The menopausal transition begins when ovaries (female reproductive organs) produce lower amounts of reproductive hormones. Early signs of menopause include hot flashes and irregular periods. The hormone changes may also result in other symptoms, such as mood swings, vaginal dryness, and weight gain. (14) Understanding what menopause is can help women learn more about their bodies and the changes they are experiencing.
It’s natural to go through many physical, emotional, and social changes, and navigating these changes can be challenging for many. (7) Fortunately, there are many different approaches to managing the symptoms of menopause.
Continue reading below to explore the many different lifestyle approaches that may provide natural menopause relief.
Top strategies for managing menopause symptoms
Outlined below are some of the best strategies for relieving menopause symptoms.
Physical activity can improve a variety of symptoms associated with menopause. This includes vasomotor (blood vessel constriction/dilation), physical, and psychological concerns. (6) The overall quality of life individuals experience during menopause may also be improved with regular exercise. (1) Walking more often or trying a new physical activity, such as yoga, are simple ways to get started.
Did you know? Walking two to six times per week was found to help improve at least one menopause-related symptom in 91% of studies analyzed. (20)
Experiencing hot flashes and night sweats? Vasomotor symptoms can also significantly improve with physical activity. Yoga, in particular, was found to significantly reduce menopause symptoms compared to other forms of exercise. (5) Qigong is another form of exercise that aids in easing vasomotor symptoms while also improving sleep quality. (23)
The most crucial part of exercising is finding an activity you love to do. Consistency is key in reaping the benefits of physical activity for menopause symptom relief while adding variety to your routine can help keep you engaged. (10)
Similar to exercise, dietary habits can have a profound effect on health. Menopause is associated with an increased prevalence of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and osteoporosis. (13)(17) Coupled with regular physical activity, healthy dietary choices can support weight management, strengthen bones, and improve mood and energy levels. (16) While you should incorporate many foods into your diet, certain dietary components may be especially helpful for menopause symptom relief. (17)
Not all carbs (carbohydrates) are created equal. Some carbs are much higher quality than others. Focusing on carbs that have adequate amounts of dietary fiber and a lower glycemic index is a good practice. Choosing the best sources of carbs improves somatic and psychological symptoms associated with menopause. (11)
Phytoestrogens are a type of chemical that is naturally found in certain plants and vegetables. They may have estrogen-like effects when consumed, and as a result, may be effective in addressing some of the hormone-related symptoms of menopause. Consuming more phytoestrogens may decrease the frequency of hot flashes without any other side effects. (2) Examples of phytoestrogen-rich foods include:
- Kidney Beans
- Sesame Seeds
- Soy (2)
Fruits and vegetables
Only one in ten adults meet dietary recommendations for fruits and vegetables. Consuming more fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of certain cancers and chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease. (3) Consuming more fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains, lean meats, nuts, and beans, is also a healthy way to lose or maintain weight. (4) Getting more vegetables in your diet may also improve overall menopausal symptoms, while a low-vegetable diet may increase the symptoms of menopause. (18)
3. Psychological support
The many different changes that occur during menopause can affect mental health. Depression, sleep difficulty, and changes in sexuality are common concerns among women experiencing menopause. Psychological treatment, such as talk therapy, can ease the anxiety around these concerns. Physical symptoms like hot flashes can also be improved when utilizing cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness training. (21) Consult with your healthcare provider to learn more about the benefits of therapy and other psychological support options.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT is a type of talk therapy that helps identify negative thought patterns. A variety of CBT styles may be used to improve menopausal symptoms. For example, a reduction in hot flashes and night sweats has been observed with the use of self-help CBT, a style of therapy in which guides or lessons are given, so a person leads themself through the therapy. (15) Overall improvements in mood were also found when women used a self-help CBT that focused on relaxation and paced breathing. (19) Another common concern of menopause is sleep quality. Menopausal women experienced an improvement in insomnia severity when given six sessions of CBT for insomnia. (12)
Counseling can help guide and assist people through various problems and life changes such as menopause. Counseling during menopause may improve the overall quality of life in menopausal individuals. (8) Counseling can be done one-on-one with your provider or in group settings. (9)
Mindfulness involves focusing attention on thoughts, emotions, events, and surroundings as they occur, without assigning judgment or meaning. Applying mindfulness to menopause may improve a variety of menopause-related symptoms, including:
- Emotional regulation
- Hot flashes
- Overall mood and well-being
- Perceived stress
- Sleep quality (22)
The bottom line
Menopause is a time of significant changes that may impact physical and mental health. Making healthy lifestyle choices while going through menopause may help improve your experience by reducing menopausal symptoms. Going for daily walks, eating phytoestrogen-rich foods, or practicing mindfulness may all help relieve menopause symptoms. To learn more about menopause and its symptoms, consult with your healthcare provider. Your provider can make suggestions which may include any of the recommendations outlined above, or they may recommend other therapies such as hormone therapy, dietary supplements, and more.
