Exploring Natural Approaches to Menopause

Written by contributor Megan of Sorta Crunchy.

Hot flashes.  Mood swings.  Decreased libido.

Every woman knows the symptoms of menopause, whether we have gleaned our knowledge from television shows and movies or from family members or friends who are going through The Change.  And more than likely, many of us believe that managing the symptoms of menopause will involve turning to a conventional model of care which might involve medication or hormone replacement therapy.

I’m certainly not a medical professional, but I am a woman with a family history of early onset of menopause, so this is a topic I’ve become increasingly interested in exploring. I’ve come across some approaches to this inevitable season of every woman’s life that might allow us to weather these changes in a natural way.

What is Menopause?

Menopause is the season of life when a woman experiences cessation of her menstrual cycles and is no longer fertile.  There are several subcategories of menopause including surgical menopause (brought on by the surgical removal of ovaries, often done in conjunction with a hysterectomy), premature menopause (onset of menopause before the age of 40), and perimenopause (the years leading up to complete menopause when many women begin to experience symptoms).

One view of menopause is that it is triggered by a drop in estrogen production in the body.  However, Dr. John Lee pioneered a view on menopause that this is actually a time of estrogen dominance that results from dropping progesterone production in the body.  One thing is clear – menopause is a time of hormonal imbalance, and all approaches to managing the symptoms of menopause seek to provide a balance.

How Are the Symptoms of Menopause Treated?

It’s important to remember that the process of menopause itself is not being treated.  This is a normal season for every woman and therefore doesn’t require treatment.  However, many women need to find relief for the symptoms of menopause.  These symptoms can range from mild to so severe that they cause great disruption in day-to-day life.

Photo by SashaW

One approach to managing the symptoms of menopause revolves around hormone replacement therapy.  While it may be effective, HRT also comes with an increased risk of cancer.  Your care provider may also suggest any of a number of other treatments for menopausal symptoms (including patches, vaginal rings, and medications) and these certainly may be the best choice for you as an individual.  For women who are generally more comfortable with non-medication based treatments, there are plenty of options for natural symptom relief.

How Can Menopause Symptoms be Treated Naturally?

1) Diet : It seems that across the board, the advice for women approaching or in menopause is the same – eliminate caffeine and refined sugars and concentrate on whole and plant-based foods.

Caffeine and excessive alcohol seem to intensify hot flashes.   Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, kale, broccoli, and cauliflower tend to rid the body of excess estrogen so those who believe in the estrogen dominance theory of menopause may try adding in more of these vegetables.  Additionally, flaxseed is thought to help combat vaginal dryness, a common and irritating symptom of menopause.

2) Herbal teas: There are a number of herbal teas available that may help to ease hormonal symptoms.  One friend of mine drinks a combination of red raspberry, red clover, and oatstraw teas daily to support a healthy balance of hormones.  In fact, oat straw tea on its own may help alleviate “insomnia, tension, anxiety, headaches, sadness and depression” according to Beth Netter in this article on the healing power of oats.

Photo by *saxon*

3) Herbal supplements : Again, there is a wide variety of herbal products that may provide relief for menopausal symptoms.  It would be best to consult with an alternative medicine provider who is familiar with these herbal remedies and can advise which ones might be right for you.  Some of the remedies you may come across are Cal/Mag, Chasteberry, Evening Primrose Oil, St. John’s Wort, and Valerian.

One herbal supplement that I myself have found to be very helpful in treating hormonal imbalance is Black Cohosh. While there are recommendations to take this daily for hormonal support, I have found I can take it as needed to help combat mood swings and irritability.  As with all of these recommendations, it is best to seek the advice of an alternative medicine practitioner.

4) Coconut oil: While there are many suggestions for natural solutions to mood swings, insomnia, and hot flashes, there seem to be fewer for dealing with vaginal dryness.  Believe it or not, coconut oil may provide relief for this! Refined coconut oil has a less “coconut-y” smell than the unrefined coconut oil you may be using in your kitchen if that is a concern for you.

