Hot flashes. Night sweats. Mood swings. With recent studies showing the dangers of hormone replacement therapy, women are looking to natural remedies for relief from symptoms of menopause.
Menopause is a natural, gradual process that ends ovulation. This means no more Aunt Flo visits once a month. The average woman begins menopause around age 51, but this can vary. Procedures like radiation can cause menopause to occur sooner and smokers are also more likely to begin menopause early.
Menopause has officially begun when your periods stop for 12 consecutive months with no other possible explanation. Here are some of the most common herbal supplements used for relief of symptoms during perimenopause, which is the gradual transition to menopause.
A root that was used as a bug repellant, black cohosh is very commonly used to help with hot flashes and night sweats. The exact reason is unknown, but it is believed to have effects similar to estrogen. The most common dosage for black cohosh is 40 to 80 mg given twice daily. The most common side effects can be stomach upset, headache, dizziness, weight gain, and vaginal spotting or bleeding and black cohosh does appear to have some unfavorable effects on the liver. It may be appropriate to see your doctor and have your liver enzymes checked more frequently while on this medication to prevent possible liver failure or hepatitis.
There is a lot of controversy around the consumption of soy products. There are reports of soy causing damage to the thyroid and possibly causing breast cancer, but there is not enough proof to determine if this is true. Soy can serve a variety of functions for women by helping to prevent osteoporosis, reducing the risk of breast cancer and reducing symptoms like night sweats and hot flashes. Genistein is a soy isoflavone extract, or what is called a phytoestrogen, which is a plant-based estrogen. It may take up to 2 months to see the full effect from a soy based product. If you prefer to use food instead of a supplement you can eat soy beans, tofu or drink soy milk.
These supplements can interact with anything from antibiotics to blood thinners so it’s important to ask a pharmacist if an herbal supplement for symptom relief is right for you. If you are not a good candidate for prescription hormone replacement or over the counter supplements, use ice packs and fans to help with hot flashes and wear cotton pajamas that breathe to help with night sweats.
As you are entering this next phase of life remember lack of estrogen can decrease bone density, so take a calcium and vitamin D supplement or get them from your diet.