By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
When Carol walked into my office the other day, she was in full hot-flash mode. Her face was flushed and there were beads of sweat dotting her forehead. She was also furiously fanning herself with a magazine in a futile attempt to cool off.
I can’t take this anymore, Dr. B, she told me. Please give me something to make it stop!
Carol, like many women, was experiencing many of the classic symptoms of menopause—hot flashes, night sweats, moods swings and vaginal dryness. And she was miserable. But instead of prescribing hormone replacement therapy (HRT), I recommended some safe and natural ways to ease her symptoms.
She was skeptical until I reminded her that menopause isn’t a disease. It’s a natural part of a woman’s life. Understanding what’s going on in your body and finding a natural solution to your symptoms can help you navigate this important milestone without resorting to drugs.
Hot flashes are caused by a drop in estrogen levels. This affects the hypothalamus, the gland that regulates body temperature. While HRT—which is a combination of synthetic estrogen and progesterone—can halt hot flashes, it also greatly increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, blood clots, breast cancer and an early death. A safer way to stay cool is black cohosh. Studies show that this herb is just as effective as HRT for hot flashes, but without the risk.1 As a bonus, it’s also effective for treating the mood swings that occur as hormones fluctuate. To get both of these benefits, take 40 to 80 mg of a standardized extract daily.
Another lifesaver for many women is vitex. Derived from the chaste tree (ironic, but true), vitex increases how much progesterone your body makes by boosting the brain chemical dopamine.2 I’ve found that combining 40 mg of vitex with black cohosh every day helps many women with their hot flashes.
Using a progesterone cream is another great way to soothe hot flashes, vaginal dryness and a lack of desire that commonly occurs during menopause. During the years leading up to menopause, your body begins to makes less progesterone. This can cause dry skin and vaginal dryness.
Too little progesterone can also cause estrogen dominance, which can result in a low libido. Just don’t use it every day. Progesterone cream is designed to mimic your own 28-day cycle so read the directions carefully and follow them to the letter.
If you have frequent hot flashes, it’s also important to take an omega 3-rich fish oil supplement. Women who do find that they have fewer flashes and the ones they do have are less intense.3 Plus they feel less anxious and upset. But fish oil’s benefits for women don’t stop there. It also helps protect against postmenopausal heart problems. But to get these benefits, you need to make sure you’re taking enough. That means at least 3,000 mg daily.
While the symptoms of menopause don’t last forever, many women find that it can be tough while you are in the trenches. These safe and natural remedies can help balance your hormones and ease the uncomfortable and embarrassing symptoms that make this time of life challenging. Just don’t expect results overnight. Natural remedies often take a little longer to kick in but when it comes to safety and effectiveness, it’s certainly worth the wait.
- Bai W. Efficacy and tolerability of a medicinal product containing an isopropanolic black cohosh extract in Chinese women with menopausal symptoms: a randomized, double blind, parallel-controlled study versus tibolone. Maturitas. 2007;58:31-41.
- van Die MD. Vitex agnus-castus (Chaste-Tree/Berry) in the treatment of menopause-related complaints. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2009;15:853-862.
- Lucas M. Effects of ethyl-eicosapentaenoic acid omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on hot flashes and quality of life among middle-aged women: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial. Menopause. 2009;16:357-366