Menopause : Manage Menopause Naturally

Menopause is the time in a woman's life when the ovaries stop producing the hormones estrogen and progesterone and menstruation ceases, indicating the end of fertility. The transitional period when hormone production slows and the body is preparing for menopause is called perimenopause.

Some women will experience few if any symptoms during perimenopause, while others will have some or all of the symptoms that are associated with menopause -- anxiety, dry skin, fatigue, headaches, hot flashes, insomnia, mood swings, reduced stamina, weight gain, and joint pain, among others.

Women may start experiencing perimenopause in their late 30s. The average age of menopause is 51, however for some women it happens as early as 40 or as late as 55.

The hormonal imbalance during perimenopause and menopause can wreak havoc on the body, and dealing with the uncomfortable symptoms can make this transition a challenge. But by exercising as much as possible, nourishing the body with healthy foods, and supporting hormone levels with supplements, it is possible to alleviate symptoms and feel better.

Start by eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Incorporate foods high in phytoestrogens, plant chemicals linked to a lower incidence of hot flashes. Opt for nuts, whole grains, apples, celery, parsley, and especially soy foods. The isoflavones in soy foods have estrogenic activity and can help balance hormone levels. Limit animal products and dairy -- both promote hot flashes. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and spicy foods, which can aggravate menopausal symptoms.

A variety of supplements may also be helpful. Andrew Weil, MD, recommends the following natural remedies for menopause.

Flaxseed. Research suggests that just a few spoonfuls a day could cool hot flashes in menopausal women. Grind whole flaxseeds in a coffee grinder and stir it into muffins and breads, smoothies, and soups.

Dong quai. This herb helps support and maintain a woman's hormonal balance.

Black cohosh. One of the best-studied herbs for menopause, black cohosh can help alleviate symptoms such as hot flashes by helping to maintain hormone levels.

Vitamin E. Daily vitamin E (as mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols) may be helpful for relieving hot flashes and other symptoms.

Evening primrose or black currant oil. These oils are sources of gamma-linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid that can help moderate menopausal symptoms.

With a proper diet, supportive supplements, and regular exercise, many of the unpleasant symptoms of menopause can be minimized or even eliminated.