How To Reduce Menopause Symptoms Naturally (Expert Roundup)

How-to-reduce-menopause-symptoms-hot-flush

In this post we’re discussing how to reduce menopause symptoms naturally with advice from a panel of expert UK nutritional therapists who specialise in female health and menopause. We’ll take a look at what’s really going on with menopause symptoms and provide you with some practical tips and advice on which menopause supplements to look out for.

Menopause starts in the late 40s or mid 50s for most women and the average duration of menopause is around 4 years following the last period. The average age of menopause is 51 [1].

Around a third of all menopausal women report one or more symptoms or signs of menopause [1]. These symptoms can have a profound effect on quality of life.

Symptoms and Signs of Menopause

Menopause symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats, sleep problems, vaginal dryness, mood swings, headaches, joint pains, weight gain and low libido [2].

Menopause-symptoms-signs-infographic

It’s important to remember that menopause is a natural process and not a disease! The risks associated with menopause like osteoporosis [3], diabetes [4], cardiovascular disease [5] and obesity [6] are not menopause dependent, they are menopause associated.

This means diet and lifestyle can help with menopausal symptoms and perhaps this is why so many menopausal women choose to go down this route [7].

Common Menopause Symptom Queries

  • How can I stop hot flushes?

  • How to stop menopause night sweats.

  • How to stop hot sweats.

  • Should I use vitamins for menopause?

  • What are the best herbal remedies for menopause?

 

We spoke to a panel of expert nutritional therapists and put together some ideas on how to reduce menopause symptoms naturally.

 

1. Top up your Calcium and Vitamin D

Lucy Sparkes, Nutritional Therapist in Leamington Spa.

Menopause is associated with increased risk of osteoporosis and fractures [8].

Sufficient intakes of vitamin D and calcium can help protect bone mineral density [9] and muscle strength [10] in menopausal and postmenopausal women.

Foods rich in calcium include dairy, green leafy vegetables (spinach, collard greens, kale etc), cabbage, broccoli, tofu, beans and lentils.

Our bodies make vitamin D upon exposure of skin to sunlight, so be sure to get some safe sun exposure. Foods which contain vitamin D include oily fish, eggs and mushrooms.

Some foods like bread, cereals and soy/nut milks are fortified with calcium and vitamin D but they often use poorly absorbed forms in low doses.

Vegans can be at risk of lower levels of calcium [11] and vitamin D [12]. Eat as many vegan sources of calcium and vitamin D as possible.

If you’d like to take menopause supplements, choose a supplement containing vitamin D3 and a well absorbed form of calcium like calcium citrate. If you need higher doses of calcium you can supplement this separately.

Calcium-VitaminD-beans-pulses-legumes-osteoporosis-bones

2. Support Menopause Anxiety and Stress

Jane McClenaghan, Nutritional Therapist in Belfast.

Nourishing and supporting our adrenal glands is key to navigating our way through the menopause. For some women, the hormonal changes that take place at this time can trigger symptoms of stress and anxiety.

High cortisol levels affects our mood, sleep, immune function, energy, libido, digestion and skin health. We also know that cortisol balance affects the tendency of women to experience hot flushes [13].

Up until menopause, women produce adequate progesterone that helps to balance out the effects of cortisol.

When progesterone levels start to drop, stress symptoms can feel more pronounced, affecting our mental, physical and emotional well-being.

Dietary changes like reducing our caffeine and sugar intake, increasing our dietary intake of magnesium rich foods like green vegetables, nuts and seeds, and including essential fats in our diet can help nourish our adrenals.

Simple coping strategies and techniques like mindfulness have been shown to be effective in helping to manage hot flushes and night sweats [14]. 

 

3. Balance your Blood Sugar

Milda, Nutritional Therapist in Bath, Frome and online.

Changes in oestrogen and progesterone levels during menopause may alter how cells respond to insulin, which means that it can also affect blood sugar levels and regulation [15].

The hormonal system in the body is tightly linked and if insulin is out of balance, it can affect the stress hormone cortisol, leading to increased anxiety and low mood through disrupted serotonin. Low serotonin is connected to lower levels of the sleep hormone, melatonin. Low melatonin is associated with disturbed sleep which feeds into the cycle of hormonal imbalance [16].

Fluctuating blood sugar balance causes spikes and crashes of insulin, as well as spikes and crashes of energy, motivation and positivity. When experiencing a crash, cravings for sugar, caffeine and simple carbohydrates are very common [17].

To balance blood sugar eat regular meals through the day and never skip breakfast. Eat protein with each meal when possible, also making sure that there’s plenty of colour, vegetable fibre and variety in the meals.

Here’s some simple blood sugar balancing food replacements:

  • Swap afternoon biscuits with carrots and hummus or a boiled egg.

  • Swap coffee with green tea.

  • Swap white bread or pasta with wholegrain, nutritious alternatives.

Avoid excessive sugar, caffeine, processed foods and simple carbohydrates and you’ll quickly see a improvement in blood sugar balance.

