If you’re going through menopause, you’re probably intimately familiar with the hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, weight gain, and insomnia that accompany “the change.” These symptoms can range from mildly unpleasant to downright treacherous, and can last anywhere between seven and 14 years — in some cases, to the detriment of our mental and physical health. (One study that conducted annual assessments of 255 women over 16 years — all of whom were premenopausal at the start of the study and reached natural menopause by its end — found that moderate to severe hot flashes continued for as long as five years after menopause.)
So what’s a gal to do? Seek relief, of course. Some women turn to hormone therapy; Others try natural therapies. For those in the latter group, we’ve gathered five science-backed natural menopause remedies that may ease symptoms and help you feel more like yourself.
To Shrink a Meno-Belly: Take Vitamin D
Vitamin D-3 (which acts as a natural hormone) may help to fight menopausal weight gain. A study in the Journal of the American Nutrition Association found that when given to overweight individuals with vitamin D insufficiency and combined with a low-calorie diet, study subjects lost more weight than their low-calorie only counterparts. Aim for at least 600 IU of D-3 daily.
To Restore Calm: Sniff Vanilla
Bothered by irritations you’d normally brush off? Estrogen prods your brain to produce feel-good hormones like serotonin. When estrogen levels plunge, so can your mood. If you’re feeling on edge, try smelling vanilla extract. A review of animal studies published in Nutrition Today suggests that the chemical constituent found in vanilla, known as vanillin, may be effective in easing depressive symptoms, although further research is needed.
To Cool Hot Flashes: Sip Mint and Sage Tea
Declining estrogen throws your internal thermostat off-balance. To potentially ease this symptom, add one bag each of mint and sage tea to a cup of hot water and sip twice daily. A review published in the journal ASC Chemical Neuroscience described how TRPM8, a protein found in mint, tricks the body into feeling cooler from the inside out. Sage may also have beneficial effects for keeping you cool. A study in Advances in Therapy found that consumption of fresh sage significantly decreased severity of hot flashes for some women. Combining mint and sage in a cup of tea isn’t just comforting, it may also help you cool down.
To End Insomnia: Supplement With GABA
GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid) is a neurotransmitter that may boost your mood. During menopause, GABA levels can drop, leading to insomnia. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Neurology found that supplementing with 300 milligrams of GABA daily was an effective natural sleep aid.
To Ease General Symptoms: Take Black Cohosh
If you have night sweats, mood swings, insomnia, and weight gain, you may want to try black cohosh. This plant substance, which is a member of the buttercup family, is said to ease a variety of menopausal bothers. Black cohosh has been one of the best-known natural menopause remedies for a long time, but it’s still not entirely clear how it works. According to the National Institutes of Health, “Some researchers believe that black cohosh might exert its effects through a brain-related action, such as moduation of serotonergic pathways, or through its potential ability to act as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, or selective estrogen receptor modulator,” so if you’re looking to fight many symptoms at once it may be worth trying.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.