Natural Ways to Deal with Menopausal Symptoms

Everyone experiences the menopausal transition differently. For some, hot flashes, night sweats and mood changes significantly diminish their quality of life; for others, symptoms are less bothersome.

If you’ve started experiencing hot flashes or night sweats, you may be waiting to see how severe they become before pursuing treatments such as menopause hormone therapy. If so, it’s important to start tracking your symptoms, as you may be able to discern what is causing them.

“Women will learn their triggers,” says UNC Health family nurse practitioner Jamie Gallagher. “Common triggers of hot flashes are alcohol, caffeine and spicy food.”

You can manage hot flashes by dressing in light layers that can easily be removed, carrying a fan and sipping on cold drinks.

Gallagher says that engaging in healthy habits related to sleep, stress, exercise and nutrition can also help to make the menopausal transition manageable. Here, she offers more on these natural ways to deal with menopausal symptoms.

Protect your sleep.

Sleep helps you manage stress and mood changes. Without it, you can feel foggy and have trouble concentrating. For many people, unfortunately, it becomes difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep during the menopausal transition.

“During perimenopause and menopause, women feel a lack of control over sleep,” Gallagher says. “It’s common for women to say that they wake up in the middle of the night wide awake.”

At this point in life, it’s critical to stick to a regular sleep schedule and engage in calming routines before bed. Take steps to make your bedroom as conducive to sleep as possible.

“Charge your phone away from your bed,” Gallagher says, to reduce noise and your temptation to mindlessly scroll in the middle of the night. “You need a dark room. And turn up the air conditioning or use a ceiling fan to keep yourself cool.”

Cotton sheets and blankets or covers that can be removed or added throughout the night may also help if you experience night sweats.

Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, large meals and vigorous exercise in the hours before bed can help you fall asleep.

If you struggle with sleep, talk to your doctor before taking any sleep medications.

Manage your stress.

Stress and anxiety can be triggers for hot flashes and make sleep more difficult, so it’s important to find ways to cope with stress.

Women are often caregivers who put themselves on the back burner,” Gallagher says. “At this age, you might be sandwiched between the needs of your aging parents and your own children. Be conscious of those stressors.”

Gallagher says that practicing mindfulness, walking outdoors, spending time away from screens, and stretching or practicing yoga are ways to deal with stress.

Therapy can also be beneficial in this stage of life,” she says. “The knowledge of why we do what we do can be productive.”

Cognitive behavioral therapy and clinical hypnosis are also recommended by The Menopause Society as nonhormonal methods for dealing with hot flashes.

If you smoke to cope with stress, talk to your doctor about ways to quit; smoking can worsen menopausal symptoms.

Find new ways to exercise.

Regular exercise is good for physical and mental health throughout your life, and it can also help you feel better during menopause. You may need to change your routine, though.

“Your body won’t respond the same way to intense cardio like running,” Gallagher says. “This is a time to focus on weight-bearing exercise and core work to strengthen bones and muscles.”

Gallagher says many of her patients report sleeping better when they decrease the cardio intensity of their exercises; on the other hand, patients tell her that long cardio sessions increase the chances of experiencing restless legs during the night.

Still, women often persist with long and vigorous exercise sessions to try to address the 5- to 10-pound weight gain that many experience during the menopausal transition. Gallagher says it’s a common frustration when exercise isn’t translating to lower numbers on the scale.

“We’re working with a new type of body during menopause,” Gallagher says. “Women may grieve some loss of control because of the hormonal changes that are happening. It’s hard when you can’t fit in older clothes, but don’t let it consume you. Have grace for this stage of life.”

Take a look at your diet.

A healthy, balanced diet can help you feel your best during the menopausal transition and prevent disease as you age.

“Increase your protein and eat lots of fruits and vegetables,” Gallagher says. “Aim for at least 25 grams of fiber per day.”

Protein helps to prevent muscle loss and keeps you feeling full. Avoid added sugars or overly processed foods, which can contribute to tiredness and irritability.

Gallagher recommends drinking lots of water and reducing or eliminating alcohol.

“We’re less able to tolerate alcohol as we get older,” she says. “It affects our sleep, causes weight gain, and changes and slows our metabolism.”

It’s also important to include foods that have calcium and vitamin D, which are vital to bone health and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor about whether you need a vitamin D supplement.

Consider evidence-based treatments.

If you search online for natural menopause remedies, you may see claims about supplements or herbs that relieve symptoms. Gallagher says there is no evidence that these options will help, and they may even be harmful in some cases, particularly when mixed with each other or with prescription medications.

“With supplements, there is a lot of misinformation and disinformation,” she says. “Don’t buy a membership or subscription for supplements. There is a place for supplements when something is lacking in your diet, but those herbs or supplements will not provide a benefit for menopausal symptoms.”

Instead, Gallagher says, talk to your provider about evidence-based treatments, including hormone therapy, nonhormonal therapies and other remedies for unmanageable symptoms.

“The vast majority of women can safely take hormones to support the menopausal transition and to help with symptoms,” she says.

Regardless of whether you pursue hormone therapy, Gallagher suggests finding a healthcare professional you are comfortable discussing menopause with.

“Bring up menopause with your provider and describe what you’re feeling,” she says. “Shared decision-making with your provider can help make this transition fulfilling and healthy.”

Questions about menopause? Talk to your doctor. If you need a doctor, find one near you.