Woman lies on couch in discomfort

Elaine Hart, MD, observes a 50/50 split between patients interested in hormone replacement therapy.

Half the world’s population experiences the same transition: menopause. The five common symptoms, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, night sweats, mood swings, and sleep disturbances can all be uncomfortable and feel unbearable. Can some foods alleviate their intensity as popular networks suggest? Loma Linda University Health’s Elaine Hart, MD, OBGYN and certified menopause practitioner, could consider taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and some essential nutrients for a woman in menopause.

Fifty-one and a half is the typical age for menopause in women and is signaled by no period for one year. Hart says the common symptoms usually subside within two years. Experiencing period symptoms for over 35 years and suddenly navigating a new set of symptoms may be overwhelming for some. Hart sees about a 50/50 split among the affected population that would consider taking HRT. She recommends women consult their doctor if HRT is an option they would like to pursue.

“Hormone replacement therapy is primarily prescribed for one reason: to get rid of menopause symptoms, but it has two additional benefits,” Hart says. “It decreases the risk of colon cancer by seven women per 10,000 women, and it decreases the risk of osteoporosis by six women per 10,000 women.”

These added benefits are directly related to menopause symptoms as women lose 1 to 2% of their bone mass the first five years of menopause; colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in women.

For patients not interested or whose underlying health conditions do not allow them to participate in HRT, Hart provides tips to minimize the impact of hot flashes.

  • Stay away from spicy foods.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine as they can trigger hot flashes.
  • “Heated” discussions can truly make you hot.
  • A fun tip she likes to suggest is layering clothes.

“You’re sitting there with a sweater on and then instantly feel hot and miserable,” Hart says. “Being able to quickly remove the sweater and feel better for even a second makes all the difference.”

Maintaining a healthy weight during menopause can be extremely difficult as the metabolism slows down. Hart says this time in a woman’s life is crucial to maintain a healthy diet that is rich in calcium and Vitamin D. See some recommended food alternatives for each vitamin here.

Some view black cohosh, wild yam, and valerian root as a cure-all for menopause symptoms. However, there is no proof that these herbs or pills containing these herbs can help, Hart says. They may help; however, women should discuss these options with their physicians before trying. Alternative medications to hormone replacement therapy can also be discussed and prescribed by their provider if appropriate.

To learn more about menopause treatment, make an appointment with the general gynecology team so providers like Hart can help you through your journey.