I'll never forget the day I woke up about eight months ago in a rage. I wanted to yell at every person who called me on the phone and every person who was driving near me on the road. It was the first time I'd ever felt that way in my life. And when I went to tell my husband about it that evening—I started crying so hard I couldn't get out a word. The whole episode lasted about three days, and all I could think was…what's going to happen to my job, my relationship, my life if this keeps up?
Then I got my period and the rage disappeared, and I thought, oh that was PMS. But I'd never had PMS like that, so I thought, well, I'm 48, that must have been perimenopausal PMS. I'm an acupuncturist and herbalist, so I updated the herbs and supplements I was taking, gave myself a couple of extra acupuncture treatments, and the next month it was about half as bad.
The month after that, and the six months since, I've thankfully been back to myself—no rage monster here. I felt so grateful I knew what to do that I thought, what if I felt that way and didn't know what was causing it, like so many women probably do? Or what if I did know it was perimenopause but I didn't know there was anything I could do about it other than take the Xanax my M.D. recommended? That would be unbelievably stressful and scary.
So it's become my mission in life to share with as many women as possible that there are effective, natural remedies for perimenopause and menopause. And that they work. These five steps can put that knowledge to work for you and help you get some relief, fast:
1. Avoid the five biggest sources of hormone disrupters.
- Avoid pesticides and GMO foods by eating organic, especially for the dirty dozen.
- Choose grass-fed and organic for meat and dairy.
- Use makeup, fragrance, self-care, and cleaning products that have minimal (if any) hormone-disrupting chemicals like parabens, phthalates, and triclosan.
- Avoid BPA by avoiding food or drink packaged in plastic.
- Avoid PFCs by avoiding nonstick cookware coated with Teflon.
2. Eat a hormone-balancing, menopause-friendly diet.
- 50 percent fruits and vegetables
- 25 percent protein
- 25 percent healthy fats, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes
Include superfoods like flaxseeds, black beans, walnuts, sesame seeds, cinnamon, leafy greens, eggs, pear, longan fruit, cucumber, watercress, fennel, seaweed, burdock, ginger, anchovies, yogurt and raw dairy, goji berries, longan berries, and pine nuts.
Don't eat too much of these foods that tend to flare up hot flashes:
- spicy foods
- processed foods (including refined sugar)
3. Practice stress management.
Find a relaxation technique you like. Try meditation, taiji, qigong, breathing exercises, acupressure, or reflexology. Practice it five days a week—even if it's only for three minutes a day at first. If you're not sure where to start with stress management, try this:
- Sit in a comfortable position.
- Grab the top of your ear, right where it meets your head, between your thumb and pointer finger.
- Squeeze gently while making little circles as you take a deep breath in, then exhale for as long as you can.
- Move your finger and thumb halfway down your ear and repeat—squeezing gently while making little circles and taking a deep breath in and then all the way out.
- Move your finger and thumb to your earlobe and repeat—squeeze gently while making little circles while taking a deep breath in and then all the way out.
Yes, it can really be that quick!
4. Get some exercise.
Gentle exercise, like walking, yoga, exercise bicycles, and Pilates are incredibly helpful for lowering stress levels, releasing helpful hormones and neurotransmitters, and for heart health. Try for 15 to 20 minutes five times per week.
5. Take a Chinese herbal formula.
As an herbalist, I recommend taking a Chinese herbal formula designed to help the body during menopause. Many of the most effective formulas use herbs like Rehmannia, Dendrobium, Chinese White Peony root, Aged Tangerine Rind, Phellodendron Bark, and Anemarrhena Rhizome.
Of course, before beginning any new regimen, please talk to an herbalist for help finding a high-quality formulation and to make sure they're compatible with any health issues or medications you might be taking. Always tell your doctor when your herbal supplements change too.
This five-step plan can help relieve menopausal symptoms, reduce signs of aging, and protect your health well into the future.
Dana LaVoie is a Licensed Acupuncturist and Herbalist based in Eugene, Oregon specializing in menopause. She strives to teach other women how to find natural relief from seemingly uncontrollable weight gain, boiling hot flashes, soaking night sweats, mood swings and signs of aging. She has a B.A. from Wesleyan University, where she studied eastern philosophy, south Indian music and meditation. She also studied at The Oregon College of Oriental Medicine where she received her masters.