Coping With Menopause Naturally -
Alternatives to HRTBy Monique N. Gilbert,
Many women are searching for an effective
natural approach to relieving their menopausal symptoms because of the recent
negative findings of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). On May 31, 2002, the
National Institutes of Health stopped a major long-term clinical trial of the
risks and benefits of combined estrogen and progestin before the trial was
completed. Due to the increased risk of breast cancer, coronary heart disease,
stroke, and blood clots, it was determined that HRT's risks outweigh its
The first thing to remember is that menopause is not a
disease. It is a natural part of a woman's reproductive life cycle which can be
managed with exercise and diet. Hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and bone
loss are the chief complaints among women going through menopause. Learning to
deal with these unpleasant symptoms will help you cope with life's changes.
Menopause not only causes a decline in hormone levels, but can also
leave you feeling moody, irritated, tired and unfocused. This is partly due to
the lack of a good night's sleep caused by night sweats. Regular exercise (at
least 3 to 4 times a week) is probable the most important thing you can do to
improve your nighttime rest and overall health. (Taking a cool shower before
bedtime can also help promote a good night's sleep.)
strengthens your muscles and bones, helps circulate your blood (which nourishes
the skin and internal organs); improves your mental outlook (about yourself and
life in general), and promotes a tranquil night's sleep. It also increases your
levels of serotonin, endorphins and dopamine. Serotonin, a chemical your brain
manufactures, produces a calming effect and creates a sense of satisfaction and
well-being. Endorphins decrease pain, reduce stress, cause mood stability and a
sense of happiness and joy. Dopamine increases your vitality, concentration and
Weight bearing exercises and strength training is also one
of the most effective methods of fighting bone loss and osteoporosis.
Resistance placed upon the skeleton during physical activity makes bones
stronger and denser while improving posture, balance and muscle tone. The
positive effects of exercising keeps you fit, trim, feeling younger and
energetic. Taking a daily dose of calcium (1,200 mg to 1,500 mg), magnesium
(500 mg to 750 mg) and vitamin D (400 IU) also helps preserve bone density and
The next step to help you through the symptoms of menopause
is to increase your intake of phytoestrogen rich foods. Many women experience
positive results by eating soy. Soy foods contain isoflavones (natural plant
estrogen) that have similar properties to human estrogen, but are much weaker.
Isoflavones can bind to the body's estrogen receptors and help offset the drop
in estrogen that occurs at menopause.
Scientists have shown isoflavones
function similarly to HRT without producing the risks associated with this
controversial treatment. Soy foods offer women a more natural way to treat
their menopausal symptoms. Research on soy's protein and isoflavones indicate
that soy can help to relieve hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue, and vaginal
Besides helping regulate estrogen when it is declining, soy
can also help with other conditions such as osteoporosis, heart attack, stroke
and breast cancer. Women have an increased risk for these disorders during and
after menopause. Many studies show that soy can prevent these diseases by
helping the body absorb and retain calcium, inhibit bone loss, lower LDL (the
bad) cholesterol and decrease blood clotting.
The best forms of soy are
those with the highest amount of isoflavones and protein; like whole soybeans
(edamame), tempeh, textured soy protein (TVP), soynuts, and some soy protein
powders. Next would be tofu, soymilk and miso. However, the actual isoflavone
content has to be high enough to produce positive effects. Some foods made from
soy protein concentrate, like soy hotdogs, have very little isoflavones due to
their processing method. Other products, such as soybean oil and soy sauce,
contain no isoflavones in them at all.
Researchers recommend consuming
at least 25 grams of soy protein and 30-50 milligrams of isoflavones daily
(equal to 1-2 servings). This is only a starting point. You can safely consume
2-3 times this amount. The North American Menopause Society suggests 60 to 90
milligrams of isoflavones a day.
Many health experts encourage people
to incorporate soy foods into a balanced diet and discourage solely taking soy
supplements. Soy foods have various nutrients and compounds that contribute to
its health benefits, while soy supplements usually only contain isoflavones.
They advise taking soy supplements along with soy foods. This way the benefits
of both forms can complement and enhance each other.
Some women have
found that taking Black Cohosh and Vitamin E (400 IU to 800 IU daily) can also
provide relief from hot flashes, night sweats and other menopausal symptoms.
Black Cohosh is a phytoestrogen herb that women have used for centuries to help
manage their hormones. Other beneficial herbs include Dong Quai, Evening
Primrose Oil and Red Clover.
Since each woman is unique and reacts
differently to natural treatments, try them out for yourself. Women who
exercise regularly and consume soy daily generally have fewer menopausal
symptoms than those who do not. Test these approaches for at least 6 to 8 weeks
to see if you get positive results.
To get you started, try this easy
and delicious soy recipe from my book "Virtues of Soy: A Practical Health Guide
and Cookbook" (http://www.virtuesofsoy.com).
Golden Tofu Strips
5.3 ounces of firm tofu (1/3 of a 16-ounce block)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 tablespoon canola oil
Cut tofu into strips 1/4 inch wide and 2 inches long. Heat 1/2
tablespoon canola oil. Add tofu strips, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon
turmeric. Stir to thoroughly coat all sides of tofu. Cook tofu strips about 5
minutes or until golden brown. Serve on top of a salad, stir-fry, or stuffed in
a pita with shredded lettuce. (Makes 1-2 servings)
This recipe is from
the book "Virtues of Soy: A Practical Health Guide and Cookbook" by Monique N.
Gilbert (Universal Publishers, 2001, p. 169). http://www.virtuesofsoy.com
Copyright © Monique N. Gilbert - All Rights Reserved.
Monique N. Gilbert, B.Sc., is a Health Advocate, Certified Personal
Trainer/Fitness Counselor, Recipe Developer, Freelance Writer and Author of
"Virtues of Soy: A Practical Health Guide and Cookbook" (Universal Publishers,
2001). http://www.virtuesofsoy.com E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Monique N. Gilbert has a Bachelor of Science
degree, is a Certified Personal Trainer/Fitness Counselor and Health Advocate.
She began eating a whole grain, vegetable-rich diet in the mid-1970's. This
introduced her to a healthier way of eating and became the foundation of her
dietary choices as an adult. She became a full-fledged vegetarian on Earth Day
1990. Over the years she has increased her knowledge and understanding about
health and fitness, and the important role diet plays in a person's strength,
vitality and longevity. Monique feels it is her mission to educate and
enlighten everyone about the benefits of healthy eating and living.