Menopause: Relieving Menopausal Symptoms NaturallyPrint
By Lane Lenard, PHD
As women approach menopause, they become susceptible to a host of complaints, ranging from night sweats and low libido to mood disorders and insomnia. One of the main culprits in menopausal discomforts is declining levels of estrogen.
Ever since the Women’s Health Initiative revealed potentially dangerous side effects of some estrogen drugs, women have been seeking comparative but safer methods to relieve menopausal concerns. Plant-based phytoestrogens are among the most promising of these natural menopause solutions that capture the benefits of estrogen without its side effects.
The Challenges of Menopause
As women approach menopause (usually around age 50), they commonly experience symptoms, such as hot flashes (also called “hot flushes”), mood disorders, irritability, loss of libido, insomnia, depression, and other discomforts.
Hot flashes typically begin a year or two before women reach menopause (defined officially as 12 consecutive months with no menstruation) and may last from just a few months up to five years or longer. For some fortunate women, the sudden and intense warmth and sweating of hot flashes and its associated discomforts may occur just a few times a week, but for others, they can strike several times a day, making it hard for them to work, to spend time with friends and family, and even to go out in public. Hot flashes that occur overnight, known as “night sweats,” can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep.1
The physiologic mechanisms that trigger and control menopausal symptoms are not completely understood, but one thing is eminently clear: they result from the pre-programmed shutdown of a woman’s ovaries and the resulting deficiency of the ovaries’ primary hormonal product, estrogen.
The Search for Solutions
Since ancient times, women have tried to ease their way through the menopausal passage by using various plant-based remedies, such as soy, red clover, flaxseed, black cohosh, and chaste tree berry. Thanks to modern science, we now know that many of the effects of these herbal medicines are due to their constituents known as phytoestrogens, plant-based estrogen-like substances.2 Since phytoestrogens resemble estradiol in their chemical structure and function, they can help substitute for a woman’s declining ovarian estrogen, and thus prevent, or at least modulate, many menopausal symptoms.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: RELEAVING MENOPAUSAL SYMPTOMPS NATURALLY
• Hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms are a consequence of the pre-programmed shutdown of the ovaries and the subsequent decline in their primary hormone, estrogen.
• Hormone replacement therapies such as pharmaceutical HRT products made from horse estrogens or 100% estradiol, as well as natural remedies made from phytoestrogens (e.g., isoflavones) are designed to provide the body with estrogen substitutes that ideally prevent menopausal symptoms. Unfortunately, pharmaceutical HRT products can be potentially dangerous, whereas natural remedies may be too mild to produce desired effects in some women.