According to a recent study, the menopause typically lasts more than seven years, so you’ll want to make the transition as comfortable as possible. Fortunately, the symptoms of the menopause can be alleviated by adopting a healthy diet, taking beneficial herbs, and making lifestyle changes. This article helps you identify some simple changes you can make almost immediately which will help you manage the menopause naturally.
Hot flushes and night sweats are common symptoms. Eighty percent of menopausal women experience them. Many women feel embarrassed about hot flushes, but it’s not as obvious to everyone else as it may seem to you!
Symptoms can be reduced by eating lots of plant foods, especially those rich in phytoestrogens, which help to rebalance your hormones naturally. Phytoestrogens are found in abundance in soya products, legumes, and in brassica vegetables, such as cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. They are also found in walnuts, berries, whole-grains, lentils, linseed, sesame seeds, yams, beans, rice, alfalfa, and fruits.
Patrick Holford and Kate Neil, in their book, Balancing Hormones Naturally, say “Soya products and tofu are both excellent sources of isoflavones, which are powerful phytoestrogens”. They suggest consuming 5mg a day, “equivalent to 350ml of soya milk or a 350g serving of tofu”. Beneficial herbs that may help to balance hormones include agnus castus, ginseng, black cohosh, wild yam, dong quai, and liquorice root.
Brittle bone disease becomes more common after menopause, so taking supplements designed for healthy bones can help reduce your risk of osteoporosis at this time of life. Magnesium, calcium, boron, and vitamin D are great nutrients for healthy bones. NHS guidelines suggest eating leafy greens like broccoli, cabbage and okra for strong bones. They also suggest nuts, dairy, sardines and pilchards to give your bones a nutritious boost.
Hot flushes during menopause are thought to be related to the changes in oestrogen levels affecting the hypothalamus, which regulates body temperature. The hormonal changes trick the brain into thinking you’re too hot, so your body responds by trying to cool down.
Hot flushes can be difficult to avoid completely, but it’s possible to reduce their frequency by keeping stress levels to a minimum and avoiding triggers such as caffeine, alcohol, smoke and spicy foods.
Wear light, lose clothing, natural fibres, and try to stay cool. Keep your bedroom airy and breathe deeply for 15 minutes once or twice a day. Sage may be beneficial, but it doesn’t work for everyone!
If the menopause has zapped the romance from your relationship, then Agnus Castus has a reputation for boosting libido and omega 3 oils can improve your mood. Vitamin C is beneficial for its role in skin elasticity, vitamin E reduces vaginal dryness, and the B vitamins can help to reduce stress.
It’s normal for our libido to reduce as we get older, but some women experience a specific loss of desire at the onset of menopause. As oestrogen levels fall, the vaginal walls thin and the there is less natural lubrication. This can make sex unpleasant. Over the counter lubricants may help, but dietary modifications, exercise, and herbal supplements designed for menopausal women may also be beneficial.
According to Dr Marilyn Glenville PhD, author of Natural Alternatives to HRT, it’s important to stay sexually active: “It’s a real case of ‘Use it or lose it'” she writes, and suggests, “Insert a vitamin E capsule inside your vagina every night for six weeks and after this time, just use as you feel you need it.”
Some studies suggest that lower oestrogen levels may lead to lower physical activity and weight gain after menopause. The drop in oestrogen may also slow your metabolism. So if you gain weight during the menopause, introduce more greens into your diet, and reduce your consumption of processed foods, sugary foods, and refined grains. It’s not about eating less – it’s about eating differently. Fill up on greens, followed by a large fruit salad. If you’re hungry between meals, snack on baby tomatoes, fresh fruit, or other fresh produce.
Oestrogen promotes hair growth, so when levels drop off during the menopause and testosterone levels increase disproportionately, this can result in thinning of hair. Fortunately there are things you can do to minimise hair loss. Try keeping stress levels to a minimum because stress can cause hair loss. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables for good nutrition and healthy hair follicles. Iron rich foods strengthen your hair so eat your greens for their iron and vitamin C, which is also beneficial. Spinach is not the best choice however, because it’s a source of oxalic acid, which reduces your body’s absorption of calcuim – an important mineral for bone health!
To keep your hair growth healthy, try a scalp massage, use a gentle shampoo, and don’t tug your hair. Soy supplements that boost phytoestrogens may also help.
Susie Kearley is a freelance journalist and writer who is also a qualified nutritionist, she writes regularly for a variety of publications on health and nutrition.