5) Bioidentical progesterone treatments: There is so much controversy surrounding the use of hormone treatments, that I am hesitant to mention it in this list.  However, many women find that some kind of hormone therapy is the only hope they have for surviving and thriving in this season of change.  Try to avoid synthetic hormone replacement therapies (with names like Premarin, Prempro, and Provera) and focus on bioidentical progesterone treatments. These often come in the form of patches or creams or they can be in pill form.

The more I learn about the season of life when our bodies undergo such life-altering change, the more amazed I am at the complexities of the female body! It is obvious that no one approach will work for everyone.  Each of us are incredibly and remarkably unique and it makes sense that we would each need to find our own paths through the menopausal years.  I hope these ideas will be a starting point – whether you are in the midst of The Change or just filing this away for future reference.

Some other resources you might find helpful are:

Have you given much thought to menopause? If you are in the midst of this season of life, what has been most effective in treating the symptoms? If you aren’t quite there yet, what experiences of friends and family can you share to add to the discussion?

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13 Comments

  1. Cori

    Exercises and learning to relax also help to relieve menopause symptoms.

    • Megan

      Definitely exercise plays a role!

      Do you have some suggestions on helpful relaxation techniques? I know when my hormones are out of whack, I would LOVE to be able to relax. If there are some techniques you could share (or link to) that would be so helpful!

  2. Stefani M.

    Thank you for posting this! Despite the fact that I’m only 28, I think a lot about menopause. I anticipate an earlier onset of menopause from genetics, and I remember my mom having such a horrible time with it. She actually needed a hysterectomy because of bleeding issues, so I’m anticipating the same which would cut off my hormones rather abruptly! I’m really not into medicalized solutions for things, especially when it comes to hormones (I’ve sworn off “the pill”). So thank you for giving me some more options to think about over the coming years.

    • Megan

      I’m glad it was helpful, Stefani. I feel too young to be thinking about this, but I am 33. I have a family member who began menopause at 35 so it’s not something I can really ignore! I hope this will be a good resource for you in the future.

  3. Nimmi

    Hi, I am 34 and am at menopause (I hope this is the right expression, English is not my first language.) When my doc told me her diagnosis I searched the web and came across a yoga practice by Dinah Rodriguez that can help balancing the hormones.
    I gave it a try and the results very amazing. I can highly recommend her method.

    If you have any question feel free to ask. Will check in again later.

  4. marilyn

    Vaginal dryness: what do you do with the coconut oil? do you simply use it as a sort of lubricant? just curious since there where no further explanations on the subject…

    • Nicole

      coconut oil can be used as a lubricant – rather in the place of something like KY. After reading some posts about the chemicals in many products we use, one of them mentioned coconut oil. Cheaper, smells good, and chemical free.

  5. Keilah

    Great post! The women in my family start menopause early and my sister started perimenopause at age 38, now 39. Being 34, I am interested too about the process. I have heard being gluten free helps a lot, since gluten effects your whole endocrine system. The women that I know who are off gluten do not have hot flashes! Something to think about. Thanks again for the great info.

  6. Paula

    I am from an early menopause fam too so this information is very helpful! Thanks!

  7. Holly

    I think many women are under the impression that menopause is that will occur later in life. It can happen much earlier for some and sometimes they are taken seriously. I was in my late thirties when I began to experience symptoms and friends were telling me it was something else. But it really was menopause.

    I’ve never heard of oat straw tea and was wondering if you might know where I could purchase it.

    • Megan@SortaCrunchy

      Holly – I would check your local health food store for oatstraw tea. If they don’t have it, they might be able to order it for you. You can also order online (try Amazon).

  8. MOhammed Suhaib

    Got here using Global CommentLuv Search on comluv. Nice post, I have posted similar posts on my blog. However, you have covered the issue in great depth. Kudos. Really informative. Will surely help me in future posts for my blog.

  9. AD'Angelo

    As a woman in the throws of menopause I found a few things that helped me deal with the symptoms of menopause.
    First I increased my intake of Omega-3 fatty acids thru both diet and supplementation.
    Secondly, I drank for less coffee in exchange for green tea.
    Third, I overhauled my diet – cut out refined carbs, sugar, etc., and increased my intake of lean protein.
    It made a significant difference…thought I`d share it.
    Thanks for a great informative article as well.

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