Menopause is a natural phase in a woman’s life, marking the end of her reproductive years. Perimenopause is the transitional period leading up to menopause, during which the body undergoes various hormonal changes. One of the most common and sometimes distressing symptoms experienced during both perimenopause and menopause is vaginal dryness and thinning which can bring about various challenges, including itching and discomfort during intimacy. By embracing lifestyle adjustments including dietary changes and perhaps some herbal medicine, you can better manage these symptoms and maintain a healthy, satisfying sex life throughout menopause. 

 The primary cause of vaginal dryness and thinning during menopause and perimenopause is the decline in estrogen levels. Estrogen is a hormone responsible for regulating many aspects of a woman’s reproductive system, including the menstrual cycle and maintaining the elasticity, thickness, and natural lubrication of the vaginal tissues. 

As a woman approaches menopause, her ovaries gradually produce less estrogen. This hormonal shift can over time lead to a condition called vaginal atrophy, characterized by thinning, drying, and inflammation of the vaginal walls. As the vaginal tissues become thinner and more fragile, they can lose their natural lubrication, leading to dryness and discomfort during sexual activities and even daily life.

In addition to the hormonal changes, other factors can exacerbate vaginal dryness and thinning during menopause and perimenopause.

These factors include

Medications – Some medications, such as antihistamines and antidepressants, can have a drying effect on the mucous membranes, including those in the vagina.

Smoking – can negatively impact blood circulation, leading to reduced oxygen supply to the vaginal tissues, which can result in dryness and thinning.

Autoimmune disorders – Certain autoimmune conditions, like Sjogren’s syndrome, can cause dryness in various parts of the body, including the vagina.

Insufficient arousal – A lack of adequate arousal before sexual activities can lead to insufficient natural lubrication, exacerbating vaginal dryness.

Stress and anxiety – Psychological factors, such as stress and anxiety, can affect a woman’s sexual response and contribute to vaginal dryness.

Understanding the causes of vaginal dryness and thinning during menopause and perimenopause can help guide appropriate treatment options and lifestyle adjustments. By addressing these issues, women can experience a more comfortable and fulfilling sex life during this transitional phase.

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Herbal Medicines for Vaginal Dryness

Menopausal and perimenopausal women often seek natural remedies to address vaginal dryness and thinning. Several herbal medicines have shown promise in supporting vaginal health during this transitional phase. Here, we explore some of these herbs and their mechanisms of action.

Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa) Black cohosh is a popular herbal remedy for various menopausal symptoms, including vaginal dryness. It contains phytoestrogens, which are plant compounds that can mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. By binding to estrogen receptors, these compounds may help alleviate vaginal dryness and promote tissue regeneration.

Sea buckthorn oil (Hippophae rhamnoides) Rich in omega fatty acids, vitamin E, and antioxidants, sea buckthorn oil can provide nourishment and support for the delicate vaginal tissues. It can be taken as a supplement or applied topically to help alleviate dryness and maintain the elasticity and thickness of the vaginal walls.

Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus) Chasteberry has been used for centuries to balance hormones and alleviate menstrual discomfort. While it doesn’t have a direct estrogenic effect, it may help regulate the levels of other hormones that influence estrogen production. This can lead to an improvement in vaginal dryness and overall hormonal balance during menopause.

Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) Shatavari is a traditional Ayurvedic herb known for its adaptogenic and hormone-balancing properties. It’s believed to nourish the reproductive system and support the natural production of estrogen, helping to alleviate vaginal dryness and other menopausal symptoms.

Dong quai (Angelica sinensis) Dong quai, also known as female ginseng, is a popular herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine for supporting women’s reproductive health. While its exact mechanism of action remains unclear, dong quai may help balance hormone levels, which can have a positive impact on vaginal dryness and other menopausal symptoms.

Wild yam (Dioscorea villosa) Wild yam contains a compound called diosgenin, which is thought to have estrogenic effects. Some women use wild yam creams to alleviate vaginal dryness, although scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness is limited.

It’s essential to note that while these herbs can be beneficial for menopausal vaginal health, it’s crucial to consult a qualified naturopathic practitioner before starting any herbal treatment. They can help you determine the most appropriate herbal formulation for your specific needs and ensure that they don’t interact with any medications you may be taking. With the right guidance, you can embark on a natural and holistic journey to optimal vaginal health during menopause and beyond.

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Holistic approaches to help Vaginal Dryness

Stay hydrated and maintain a balanced diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids

Staying well-hydrated is essential during menopause, as it can help maintain the body’s natural lubrication and keep vaginal tissues healthy. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water per day, and consider adding hydrating fruits and vegetables, such as cucumbers and watermelon, to your diet.

A balanced diet plays a vital role in managing menopausal symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in foods like fish, nuts, and seeds, have anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce vaginal dryness. Incorporate foods high in omega-3s, such as salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds, to support overall health and maintain proper hormonal balance.

Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that resemble the structure and function of human estrogen. They can bind to estrogen receptors in the body, providing a gentle and natural way to balance hormone levels during menopause. This can help alleviate vaginal dryness, as well as other symptoms associated with declining estrogen levels.

The addition of phytoestrogen-rich foods into your diet is a simple and effective way to support your body during menopause. Some excellent sources of these beneficial compounds include soy products, flaxseeds, legumes, and certain herbs like black cohosh and dong quai. These foods not only provide phytoestrogens but also contribute to a well-rounded, nutrient-dense diet that supports overall health and well-being.

Lubrication

Vaginal dryness can make intimacy uncomfortable and even painful. Using a natural, water-based lubricant can alleviate discomfort and enhance pleasure. Opt for a product free of artificial fragrances, colors, and preservatives to minimize irritation. Apply the lubricant generously before and during sexual activities to maintain a comfortable level of moisture.

Sea buckthorn oil is rich in essential nutrients, including Vitamin E, Omega fatty acids 3, 6, 9, antioxidants and phytonutrients. These properties make sea buckthorn oil particularly helpful for women experiencing. Sea buckthorn oil can be taken orally as a supplement but for vaginal dryness it is best to use it topically, applying it after a shower to your vulva liberally.

Practice pelvic floor exercises

Pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegel exercises, can help strengthen the muscles around the vagina, improving both bladder control and sexual function. To perform Kegel exercises, contract your pelvic floor muscles as if you’re trying to stop the flow of urine. Hold the contraction for a few seconds, then relax. Repeat this process 10-15 times, three times a day.

Not only can Kegel exercises help with vaginal dryness, but they may also improve overall pelvic health and prevent conditions like pelvic organ prolapse. Consult with a healthcare professional to ensure you’re performing these exercises correctly and to discuss other pelvic floor strengthening techniques.

Open communication with your partner is key to maintaining a healthy and satisfying sex life during menopause. Discuss the changes you’re experiencing and any concerns you may have, and work together to find solutions that accommodate both of your needs.

Consider exploring alternative forms of intimacy, such as massage, cuddling, or non-penetrative sexual activities, to maintain a close connection with your partner while you navigate menopause. Patience, understanding, and communication can help you maintain a strong bond during this transitional phase.

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Some more tips to consider

In addition to herbal medicine and dietary changes, making some lifestyle adjustments can help manage menopause your symptoms.

Exercise regularly

Engaging in regular physical activity such as yoga and tai chi can improve mood, support bone health, and help maintain a healthy body weight during menopause. These practices can also help enhance balance, flexibility, and mindfulness, which contribute to overall wellbeing.

Prioritize sleep

Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night to support hormone balance and overall wellbeing. Establish a consistent sleep schedule and create a calming bedtime routine to promote better sleep. Sprinkling some lavender essential oil on your pillow promtes sleep and relaxation.

Manage stress

Chronic stress can exacerbate menopause symptoms. Incorporate stress-reduction techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or mindfulness practices into your daily routine. Finding the right work-life balance can also help reduce stress and create a more harmonious lifestyle.

Stay connected

Maintaining social connections and nurturing relationships with friends, family, and intimate partners can improve mood and provide a support network during menopause. Open communication and understanding can also enhance sexual intimacy, as you and your partner may need to adapt to physical and emotional changes that occur during this time.

Foster sexual health

Menopause can lead to changes in sexual desire and comfort during sexual intimacy. Vaginal dryness commonly happens with the drop of oestrogen and needs to be addressed to prevent trauma and discomfort during penetrative intimacy. Many women find they need to make changes to sexual routines during menopause, due to lower libido, vaginal dryness and thinning. Talk with your partner about ways to adapt, and find solutions that work for you. Experiment with different forms of intimacy, lubricants, or relaxation techniques to maintain a fulfilling sexual relationship. Speak with your GP or Naturopath to explore solutions so you can enjoy sexual intimacy for as long as you wish.

Embrace self-care

Taking time for yourself is crucial during menopause. Prioritize self-care activities that nourish your body, mind, and spirit, such as reading, journaling, taking a relaxing bath, or engaging in a creative hobby.

By incorporating these lifestyle modifications into your daily routine, you can create a supportive environment that allows you to better manage menopause symptoms and enhance your overall quality of life.

Managing menopause symptoms can be effectively approached through a combination of  herbal medicine, nutritional and dietary strategies, and lifestyle modifications. By taking a holistic approach, you can improve your overall wellbeing and navigate the menopause transition with greater ease. If you’re interested in a more comprehensive and guided approach, consider joining our upcoming Menopause Makeover program, designed to provide personalized support and tailored solutions to help you thrive during this phase of life. Don’t forget to follow us on social media for regular updates, tips, and resources to support your journey towards optimal health and wellness during menopause and beyond.

 

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Check out my blog post on Healthy recipes to support you in menopause.

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