Midlife hormonal fluctuations can spill over into everyday life. Loss of sleep, irritability, depression, anxiety, hot flashes and more, can affect personal relationships, your career and just make life overwhelming sometimes. Getting a handle on your hormones, understanding what is going on with your body and being able to manage it are the keys to being able to enjoy your life again.
Jumping into hormone therapy may not be the best answer for everyone, and some hormone therapy can have some not-so-great side effects. This is where a more natural approach may be your best bet.
There is actually a systematic approach to managing menopause hormones that works well with many women. In addition, there are plenty of natural, but effective vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements that can reduce or eliminate those unwanted symptoms.
- First, eliminate inflammatory foods with a specific detox that eliminates excess hormones, gets rid of inflammatory foods, and clears hormone receptors. An effective detox eliminates sugar, refined grains, dairy, all processed foods and vegetable seed oils.
- Add in whole foods, organic vegetables, naturally raised meats/fish/poultry, and healthy fats. Fiber is important as it helps the body eliminate excess estrogen, including potent and harmful xenoestrogens.
- Avoid hormone-disrupting xenoestrogens in your environment by avoiding conventional home-cleaning supplies, bug spray, weed killer, scented laundry soaps, dryer sheets, chemical based personal care products, makeup, shampoos, hair styling products, nail polish, and other chemical-based products.
- Practice regular self-care to lower stress by meditating, getting restful sleep, and daily exercise. Reducing stress and its accompanying stress hormone cortisol, improves thyroid function and increases progesterone.
Natural Supplements to Ease Hormonal Symptoms
There are effective, natural hormone-balancing supplements available over the counter, without a prescription that are safe and easy to use.
While some of these therapies are backed by clinical research, keep in mind, some herbal supplements have limited research on their effectiveness, although there may be plenty of anecdotal evidence that supports their use. Always talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider before you try any alternative treatment. They can discuss possible dosage, side effects, and interactions.
Often overlooked for hormone balancing, B vitamins, especially with methylfolate (the most usable form of B9 or folate) and methylcobalamin (B12) and the other B vitamins help the body with something called the methylation cycle. The methylation cycle is key to get folate into the brain, as well as contributing to the formation of important neurotransmitters: epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, and melatonin. B vitamins are also responsible for energy, metabolism, brain and nerve function.
When methylation working, the process helps repair your DNA, regulates hormones, produces energy, protects against cancer, helps with detoxification, keeps your immune system healthy, supports the protective coating along your nerves, strengthens the nervous system and more. B vitamins are also especially helpful at lowering C-reactive protein or CRP, an inflammatory substance that contributes to heart disease and high blood pressure.
Folate in the form of methylfolate, has been found to be very helpful in reducing the length and severity of hot flashes. And B vitamins are one of the best solutions to prevent anxiety, depression and irritability by regulating the brain neurotransmitters responsible for mood regulation.
A good B-multi with methylfolate and methylcobalamin will help ease symptoms of menopause, improve your mood, increase your energy and lower inflammation.
For me, B vitamins are one supplement that I try to never run out of, because they are that important.
Vitamin D is a powerful hormone of its own. Vitamin D3 will boost your immune system, help maintain a strong bone structure, and help and with hormone regulation and vaginal dryness. It’s also known to improve your moods. During perimenopause and menopause, declining estrogen levels affect our body’s ability to activate vitamin D. This means your need for vitamin D increases during this time.
Vitamin D3 is necessary for overall health, and helping reduce menopausal symptoms. Vitamin D is helps prevent osteoporosis, cancer, depression, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and obesity.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3’s may help lubricate your body and decrease vaginal dryness. Omega 3 fats are also vital to healthy brain function and lowering inflammation. When taken in addition to B vitamins and magnesium, omega 3 supplements improve depression and anxiety.
Omega 3 fats are anti-inflammatory, fight heart disease, help prevent cancer, and promote healthy brain function, and soothe ad alleviate menopause symptoms.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that most of us do not get enough of. Women in perimenopause or menopause can definitely benefit from magnesium supplements. Magnesium is known to help sleep by regulating the body’s circadian rhythms, and promoting muscle relaxation. This small study found that 500mg of magnesium daily led to a significant increase in sleep quality, as well as melatonin production.
