Menopause is a normal transition in a woman’s life – not a disease that must be medically treated. Transitions, however, don’t always go smoothly. When they don’t, women look to their doctors for help.
In my last column, I addressed hormonal options for menopause. For many women, however, hormones are not a good choice – for either medical or personal reasons. The good news is that there are many natural remedies to help women with the symptoms of menopause.
Lifestyle issues can play a role in the severity of a woman’s hot flashes. The more stress a woman is under, the more likely she will experience severe hot flashes. For many reasons, including hot flash reduction, it is important to minimize stress in one’s life.
I like all my patients to incorporate some type of relaxation practice in to their daily routine. Therapies like breathing exercises, meditation and yoga help the body manage stress.
Nutrition is an integral part of any wellness plan. A whole foods diet is recommended for all women. Minimizing processed foods, fried foods, saturated fat and excessive sugar not only will make you feel better, but it will also decrease your risk for chronic diseases.
I like all my patients to add 1-2 tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseed to their diet because of the anti-oxidant and anti-cancer benefits.
Incorporating soy foods such as soy milk, edamame and tofu can be helpful for cancer and disease prevention and may have a minor effect on reducing hot flashes.
A few of my favorites are as follows:
Bioflavonoids (1,000 mg daily along with 1,200 mg of Vitamin C) has been shown in a small study to reduce hot flashes by more than 50 percent.
Vitamin B6 (50 mg daily). Inadequate levels vitamin B6 can cause depression, irritability and insomnia.
Botanical supplements offer the best alternative to hormone and prescription medicines for menopausal symptoms. The ones that I have found to be of greatest benefit:
Siberian Rhubarb (4 mg daily) has been used in Germany since 1993 for hot flashes and recently became available in the U.S. For many of my patients, it has dramatically reduced their hot flashes and overall symptoms of menopause.
Panax Ginseng (100-300 mg of 5 percent ginsenosides daily) has long been used to address fatigue and depression.
Black Cohosh (40-80 mg daily of a standardized extract) is one of the most commonly used herbs for menopausal symptoms. Many women find it beneficial in reducing hot flashes and improving mood.
St. John’s Wort (300 mg three times daily of a standardized extract) can be beneficial for mood, and some studies have shown that, when combined with black cohosh, it significantly improved mood as well as hot flashes.
Each woman’s experience of menopause is unique; there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to menopausal therapies. Find a practitioner who can work with you to find a treatment plan that is customized to your needs.
• Heidi Rula, M.D., is a physician at Integrative Care for Women in Mesa. Reach her at (480) 699-2508 or www.integrativecareforwomen.com