Menopause, the time in a woman’s life when her menstrual cycle stops, typically starts after age 45. “The change,” as it’s commonly called, happens when your ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone. The symptoms of this change can be uncomfortable and downright challenging, but you can’t get relief if you don’t seek help.
“I wish more women would talk to their doctor about menopause, and not assume it’s part of being a woman and that you’re supposed to just suffer through it,” says OBGYN Jeremiah McNamara, MD, from Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree, Colorado. “Most women are very bothered by symptoms but not very many seek treatment for it,” he adds.
Typical menopause symptoms include:
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Difficulty sleeping
- Vaginal dryness
- Mood swings and even depression
- Trouble concentrating
- Memory problems
Related: 7 Must-Know Facts About Menopause
Prescription treatments are available for symptom relief, but some women may prefer to try a drug-free or natural route. Here are some natural remedies that may help ease your menopause symptoms.
Foods and Supplements May Help
Red clover, evening primrose oil, black cohosh, and a flaxseed supplement may help ease symptoms, says McNamara.
“A lot of women do report some degree of improvement in their symptoms with these options, but many large well-designed scientific trials have failed to show a significant measurable benefit compared to placebo,” he says. If you are going to try one of these supplements, McNamara recommends picking a supplement made by a reputable company. “Don’t mix them with other supplements that treat menopause, and don’t overuse them: Try it one by one,” he adds.
There are no large-scale studies that show eating foods rich in phytoestrogens — plant-based estrogens — can help relieve symptoms, but there’s also not a ton of risk; it just might not work, says McNamara. Some phytoestrogen-rich foods include: soy, chickpeas, lentils, and flaxseeds.
If you have an issue with hot flashes, avoid spicy foods like curry, hot sauce, and peppers, he recommends. Some women might also find bitter foods like lemons or coffee, as well as indulgent treats, also cause symptoms to flare, says McNamara.
If you’re unsure about what foods or supplements to try, ask your doctor.
Related: Foods to Ease Menopause Symptoms
Move Every Day
Physical activity can be beneficial for menopause symptom relief for two reasons, says McNamara. Most sedentary people have the worst time with menopause symptoms, plus weight loss alone can improve symptoms like hot flashes, he explains.
Exercise that leads to weight loss isn’t the most important takeaway, but instituting a daily exercise regimen — even if it’s just a nightly walk after dinner — can help with symptoms, he explains. Exercise may also help relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety that commonly occur with menopause.
Get Better Sleep
Practicing good sleep hygiene is important for managing menopause symptoms, says McNamara. “The quality of women’s sleep decreases dramatically during menopause and the lower sleep quality, the threshold for anxiety and other conditions lowers, too,” he explains. Some easy ways to get more restful sleep include:
- Turn off the TV and phone when you get in bed
- Wake up and go to sleep at the same time everyday
- Make sure your room is cool and dark
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine before bed
Researching ways to manage menopause symptoms can be challenging because there’s so much information to sift through, says McNamara. Have an open conversation with your doctor about your symptoms and don’t think you have to put up with discomfort, he adds.