It is important to state that menopause is not an illness – it’s a change that is part of the natural ageing process and whether we like it or not, it can’t be avoided.
Symptoms of the menpause vary enormously from woman to woman: some sail through it with barely any symptoms other than irregular periods which eventually stop (you are considered to be menopausal when you have not had a period for a year).
However, others experience a host of symptoms including hot flushes, night sweats (which occur during the day as well), mood swings, brain fog, dry and ageing skin and thinning hair, aching joints, lack of energy and weight gain – unfortunately these are just a few of the more common symptoms. There are others which include osteoporosis – oestrogen protects bone density so menopausal women are more a risk.
I am often asked what can be done to alleviate some of the more unpleasant symptoms, and while there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, I have listed below some positive steps you can take which may help:
- Flaxseed is a good source of phytoestrogens. Many studies have shown that hot flushes may reduced by consuming flaxseed. It also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which can aid in mood stabilization. Its benefits include relieving symptoms of hot flushes, vaginal dryness and mood disturbances. Phytoestrogens include soya (fermented is best eg tempeh or miso), hops, dandelion, red clover, sage and alfalfa They have also been studied for their effects of lowering bad cholesterol which may help protect against heart disease.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Oily fish contain Omega 3 fatty acids which have been shown to help with mood disturbances as well as helping to protect against heart disease. They may also be a useful for dry skin, hair and eyes. Try eating oily fish such as trout, salmon , tuna and vegetarian sources such as flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds.
- There have been studies which show that Vitamin E can be very helpful in helping symptoms of vaginal dryness as well as decreasing hot flushes. Other benefits include lowering blood pressure, and slowing the ageing of cells and tissues.
- Vitamin C helps to build up collagen which gives skin its elasticity and it is therefore helpful in the prevention and treatment of all dryness of the skin. It can also help retain the elasticity in the urinary tract and so prevent leakage or stress incontinence, which is common at the menopause. Collagen is also important for your bones and will help protect against osteoporosis.
- This is a bone protective mineral so its important to make sure you have enough in your diet. Magnesium is also known as ‘nature’s tranquilliser’, so it may help with symptoms such as anxiety, irritability and other mood changes.
Alcohol can make hot flushes worse as well as increasing your risk of breast cancer and stroke. Remember the Government advises that women drink no more than 14 units per week – one 125ml glass of wine = 2 units.
There are several herbs that have been traditionally used for helping with menopausal symptoms:
Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)
- This herb is useful for symptoms of hot flushes and night sweats and there have been a number of clinical trials that show its effectiveness.
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
- Sage is traditionally used for helping to control hot flushes and night sweats. It can be taken as a tea.
Agnus Castus (Vitex agnus castus)
- This herb is considered to have a balancing effect on your hormones. It works on the pituitary gland which is the gland that sends the message down to the ovary to release hormones. It is useful for peri-menopause as well.
Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis)
- Dong quai is a herb that is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and is helpful for both the hot flushes and night sweats. Research has shown that it not only helps reduce hot flushes and night sweats but it is also helpful for fatigue and disturbed sleep.
NOTE: please do not start taking any of the vitamins and herbs listed until you have spoken to a healthcare practitioner especially if you are taking HRT or any other hormone treatment.
Studies have shown that Acupuncture can be a useful aid in relieving hot flushes and other menopausal symptoms.
Exercise can be a powerful sleep aid, combatting the sleep disturbances many women complain about. It has been shown to improve many menopause symptoms from hot flushes to mood swings. Try a mixture of aerobic exercise, strength training, resistance and relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation. Lots of women complain about ‘fat around the middle’ and it may be a good idea to enlist the help of a personal trainer to help formulate an exercise regime that can target these areas.
If you would like to have more information on the menopause and how diet and lifestyle changes can help you, contact Pippa Mitchell our Nutritional Therapist, on 01483 527945 who would be happy to help you.