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Managing Menopause Symptoms Without Hormones

How to battle "The Big Three" side effects of menopause: insomnia, hot flashes and weight gain.

If you’re experiencing the side effects of menopause and would like to avoid hormones, there are many things that may help. Here are some suggestions for how to deal with the symptoms that I call The Big Three: 

1. Hot Flashes 
Two-thirds of menopausal women suffer from hot flashes, and 20 percent find them insufferable. 

Hot flashes actually make you feel like you are burning from the inside out. You can soak your shirt in the blink of an eye. This can be quite embarrassing and downright uncomfortable. What to do? Here are some menopause treatments and suggestions. 

  • Believe it or not, certain foods may help. A recent study found that eating a half-cup of soy nuts and dividing them up into three or four portions a day cut hot flashes in half. Another study found that keeping a steady blood sugar by eating frequent meals during the day decreased flashing. 
  • Exercise can reduce body mass, which can decrease the number of hot flashes. 
  • If these measures fail, medications such as SSRI antidepressants may also help. Herbs such as black cohosh are a popular remedy. Study results have been mixed. It has helped some of my patients but not others. Certain alternative therapies such as acupuncture and meditation also can help you beat the heat. 

2. Insomnia 
Try these tips if you are having difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep: 

  • The key is to avoid caffeine and alcohol several hours before bedtime. 
  • I have found that hypnosis is very effective for helping people get to sleep and fall back asleep if they wake up in the middle of the night. 
  • Supplements such as theanine and tryptophan may also be useful. 
  • It is important to discuss this problem with your healthcare provider. Make sure that any supplement you take is safe with other medications you may have been prescribed. 

3. Weight gain 
At menopause, women start to lose muscle at a precipitous rate. This, along with slowing metabolism, can contribute to weight gain. However, this doesn’t mean weight gain is inevitable. Here’s my advice: 

  • Aerobic exercise, strength training and healthy eating can keep menopausal women from gaining weight. 
  • Have your thyroid function checked if you are gaining weight. Hypothyroidism occurs in a large percentage of women at menopause. Many of the symptoms are similar to menopause, so a thyroid problem can be missed.  

The side effects of menopause can be very manageable without hormones. The key is to eat well, exercise and find a physician who can work with you in partnership to help relieve your symptoms. And remember, 

“There is no more creative force in the world than the menopausal woman with zest.” 

-- Margaret Mead 

Here’s to more zest! 

Medically reviewed in December 2019. Updated in February 2021. 

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