Menopause is an important time of transition in a woman’s life, and can mean big changes on every level- physically for sure, but on an emotional and mental level too.
And no one really talks about it!
It can be a time of life that feels a little lonely and unfamiliar. You might have some big questions about life come to the surface and you may be unsure of what’s in store for you moving forward.
If you’ve found yourself hitting this point in your life and sort of looking around thinking: “What the heck is happening? And why does no one talk about this?!” Then you’re not alone, and this is for you, my friend!
In this article, we’re going to break down exactly what is going on, how it can create symptoms in your body you’ve never experienced before and some natural herbal remedies to help!
It's Time to Re-Frame Menopause
We live in a society that values youth over older age, by a long shot. If you don’t believe me, just take a moment to consider how many anti-wrinkle creams there are on the market. Moving into this phase of a woman’s life, given the societal messages she’s received about needing to preserve youth at any cost, can be earth-shattering.
Lest we forget, menopause is a normal & natural process. Some might even say a spiritual initiation into the Wise Woman years….
What if we were to move away from the “organs failing”, “loss of fertility” & “getting old” mindset to looking at menopause as a time where women have never been so free, wise and confident in who they are.
I love seeing clients going through menopause because there’s a no bullshit kind of attitude with these women. They know themselves. They’ve been through a lot of life experiences that have given them wisdom that only develops over time. It took living (all their choices, mistakes and successes) to make these women who they are.
It can be a great time of reflection, upheaval and change. Offer yourself a little grace and compassion as you navigate through it all.
Medical doctor, midwife and herbalist Aviva Romm says menopause is a time to:
“Expand into speaking our truth, care less about what people think about us, and have time to nurture ourselves and our personal dreams. It’s also a “big deal” time in our lives. All of this happening just as kids leave home for college, long-time marriage dynamics may be changing, and your sense of yourself may be changing as you do a midlife self-assessment – so your coping skills may feel like they are on a temporary hiatus.”
Are My Symptoms Normal?
It’s important to know that what you’re going through isn’t unusual. And knowing the reason WHY can help with understanding the changes in your body, and (sometimes) make it easier to go through. Every woman experiences menopause differently, but here are some really common experiences:
- Hot flashes: It’s not totally clear why hot flashes occur, but it’s thought that decreased estrogen levels cause your body's thermostat (the hypothalamus) to become more sensitive to slight changes in body temperature. When the hypothalamus thinks your body is too warm it starts a chain of events, leading to a hot flash, to cool you down. Remember, sweating is the body’s way of cooling itself down (a bit counter-intuitive when you’re burning up and feel super hot). Hot flashes can be embarrassing and a little unpredictable, which can lead to feelings of anxiety. Night sweats are hot flashes that occur in the night and leave you feeling overheated, sometimes drenched in sweat and throwing the blankets off in a frenzy... Just to pull them back on because you’re now freezing. Not a great way to get a good night’s sleep!
- Weight gain: Decreasing estrogen encourages the body to store fat around the abdomen, and less in the hips and thighs. Decreased muscle mass as we age makes it so we’re less efficient at burning calories, so losing weight becomes more difficult. Stress (and the release of cortisol) can play a huge part in weight gain and not only that, it can create a cycle of craving carbs, too. Lack of sleep, decreased energy (goodbye motivation to work out!), and an imbalance diet can all be reasons for the weight to slowly creep on and just not come off.
- Mood changes: As your hormones change, your body changes too. You may start to experience your body in a whole new way, which can bring up fears of aging, frustration, confusion and changes to your relationships. You may start to feel anxious, depressed or more irritable. Lack of sleep can contribute to mood changes too.
- Disturbed Sleep & Insomnia: Hello, hot flashes (again!). Night sweats can be a big time sleep disruptor for many women. A surprising reason for sleep disturbance that isn’t always on our radar during menopause is sleep apnea. As estrogen and progesterone drop, sleep apnea can develop and contribute to a poor night’s sleep, daytime fatigue and lack of energy. Menopausal women are two to three times more likely to develop sleep apnea than non-menopausal women, so keeping this in mind is important! Mood changes such as depression and anxiety can contribute to sleep patterns changing as well.
- Decreased concentration & Brain fog: Dr. Lisa Mosconni says it best: “Estrogen is a “master regulator.” It regulates your brain, pushing it to burn glucose to make energy. As estrogen declines in perimenopause, the brain doesn’t work as hard, so energy levels in the brain decline.” This leads to brain-fog, lapses in short-term memory, and difficulty concentrating. Headaches can be more frequent, which affect your ability to focus. Lack of sleep can contribute too, and if diet and exercise are compromised, guess what? So is your brain!
What a lovely list, right!? All of this can have you feeling down in the dumps about this transition.
But the point here is to become aware of what the common symptoms of menopause are, so you can learn to spot them and then support your body through it, as naturally as possible!
It’s possible to go through menopause naturally, with some ease and grace ;)
My 5 Favorite Herbs for Menopause
It has to be said, there are SO MANY herbs that can be beneficial for menopause, but these are some of my personal go-to herbs:
1) Shatavari (Asparagus racemosa)
I LOVE this plant. It’s adaptogenic, which is a fancy way of saying it helps your body better cope with the stresses of life (and changing hormones!). Speaking of hormones, it will gently balance them, acting as a female reproductive tonic to support the whole system. It lubricates mucous membranes making a great support for vaginal dryness. Dose: 6-10ml of a 1:3 tincture daily
2) Hops (Humulus lupulus)
Yes, what they add to beer! Hops are phytoestrogens, which means they have a mild estrogenic effect in the body, helping to minimize the impacts of decreasing estrogen with menopause. They’re also amazing as a sleep aid, to make the nights more restful. They’re sedative though, so taken during the day may lead to drowsiness. Dose: 2-5 ml of 1:3 tincture before bed to aid sleep (or can be taken during the day for phytoestrogenic support if you don’t find it too sedating)
3) Rehmannia (Rehmannia glutinosa)
I always use this in combination with other herbs, but it’s REALLY important to support the adrenals through menopause because they take over some of the hormone production for the ovaries. Rehmannia is fantastic for nourishing the adrenal glands and builds yin in the body (essentially moisture, lubrication and nourishment to tissues), which gets depleted through menopause. Dose: 4-6ml daily of a 1:3 tincture
4) Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus)
A classic herb for balancing hormones, I find a little bit of this in a formula works really well to support the changes of menopause. Not all women react well to this plant (a small percentage find their mood gets really low), so be mindful of whether or not you notice any mood changes and if so, discontinue right away. Otherwise, I’ve seen this plant be a really great ally for menopausal women. Dose: 2ml daily in the morning
5) Milky Oat Seeds (Avena sativa)
Mmmhmmm, oats! Did you know oats are super nourishing for the nervous system? They can bring a deep sense of calm to an overactive, “wired and tired” nervous system. They build moisture in the body too, which is important to do as a tendency to dryness sets in with menopause. Dose: 3- 5 ml daily
BONUS- My Favorite Hot Flash Herb:
I love this herb so much it needed its own whole write up!
Check out my FREE GUIDE here>>> A Clinical Herbalist’s #1 Herb for Hot Flashes
I hope this article helps you to understand your body more, embrace this transition as an opportunity for reflection, growth and to step into the wise and wonderful woman that you truly are.
Mayo Clinic- Hot Flashes
Mayo Clinic- Menopause Weight Gain: Stop the Middle Age Spread
John Hopkins Medicine- How Does Menopause Affect My Sleep?