Menopause

A holistic approach to the Menopause based on good nutrition, natural remedies and a healthy lifestyle.

Menopause is not a disease. It is a perfectly natural phenomenon, which marks the end of the menstrual cycle, including the cessation of ovulation and menstrual periods. This usually occurs between the ages of 40 and 55, but it can begin earlier or later. Menopause affects each woman differently, and many have little or even no discomfort. On the other hand, sometimes symptoms can last for up to five years.

Menopause occurs when the ovaries greatly decrease their production of oestrogen and progesterone. This can result in a variety of physical and emotional symptoms. The adrenal glands produce a certain amount of hormones which can smooth the transition. However, if stress puts a burden on the adrenal glands, they are less able to perform this function. As a result, stress can aggravate symptoms of the menopause. This is a time of transition for women as they move on to another stage in life. This can be the most wonderful time in a woman’s life, but just as puberty can be a painful and frightening process, so too can menopause be a stressful period. Puberty passes and emotional growth results. So also with menopause women find harmony in life as events around them and their own bodies and minds find a new equilibrium.

Physical symptoms: Half of all women have some physical symptoms associated with the menopause and 25% consider them distressing. These may include hot flushes, vaginal dryness, excessive sweating, palpitations, joint pains, cramps, headaches, fatigue and reduced libido.

One of the most serious problems that can be associated with menopause is osteoporosis – a thinning of the bones. This condition makes women susceptible to fractures. Menstrual periods may become irregular before they cease altogether. Prolonged or excessive menstrual bleeding should be investigated by a doctor. Psychological symptoms; Anxiety and depression, irritability, poor concentration, mood swings, sleep disturbances, lack of confidence and forgetfulness are sometimes features of the menopause. On the other hand, some women feel an increase in energy and motivation.

The Orthodox Approach

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is the preferred approach of the medical profession in general, both to quell undesirable menopausal symptoms and to help to prevent osteoporosis. There is a certain amount of controversy surrounding this treatment, particularly in relation to the possible risks attaching to long-term HRT in terms of breast and endometrial cancer.

Recent Developments

There is a developing interest in progesterone treatment as researched by Dr. John Lee based on the ‘”oestrogen dominance” theory. This theory states that progesterone rather than oestrogen is the hormone requiring boosting during menopause. Much work still remains to be done on this treatment which employs a cream containing extract of wild yam.

The Natural Approach

A self-help approach based on diet, lifestyle and readily available supplements, herbal and homeopathic remedies is the preferred choice of women who wish to manage their own health, thereby eliminating the undesirable side effects of medication.

Diet:

The ideal diet for the menopause (and good health generally) comprises a high proportion of vegetables (raw or lightly cooked), whole grains (particularly millet), pulses (beans and lentils) and fruitJapanese women do not suffer from menopausal symptoms in the way that Western women do. Soya foods are a rich source of plant oestrogens and the Japanese diet is high in these foods. These foods include soya beans and their derivatives – tofu, tempeh, soya milk and miso. Other sources of plant oestrogens include pulses, citrus fruits, wheat, liquorice, alfalfa, fennel and celery.

Acid-forming foods such as pork, red meat, dairy products, refined white flour and sugar, tea and coffee should all be minimised. These foods greatly increase the body’s calcium requirements, thus predisposing an individual to osteoporosis. Seaweeds, tahini, broccoli, brussel sprouts, parsley, chick peas and marrowfat peas are all good sources of calcium.

Blood sugar levels can also be a problem leading to irritability and, in some cases, mood swings. This is another reason to keep sugar consumption to a minimum , so cakes, biscuits, sweets, alcohol and other high-sugar foods and drinks should be avoided in the main.

Fat deposits produce oestrogen and women who diet and exercise to excess may find they suffer more acutely during menopause as they do not have the protection of an extra layer of fat. They are also much more likely to develop osteoporosis.

Heart disease increases after menopause – women being as susceptible to heart attacks as men. It used to be thought that oestrogen was a protective factor but it is now believed that a substance which contributes to heart problems is cleared out of the system during the monthly cycle. It is therefore very important to bear this increased risk of heart disease in mind when looking at one’s diet and lifestyle after menopause.

