Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How to Tame Menopausal Symptoms Naturally

I'd like to start by stating that Menopause is not a disease that needs to be "cured." It is something that every woman goes through at some point in her life, either naturally or due to surgery or chemotherapy. What your experience of Perimenopause and Menopause is depends on the state of balance in your life and in your health; the more balanced you are, the fewer and milder the symptoms you will experience. However, you are probably reading this post because you are experiencing at least one symptom, so let's get down to it.

Like I said, the key to taming Menopausal symptoms is balance. Stress, poor diet, lack of appropriate exercise, and poor sleep can all play a part in taking you out of balance, so try to take control of what you can.  If it is within your power to make better choices (go to bed earlier, ask for help, take a yoga class, go for a walk) then try to do that to the best of your ability. Stress happens, what matters is how you handle it.

In terms of diet, start with a healthy diet, rich with dark green, leafy vegetables, berries and other fruit, as well as other seasonal vegetables, like squash, pumpkin and root vegetables. Small amounts of grass-fed beef, pasture raised chicken and eggs, brown rice, quinoa and legumes will round out the basics. Eat organic and non-GMO when possible. To specifically target menopausal symptoms, which you can read about in my previous post, you will want to eat foods that build Yin and Blood.

Foods that Build Blood:
  • Barley, oats, rice
  • Apricots, cherries, dates, figs, raspberries, grapes
  • Beets, collards, kale, swiss chard, spinach, yellow squash
  • Aduki beans, black beans, kidney beans
  • Eggs (especially the yolk), beef, liver, octopus, oyster
  • Mushrooms
Foods that Nourish Yin:
  • Millet, alfalfa sprouts
  • Asparagus, sweet potato, string beans
  • Cranberries, strawberries, lemons, limes, mulberries
  • Aduki beans, black beans, black soybeans (ideally fermented), black sesame seeds, walnuts
  • Clam, duck, oyster, pork, eggs (especially the yolk)
  • Rosehip, algae, seaweed, marjoram, nettle, salt (high quality sea salt)
If your symptoms are mostly heat related (hot flashes, night sweats, irritability), also adding cooling foods like melon, cucumber, mint and yogurt can help tame the heat. Even if you are running warm however, be cautious with too many cold or iced foods or beverages in the cold weather. You don't want to put out your digestive fire, just cool the rising heat. Keeping most of the food in your diet cooked and warm, but not hot or spicy (see the "avoid" list below). If you live in Hawaii or somewhere else that is warm all the time, you can get away with more cooling foods to balance the warmth of the environment. Here in the Northeast U.S. (where as I am writing it is currently snowing) cooked foods will be better.

Other useful foods and supplements are:
  • Organic, non-GMO fermented soy products-- miso, natto, tempeh
  • Flaxseeds, licorice, black cohosh: they have phytoestrogens or plant estrogens which may be helpful in balancing the drop in estrogen that happens at menopause.
  • Pycnogenol-- can help with hot flashes and night sweats
  • Omega 3 foods-- Flax, chia, hemp, salmon, anchovy, walnut
  • Vitamin D3 (especially for depression, mood swings, irritability, and especially in colder Northern climates in Winter). Adults can take 2000-4000 IU daily when sun exposure is minimal.
For additional support, avoid the following:
  • Alcohol--it produces dampness and heat in the body (you don't need any additional heat).
  • Stimulants like coffee or black tea; green or herbal tea is okay.
  • Spicy foods like cayenne, dried ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, mustard, horseradish, chili. These increase internal heat and make you sweat (you don't need any help in that department).
  • Artificial sweeteners and sugar. These increase inflammation in the body, which can produce more heat as well. They are also just not good for you.
Acupuncture and yoga can also be very helpful when it comes to managing the symptoms of Perimenopause and Menopause. They can help you sleep better, manage stress and balance your hormones so that you feel better and can better cope with daily life.

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