Got Menopause Symptoms? Do What Comes Naturally
Menopause is not a disease; it’s a natural part of a woman’s life, but it can be overwhelming. For those who are struggling with menopausal symptoms and side effects, there are alternatives to help during what can often be a challenging transition.
“During menopause, women’s estrogen and progesterone are declining. In response, the body’s adrenal glands begin to pick up the slack as hormone production in the ovaries tapers off,” explains naturopathic doctor Melissa Josselson, ND. “It’s important to understand that although estrogen and progesterone decline at menopause, this generally doesn’t happen until after a woman’s last period. In peri-menopause, which can occur around 15 years before menopause, women may suffer from estrogen-dominance, meaning they have more estrogen in relationship to progesterone. This can be due to more anovulatory menstrual cycles – when you bleed but don’t ovulate – as a woman transitions into menopause. Estrogen dominance can result in a variety of symptoms, including bloating and weight gain.
Add the daily stress that many women experience, and by the time they reach menopause, their adrenal glands may be tired and not functioning at an optimal level. Often times, it’s this adrenal dysfunction that affects the presence or severity of menopause symptoms. Some women will transition through with ease, while others will experience severe symptoms.
“I use adaptogens to support the adrenals, which, in turn, can help alleviate a range of menopausal symptoms. Adaptogens are botanicals (plants) that increase our body’s resistance to all types of stress. They have a normalizing effect on the body and help rejuvenate it. Adaptogens contain powerful antioxidants and are distinct in their ability to balance our endocrine and immune systems,” notes Dr. Josselson.
In addition to supporting the adrenal glands, other specific botanicals can be used to combat menopausal symptoms. It’s best to consult an herbalist or naturopathic doctor before taking any of these herbs because they can have potential side effects or interactions. Dr. Josselson explains: “Licorice helps to boost depleted adrenals; however, it can raise blood pressure, and therefore is not recommended for anyone with hypertension.”
Dr. Josselson recommends a comprehensive approach to addressing menopausal concerns. She recommends a minimum of 3-4 days/week of exercise with at least 2 days/week that include weight-bearing and resistance exercise. The weight-bearing and resistance exercise is especially important to promote good bone health and help prevent osteoporosis. Nutrition is key for overall health and for proper hormonal balance. For example, insulin resistance may become a factor during menopause, so reducing the intake of white flour and sugar can improve this issue.
Women do not need to suffer through menopause. There are alternatives that can help with some of the harsh side effects. Menopause can be a major transition in a woman’s life, but it does not have to be a negative one.
PLEASE NOTE: It’s important to let your primary care doctor(s) know if you are consulting with a naturopathic doctor or taking any herbal supplements so they can best coordinate your health care.