Nutritional therapists hold that certain foods or nutrient deficiencies can trigger or exacerbate symptoms. Still other foods may boost the body's tolerance for fluctuating hormone levels. Soybean products such as tofu contain natural plant estrogens (phytoestrogens) that may reduce menopausal symptoms. Japanese women, whose diet is typically high in soy foods, report few incidents of menopause-induced hot flashes. Phytoestrogens are also found in lima beans, berries, and several other foods.
Another preventive measure is drinking at least eight glasses of purified water per day to ease hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Particular foods may trigger hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal discomforts, and other menopausal symptoms. These culprits include sugar, caffeine, alcohol, refined foods, and spicy foods. Keeping a diary that notes symptoms and food intake can be helpful in pinpointing which foods may be provoking which symptoms.
Vitamin E offers several benefits for women with menopause. Oral supplements of the vitamin can ease hot flashes (and perhaps also headaches, insomnia, nervousness, fatigue, and other symptoms), while vitamin E oil applied to the vagina may reduce dryness and relieve painful sexual intercourse. Good food sources of vitamin E include kale, wheat germ, almonds, vegetable oils, and egg yolks.
Another group of vitamins, the B complex, helps relieve hot flashes for some women, and magnesium may help with other menopausal symptoms, such as fatigue, as this may be caused by a magnesium deficiency. Other helpful supplements include:
- vitamin A
- vitamin C
- essential fatty acids (evening primrose oil, black currant oil, borage oil, flaxseed oil)
- bioflavonoids (especially hesperidin for hot flashes)
Traditional Chinese Medicine for Menopause
During menopause, a woman's body adjusts to the changing hormone levels. According to traditional Chinese medicine, a bothersome menopausal symptom will appear only if the body's vital life energy, or qi, (in particular the kidney qi) is out of balance. Treatment to correct this imbalance may involve any combination of herbal therapy, acupuncture, moxibustion, dietary changes, and qigong.
Chinese herbs are often prescribed in combination mixtures that are individualized to the patient's situation. Dong quai, for example, can be used to relieve the hot flashes, anxiety, and constipation that may accompany menopause. Other Chinese herbs commonly included in menopause treatments are:
Acupuncture is particularly effective in easing annoying hot flashes and night sweats. A traditional Chinese physician will tailor a menopause treatment program for the patient after performing an extensive examination, which often includes questioning, an analysis of the diet, feeling the pulse, and examining the tongue. Using powerful herbs such as dong quai and ginseng without a practitioner's supervision is not recommended.
Other Menopause Therapies
- Ayurvedic Medicine for Menopause -- Treatment involves dietary and lifestyle alterations, herbal therapy, meditation, and other therapies, all focused toward balancing the body's constitution.
- Biofeedback Training for Menopause -- Thermal biofeedback, together with relaxation techniques, can teach women to control their blood flow and relieve hot flashes.
- Bodywork for Menopause -- Massage is used to improve blood circulation and lower tension and stress.
- Homeopathy for Menopause -- Remedies tailored to the individual can treat hot flashes, mood swings, insomnia, and other symptoms.
- Hypnotherapy for Menopause -- Hypnotic trances can ease or eliminate hot flashes, insomnia, anxiety, and other accompanying disorders.
- Meditation for Menopause -- Regular practice can clear the mind and bring lowered heart rates and blood pressure, thereby eliminating mood swings and other symptoms.