- Asghari, M., Mirghafourvand, M., Mohammad-Alizadeh-Charandabi, S., Malakouti, J., & Nedjat, S. (2016). Effect of aerobic exercise and nutrition education on quality of life and early menopause symptoms: A randomized controlled trial. Women & Health, 57(2), 173–188.
- Bacciottini, L., Falchetti, A., Pampaloni, B., Bartolini, E., Carossino, A. M., & Brandi, M. L. (2007). Phytoestrogens: food or drug?. Clinical cases in mineral and bone metabolism: The official journal of the Italian Society of Osteoporosis, Mineral Metabolism, and Skeletal Diseases, 4(2), 123–130.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Only 1 in 10 adults get enough fruits or vegetables. https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/division-information/media-tools/adults-fruits-vegetables.html
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Fruits and vegetables. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/fruits_vegetables.html
- Cramer, H., Peng, W., & Lauche, R. (2018). Yoga for menopausal symptoms—A systematic review and meta-analysis. Maturitas, 109, 13–25.
- Dąbrowska-Galas, M., Dąbrowska, J., Ptaszkowski, K., & Plinta, R. (2019). High physical activity level may reduce menopausal symptoms. Medicina, 55(8), 466.
- Hoga, L., Rodolpho, J., Gonçalves, B., & Quirino, B. (2015). Womenʼs experience of menopause: A systematic review of qualitative evidence. JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports, 13(8), 250–337.
- Lee, P. S., Tsao, L. I., Liu, C. Y., & Lee, C. L. (2013). Effectiveness of telephone-based counseling for improving the quality of life among Middle-Aged women. Health Care for Women International, 35(1), 74–86.
- Mardanpour, S., Kazemi, F., Refaei, M., Bakht, R., & Hoseini, M. (2021). Midwifery-oriented group counseling based on the GATHER approach on quality of life of women during the transition to menopause: A randomized controlled trial. Menopause, 28(11), 1247–1253.
- Mishra, N., Devanshi, & Mishra, V. (2011). Exercise beyond menopause: Dos and don′ts. Journal of Mid-Life Health, 2(2), 51.
- Mohsenian, S., Shabbidar, S., Siassi, F., Qorbani, M., Khosravi, S., Abshirini, M., Aslani, Z., & Sotoudeh, G. (2021). Carbohydrate quality index: Its relationship to menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women. Maturitas, 150, 42–48.
- Moradi Farsani, H., Afshari, P., Sadeghniiat Haghighi, K., Gholamzadeh Jefreh, M., Abedi, P., & Haghighizadeh, M. H. (2021). The effect of group cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia in postmenopausal women. Journal of Sleep Research, 30(5).
- Nappi, R. E., & Simoncini, T. (2021). Menopause transition: A golden age to prevent cardiovascular disease. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, 9(3), 135–137.
- National Institute on Aging. (2021). What is menopause? https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-menopause
- Norton, S., Chilcot, J., & Hunter, M. S. (2014). Cognitive-behavior therapy for menopausal symptoms (hot flushes and night sweats). Menopause, 21(6), 574–578.
- Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2020). Nutrition, physical activity, and obesity. Healthy People 2020. https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/leading-health-indicators/2020-lhi-topics/Nutrition-Physical-Activity-and-Obesity
- Silva, T. R., Oppermann, K., Reis, F. M., & Spritzer, P. M. (2021). Nutrition in menopausal women: A narrative review. Nutrients, 13(7), 2149.
- Soleymani, M., Siassi, F., Qorbani, M., Khosravi, S., Aslany, Z., Abshirini, M., Zolfaghari, G., & Sotoudeh, G. (2019). Dietary patterns and their association with menopausal symptoms: A cross-sectional study. Menopause, 26(4), 365–372.
- Stefanopoulou, E., & Hunter, M. S. (2014). Telephone-guided self-help cognitive behavioural therapy for menopausal symptoms. Maturitas, 77(1), 73–77.
- Sydora, B. C., Turner, C., Malley, A., Davenport, M., Yuksel, N., Shandro, T., & Ross, S. (2020). Can walking exercise programs improve health for women in menopause transition and postmenopausal? Findings from a scoping review. Menopause, 27(8), 952–963.
- van Driel, C., Stuursma, A., Schroevers, M., Mourits, M., & de Bock, G. (2018). Mindfulness, cognitive behavioural and behaviour-based therapy for natural and treatment-induced menopausal symptoms: A systematic review and meta-analysis. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 126(3), 330–339.
- Yazdani Aliabadi, M., Javadnoori, M., Saki Malehi, A., & Aslani, K. (2021). A study of mindfulness-based stress-reduction training effects on menopause-specific quality of life in postmenopausal women: A randomized controlled trial. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 44, 101398.
- Yeh, S. C. J., & Chang, M. Y. (2012). The effect of qigong on menopausal symptoms and quality of sleep for perimenopausal women: A preliminary observational study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 18(6), 567–575.