Any woman experiencing bodily changes and symptoms associated with menopause will learn, if they didn’t previously know, the importance that hormones have on how the body feels and functions.
The suffering of menopause is caused largely by a decline in sex hormones. Less estrogen is produced in the bodies of women entering their fifties. As a result, various negative symptoms are experienced.
Sex hormones, like testosterone and estrogen, do more than give humans their sex drives. These hormones are intimately involved in nearly every aspect of our physiology. Therefore, they are crucial to how we feel and function.
Estrogen, for instance, is crucial for bone health. You wouldn’t have thought it, would you? Estrogen plays a role in controlling bone maintenance (bones are constantly rebuilding themselves) and bone mineral density.
Estrogen also is involved in keeping skin strong and elastic, improving the cardiovascular and immune system, and regulating mood.
Progesterone is another sex hormone that declines during menopause. And like estrogen, progesterone is involved in so many parts of one’s bodily health. It plays a role in keeping skin thick, strong, elastic, and youthful, and is also important for mood regulation, as it is a neuromodulator.
Testosterone plays many roles in our bodies as well (especially in men). In addition to many other things, it’s important for good mood and even keeps the heart beating by modulating electrical function.
Because of the importance of hormones to a woman’s mental and physical health, declining levels of estrogen and progesterone can result in a number of unwanted side effects, such as:
There are a number of changes you can make to your lifestyle to ease the discomfort of menopause.
Moderate exercise provides many benefits for nearly everyone, regardless of the state of their health. It has been shown to improve the symptoms of menopause as well.
Researchers have concluded that exercise promotes health during menopause in many ways and fights the diseases that are more likely to show up during this time in a woman’s life. Specifically, exercise is recommended to prevent osteoporosis that can develop after menopause because exercise strengthens bones .
One study tested the effects of 12 weeks of moderate intensity cardio on usually sedentary women. These women experienced some relief from the symptoms of menopause, especially quality of sleep, insomnia, and depression .
Exercise can also decrease the number of hot flashes that menopausal women experience . This is because temperature regulation improves with consistent exercise . Exercise is also thought to counter the stress that often precedes hot flashes .
Exercise is recommended to fight other side effects of menopause such as unexplained sadness and weight gain .
When you’re not exercising, reducing stress can do wonders for your body.
A review of 18 clinical trials from 6 countries demonstrated that the effects of relaxation techniques improved symptoms of menopause. For instance, 8 out of 9 studies involving yoga, tai chi, and meditation showed improvement in overall menopause symptoms . Improvements in sleep as well as muscle and joint pain were among the symptoms that showed improvement .
Smoking cigarettes is bad for your overall health, especially during menopause! The Mayo Clinic says that smoking can trigger menopause at an earlier-than-normal age and can make hot flashes more frequent .
Flaxseeds are an extremely rich source of lignans, antioxidant compounds in plants that are converted into estrogenic (estrogen-like) compounds by our gut bacteria . Lignans are known as “phytoestrogens” or estrogenic compounds found in plants .
Lignans not only have hormone replacement-like effects, they also lower the risk of illnesses that can affect you during menopause or postmenopause. Because they lower blood pressure and reduce hypertension, lignans fight cardiovascular disease . Osteoporosis is also reduced largely because of an estrogenic metabolite of lignans . And higher lignan intake is associated with better cognitive function in postmenopausal women .
Flaxseed can be incorporated into meals as whole seeds, ground seeds, or liquid milk. It is generally recommended that you eat about 4 tablespoons of flaxseed a day to get a beneficial dose of lignans.
Not only are these foods good for your health in general, partially as a result of their antioxidant properties and high fiber content, but they also contain lignans . This is why nutritionists often recommend that they be eaten during menopause.
There are other phytoestrogens besides lignans. Several antioxidant compounds found in plants that are also phytoestrogens are coumestans, prenylflavonoids, and isoflavones. These phytoestrogens are in many plant foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes) . They’re all over the place. So eat everything from oranges and beans to broccoli and soy, and you will be ingesting these helpful compounds.
