Q. “Do you have any natural solutions for the symptoms of menopause?”
A. I’ve been asked this question many times, especially since the Women’s Health Initiative published its findings that hormone replacement therapy can lead to increased risk of breast cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
There are many safe, natural ways of helping women through the hormonal changes of menopause. They can be effective with many of the symptoms menopausal women often experience, such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and insomnia.
The tools I use to assist women with their mid-life transitions include lifestyle changes, dietary modification and herbal medicines.
Exercise is one of the most important lifestyle factors for helping with menopausal symptoms. Regular physical activity improves sleep and mood, and a Swedish study found that it decreases hot flashes and reduces night sweats in menopausal women.
Dietary changes to help relieve menopausal symptoms include eating more foods high in phytoestrogens. These natural plant constituents contain no estrogens and don’t increase the body’s estrogen levels, but they have estrogen-like effects — which can be beneficial for women who are experiencing menopausal symptoms.
Foods containing phytoestrogens include soy, alfalfa, apples, asparagus, barley, carrots, cherries, corn, fennel, oats, pears, peas, pomegranates, rice bran, rye, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, squash and wheat germ.
According to Chinese medicine, foods that have “cooling” or “cold” effects on the body can reduce the hot flashes and night sweats that may accompany menopause. These foods include watermelon, apples, strawberries, oranges, beets, asparagus, broccoli, alfalfa sprouts, mung beans, tofu, barley and buckwheat.
In addition, consuming foods and beverages that are considered “warming” or “hot” in Chinese medicine can aggravate menopausal symptoms. They include onions, pumpkin, cauliflower, glutinous rice, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, coffee and alcohol.
Many of my menopausal patients have found herbal medicines to be especially helpful in easing their symptoms.
Herbs that contain phytoestrogens include red clover and black cohosh.
Red clover can be taken in supplement form as a standardized extract of 40 milligrams of total isoflavones a day. You can also drink red clover tea, or mix red clover sprouts into your salads.
Black cohosh is best taken as a supplement; for many menopausal symptoms I suggest 80 milligrams twice a day.
Depending on a woman’s symptoms, I often prescribe a combination of herbs to achieve the best overall effect.
Article was originally printed in the Honolulu Advertiser, honoluluadvertiser.com