If a little relief without a prescription sounds like how you’d like to address something like mood swings or dryness right now, read on for top natural remedies backed up by more than hearsay. Plus, what to eat if you want to put off menopause as long as possible (see: oily fish).
“While it may not be as effective as hormone replacement therapy [for hot flashes], black cohosh provides relief with considerably less side effects,” says Megan Boucher, a naturopathic doctor in Georgetown, Ontario.
The herb is also used for mood management and sleep disturbances. “Not only does it help women fall asleep, but also stay asleep,” Boucher says, citing two recent studies that back up its use as a sleep aid. The most effective dose used in studies is 40mg twice per day in the form of a capsule or tablet, according to Boucher. “This dose is very readily available in the majority of supplements,” she says. Just be sure to talk to your doctor before you try any new supplements, which can occasionally interfere with other medications you might be taking.
Fight those fiery hot flashes with ... breath? A study in the journal Menopause reports the practice of slow breathing really does help — and also decreases fatigue and improves sleep and mood. Study participants who performed the twice-daily series of inhales and exhales reported a 52 percent reduction in hot flashes; those who did it just once a day still reported a 42 percent decrease. “Paced breathing is an easy technique that can be performed by anyone, anywhere, to help with menopausal symptoms,” says Betsy Greenleaf, doctor of osteopathic medicine at Hackensack Meridian Health System in Rumson, N.J. To give it a try, slow your breathing to six breaths per minute (that's breathing in to a count of five, and out to a count of five) for 15 minutes, twice a day.
If you’ve never tried acupuncture, now might be the right time, as studies have found that treatments can help reduce both hot flashes and night sweats. Maximum benefit seems to be after eight treatments, and the effects last for six months, according to the study by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Nancy Avis, a Wake Forest School of Medicine professor and the study’s lead author, noted that the benefit also came without side effects.
More than 75 percent of women are deficient in this mineral, which has been depleted in our soils and foods due to modern farming practices and food processing, according to naturopath Carolyn Dean, author of Menopause Naturally. Menopause could be a very good time to start supplementing your intake, since magnesium, “known as the anti-stress, anti-anxiety mineral,” has been shown to reduce hot flashes and raise serotonin levels to improve mood. “Numerous studies have also shown its effectiveness in helping with deeper, more restful sleep,” Dean says. Aim for 700 mg a day of magnesium citrate powder.
You know what they say: Use it or lose it! No woman (or man, for that matter) wants to hear the words “vaginal atrophy.” That’s the shrinking and drying of vaginal tissue that happens after the fertile years have passed. It can lead to dryness, burning, itching, pain with intercourse, and bleeding. Fortunately, you can help keep that lady part in shape by making sure the blood is flowing. Pamela Dee, an ob-gyn in Savannah, Ga., and author of Love, Sweat & Tears! recommends using a vaginal vibrator on high for 15 minutes twice a week. Sex, she notes, also helps.
According to a study of 914 women published this spring in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, a high intake of oily fish such as salmon or sardines seems to delay the onset of menopause by 3.3 years per portion per day. Similarly, a high intake of legumes delayed menopause onset by nearly one year per portion per day. What not to eat? Refined pasta and rice; higher intakes of those foods led to menopause arriving 1.5 years earlier on average.