(NaturalNews) Many women suffer from various uncomfortable symptoms during menopause and perimenopause, the period preceding menopause. The common ones include hot flashes, headaches, recurrent urinary tract infections, vaginal dryness and irritation, cold hands and feet, poor memory and difficulty focusing.
Menopause itself comes about when there are no more active eggs remaining in the ovaries, either through normal aging or due to surgery or chemotherapy. In the United States, it is estimated that 65-80% of women going through menopause suffer from hot flashes to some extent. Here's what you can eat to make for a smoother menopausal journey.
Dong quai, or Chinese angelica, is a well known herb in Asia which is widely regarded as a useful "female" remedy. It has been used to treat various symptoms of menopause, in particular hot flashes. In fact, it also helps with painful menstruation, lack of menstruation and too-frequent menstruation.
Dong quai's ability to deal with hot flashes could be due to the herb's mild estrogenic properties plus its ability to stabilize blood vessels.
Licorice contains natural estrogen-like compounds. Glycyrrhizin, licorice's active compound, seems to have the ability to regulate estrogen levels in women, lowering it when it is too high and raising it when it is too low.
Licorice and licorice extracts are safe when used in moderate amounts, but long-term or high-dose intake could produce adverse reactions such as high blood pressure, headaches and lethargy. James Duke, PhD, wrote that "a safe daily dose of a true licorice confection is said to be five grams, or less than a quarter-ounce."
The American Indians used black cohosh to treat menstrual cramps and menopausal symptoms, and modern science has validated this herb's ability to help with both painful menstruation and menopause. Clinical studies have revealed that a special extract of black cohosh standardized to contain 1 mg of triterpenes help relieve hot flashes, depression and vaginal atrophy.
One particular big study showed that intake of black cohosh extract helped to significantly improve menopausal symptoms in more than four out of every five patients within six to eight weeks. These symptoms included ringing in the ears, heart palpitations, heavy sweating, vertigo, hot flashes, headaches and even nervousness or irritability. Most of the study subjects actually experienced noticeable improvements within four weeks. The herb was generally well-tolerated, with only 7% of the women saying they had mild transitory stomach issues.
Foods to eat
According to Michael Murray, ND, the main dietary recommendation to help reduce menopausal symptoms is to raise one's intake of plant foods, in particular those rich in phytoestrogens, while cutting down on animal foods. Phytoestrogens are plant compounds which could partially replace the effects of estrogen that the woman's body no longer produces. They could also bind to estrogen receptors.
Dr. Murray wrote that a high-phytoestrogen diet could be the reason why hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause often do not occur in cultures where the people consume mainly plant-based foods. Consuming more phytoestrogens in one's diet not only helps alleviate hot flashes but also boosts vaginal cell maturation and prevents osteoporosis.
Phytoestrogen-rich foods include flaxseeds, nuts, fennel, celery, parsley, alfalfa, whole grains and apples.
Vegetables in the cabbage family, such as broccoli, cabbages, Brussels sprouts, collards, kale and mustard, are also useful dietary choices for ladies going through menopause, as they are rich in nutrients which improve bone health, including calcium, magnesium and folic acid. These vegetables help prevent heart disease and breast cancer, too.
A doctor of natural health shares some home remedies for menopause here.
Sources for this article include:
Murray, Michael, ND, and Pizzorno, Joseph, ND. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 1998. Print.
Murray, Michael, ND., Pizzorno, Joseph, ND., and Pizzorno, Lara, MA, LMT. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, NY: Atria Books, 2005. Print.
Duke, James A., PhD. The Green Pharmacy. New York, NY: Rodale, 1997. Print.
About the author: Reuben Chow has a keen interest in natural health and healing as well as personal growth.