment

In 2013, about 51 percent of women used complementary or alternative medicine approaches for menopause symptoms, and more than 60% believed that these approaches were effective to help relieve their symptoms. Here are a few ideas to get you started on the next phase of your life journey.

 

Health Foundations

 

No matter what stage of life you’re in, you’re going to feel better if your foundations are healthy. According to a study published in Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology, exercise and nutrition play an important role in relieving the symptoms of menopause and helping stave off some of the diseases that tend to happen after a woman reaches this stage of life. Specifically, this study pointed to how exercise and nutrition can help prevent and treat cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, and depression. Here are some tips on maintaining a healthy foundation:

  • Diet. The DASH Diet is definitely worth a look. This diet focuses on heart health, and it’s good for weight control, too, with its focus on controlling simple carbs and using healthy fats.
  • Water. Drinking plenty of water helps everything—brain health, headaches, constipation, etc. The kind of water you drink is important—avoid sugary drinks or “fancy” water. Your body needs pure H2O to carry out all the chemical reactions it needs to perform every day.
  • Exercise. This is a great time to switch up your exercise routine. Try something new! Yoga, tai chi, and similar exercises can help with body and mind. Make sure you’re getting in some weight-bearing exercise—like simply walking—to keep your bones healthy. Find what YOU like and do it.
  • Brain health. During this life transition, many women become depressed or anxious. They may also have mood swings. In addition to some of the vitamins and minerals listed below, one way to take care of your mental health is to try new things. Doing puzzles, learning new games, or trying a new genre of books or movies can help alleviate these symptoms and keep your brain sharp.

 

Acupuncture

 

In a 2021 review of studies, acupuncture was shown to help relieve many of the primary symptoms that women experience during menopause. For example, in one study, women with hot flashes and night sweats were placed into two groups. One group had acupuncture treatments, and the other group was used as a control. After six months, the women in the acupuncture group had a 36.7 percent reduction in frequency of symptoms. The women in the control group had a 6 percent increase in those symptoms. This review of studies showed that acupuncture can also help with symptoms such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, metabolic syndrome, and declining cognitive function. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, acupuncture may be worth a try. 

 

Moisturizers and Lubricants

 

As hormone production changes, some women may experience vaginal dryness. Coconut oil is something that you can try. Remember, though, that it should not be used with condoms as it can break down latex, so if you think you may still be able to become pregnant, this isn’t an option for you. It’s also not an option for anyone who is allergic to coconut. Other options are sea buckthorn oil or vitamin E oil. Both of these oils are available as vaginal suppositories. If you use them, you may want to use a mini pad or absorbent underwear to absorb any leakage.

 

Vitamins and Minerals

 

A review study from 2018 showed that many vitamins and minerals can help relieve some menopausal symptoms:

  • Magnesium can help with sleep issues, headaches, and constipation. It has also been shown to help maintain bone and heart health and to lower blood pressure.
  • Vitamin D has been shown to be helpful in many issues that affect any aging adult. In a 2017 study, sufficient vitamin D levels were shown to positively affect the quality of life for women because it helped prevent osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, infections, and neurodegenerative diseases.
  • Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant which becomes more important as we age as many types of cancer are linked to oxidation. It has been linked to bone health. It is also helpful when the body forms collagen, which keeps the skin healthy and young looking.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids have been studied and found to help with depression and hot flashes, two common menopausal symptoms. Omega-3s are also beneficial for heart health and cognitive function.
  • B vitamins, especially folate, B2, B6, and B12, have been helpful in maintaining cognitive function, energy production, and heart health.

 

Herbal supplements

 

  • Evening primrose oil has been proven to help relieve hot flashes. It is generally well tolerated, though it can cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or abdominal pain. It can interact with some medications, so check with your healthcare provider if you are taking any, especially any HIV-related medications.
  • Black cohosh is a native plant to the Americas and a member of the buttercup family. It was used traditionally for symptoms related to menopause, especially hot flashes, and menstrual cramping. It is generally well tolerated but can cause stomach upset, headache, cramping, spotting, and headache. It has also been shown to improve symptoms such as irritability, mood swings, and insomnia.
  • Red ginseng has been used traditionally to improve the symptoms of menopause, particularly fatigue, insomnia, and depression. In a review article published in 2016, it was shown to improve hot flashes as well. It’s also helpful for cardiovascular health.
  • Dong quai has been used for over 1200 years in Chinese medicine to treat gynecological issues. It has been shown to improve hot flashes, night sweats, and quality of sleep, especially when used in combination with black cohosh and American ginseng. 

 

As with all herbals, check with your healthcare provider to make sure they are safe for you to use.

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Menopause - Meditation

Menopause - Meditation

Menopause can be liberating for some women. They no longer have to worry about pregnancy, and it’s often a time for many women to re-evaluate where they are in life and make changes to become who they truly are. As Kim Cattrall said, “I see menopause as the start of the next fabulous phase of life as a woman. Now is a time to ‘tune in’ to our bodies and embrace this new chapter. If anything, I feel more myself and love my body more now, at 58 years old, than ever before.”

 

Work with your healthcare provider to determine which of the above ideas might work for you as you transition into your next fabulous phase!

Doctor Profile

Marianne Madsen

Author

Marianne Moss Madsen has been a writer and educator in the healthcare field for over 30 years. Her master’s degree emphasized healthcare literacy—helping the general public understand what doctors are trying to tell them to improve their health. She teaches writing at the University of Utah so that future scientists and doctors can communicate better with patients.

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