Feeling Your Best Through Menopause

Menopause in Women

“Sage and rhubarb are two herbal medicines that can help reduce hot flashes, and St. John’s Wort is a wonderful aid for mood support.”

My friend looked over at me and said, “Well, I guess this is just how it is now.” She was going through perimenopause and experiencing the classic symptoms of hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and sleep issues. We live in a time where there are tools and resources to help women feel well during this important time of change, yet they often feel overwhelmed and lost on where to seek support. Women may believe they must simply accept distressing symptoms, even if they interfere with their quality of life. As a naturopathic doctor that focuses on helping women navigate perimenopause and menopause, I can assure you that this is simply not the case. The goal of supporting women through menopause is to help alleviate aggravating, acute symptoms and to create a long-term plan to support healthy aging and vitality. Every woman deserves a personalized approach when working toward health goals.

5 Tips to Ease Menopause Symptoms

Building upon healthy foundations can make a positive impact on reducing your symptoms of menopause and supporting your health in the long-term.

  1. Avoid triggers for hot flashes, such as caffeine and alcohol. These substances, although delicious, can exacerbate hot flashes.
  2. Eat protein and good quality, healthy fats at every meal, such as avocados, olive oil, and nuts and seeds. Focus on eating complex carbohydrates and reducing your sugar.
  3. Incorporate foods into your diet that act as phytoestrogens, such as soy and flaxseed. These help to modulate hormones in your body. 
  4. Add omega-3s to your diet by eating fish, fish oil, and nuts and seeds. 
  5. Reduce stress, expose yourself to sunlight, and move your body daily.

Hormone Replacement Therapy 

As hormones begin to decline during perimenopause, women may start to experience a constellation of vasomotor, urogenital, and physical changes. Vasomotor symptoms can include bothersome hot flashes and night sweats. Urogenital symptoms may include vaginal dryness, pain, and urinary incontinence. Physical symptoms such as insomnia, mood and memory changes, and joint and muscle pain can also begin. Using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can be an excellent option for alleviating many of these symptoms. 

There are numerous forms and options when it comes to this treatment, and when chosen appropriately, it can have tremendous benefits that go beyond just symptom management. Hormone replacement therapy can also be supportive for long-term bone, cognitive, and metabolic health. With the right discussion on the risk and benefits of treatment with their healthcare practitioner, women can take control of their health and make informed choices around HRT. Let’s explore some of the options. 

Bioidentical HRT  

Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy simply means that the hormones used in treatment are identical to the hormones your body produces. Some bioidentical hormone preparations are standard and found in conventional pharmaceutical products, whereas other preparations can be personalized and made in compounding pharmacies for customized doses and forms.

Synthetic HRT 

The hormones used in this therapy are not identical in chemical structure to the hormones produced in your body. Many common hormone replacement prescriptions come in this form. 

Both bioidentical and synthetic HRT can come in gels, topical or vaginal creams, patches, or be taken orally. Depending on the goals, health history, and preferences of each individual, there are pros and cons to each option. Although there can be some risks with HRT, the safety profile of these treatments can be very high and the benefits immense. Talking with a practitioner who is well-versed in the options is a good idea to determine which approach is best for you. 

Natural Medicine 

Natural medicine can have powerful benefits for supporting women in this important phase of life. It can be used in combination with HRT, or on its own for women who prefer a non-hormonal treatment option. Sage and rhubarb are two herbal medicines that can help reduce hot flashes, and St. John’s Wort is a wonderful aid for mood support. Optimizing your nutrient levels of Vitamin D, B12, and iron can be important for your energy and mood; melatonin and magnesium are supportive of sleep. 

If you are struggling with vaginal dryness and pain, using a vaginal moisturizer that has hyaluronic acid can be extremely effective. The list of natural medicine that can be beneficial is extensive and is most effective when utilized in a personalized plan that fits your needs and goals. Naturopathic doctors are excellent resources to help you choose the right nutraceuticals and supplements to support your health. 

Long-term Health  

Along with supporting current health goals, menopause is a wonderful moment to take inventory of long-term health and set the foundations to support healthy aging and vitality. 

Bone health is an important topic for this demographic, as post-menopause can be a time of declining bone density due to lower estrogen levels. Calcium and Vitamin D are very important for supporting bone health at this time. Other minerals and vitamins that can play a role are magnesium, boron, zinc, and vitamin K2; eating foods that are high in these minerals and vitamins along with supplementation can be helpful. Maintaining physical activity, particularly weightbearing exercises, are excellent ways to support bone health and prevent osteoporosis.

Brain and cognitive health Staying active, connected to community, and continuing to engage in new activities and learning are excellent ways to support brain health. Fueling our bodies with healthy foods high in antioxidants, healthy fats, and protein are especially beneficial. Eating foods rich in choline and omega-3s are other ways to support brain health through nutrition. 

Heart health can be taken care of partially through daily movement. Quitting smoking and reducing alcohol intake are also meaningful interventions. Additionally, managing blood sugar and cholesterol levels are important ways to reduce the impact on our cardiovascular system. Beyond physical stressors, taking care of our emotional well-being and reducing stress can play a huge role in overall health feelings of connection, gratitude, and engaging in activities that are fulfilling and joyful are beautiful ways to support our emotional heart health

It’s exciting to see how many tools there are to support women in this beautiful life transition. A holistic approach that considers all determinants of health is what every woman deserves. Going through menopause is a natural process that should be celebrated, acknowledged, and supported so that you can feel your best today and for many healthy decades to come.