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

Despite a wholefood diet, nutritional deficiencies occur in the majority of the population. A good multivitamin and mineral supplement is a sound investment in your health and well-being. You can find a supplement that is especially formulated for the menopause in your IAHS health food store. The following are the most important nutrients in relation to menopause:

  • Calcium, magnesium, zinc and vitamin D are important bone- building nutrients for helping to guard against osteoporosis. Calcium and magnesium can also help to relieve nervousness and irritability. For sleep disturbances, a supplement taken at night can aid relaxation. Consult an IAHS store assistant for advice on dosage.
  • Vitamin E can help increase hormone production and has been found to help hot flushes. 100-200i.u. per day has been found to be helpful in clinical trials. If you wish to increase the dosage, then do so gradually. Vitamin E can also help combat vaginal dryness, prevent nervousness, fatigue, insomnia and dizziness. Sufferers of hypertension should first consult their medical practitioner before taking vitamin E.
  • Vitamin C is also useful for hot flushes. It is easily lost through perspiration and is used up more quickly under stress. Vitamin C is essential for forming the collagen matrix for bones, so an ample supply is necessary to help to prevent osteoporosis. l000 mg. in a timed release formulation should be sufficient for most women.
  • Vitamin B complex has powerful anti-stress properties, so can be helpful when depression, anxiety, fatigue or irritability occur. Consult an IAHS store assistant for advice on dosage.
  • Vitamin F or Gamma Linolenic Acid found in evening primrose and starflower oil, contributes to hormone production and so can be useful for most menopausal symptoms. l000 mg. twice daily has been found helpful.
  • Selenium is an important antioxidant trace mineral linked to normal hormone balance. l00 to 200 mcg could be taken daily. It is most effective when taken along with vitamins A, C and E.
  • Potassium is easily lost in perspiration and is essential for calcium assimilation. It is found in a diet rich in vegetables and fruit. Bananas , potatoes (cooked in their jackets), celery and cauliflower are particularly good sources. Because potassium is opposed by sodium (found in table salt), it is most important to minimise salt in the diet.

Homeopathic Remedies:

Homeopathic remedies can be very helpful for handling menopausal symptoms. They are chosen according to your individual needs and specific symptoms. There are a number of remedies available for the various menopausal symptoms. A qualified staff member at your IAHS store can be consulted if the problem is fairly simple. Where the symptom picture is more complex they can refer you to a homeopathic practitioner for a professional consultation.

Mineral issue Salts:

These homoeopathically prepared tissue salts can be very effective. The most common ones used are Ferr. Phos. and Kali. Phos. Both can be useful for hot flushes and irritability.

Herbal Remedies:

  • Agnus Castus helps to normalise hormonal function and balance, and so is of fundamental use to sufferers of any menopausal symptoms.
  • Sage is of use for excessive perspiration and hot flushes.
  • Alfalfa, valerian and passion flower are helpful for relieving anxiety and tension.
  • Motherwort can help with heart palpitations and anxiety.
  • Anise, fennel, fenugreek, red clover and wild yam are sources of plant oestrogens which can help to stabilise hormones.
  • Eleutherococcus/Siberian Ginseng can help the body adjust to hor monal changes and in addition can gently raise energy levels.
  • Wild Yam and Black Cohosh can help to stabilise hormone levels.

Essential Oils:

These can be used to relieve stress, both physical and emotional. Good choices for their soothing, balancing and relaxing qualities are bergamot, clary sage, chamomile, geranium, jasmine, neroli, sandalwood, ylang ylang, rose otto and lavender. Essential oils can be vapourised in a burner or in a bath and can of course be used for massage in suitable dilution.

Bach Flower Remedies:

These simple flower essences can be very useful for dealing with stress and negative mental or emotional states. Some examples would be walnut (for helping to adjust to change), impatiens (for irritability), larch (for lack of confidence), aspen (for anxiety), and willow (for resentment). Pick up a leaflet about these remedies in an IAHS store.

Yoga:

As a gentle form of exercise allied to certain breathing techniques and meditation, yoga can be of immense help in balancing the body and mind and strengthening one’s ability to cope with change. Your IAHS store will have information on classes in your area.

Lifestyle:

Regular exercise, eating a nutritious diet and lead ing an interesting, full life can help greatly to minimise menopausal symptoms. By employing key nutritional supplements, herbal,homeopathic remedies and other natural self-help measures, you can greatly improve your quality of life during this time of transition.

Further Reading

  • Natural Hormone Health by Arabella Melville
  • Balancing Hormones Naturally by Kate Neil
  • Menopause without Medicine by Linda Ojeda
  • A Guide to the Bach Flower Remedies by Julian Barnard
  • The Nature Doctor by H. C. A. Vogel
  • Aromatherapy A-Z by Patricia Davis
  • Thorson’s Complete Guide to Vitamins and Minerals by Leonard Mervyn
  • Homeopathy for the Family by The Homeopathic Development Foundation Ltd.
  • The Menopause by Jan de Vries
  • Passage to Power by Leslie Kenton Natural Progesterone by John R. Lee

This fact sheet is for information only and is not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a healthcare professional.

Partners & Patrons