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As your fertile years come to an end, you transition into life post menopause. Menopause is medically defined as the absence of menstrual period for 12 months. Caused by the decline in female reproductive hormones – estrogen and progesterone – menopause marks the permanent end of menstruation and fertility.
Some women can start transitioning into menopause as early as their late 30s (a period known as perimenopause, wherein their periods become less frequent), but most women enter menopause some time in their 40s to 50s.
During menopause, the ovaries stop producing estrogen, leading to a steady decline in estrogen in blood levels. While the adrenal glands and fat tissue still continue to produce ‘some’ levels of estrogen throughout life, this marked decline in estrogen levels post menopause is what contributes to a plethora of menopause symptoms – like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, weight gain and more.
As hormone levels and their fluctuations vary from one woman to the other, every woman experiences menopause differently. For some, it’s nothing more than a mere annoyance, while others can face debilitating symptoms that affect their quality of life.
Some common menopause symptoms include:
Menopause is a natural biological process, and should be viewed as a natural part of aging. While it can come with some annoying symptoms, there’s no reason why a woman cannot live her best life despite the conclusion of her fertile years. With the right approach, you can lead a healthy, vital and sexually active life in your 50s and well beyond, enjoying post-menopausal life.
Menopause is not an illness, hence doesn’t require medical treatment, in most general cases. Unless a young woman has undergone medical procedures (like hysterectomy, oophorectomy or chemotherapy) that interfere with hormone levels, there rarely is any need for medical intervention. It’s important to realize that common symptoms of menopause – like hot flashes, mood swings and vaginal dryness – all resolve themselves in time.
This is why conventional treatments like Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is unnecessary, and only worsens things in the long run. Many women who try HRT find their menopause symptoms return when they stop using synthetic hormones. On the other hand, there is emerging evidence of several long-term risk factors associated with HRT like breast/uterine/endometrial cancer, memory loss and dementia, urinary incontinence, blot clots, incidences of heart attack and stroke, osteoporosis, and venous thromboembolic disease, to name just a few.
These conventional treatments are limited because they are artificially putting hormones back into the body, when nature has designed for our hormone levels to decline as we age. These hormones don’t need replacing! Instead, natural remedies and therapies for hormone free menopause focus on making the transition to menopause easier, as you learn to live a healthy life despite declined levels of hormones.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen that helps the body better adapt to changes, without having to resort to allopathic medication. The herb acts on the endocrine system to help balance hormones, helping with hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings and weight gain associated with menopause.
One study found that Ayurvedic treatments including Ashwagandha can help reduce hot flashes and night sweats. A research published in International Quarterly Journal Of Research In Ayurveda evaluated the efficacy of Ashwagandha along with Ashokarishta and Praval Pishti in the management of menopausal syndrome, and found these natural supplements helped both somatic as well as psychological complaints in women with mild to moderate symptoms of menopausal syndrome.
Black Cohosh is an herbal treatment that has long been a part of Native American medicine to treat menstrual irregularities, symptoms of menopause and childbirth related problems. It relieves menopause symptoms by balancing fluctuating estrogen levels, which is the primary cause behind hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings and sleep disturbances. Studies testing the efficacy of black cohosh (and other preparations combining it with other herbs) on menopausal symptoms found it to be greatly beneficial, with some claiming that symptoms improved by 41%.
Rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and linolenic acid, evening primrose oil can help reduce inflammation and improve bone health. Women around the world have used it for centuries to treat menstruation-related problems, and the same holds true for menopause symptoms too. Studies find that oral evening primrose oil helps controlling hot flashes by decreasing both severity and intensity of attacks.
This ancient Chinese herbal medicine has long been used for treating PMS, menstrual problems, and menopause – earning it the name of Female Ginseng. It helps boost circulation and has estrogen-like effect on the body. More studies are needed to understand how dong quai helps treat menopause symptoms. A small study concluded that a herbal remedy containing dong quai with other herbs (chasteberry, red clover, black cohosh and American ginseng) can help relieve hot flashes as well as reduce sleep disturbances. In another randomized controlled trial, women who took dong quai in combination with chamomile found improvement in menopause symptoms like sleep disturbances, hot flashes and fatigue.
Other herbal remedies used to naturally treat menopause symptoms include Maca root, Vitex or Chasteberry, American Ginseng and St. John’s Wort.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is recommended as an effective non-hormonal management option to treat menopausal symptoms like anxiety, stress, depression, hot flashes and night sweats, sleep disturbances and fatigue. For some women, particularly young women, CBT can be very helpful in dealing with hot flashes and sexual dysfunction – two most debilitating symptoms of premature menopause.
Acupuncture is another alternative therapy that can ease symptoms of menopause, according to a recent study published in BMJ Journals. 70 menopausal women received standardised and brief acupuncture treatment which produced a fast and clinically relevant reduction in moderate-to-severe menopausal symptoms during the 6 week intervention. No severe adverse effects were reported. The acupuncture intervention significantly decreased hot flushes, day-and-night sweats, general sweating, menopausal-specific sleeping problems, emotional symptoms, physical symptoms and skin and hair symptoms.
A healthy diet that’s high in essential minerals, proteins and healthy fats goes a long way towards reducing menopause symptoms. Opt for nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods that naturally help with hormone balancing. A clean diet is also low in empty calories, which helps maintain healthy weight as you age too. Research has shown that plant-based diet, especially one low in saturated and trans-fats, can be helpful in easing symptoms of menopause. Aim to cut back on processed and junk food, sugar-rich foods, refined oils, alcohol and processed meats, while you increase intake of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, probiotics, and Omega 3 fats. Read more about a healthy diet in our article What to Eat & Avoid in Menopause (will link here).
Regular exercise results in release ‘happy hormones’ or endorphins that help beat stress and combat inflammation. Additionally, exercise also helps improve sleep quality, keeps weight in check, prevents muscle wasting, improves bone density and improves cardiovascular health. Research indicates that postmenopausal women, who engage in the comprehensive exercise program, benefit by maintaining a healthy body, bone density levels, and good mental health. Walking, biking, swimming, yoga, strength training, dancing and Tai Chi are all good options. If you experience hot flashes, its best to exercise in a relaxed environment and focus on slow, controlled breathing during physical activity.
The Sepalika Menopause Programme is scientifically designed to help women deal with not just hot flashes, but also all the other symptoms of peri-menopause and menopause. Each person’s treatment is tailor-made as per their symptoms, medical history and lab test results. Progress is tracked till you get better and expert supervision is available throughout the programme. Write to us at email@example.com for more information and to speak to a Health Coach today! Note: This program is open to women living in India only.
When she appears as co-author, here is what you will write as the last para in italics or a slightly different font:
This article has been co-authored by Maneera Saxena Behl, a health and fitness who likes to help others improve their overall well-being by achieving the right balance between nutrition, exercise and mindfulness.