As women, we go through different cycles in our lives; each cycle to be embraced and celebrated.
How do you think of menopause? Is it a time of relief from monthly menstruation? Or perhaps it comes with a feeling of loss of fertility and uncomfortable symptoms.
Menopause is a beautiful time in a woman’s life when the body’s hormonal levels shift, just as nature intended.
What exactly is menopause?
Menopause is defined as the permanent cessation of menstruation. The average onset is at around 50 years of age, but it may occur earlier or later. A woman has around 1 million eggs at birth. The follicles which house the eggs during each cycle release oestrogen and progesterone. As the number of eggs decline over the decades, oestrogen and progesterone levels drop. At the same time, the secretion of follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinising hormone by the pituitary gland increases, resulting in increased amounts of androgens. These androgens can be converted to oestrogens by fat cells in the body, although overall oestrogen levels are still much lower during menopause than they were during the reproductive years.
So what is perimenopause?
Perimenopause is the time prior to menopause, during which many women ovulate irregularly due to decreased oestrogen levels, and resistance of the remaining follicles to ovulatory stimulation. It is during perimenopause that many women experience symptoms such as hot flushes, headaches, vaginal changes and mood swings. It’s important to note that not every woman will experience all of these symptoms, and each woman experiences their symptoms to a different degree. That’s the beauty of the human body, we are all different and unique.
Beyond the physical
In western societies, menopause is often regarded as a negative, declining time. We would do well to adopt the viewpoint of more traditional cultures, which regard menopause with respect, and as a symbol of wisdom and positive change. Research even suggests that a woman’s expectations and views of menopause have a direct impact on the severity her symptoms.
So embrace this amazing time of your life, accept the natural transformation that is occurring in your body, and know that natural therapies have much to offer during this time.
How a naturopath can help
A naturopath can assess your individual hormonal balance, through clinical presentation and/or functional testing. A naturopath has many tools to help you balance your hormones for a smooth transition into menopause. They can:
Advise you on the correct foods to eat (and which foods to avoid) to support your health and wellbeing
Prescribe a tailor-made liquid herbal remedy to relieve symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, sleeplessness, anxiety and depression
Prescribe supplements including minerals, vitamins, bioflavonoids and essential fatty acids, depending on your individual needs
Provide lifestyle recommendations to help your body and mind adapt to the changes in your body
Identify and address any other underlying conditions which may be responsible for your symptoms (such as underlying infections, impaired thyroid function, digestive issues, stress etc)
What you can do
1. EAT RIGHT
With decreased oestrogen levels, phytoestrogens (plant compounds which modulate oestrogen activity in the body) are especially helpful for perimenopausal and postmenopausal women. Although phytoestrogens vary chemically from oestrogens, they can bind to oestrogen receptors in the body and so have a similar, although weaker, effect than oestrogen itself. In this way, they can balance the effects of too little (or too much) oestrogen. Phytoestrogens are found in flaxseeds, berries, nuts and legumes. Soy beans contain particularly high levels, but always choose organic soy in order to avoid genetically modified crops. Flaxseeds are also anti-inflammatory and have been shown to combat vaginal dryness which many women experience during menopause.
Avoid caffeine, which can contribute to decreased bone mineral density and deplete the adrenal glands. Choose herbal teas instead – sage is great for hot flushes, and chamomile is helpful for restlessness.
Eliminate processed foods and refined sugar, which can promote the presence of candida, and further increase the risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Adopt a clean wholefood diet instead – vegetables, fruit, whole grains, vegetarian protein, nuts, seeds, legumes.
Avoid saturated, trans and hydrogenated fats. Replace them with healthful unrefined monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – nuts, seeds, avocado, eggs, olives.
Monitor how your body responds to spicy foods – chilli and other spices may cause heat in the body and aggravate hot flushes.
2. MOVE YOUR BODY DAILY
Regular exercise is of immense benefit to peri-menopausal and postmenopausal women. It reduces the frequency and severity of hot flushes, supports cardiovascular health, prevents weight gain, increases bone density, and boosts mental health. You need not do rigorous exercise every day, even just taking the dog for a walk or doing some yoga in the garden will provide benefits. Mix it up, with a combination of cardio, resistance training and stretching.
3. SUPPORT YOURSELF EMOTIONALLY
Make sure you are surrounding yourself with supportive people during this time. Be kind to yourself, and listen to what your body needs – this may be more rest and sleep. Treat yourself to a soothing bath, lay the to-do list aside for one day, and do what nurtures your soul.
4. GET IN TOUCH
For more information on phytoestrogens, herbal medicine, meal and snack ideas, and a sample daily diet to support your body during menopause.
If you are struggling with your menopausal symptoms, please call me I’m happy to help you. Christine Carley - Qualified Naturopath BHlthSc. (Nat) NHAA ECNH
Christine is a qualified naturopath supporting her clients with gut health, stress, anxiety and fatigue. She has a strong commitment to her clients and offers ongoing holistic treatment plans. She has been facilitating mindfulness practices and for 17 years.
This article provides general information and is not intended to constitute advice. All care is taken to ensure information is accurate and relevant. Please see your practitioner for personalised health treatments and advice.