Menopause is the natural cessation of menstruation and ovulation, which typically occurs in women ages 40-55. Though menopause is sometimes called the “change of life,” it does not have to change your life in a negative way. Rather, there are many natural strategies you can use to make the transition as smooth and health-promoting as possible.
Nutrition is a big part of everyday life and, for that reason, one of the best tools you can use to control any menopause-related symptoms. Once you know how to select foods that will support your body during menopause, you will feel more in control of what your body is experiencing, but you will also be practicing the best medicine possible — prevention.
Menopause is often associated with stressful symptoms like hot flashes, sweating, irritability, depression, and stomach upset. Why is that? Many naturopathic and allopathic doctors attribute menstruation with the ability to eliminate toxins from the body. Once menstruation ends, toxins have to find new channels and can overload other eliminatory channels. When this occurs, physical symptoms of toxicity appear.
Women cannot stop menopause from happening. But, we can ease the transition with a good nutrition program. There has been a lot of research about the role herbs can play in balancing hormones in the body. Plant saponins, such as the diosgenin found in wild yam, cause a mild balancing response by binding directly to hormone receptors. The following herbs contain beneficial saponins: black cohosh, dong quai, elder, ginseng, licorice, passion flower, and wild yam.
In addition, herbs can supply the extra nutrients needed during menopause. Calcium-rich herbs, for example, support bone health and are easy to incorporate into the daily diet via cooked meals or teas, including: alfalfa, cayenne, chamomile, chives, cleavers, dandelion, dill, parsley, plantain, red raspberry, red clover, rosehip, watercress, and yellow dock.
Additional vitamin and nutrient-rich herbs that can ease menopause include:
- Vitamin C (healthy teeth and gums, heart health, and clears out toxins): alfalfa, catnip, cayenne, dandelion, hawthorn, parsley, red raspberry, and rosehips.
- Vitamin E (for heart health and arteries): alfalfa, dandelion, kelp, red raspberry, rosehips, and watercress.
- Iodine (promotes nerve and brain activity and regulates metabolism): garlic, Irish moss, kelp, mustard, nettle, and parsley.
- Vitamin B1 (nervous and digestive system health): cayenne, dandelion, fathen, fenugreek, kelp, and watercress.
- Vitamin B2 (eye health): burdock, dandelion, fenugreek, parsley, and watercress.
- Vitamin B3 (niacin supports the adrenal glands; deficiency symptoms include insomnia, depression, and irritability): alfalfa, burdock, fathen, kelp, parsley, and sage.
Some women suffer from more severe menopausal symptoms. These symptoms may be the result of malfunctioning adrenal glands, which, during menopause, “take over” some of the traditional functions of the ovaries, easing menopausal symptoms. For these women, the use of herbs can be very effective. Note that the herbal tea remedy below is not meant to take the place of any prescribed medicine. Rather, always consult your health care professional before making significant changes to your diet. The recipe below can, however, be added into the diet as a health promoting supplement.
Parsley is known specifically for its effective work with the adrenals. Here is a simple-to-make tea recipe, which will help to integrate parsley into the diet.
- ½ oz nettle
- ½ oz cleavers
- ½ oz parsley
- ½ oz orange leaves and flowers
- ½ oz red raspberry
- ¼ oz hops
- ¼ oz senna leaves
First mix the herbs together and store in a glass container, preferably in a dark and cool cupboard. Then, as needed, use 1 tsp of the herb blend to prepare a tea. The ratio is 1 tsp of the herb mixture to 1 cup of boiling water. Steep the herbs for 10-15 minutes. Prepare as needed. Do not store for long periods of time. Drink 1-3 cups a day between meals.
For more information about the use of herbs, check out the ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs available through Amazon. In this guide, detailed herb monographs include an overview of the herb, a description, primary uses, dosage, duration, chemistry, and contraindications.