Read more about balancing blood sugar here.

 

4. Magnesium and Menopause

Alex Gear, Nutritional Therapist and former cookery teacher in London.

Magnesium is known as nature’s tranquilliser and it can provide valuable support throughout the stages of the menopause, helping to support the nervous system by easing anxiety and tension, helping to promote sleep, reducing hot flushes, controlling sugar cravings as well as maintaining healthy bone density and providing cardiac support [18, 19]. It’s possibly the most researched of all menopause supplements.

Perimenopausal and menopausal women need to make sure that they have sufficient levels of magnesium their diet as magnesium plays an important role in bone mineralisation and low levels can impair bone health and be a risk factor for osteoporosis, as well as helping maintain a healthy nervous system balance [20].

Foods rich in magnesium include leafy greens, avocados, nuts and seeds, pulses, legumes, oily fish and tofu. However, due to excessive farming and soil depletion many foods contain lower levels of magnesium compared to a few decades ago, so you may want to consider a magnesium supplement.

Magnesium citrate and magnesium glycinate have high absorption rates and the recommended dose is 300-400mg per day. However, care must be taken when supplementing magnesium to ensure no drug contra-indications and excessive intakes from supplements can result in unwanted side-effects.

Magnesium oil can be applied to the skin and absorbed through the skin in magnesium salt baths.

It is important to note that too much caffeine, alcohol and sugar can deplete the body of magnesium.

 

5. Eat Foods Which Balance Hormones

Sally Duffin, Nutritional Therapist in York.

During menopause it can be helpful to eat more of certain foods that contain phytoestrogens. These are plant compounds with mild oestrogenic activity - much weaker than human oestrogen, but still able to act on hormone receptors throughout the body.

Phytoestrogens work in different ways depending on the type of oestrogen receptor they latch on to. They have a similar action to SERMs drugs (Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators), stimulating some oestrogen receptors whilst blocking others [21].

This modulating action gives phytoestrogens the ability to support the hormonal fluctuations of menopause. There are three types of phytoestrogen: isoflavones, coumestans, and lignans.

Soy isoflavones are the most heavily studied type of phytoestrogen and have been shown to favourably reduce hot flushes, lower LDL cholesterol, and provide a protective effect to bones [22].

A lot of controversy surrounds the use of soy. However, much of this is linked to animal studies rather than human research, and The European Food Safety Authority has concluded that soy isoflavones do not adversely affect breast, thyroid, or uterine tissues in post-menopausal women [23].

Soy is not the only source of isoflavones; chickpeas, aduki beans, kidney beans, and red clover are also good sources, so there is scope for variety. Flax seeds are rich in lignans, another good phytoestrogen. The ground seeds can be added to smoothies, sprinkled over porridge, granola, and salads, or stirred into soups.

Coumestans are found in mung bean and alfalfa sprouts. Both are easy to grow at home in a glass jar on the kitchen windowsill and make a tasty addition to salads and stir fry. 

Soy-Soya-phytoestrogen-Menopause-isoflavones

6. Boost Digestion

Milda, Nutritional Therapist in Bath, Frome and online.

Oestrogen is responsible for many functions in a woman’s body. It helps to modulate cortisol and neurotransmitters associated with anxiety. When oestrogen levels drop during menopause, cortisol levels increase. This hormonal change may affect the digestive tract and contribute towards sluggish emptying, bloating and constipation [16].

Additionally, low oestrogen may slow down liver detoxification, therefore adding extra pressure and delays in the digestive tract [24].

Luckily, a few clever changes in diet and lifestyle can boost sluggish digestion and soothe the symptoms. 

Don’t underestimate the power of hydration, as drinking around 2 litres daily (or slightly more if you’re exercising) can very effectively relieve constipation and support liver detoxification.

Aim to get in plenty of fibre with meals, such as vegetable fibre, wholegrains, beans and pulses. Especially focus on eating a diverse range of vegetables, eating a rainbow of colours throughout the week.

Ripe fruits, such as apple, orange and grapefruit can be especially beneficial as they contain pectin, which supports digestive function [25].

Strive for gentle daily exercise like walking, cycling or swimming. Movement stimulates the digestive tract and can help to relieve digestive symptoms related to menopause [26].

Digestion-liver-oestrogen-menopause

7. Hot Flushes Treatment – Calm The Nervous System

Perhaps the most common question related to menopause symptoms is ‘How do I stop hot flushes?’

Charlotte Hunter, Nutritional Therapist in Surrey explains how to treat hot flushes naturally.

Hot flushes are commonly associated with the menopause and are characterised by sensations of heat especially in the head, neck and torso. Without warning women can suddenly feel like they’ve stepped into a sauna wearing head to toe ski gear.

Whether you call them hot flashes or power surges they can significantly affect a woman’s quality of life by disrupting sleep, mood and memory. They have also been implicated in more serious health outcomes relating to cardiovascular risk factors and low bone density [27,28].

