Menopause begins in the late 40s or early 50s for most women. It usually lasts for a few years.
During this time, at least two-thirds of women experience symptoms of menopause ().
These include hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, irritability and tiredness ().
In addition, menopausal women are at a higher risk of several diseases including osteoporosis, obesity, heart disease and diabetes ().
Many women turn to natural supplements and remedies for relief ().
Here is a list of 11 natural ways to reduce the symptoms of menopause.
1. Eat Foods Rich in Calcium and Vitamin D
Hormonal changes during menopause can cause bones to weaken, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.
Calcium and vitamin D are linked to good bone health, so it's important to get enough of these nutrients in your diet.
Adequate vitamin D intake in postmenopausal women is also associated with a lower risk of hip fractures due to weak bones ().
Additionally, calcium-fortified foods are also good sources, including certain cereals, fruit juice or milk alternatives.
Sunlight is your main source of vitamin D, since your skin produces it when exposed to the sun. However, as you get older, your skin gets less efficient at making it.
If you aren't out in the sun much or if you cover up your skin, either taking a supplement or increasing food sources of vitamin D may be important.
Bottom Line: A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is important to prevent the bone loss that can occur during menopause.
2. Achieve and Maintain a Healthy Weight
It's common to gain weight during menopause.
This can be due to a combination of changing hormones, aging, lifestyle and genetics.
Gaining excess body fat, especially around the waist, increases your risk of developing diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
In addition, your body weight may affect your menopause symptoms.
One study of 17,473 postmenopausal women found that those who lost at least 10 lbs (4.5 kg) of weight or 10% of their body weight over a year were more likely to eliminate hot flashes and night sweats ().
Here's more info about losing weight during menopause.
Bottom Line: Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight may help alleviate menopause symptoms and help prevent disease.
3. Eat Lots of Fruit and Vegetables
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help prevent a number of menopause symptoms.
Fruits and veggies are low in calories and can help you feel full, so they're great for weight loss and weight maintenance.
They may also help prevent a number of diseases, including heart disease ().
This is important, since heart disease risk tends to increase after menopause. This could be due to factors such as age, weight gain or possibly reduced estrogen levels.
Finally, fruits and vegetables may also help prevent bone loss.
One observational study of 3,236 women aged 50–59 found that diets high in fruit and vegetables may lead to less bone breakdown ().
Bottom Line: A diet rich in fruit and vegetables may help keep bones healthy, and can help prevent weight gain and certain diseases.
4. Avoid Trigger Foods
Certain foods may trigger hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings.
They may be even more likely to trigger you when you eat them at night.
Keep a symptom diary. If you feel that particular foods trigger your menopause symptoms, try to reduce your consumption or avoid them completely.
Bottom Line: Certain foods and drinks can trigger hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings. This include caffeine, alcohol and sugary or spicy foods.
5. Exercise Regularly
There is currently not enough evidence to confirm whether exercise is effective for treating hot flashes and night sweats (, ).
However, there is evidence to support other benefits of regular exercise.
These include improved energy and metabolism, healthier joints and bones, decreased stress and better sleep (, ).
For example, one study found that exercising three hours per week for one year improved physical and mental health and overall quality of life in a group of menopausal women ().
Regular exercise is also associated with better health and protection against diseases and conditions including cancer, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis (, , ).
Bottom Line: Regular exercise can help alleviate menopause symptoms such as poor sleep, anxiety, low mood and fatigue. It can also protect against weight gain and various diseases and conditions.
6. Eat More Foods That Are High in Phytoestrogens
Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring plant compounds that can mimic the effects of estrogen in the body.
Therefore, they may help balance hormones.
The high intake of phytoestrogens in Asian countries such as Japan is thought to be the reason why menopausal women in these places rarely experience hot flashes.
Foods rich in phytoestrogens include soybeans and soy products, tofu, tempeh, flaxseeds, linseeds, sesame seeds and beans. However, the phytoestrogen content in foods varies depending on processing methods.
One study found that diets high in soy were associated with reduced cholesterol levels, blood pressure and reduced severity of hot flashes and night sweats among women who were starting to enter menopause ().
However, the debate continues over whether soy products are good or bad for you.
Evidence suggests that real food sources of phytoestrogens are better than supplements or processed foods with added soy protein (, ).
Bottom Line: Foods rich in phytoestrogens may have modest benefits for hot flashes and heart disease risk. However, the evidence is mixed.
7. Drink Enough Water
During menopause, women often experience dryness. This is likely caused by the decrease in estrogen levels.
Drinking 8–12 glasses of water a day can help with these symptoms.
Drinking water can also reduce the bloating that can occur with hormonal changes.
In addition, water can help prevent weight gain and aid in weight loss by helping you feel full and increasing metabolism slightly (, ).
Drinking 17 oz (500 ml) of water, 30 minutes before a meal may lead you to consume 13% fewer calories during the meal ().
Bottom Line: Drinking enough water may help prevent weight gain, aid in weight loss and reduce symptoms of dryness.
8. Reduce Refined Sugar and Processed Foods
In fact, one study found that diets high in refined carbs may increase the risk of depression in postmenopausal women ().
Diets high in processed foods may also affect bone health.
A large observational study found that among women aged 50–59 years, diets high in processed and snack foods were associated with poor bone quality ().
Bottom Line: Diets high in processed foods and refined carbs are associated with a higher risk of depression and worse bone health in postmenopausal women.
9. Don't Skip Meals
Eating regular meals may be important when you're going through menopause.
Irregular eating may make certain symptoms of menopause worse, and may even hinder weight loss efforts.
A year-long weight management program for postmenopausal women found that skipping meals was associated with 4.3% less weight loss ().
Bottom Line: Irregular eating may cause some symptoms of menopause to worsen. Skipping meals may also hinder weight loss in postmenopausal women.
10. Eat Protein-Rich Foods
Regularly eating protein throughout the day can help prevent the loss of lean muscle mass that occurs with age.
One study found that consuming protein throughout the day at each meal may slow down muscle loss due to aging ().
In addition to helping prevent muscle loss, high-protein diets can help with weight loss because they enhance fullness and increase the amount of calories burned ().
Foods rich in protein include meat, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts and dairy.
Here is a list of 20 healthy high-protein foods.
Bottom Line: Regular intake of high-quality protein may prevent the loss of lean muscle, aid in weight loss and help regulate mood and sleep.
11. Take Natural Supplements
Many women take natural products and remedies to relieve their menopause symptoms.
Unfortunately, the evidence behind many of them is weak.
Here are the most common natural supplements for reducing symptoms of menopause:
- Phytoestrogens: These can be consumed through natural food sources or supplements such as red clover extracts. There is currently not enough evidence to recommend them for alleviating menopause symptoms (, ).
- Black cohosh: Although some studies found that black cohosh may effectively alleviate hot flashes, the evidence is mixed. In addition, there is a lack of long-term data on the safety of this supplement (, ).
- Other supplements: Evidence is scarce for the effectiveness of other commonly used supplements such as probiotics, prebiotics, kava, DHEA-S, dong quai and evening primrose oil.
Bottom Line: Natural supplements may help treat menopause symptoms, but more evidence is needed about their safety and effectiveness.
Take Home Message
Menopause is not an illness. It's a natural part of life.
Though its symptoms can be difficult to deal with, eating the right diet and exercising regularly may help alleviate and prevent them.
Experiment with the tips above to make your time during menopause and beyond easier and more enjoyable.