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For many years, the preferred treatment to combat menopausal symptoms caused by hormonal imbalance was hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Healthcare professionals are now encouraging women to take a more natural approach to alleviating their symptoms, and then working their way up to medication and surgical interventions as needed.
There are three levels to treatment when it comes to managing the symptoms of menopause: Lifestyle Changes, Alternative Medicine, and Medications & Surgery. It is recommended to begin with the least invasive approach and work your way up if necessary.
Hydration and a well-balanced diet can help to ease the symptoms of menopause naturally.
The safest and most natural approach to managing menopause symptoms is to establish a change in your lifestyle habits. This includes changes in diet, establishing an exercise regimen, and finding ways to reduce stress.
Some studies have shown that incorporating a nutritious diet that includes a good proportion of lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats, in addition to proper hydration, has an amazing effect on decreasing the intensity of symptoms.
Recommended changes to your menopausal diet, and just your regular diet in general, are:
-Foods containing phytoestrogens, which mimic the body’s natural function of estrogen, can help with hormonal imbalance. These foods include fruits (plums, berries, apples, pears, and grapes), vegetables (sprouts, cabbage, onions, and spinach), soy, yams, flax seeds, garlic, and parsley.
-Foods rich in calcium help strengthen bones and decrease the risk of osteoporosis. These foods include dairy products (milk, cheese, and yogurt), dark leafy greens, salmon, broccoli, and sardines.
-Foods high in vitamin D help the body absorb calcium and helps prevent bone loss and bone fractures. These foods include fatty fish (mackerel, tuna), cheese, beef liver, cremini mushrooms, egg yolks, halibut, and milk.
-Foods containing vitamin B may help ease depression and mood swings. These foods include sunflower seeds, almonds, leafy greens (spinach, collard and turnip greens, romaine lettuce), eggs, salmon, liver and other organ meats, beef, milk, legumes, chicken and turkey, yogurt, oysters, and clams.
-Foods high in fiber help relieve regular and menopausal problems with digestion and help to prevent weight gain, in addition to reducing cholesterol, promoting control of your blood sugar, reducing the risk of cancer of the GI tract, and maintaining your heart health. Fiber-containing foods include fruits (pears, apples, strawberries, avocado, bananas, and raspberries), vegetables (broccoli, beets, carrots, Brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes), lentils, kidney beans, quinoa, chick peas, oats, chia seeds, and dark chocolate.
-Maintaining a regular routine of moderate level exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week can help prevent weight gain, improve circulation, and slow down bone loss (osteoporosis). Exercising also releases serotonin and endorphins that help increase your mood, and alleviate or decrease stress, depression, and irritability.
-This could include aerobic exercise (swimming, bike riding, jogging), or muscle-strengthening exercise (squats, light weight lifting, pushups).
-Stress-relieving exercises like Pilates and yoga are beneficial to both your body and your mind.
Improving your day-to-day habits
Meditation, yoga, and other calming activities can help with the stress that accompanies those in menopause, and even just the typical person on a stressful day. Increasing the amount and quality of sleep, letting go of vices like alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, and surrounding yourself with only those that understand your situation and have your best interests at heart will help to keep your mental health in a better place during this time.
Natural supplements that are known to help with menopausal symptoms include black cohosh, red clover, ginseng, and dong quai. These herbal plants contain phytoestrogens, which mimic the body’s natural estrogen production, thus helping to relieve a lot of these common menopause symptoms. Talk this over with your healthcare provider, because after taking these supplements for a while, your body may get used to not having to make its own estrogen, which may cause an even bigger decrease in your estrogen levels.
Medication and Surgery
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) used to be the most common way menopause symptoms were treated. HRT has been successful in treating and decreasing menopause symptoms but, like any other medication, they can produce unwarranted side effects. Although effective for vaginal dryness and hot flashes, it doesn’t help with all the nuances of menopause. It actually may increase the risk of other diseases, such as breast cancer. Research HRT options and speak with your healthcare provider to see if HRT is beneficial for you.
Birth control pills may be prescribed to help with your changing hormone levels and help manage symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and irregular periods. Other medications that may be used include antidepressants to help with mood swings and depression, pain relievers for muscle tension and joint pain, sleep medication, and others.
If symptoms become unbearable or run the risk of causing other medical issues, surgery may help relieve some menopausal symptoms.
-The removal of uterine fibroids (which Black women are more prone to suffer from than other races), which may be causing heavy or irregular bleeding.
-Botox injections to help reduce body odor
-Weight loss surgery for extreme weight gain
Be mindful that although surgery may alleviate some of the symptoms of menopause, it doesn’t address the actual cause, which is the hormonal imbalance.
As stated before, always start with the least invasive route first when figuring out how to manage your symptoms. Work with your healthcare provider to find the best treatment plan for you and your symptoms.
*For educational purposes. Not to be intended for medical advice. Please speak with your healthcare provider to determine the best treatment option(s) for you and your situation.