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Drug-free menopause relief

Vaginal dryness, hot flashes, trouble sleeping: They’re all the result of menopause, where your body produces less of the female reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone. If you’re thinking about menopausal hormone therapy to help ease these uncomfortable symptoms but would prefer natural remedies, try these options:

  • Say omm. Many women experience fewer hot flashes when they regularly take yoga classes. Why? In yoga, you follow structured breathing exercises, which help regulate the body.
  • Give acupuncture a shot. Acupuncture, a therapy in which small needles are inserted into the skin at various points on the body, may also reduce the number and severity of hot flashes.
  • Eat soy. Protein-rich soy contains phytoestrogens, estrogenlike substances found in plants. Studies suggest that eating foods containing soy (tofu, edamame or soy milk) can relieve mild hot flashes. Warning: If you have estrogen-dependent breast cancer, talk to your healthcare provider and limit your soy intake, as consuming too much soy can be dangerous.
  • Dress in layers. Don easily removable layers of clothing so that when you feel a hot flash coming on, all you have to do is remove a layer or two to cool down.
  • Live healthfully. Fight insomnia and hot flashes by exercising regularly; avoiding caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes; and eating a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of calcium and vitamin D.
  • Consider herbs. Many dietary supplements and herbs are said to combat menopause symptoms. These products aren’t, however, regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so products may contain more or less of an active ingredient than designated. And natural remedies cause side effects, too. Talk to your healthcare provider before you try any herbs, and take note of these three, in particular:
    • Black cohosh, which is widely used to combat hot flashes and night sweats, sometimes causes liver problems, so use it with caution.
    • Dong quai is sometimes used to treat hot flashes and vaginal dryness, but you may experience sensitivity to sunlight and bleeding.
    • Valerian, an herbal sleep aid, has been found unuseful and may lead to muscle spasms, so you might want to skip it.