I often reflect upon why menopause is positioned as a condition that requires medical management, with entire medical journals dedicated solely to this purpose. Interesting that puberty, which brings about such dramatic physiological changes has no such rigorous management platform. Of course the menopause transition can be stressful, dealing with symptoms that can leave you red faced and sweaty at home and at work, tossing and turning at night, and cursing our changing metabolism. While many women can manage milder symptoms with self-care strategies, hormone replacement may be appropriate for women with more severe symptoms.Given the current data, if using hormones, transdermal estrogen and natural progesterone (if you have a uterus) appear to the best choice, especially for women who are overweight/obese or have cardiovascular risk factors. Both forms are FDA approved and available by prescription at most pharmacies.
There are numerous supportive strategies that can help us move through the transition: self care, herbal remedies, essential oils, and mindfulness to name a few. And most importantly, this is the time to really get serious about how we want to live the rest of our lives. Today, women may have 30, 40, or 50 years to live beyond the cessation of their menses.
How are you going to protect your bones, your heart, your brain, your relationships, your happiness? Menopause is the gateway to the rest of your life.
1) Meditation, Hypnosis and Biofeedback
I am such a huge fan of mindfulness practices like meditation, hypnosis and biofeedback. Stress makes everything harder. Finding ways to calm our minds can pay off big dividends down the road. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction has been shown to result in a significant reduction in bother from hot flashes and night sweats. Hypnosis has been shown in multiple studies to reduce the number and severity of hot flashes in menopausal women. Seek out mind- body approaches that resonate with you and check out Clarity, an online mindfulness app specifically designed for women transitioning through menopause.
2) Herbal Remedies
There are numerous herbs that can help ease menopausal symptoms. Motherwort helps ease hot flashes and heart palpitations; it helped me. Sage is often used for hot flashes and night sweats. Black cohosh is useful for women who have hormonally induced anxiety and depression. For changes in sleep caused by menopause, I have found valerian, hops and passionflower to be useful and effective. Shatavari and ashwagandha are my favorite adaptogens during the transition. Maca is popular for libido.
Here are a few products I have used and recommended:
- Vogel Menoforce Sage Tablets: very nice European product that was shown in one clinical study to help ease hot flashes and night sweats. Take as directed.
- MegaFood Daily Maca Plus or Women: fabulous booster that you can add to smoothies. It contains maca, ashwagandha, motherwort and chaste berry. Love it!
- Traditional Medicinals Nighty-Night with Valerian (valerian, passionflower and lemon balm): This classic blend is a wonderful addition to the night time routine. I recommend one cup about an hour before bed. I love this classic blend, as does my daughter!
3) Lifestyle and Attitude Shifts
Menopause is a shift. Our physiology is changing. We are stepping into the next chapter in our story. This is a great opportunity for journaling. It is also a time to be honest with ourselves about our diet, our movement, our relationships, and our work. Cut back on the sugary carbs and make sure you are getting adequate amounts of protein to maintain strong bones and muscles. Yes, our metabolism is changing. Time to get moving! Light weights, longer walks, going to the gym, taking dance classes. Maintain a healthy weight. Keep up with preventive health checks. You may have another 40-50 years ahead of you! This is a marathon, not a sprint. Think about how you want to age. See yourself at 80. Be tender with your evolving self.
Make sure you are ensuring against gaps in your diet. We need more vitamin B12 as we move beyond 50. Vitamin D is crucial for more than just our bones. Magnesium is important for supporting healthy metabolism. I created the MegaFood Dr. Formulated for Women 40+ and 55+ specifically to help women get the micronutrients they need as they transition through and beyond menopause. MegaFood Bone Health contains calcium, magnesium, vitamins C, D3, K1/K2, and boron – everything you need for supporting healthy bones as we age. It was designed to partner with the Women’s Multivitamins.
4) Vaginal Estrogen and Vitamin E
Vaginal dryness caused by menopause can be one of the most challenging changes women experience. Talk to your health care provider about vaginal estrogen, which can also be very helpful for postmenopausal women with recurrent bladder infections. Many women benefit from the localized effect. For women who are looking for a more natural approach for minor dryness, consider trying Carlson’s vitamin E vaginal suppositories. Many women swear by them.
5) Essential Oils
Essential oils are used for a variety of reasons, from relaxation to antiseptic and antimicrobial properties. They have a place in my daily regimen, and I have a specific blend I’ve been using in my own transition. I rub a small amount of clary sage, vetiver, and ylang ylang on my belly before bed. To use, combine 6 drops of each of the essential oils in 2 ounces of apricot kernel oil (or almond or other oil), shake and apply a few drops to the belly or inner arms. Interestingly, clary sage has been shown beneficial for menopausal women! You can purchase quality essential oils from doTERRA, Plant Therapy, NOW Foods, Mountain Rose Herbs, and others.
Transition awakens us in new ways. I would love to hear how you are transitioning or have transitioned through your menopause. Each woman is unique and will have her own menopausal experience, but by coming together and taking care of each other and ourselves, we can embrace this transformative process as just one more part of this magnificent journey we call life.