Spring signifies a time of transition. We often shift our diets from heavier roots and starches into lighter greens and berries emerging from their winter slumber. We begin to plan for warmer weather by storing away heavy coats and sweaters and bringing out lighter wear.  

Springtime is a lot like menopause. There can be frequent temperature changes: We’re hot, we’re cold, it’s sunny, it’s snowing. The season, like menopause, is a time of reflection, rejuvenation and liberation. It’s no wonder that Chinese culture refers to menopause as the “Second Spring.”  

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The Second Spring 

A celebration of life experience and wisdom, the Second Spring is a time to pursue self-discovery and new beginnings. Many of us spend the first part of our lives in service to our body’s cycles. Some of us feel a call and even a sense of biological and social obligation to motherhood. Menopause marks this beginning of midlife where opportunities shift—maybe we’re empty nesters or we’re reinventing ourselves. It’s a time to remember our purpose and empower our pursuits of self-discovery. 

But that can be challenging when we’re distracted by fluctuating hormones, which alter our physiology. Night sweats and sleep disruption, weight gain, memory decline, dry skin, hair loss, decreased sex drive, vaginal dryness and hot flashes because of variable hormones can interfere with the celebration of wisdom, creativity and freedom of the Second Spring.  

Thankfully, there are natural (and pharmaceutical) strategies that can help you weather this time with ease and grace. 

Navigating Menopause 

Without getting into a complex discussion about the pros and cons of hormone therapy (HT) during menopause, there are some key factors to consider when you talk to your doctor about the best options to treat your particular symptoms. 

To start, ask your doctor to prescribe a proper laboratory evaluation to rule out possible deficiencies or excesses. Request a full (blood) thyroid panel (including antibodies), a comprehensive metabolic panel and complete blood count (CBC), as well as numbers for vitamin D, estradiol, progesterone, testosterone,  and (salivary) cortisol. Your results will help you and your doctor choose the best course of action.  

The primary (but not the only) reasons to consider HT at perimenopause and/or menopause include: protecting your bones, connective tissues and brain; alleviating moderate to severe symptoms; and replacing deficiencies. However, if you have a personal or family history of breast, ovarian or endometrial cancer; smoking; stroke; or blood clots, you usually are not a good candidate for HT.  

If you’re not bothered by symptoms of menopause or are not a candidate for HT, there are other ways to protect your body and brain, including daily moderately vigorous exercise, a clean and healthy diet that includes at least seven servings daily of fresh fruits and vegetables and phytonutrients like turmeric for age-related oxidative stress, meditation, hypnotherapy, acupuncture, and herbal and dietary supplements.  

Depending on what symptoms are bothering you the most, determining the underlying cause of those symptoms will dictate the direction of your treatment. While you work with your doctor on options, ease symptoms like hot flashes by consuming more phytoestrogen (plant-based) foods, including fermented red clover; fermented, organic soy (tempeh, miso); oats; flaxseed; cherries; and garbanzo beans. For better sleep, try melatonin, magnolia or passionflower. 

Dr. Debra Rouse is a registered naturopathic doctor and member of the Institute for Functional Medicine. She is also co-founder of Optimum Wellness. drdebrarouse.com.