Estrogen is one of the primary female sex hormones in the regulation of the menstrual cycle during your reproductive years. The pituitary gland releases follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) which stimulates the ovaries to produce estrogen. Estrogen stimulates the follicles within the ovaries to mature an egg, that will be released during ovulation. If the egg is successfully fertilized and implants in the uterus, estrogen is continuously released from the follicle to help support the pregnancy during the first couple of months, until the placenta is formed and takes over hormone production to sustain the pregnancy.
Once a woman reaches the end of her reproductive years, which can occur any time between the ages of 40 and 55, her menstrual cycles become less frequent. Production of both FSH and estrogen decline, until the menstrual cycle ceases and menopause begins. A woman has officially reached menopause when she goes twelve consecutive months without menstruation.
Many women are relieved when they reach menopause, as they no longer have to deal with menstruation, worries of pregnancy, or premenstrual syndrome. Unfortunately, along with these positive changes, there are plenty of bothersome symptoms that most women deal with at some time during their menopause, which can include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Mood changes
- Reduction in sex drive
- Vaginal dryness
- Insomnia or sleep difficulties
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
Some of these symptoms may be more bothersome than others. Every woman experiences different symptoms and the severity of those symptoms can also be different. For those women who suffer from severe menopausal symptoms or feel that their symptoms affect their quality of life, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be an option. HRT can improve your menopausal symptoms, leading to increased energy, increased sex drive, more stable mood, and improved quality of life. Even though HRT can provide all of these improvements, there are downfalls to taking them. These side effects usually include menstrual symptoms, such as such as bloating, breast tenderness, headache, or vaginal bleeding. Serious side effects or risks include blood clots, which when they go to the lungs, called pulmonary embolism, which may be fatal, or certain types of cancers, most commonly breast cancer.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to reduce your menopause symptoms, without the risks, side-effects, or an awkward and embarrassing conversation with your doctor? Fortunately, there are naturally occurring substances that can provide the relief you’re looking for.
- Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring substances found in plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and some grains. By eating more of these foods, you can “trick” your body into making more estrogen, and that alone may help reduce symptoms of menopause. These foods and extracts have the highest concentrations of phytoestrogens:
- Black Cohosh
- Evening primrose
- Soy products
- Chaste Tree Berry
- Estrolene is a combination of herbs and botanicals shown to provide support for menopausal symptoms without the risks of taking HRT. Each ingredient was carefully selected to address the various symptoms of menopause.
- Vitamin E: is long known for its ability to strengthen hair, skin, and nails, but it can also reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes.
- Red Clover: Studies show that red clover reduces symptoms of menopause and that those taking red clover have had improvements in their DEXA scans, which test for bone mineral density.
- Magnolia Bark Extract: Is known to reduce multiple menopausal symptoms, including reduced sex drive, vaginal dryness, night sweats, and insomina, to name a few.
- Pueraria Mirifica Root: Is an herb found in Southeast Asia that acts to reduce menopausal symptoms of hot flashes, insomnia, vaginal dryness and also has antioxidant properties that may help to improve bone mineral density.
- Chaste Tree Berry: Is a berry shown to reduce symptoms of hot flashes starting in as little as 8 weeks.
- Black Cohosh: Is an herb indigenous to the eastern part of the northern hemisphere. It has been found to reduce symptoms of hot flashes and night sweats.
- Vitamin D and Calcium: In order for calcium to be absorbed by the body, vitamin D must be present. Calcium and vitamin D are important for bone health and keeping bone density high. With the loss of estrogen, many women may develop thinning of the bone, such as in osteopenia or osteoporosis, leading to increased risk of fractures.
Treatment doesn’t always have to be prescription synthetic hormones, but can include natural supplements and dietary changes. Consider adding phytoestrogens to your diet or taking a supplement, such as Estrolene to reduce hot flashes, hair loss, decreased libido, osteoporosis, and mood changes that may be associated with menopause. Keep in mind that even though these are not synthetic hormones, that phytoestrogens may behave similarly to synthetic hormones in high doses, leading to similar side effect profile. If you are unsure about taking natural products, or are already taking synthetic hormones and are interested in natural ways to treat your menopausal symptoms, speak with your doctor about making changes to your treatment regimen.
Medically Written and Reviewed by Angela Jackson, MPAP, PA-C