Going through the menopause can be a concern, especially if you’re unsure about which remedies are right for you. Find out with our guide.
Want to manage your menopause symptoms naturally? A survey by the British Menopause Society found 95% of women would try natural remedies before hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to help keep hot flushes, mood swings and other symptoms at bay.
So here’s what you need to know about menopausal symptoms, and the natural menopause remedies that can help.
What is the menopause?
Menopause is technically your last-ever period. The average age to experience it in the UK is 51. But the run-up to menopause, called the perimenopause, can go on for several years beforehand. It’s during this time you might start experiencing symptoms.
As some women have their last period in their forties, this means you may start experiencing menopausal symptoms from your late thirties. Symptoms can also continue for an average of four years after your last period, although they may last much longer than that for some women.
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Common menopause symptoms
As you get older and your egg supply declines, your ovaries gradually produce less oestrogen. It’s this change in hormone levels that cause the symptoms of menopause.
Menopausal symptoms may include:
• hot flushes – 75% of women report these
• night sweats
• vaginal dryness, which may make sex painful
• itchy skin
• painful joints
• anxiety and low mood
You won’t necessarily get all these symptoms – in fact, some women breeze through the menopause without a hint of a hot flush – but for many, their symptoms can get in the way of life.
These days, menopause can be particularly difficult as women in their forties and fifties are likely to be at their busiest. You may be at the peak of your working life, with children – maybe young children – still at home. You may be single and dating, perhaps after a divorce. Or you might be looking after elderly parents. No wonder it’s difficult to deal with uncomfortable, inconvenient and even distressing symptoms on top of all this.
Fortunately, there are some proven, natural ways to help yourself with herbal and nutritional supplements, along with lifestyle changes. These may not lead to the dramatic changes you’d see with HRT but if you’d rather take a natural approach, reducing symptoms may be enough to make a big difference to your life.
Lead a healthy lifestyle
Menopause experts agree that eating a healthy balanced diet, with plenty of wholegrains and fruit and veg, can help your body cope with menopausal changes.
Exercise is important too. A large South American study found women exercising less than three times a week were 28% more likely to experience severe menopausal symptoms, particularly hot flushes and low mood.
The researchers think getting active can help ease stress and depression, which allows your brain to cope better with menopausal symptoms. You could try yoga; preliminary research found a regular class may ease hot flushes.
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The best supplements for menopause
Women have traditionally used herbs and nutritional supplements to ease menopausal symptoms, and now several have scientific evidence to back them up. Some of these supplements can interact with medicines, so check with your GP before taking them.
Here’s our pick of the top menopause supplements:
Black cohosh is one of the most-studied herbs for menopause. One review of studies found it reduced hot flushes and night sweats by as much as 26%, while another review found menopause symptoms generally decreased when women used black cohosh.
Sage is another herb shown to help ease hot flushes, with a Swiss study showing it can reduce both the frequency and intensity of flushes. The same result was seen for mild, moderate, severe and very severe flushes.
St John’s wort may be known more for its effect on low mood, but research has found it also reduces menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats. It could help with the anxiety that can often accompany perimenopause too.
Red clover contains soya isoflavones that gently mimic the effect of oestrogen, so are thought to play a role in easing symptoms. Evidence shows red clover can significantly improve symptoms in post-menopausal women. It may also help lower levels of fats called triglycerides in the blood – important, because the risk of heart disease can rise after menopause.
Isoflavones, found in foods such as mung bean sprouts, soya products like tofu, chickpeas, and alfalfa, are thought to help ease a range of menopause symptoms, although current research only supports their efficacy in easing hot flushes. Try including more of these foods in your diet, or take a supplement.
Sea buckthorn oil is packed with essential fatty acids, including omega-7, which isn’t found in many other foods. A trial carried out in Finland discovered that taking the oil for three months eased symptoms of vaginal atrophy, which can happen around menopause when vaginal tissues become thinner and drier.
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before trying any remedies.
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