What makes them helpful? They help regulate estrogen in the body. They seem to be little miracle workers. If estrogen is too high, phytoestrogens block estrogen receptors on cells and exhibit weaker estrogen signalling than your own estrogen . If estrogen is too low, in the case of menopause, the mild estrogenic effects of phytoestrogens raise total estrogen activity in the body .
These phytoestrogens are in legumes, especially in soy. There is plenty of evidence that they help women feel better during menopause.
Evidence suggests that Asian women who consume soy experience fewer hot flashes than women who don’t normally include it in their diets. . Fewer than 20% of menopausal Chinese women experience hot flashes, according to one study , whereas about 75% of menopausal North American and European women experience hot flashes !
Numerous studies have shown that isoflavone-containing soy extracts reduce the severity and frequency of hot flashes . About 80% of menopausal women receiving one concentration of soy extract had reductions in hot flashes of over 47% . The other amazing thing about this study was that numerous other symptoms of menopause improved such as“sleep disorder, anxiety, depression, vaginal dryness, loss of libido and bone pain” .
About 80% of menopausal women receiving one concentration of soy extract had reductions in hot flashes of over 47% . The other amazing thing about this study was that numerous other symptoms of menopause improved such as“sleep disorder, anxiety, depression, vaginal dryness, loss of libido and bone pain” .
Women noticed a reduction in hot flashes within two weeks of taking soy .
In perimenopausal women (women about to experience menopause), soy isoflavones caused an increase in estrogen and progesterone . That’s a good sign. Also, hot flashes and vaginal dryness were significantly decreased .
This is an herb that is native to Eastern North America and is popularly used to ease symptoms of menopause.
Numerous clinical studies have clearly shown that black cohosh works and is safe in humans .
A review of many studies on the effects of black cohosh on menopause concluded that most studies showed a benefit to woman’s health and that there was about a 26% improvement in symptoms by averaging the data .
In 2013, black cohosh consistently reduced various symptoms of menopause . “Vasomotor, psychiatric, physical, and sexual symptoms” all improved during 4-8 weeks of treatment .
Numerous clinical studies have clearly shown that black cohosh works and is safe in humans .
Researchers note that it is particularly effective at relieving hot flashes .
Licorice root has often been used to cleanse the liver and soothe the stomach. Researchers have noticed that it eases symptoms of menopause and also reduces hot flashes . Researchers recommend that this “harmless” and “inexpensive” herb should be used often to ease hot flashes in middle-aged women .
Licorice root’s effectiveness is a result of the compound isoliquiritigenin that has estrogenic effects . Researchers were so confident in licorice root’s ability to fight hot flashes that they studied it in comparison to hormone replacement therapy . It was concluded that although the strong hormone replacement therapy was most effective in reducing hot flashes, licorice “is not very different from hormones in terms of reducing the number and duration of hot flashes” .
Licorice is often consumed in capsule form or as a tea.
This Asian herb has estrogenic effects as well .
It’s possible that Don Quai helps with psychological symptoms of menopause because it increases serotonin activity .
Several studies have shown a reduction of 20-35% in hot flashes in women using don quai . And it has been evidenced to relieve migraines associated with menstruation .
One review concludes that the evidence supports the oral use of vitex berry in lessening symptoms of menopause . The essential oil of the vitex berry has also been shown to be effective against menopausal symptoms .
Red clover contains isoflavones just like soy, which is probably why it reduces symptoms of menopause and even improves vaginal cell health . With a decline in sex hormones, vaginal tissue can become dry and lose its healthy thickness (just as aged skin does). And it appears that red clover can promote a healthy vaginal tissue.
Red clover has been evidenced to reduce hot flashes and increase circulating estrogen levels . This herb can even improve the thickness of the uterine wall . It almost seems that red clover specifically corrects an estrogen deficit.
While some tests are inconclusive, others have shown that red clover is helpful in reducing symptoms of menopause .