For millions of women over 40, exhaustion, brain fog, hot flashes, and frequent migraines signal the hormonal imbalance that accompanies perimenopause and menopause. Relief comes with a hefty price tag, as women spend $803 on hormone replacement therapies and $1,194 for non-hormonal remedies annually. To the rescue: natural ways to ease change-of-life symptoms on a dime.
Eat bitter foods for bloating.
Half of postmenopausal women battle gastrointestinal woes. That’s because estrogen plays a key role in digestive function. When it drops, levels of bile, the body’s natural laxative, also drop. This leads to gas, bloat, and dry, difficult-to-pass stools. The yummy fix: eating bitter foods like coffee, artichokes, grapefruit, kale, mustard greens, arugula, chard, or watercress, which kickstart bile production. To get the benefits, incorporate one bitter food into each meal.
Fix dry mouth with ginger candy.
In a study of postmenopausal women, 58 percent suffered from dry mouth, and 45 percent didn’t produce enough saliva. To boost saliva production, enjoy a ginger candy. One study found that this stimulates the salivary glands and moistens the mouth enough to reduce dry mouth by 73 percent.
Do this breathing exercise before bed to stop hot flashes.
A whopping 80 percent of us experience hot flashes with menopause — and when these flashes hit at night, they create a vicious cycle that interrupts sleep and affects everything from concentration to mood!
What can help: Sitali, an ancient breathing technique that cools the body and has been proven to lower blood pressure and respiratory rate to improve sleep quality. To do it: close your eyes and breathe as usual for one minute. Next, form your lips into an “O,” stick out your tongue and curl it into a “U.” Inhale through your mouth, focusing on the cooling sensation of the air on your tongue, then close your mouth and exhale through your nose. Do this for two to three minutes before bed or when you wake up at night.
For daytime hot flashes, try a lavender-scented deodorant. The scent has been found to reduce hot flash frequency and intensity by 53 percent by easing stress and activating the brain’s temperature control center.
Say goodbye to dry eyes by eating fish.
Estrogen isn’t the only hormone that drops with menopause; levels of testosterone fall as well. That’s a problem because the hormone helps keep the glands that moisturize your eyes in optimal working order. The easy fix? Fatty acids like those found in wild salmon or DHA/EPA fish oil supplements provide fats the body needs to moisturize all of its tissues, including those in the eye. To get the benefits, take 500 milligrams of DHA and EPA per day.
Ward off hormonal weight gain with turmeric.
Dips in estrogen signal the brain to increase hunger, slow metabolism, and boost fat storage around the waist. Fortunately, research suggests that consuming one teaspoon of turmeric daily can help ward off hormonal weight gain. That’s because the spice works to reverse menopause-related physiological changes enough to reduce weight gain by 50 percent. And it can help you lose too! Turmeric’s been shown to shrink fat cells and switch on genes that activate fat burning, helping dieters lose 6.6 times more fat than those who skip the spice.
Avoid heart palpitations by getting in your magnesium.
A little-known symptom of lower estrogen during menopause, these often harmless flutters can take women by surprise. But they are easy to cure with magnesium, says Mark Menolascino, MD, medical director of the Meno Clinic Center for Functional Medicine in Wyoming, who advises taking 400 milligrams of magnesium glycinate daily. “This will help eliminate palpitations,” he explains. And stopping this overstimulation of the heart will ensure the organ stays stronger for longer. Tip: avoid magnesium oxide, which can cause diarrhea, further depleting magnesium levels.
Add soy to your diet to get rid of vaginal dryness.
Nearly 40 percent of women suffer from vaginal dryness after menopause. That’s because estrogen helps keep the vagina lubricated, but as levels of the hormone dwindle in menopause, it leads to thinning tissues, dryness, and pain during intercourse.
Adding more soy to your diet can help. Soy contains plant-based estrogens that mimic the effects of estrogen to ease symptoms. In one study, women who consumed 24 grams of soy protein a day (the amount in one cup of edamame or four cups of soy milk) reported improvements in vaginal dryness. Also smart: apply a dime-sized amount of pure coconut oil to your vulva for safe and immediate relief of dryness.
Reduce brain fog with maca root.
It’s not your imagination: menopause really can cause temporary bouts of forgetfulness! “Estrogen helps keep our brain sharp. When levels of the hormone decline, brain fog can set in,” says clinical nutritionist Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD.
Maca root can fix it. This herbal remedy helps the body regulate the creation of hormones like estrogen, curbing brain fog. Plus, maca’s rich stores of polyphenols stimulate activity in the hypothalamus to increase mental energy and improve focus in as little as three minutes. The payoff: in one study, women given maca root saw an 84 percent reduction in brain fog, hot flashes, and mood swings.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Save on Healthcare (Buy on Amazon, $12.99).