The actual cause of hot flushes is poorly understood but is thought to be associated with our nervous system. It would seem that declining levels of oestrogen send messages to the hypothalamus (part of the brain) that increases vasodilation (widening of blood vessels) [27,28].  

Other theories, relating to heart rate variability, suggest that our stress response plays a key role in the severity and frequency of hot flushes [29].

So how can we calm the nervous system and treat hot flushes?

  • Discover relaxation techniques that work for you such a meditation, breathing, yoga or perhaps a magnesium salt bath.

  • Get into good sleep habits and build a calming routine into your evenings.

  • Eat regular meals and avoid snacking especially on sugar and refined carbohydrates.

  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine and other stimulants.

  • Therapies such as massage and acupuncture are known to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and help us to chill.

  • Laugh and enjoy life!

  • As previously mentioned in point 5, magnesium can help with hot flushes.

Hot-flushes-stress-nervous-system

8. Sort Your Sleep Routine

Caroline Westoll, Nutrition & Wellbeing Practitioner in East Sussex.

Sleep is important for us to recharge, repair and regenerate. Lack of sleep can have a massive impact on our mental and physical state. There are 6 main areas we can work on to promote a good night’s sleep.

  1. Stop screen time at least 30-60 minutes before bed as it stimulates the brain, suppressing the production of melatonin which is an important hormone in the regulation of our sleep/wake cycle or circadian rhythm [30].

  2. Try to get to bed as close to 10pm as possible to take advantage of the golden window of healing & regeneration for the body - 10pm and 1am.

  3. Boost your magnesium levels to combat restless legs or pain [31] 1 hour before bed via supplementation or an Epsom salts bath.

  4. Avoid stimulating caffeinated drinks after 2pm. Try chamomile tea for relaxation or sage tea to help reduce hot flushes.

  5. Heavy and rich meals before bed can contribute to heartburn. Have a light meal no later than 7pm. Having 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in a small glass of warm water with your main meals can aid digestion and help prevent heartburn.

  6. Create a calm, clutter free, cool, restful sleeping environment.

Sleep-Menopause-Chamomile-Tea

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The Bottom Line

Symptoms of menopause can be debilitating but making some small changes to diet and lifestyle might make them a little easier to deal with. Try some of the expert tips above to make your menopause a less painful, and dare we say, a more enjoyable experience. 

Thanks to our authors for their valuable insight and expert advice on how to reduce menopause symptoms.

The Evidence

[1] InformedHealth.org. Menopause: Overview.

[2] Menopausal Symptoms: Comparative Effectiveness of Therapies.

[3] Bone Health and Osteoporosis.

[4] Menopause, hormone therapy and diabetes.

[5] Menopause and cardiovascular disease.

[6] Obesity and menopause.

[7] Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Menopause.

[8] Menopause and bone.

[9] Effect of supplementation of calcium and vitamin D on bone mineral density and bone mineral content in peri- and post-menopause women; a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial.

[10] Effects of Enhanced Exercise and Combined Vitamin D and Calcium Supplementation on Muscle Strength and Fracture Risk in Postmenopausal Chinese Women.

[11] Micronutrient status and intake in omnivores, vegetarians and vegans in Switzerland.

[12] Young adult vegetarians in Shanghai have comparable bone health to omnivores despite lower serum 25(OH) vitamin D in vegans: a cross-sectional study.

[13] Daily salivary cortisol patterns in midlife women with hot flashes.

[14] Mindfulness Training for Coping with Hot Flashes: Results of a Randomized Trial,

[15] Menopause, Estrogens, and Glucose Homeostasis in Women.

[16] Northrup, C. (2011) The Wisdom of Menopause. Bantam Books

[17] Sugar consumption, metabolic disease and obesity: The state of the controversy.

[18] Introduction to Human Nutrition.

[19] The multifaceted and widespread pathology of magnesium deficiency.

[20] Short-Term Oral Magnesium Supplementation Suppresses Bone Turnover in Postmenopausal Osteoporotic Women

[21] Phytoestrogens: A Review of the Present State of Research

[22] A natural alternative to menopausal hormone replacement therapy. Phytoestrogens.

[23] Soy and Health Update: Evaluation of the Clinical and Epidemiologic Literature.

[24] Glenville, M. (2012) Natural Solutions to Menopause. Bluebird Books

[25] Clinical benefits after soluble dietary fiber supplementation: a randomized clinical trial in adults with slow-transit constipation].

[26] Constipation in adults.

[27] Menopausal hot flashes: mechanisms, endocrinology, treatment.

[28] The menopausal hot flush: a review.

[29] Heart rate variability in menopausal hot flashes during sleep.

[30] Direct Measurements of Smartphone Screen-Time: Relationships with Demographics and Sleep

[31] The Importance of Magnesium in Clinical Healthcare

Disclaimer. This information is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Please consult with your doctor before making lifestyle and dietary changes.