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Natural Supplements for Menopausal Symptoms – What Are They and How Do They Work?
By: Tammy-Lynn McNabb, RHNP
Menopause is a phase in a woman's life when she experiences various physical, mental, and emotional changes. One of the most common symptoms of menopause is hot flashes, which result from a decrease in female sex hormones. Many women choose to manage their menopausal symptoms with natural supplements instead of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) due to concerns about side effects. This article discusses some natural supplements that are used to alleviate the symptoms of menopause, their benefits, and the scientific evidence that supports their effectiveness.
What Is Menopause?
Menopause is a natural process that occurs in every woman's life. It marks the end of her reproductive years and signifies the cessation of menstruation. This phase usually occurs between the ages of 45-55, although it can vary from person to person. The decrease in estrogen levels during menopause can lead to various symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, and sleep disturbances, etc. Women who do not wish to use hormone replacement therapy to manage their symptoms may prefer to use natural supplements instead. Here are some plants that are currently being recommended for women during perimenopause and menopause.
Natural Supplements for Menopause:
- Black Cohosh: Black Cohosh is a plant-based supplement that has been used for centuries to manage various symptoms of menopause. Studies show that Black Cohosh can reduce hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and improve mood. However, further research is needed to determine its long-term effects.
- Soy Isoflavones: Soy Isoflavones are natural compounds that have estrogen-like effects. It is commonly found in soy-based foods such as tofu and soy milk. The supplement is known to alleviate hot flashes and improve bone health. A study conducted in 2010 also found that Soy Isoflavones could improve memory and concentration in postmenopausal women.
- Red Clover: Red Clover is another plant-based supplement that has been found to reduce hot flashes and improve bone health in postmenopausal women. However, it is essential to note that Red Clover contains estrogen-like compounds and should be used with caution.
- Vitamin D: Adequate levels of Vitamin D are essential for bone health, which is particularly important for women as they age. Vitamin D can also alleviate mood swings and improve cognitive functioning in postmenopausal women.
- Dong Quai: Dong Quai is purported to have estrogenic properties, which means that it can mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. It can bind to estrogen receptors and stimulate the production of certain hormones like follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). These hormones are involved in the regulation of the menstrual cycle and are also affected by menopause. By stimulating their production, Dong Quai can help in restoring hormonal balance and relieving menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness.
- DHEA: DHEA is a hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands and is the precursor to estrogen, testosterone, and other hormones. DHEA levels decrease with age, and menopausal women have significantly lower levels of DHEA than premenopausal women. Some studies suggest that supplementing with DHEA might help alleviate some of the menopausal symptoms.
- GINSENG: Ginseng is a genus of perennial plants that belongs to the family Araliaceae. It is grown in various regions of the world, including Korea, China, the United States, and Canada. In traditional Chinese medicine, ginseng has been used for centuries to treat various ailments, including menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and mood swings. Ginseng contains compounds called ginsenosides, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. These properties make ginseng a potential treatment option for women experiencing menopausal symptoms.
- ST. JOHN’S WORT: St. John’s Wort (SJW) has been found to be effective in reducing the severity of menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings. In a randomized controlled trial (RCT), 100 menopausal women were given SJW or a placebo for eight weeks. The study found that women who received SJW experienced a significant reduction in the number and severity of hot flashes compared to those who received the placebo.
- WILD YAM: Wild yam is a perennial vine native to North America, known scientifically as Dioscorea villosa. The plant's root contains a variety of steroidal saponins, including dioscin, diosgenin, and yamogenin, which give wild yam its purported medicinal properties. Diosgenin is widely used as a precursor for the industrial synthesis of steroid hormones.
Natural supplements can be a safe and effective way to manage the symptoms of menopause. Black Cohosh, Soy Isoflavones, Red Clover, Vitamin D and the others listed are natural supplements that have been used for many years by women around the world to help reduce hot flashes, improve bone health, and alleviate mood swings. It is important to note that natural supplements are not regulated by Health Canada or the FDA, so it is essential to choose a reputable brand and consult with a healthcare provider before starting any supplement regimen. Through adequate research, women can find ways to balance their hormone health and live comfortably during this natural transition in life.