by Marcelle Pick, OB-GYN NP
- Stop your symptoms with optimal nutrition
- Try herbal remedies that work as adaptogens for your hormones
- Find exercise you love to help reduce fat and help estrogen and progesterone ratios
- Take steps to reduce your stress
- Understand that our emotions play a vital role in our health
Natural alternatives have been a hot topic with many women who visit my office. When we talk about menopause and perimenopause, many of my patients are still unsure about using these alternatives to relieve perimenopause and menopause symptoms. If “natural” treatments are gentler, how can they help alleviate such powerful symptoms such as fuzzy thinking, hot flashes and/or insomnia?
I want to give you peace of mind and assure you that the natural approach is highly effective for many — even if you are experiencing severe symptoms.
Natural treatments for menopause and perimenopause work in a completely different way than prescription drugs. The natural approach works with your body, which means that it can actually prevent or reduce the severity of nearly all of your symptoms rather than just relieving them temporarily!
A truly natural approach addresses symptoms at their source
At the clinic, we believe that to get to the root of your perimenopause and menopause symptoms, it means taking all the necessary steps toward relief to help correct the symptoms you are experiencing. Natural treatment addresses imbalances between the sex hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Another benefit is that you don’t have the added risk of side effects carried by commonly prescribed medications such as antidepressants.
Try taking the steps I recommend in the way that best fits your lifestyle.
1. Nip your symptoms in the bud with optimal nutrition
The most effective (and enjoyable!) medicine that exists, is in the food that you eat. You should strive to eat a balance of good fats, complex carbohydrates and protein. Also, make sure to have plenty of fruits and vegetables at every meal, including breakfast. It’s best to eat three meals a day and two or more snacks in order to keep your blood sugar stable. The most important thing to remember is to reduce carbohydrates especially refined carbohydrates and sugars.
Optimal nutrition is achieved by making sure that you are consuming enough vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients. There are natural supplements you can add to your daily regimen, which is especially important if you feel overwhelmed with your daily life and it is hard to eat in the healthy way that is recommended. Many women live a fast paced life and they find it hard to eat enough healthy foods in order to take in and absorb enough of the key B vitamin folate. If this is the case, this can be accomplished by supplementing with Metafolin (5-MTHF, or l-methylfolate), the biologically active form of folate that’s much easier for your body to process and use.
2. Use herbal remedies that act like our own hormones
Food is medicine and there is incredible strength in plants and herbal remedies that have been known to prevent menopausal and perimenopausal symptoms. It is amazing that many plants and herbs can adapt to the needs of your body. It is possible for them to do this because they share various molecular features with our own hormones, allowing them to support our hormone production, make it slower, or even mimic what our own hormones do depending on the body’s unique needs.
Some herbs that can help reduce menopause symptoms include black cohosh, passionflower, chasteberry, wild yam and ashwagandha.
3. Exercise to reduce the fat that can upset estrogen and progesterone ratios
Most women tell me that they feel as if they are gaining weight steadily during perimenopause and menopause, especially around their stomachs and abdomen. It is particularly frustrating for these women because the weight sticks to unusual places and their scales refuse to budge. One of the reasons that this is so common is because fluctuating estrogen levels tend to cause your body to hold on to fat. On top of this, fat actually produces estrogen, which can create even more fat. Therefore, the cycle continues.
Just as I am an advocate that food is medicine, I also believe that movement is medicine too. You can make such a positive impact on your health though, by walking, dancing, yoga, swimming, biking or whatever other form of exercise you enjoy. And you should enjoy it or you will not continue with the program you begin. Moving your body has a major impact on your weight, other menopausal symptoms and your overall health. Gentle exercise can be helpful too, especially if your adrenal glands are overworked and you constantly feel fatigued. Most importantly—do something you enjoy!
4. Restore yourself to decrease the stress that intensifies your symptoms
Many women are prescribed antidepressants for perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms. Because of the Women’s Health Initiative, the answer to many symptoms are antidepressants. More and more women have a deep sense and feeling of being stressed, anxious or overwhelmed, and depressed during the menopause transition. We see this frequently, but in most cases we believe antidepressants are not the best answer for menopause symptom relief.
Stress can be the culprit behind additional imbalances in hormones and neurotransmitters that affect mood as well as mental function, thyroid function, digestive function, and especially blood sugar imbalances. Stress has also been linked to symptoms such as hot flashes and low libido.
The physical effects of stress make nurturing self-care especially important. One of the most effective, inexpensive and amazingly simple ways to reduce stress is deep breathing. Think how easy just taking a deep breath several times a day is.
5. Understand how emotional wellness plays a vital role in your overall physical health
Have you ever heard the term “As you think, so goes your life”? Well this is definitely a time that this term can ring true. Your thoughts and feelings have a dramatic impact on your health, so why not make it a positive effect? One method is to keep a journal to help you become aware of what you are feeling and to identify any patterns you are feelings. A journal can help with your individual emotional and physical health. There is a lot of negatively out there today, so it’s helpful to start the day with a positive affirmation. I find that listening to things like the news too often can have a negative impact on my thinking, so that is a choice that I make daily.
Find the natural and powerful combination that works best for you
For many women, perimenopause and menopause offer them the opportunity to change, to become a different person, one that is less interested in what people think of them, and one that is much more able to speak up for herself. Many women who are going through menopause and perimenopause may even discover a certain freedom and they find that their life is better in certain areas then they could of ever thought it would be.
I’ve always found that when women make natural adjustments to their lifestyles, not only do they feel much better but also feel in control of their menopause symptoms. I want you to feel inspired and encourage you to start to make these small yet important changes, as they can create some remarkable results. Add a morning veggie/fruit smoothie, start your day with a morning ritual, ensure that you remember to breathe each day (put up signs to remind yourself if needed) and make a commitment to take your supplements every day.
With a little bit of time and trial and error, you’ll discover the combination of natural steps that works relieves your symptoms!