Adequate magnesium levels may also lessen anxiety and depression, improving brain function, mood regulation and reactions to stress. Magnesium also lowers blood pressure, lowers inflammation, and decreases the risk of heart disease.
Because of their receptor sites, herbal supplements can have the same effect as natural hormones, only milder, and so they function more like a gentle, natural HRT.
The second way herbal supplements can help is to support your body’s own production of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. This is something that conventional hormone replacement therapy in menopause cannot do.
You might think about it this way — when you use herbs, are letting your body self-regulate your hormones and bring them into balance.
There is a small percentage of women who will need HRT. I recommend you start with the most natural approach first, and see if it works for you. Compared to synthetic hormones, herbs are gentler, don’t have the side effects of hormone therapy, and are safer for long term use.
However, it is important to remember that the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements and there is little research on many of them—especially for menopause symptoms.
Black cohosh is a flowering plant that may be one of the most effective herbal remedies for menopause—especially hot flashes. Black cohosh functions as a phytoestrogen–a plant-based compound that mimics the action of the hormone estrogen.
Taking black cohosh can help decrease the frequency or severity of hot flashes. In a study of 80 menopausal women who were having hot flashes, those who supplemented with 20 mg of black cohosh daily for 8 weeks reported fewer and less severe hot flashes.
Black cohosh may have some beneficial effects on women’s mental health particularly anxiety and depression. Researchers found it was linked to significant improvements in psychological symptoms including anxiety and depression.
Dong Quai is commonly used in Chinese medicine for ‘female problems’. Dong Quai works like a phytoestrogen (plant-based estrogen) in the body. Phytoestrogens are weaker than normal estrogens and take up the estrogen receptors in the body, helping to lessen the bad effects of estrogen, and balancing estrogen and progesterone during peri-menopause and menopause.
Dong Quai is thought to enhance metabolism, improve liver function, increase the excretion of excess estrogen, and has a mild sedative activity, so it may be helpful for relaxation and better sleep.
One recent study of a product containing Dong Quai and chamomile showed significant reductions in hot flashes. Taken alone, dong quai does not appear to be all that beneficial for menopausal symptoms, but when used in combination with other herbs, it is considered to be effective and helpful.
Often suggested as a supplement for men, maca works for women as well. Maca root is great for added energy, immune function, memory, mood, performance and antioxidants. Maca also contains amino acids, healthy fatty acids, B vitamins, C, and E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, selenium, sodium, iron, zinc, antioxidants, and some of the same compounds found in cruciferous vegetables.
A study done in 2008, from the journal Menopause shows positive benefits on menopausal women’s moods, reducing both anxiety and depression. This same study showed maca increased sexual libido, and increased serotonin, the “feel good” hormone. Maca also helps with hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and sleep problems which are all common in menopausal women.
Valerian is an herbal tranquilizer and is often used to alleviate anxiety and insomnia—two problems women in perimenopause and menopause report frequently. Valerian is considered to be a phytoestrogen, and reduces the frequency and severity of hot flashes.
There is strong evidence supporting the effects of this herbs on hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. They also reduce risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, improve memory and sleeping patterns. Phytoestrogens are also thought to reduce breast and uterine cancer risk.
Over the Counter Natural Progesterone
Natural progesterone is inexpensive, safe and easy to use. Natural progesterone can definitely help ease the symptoms of estrogen dominance such as: anxiety, skin wrinkling, insomnia and vaginal dryness. Evidence shows natural progesterone has fewer side effects such as depression, bloating, and weight gain than synthetic progestins.
Natural progesterone can also improve thyroid function, as well as reducing the risk of breast and endometrial cancers. Natural progesterone when used regularly, can balance the estrogen-progesterone ratio and eliminate negative symptoms of estrogen dominance.
Natural progesterone is readily available in topical creams at many health food stores or online. Natural progesterone usually contains a standard dose of 20 mg per 1/4 teaspoon—but be sure to check the label to be sure.
There is a natural way to rebalance your hormones and get your estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and thyroid back into balance. It’s important to realize that natural methods are more gentle and the process may be more gradual. So be patient.
In the process, you will most likely lose weight, sleep better, feel better, eliminate anxiety, and also get rid of many of those unpleasant menopause or peri-menopause symptoms.