Hormones play a powerful role in how we feel. The menopause is a time of change and it can be a positive one. It is part of a woman’s hormonal life, and occurs when menstruation and reproductive potential ceases. Our body runs out of eggs, and is trying to compensate for it, by the increase and decrease of different hormones. The whole process, lasting as long as 7 years, can be divided into 3 stages.
Perimenopause: usually begins around 45-50, with hormonal changes, cycle fluctuations, and the beginning of symptoms, such as hot flashes.
Menopause: usually from age 50-55. Ovarian function decreases, and menstruation ceases.
Post menopause: from 55 onwards. This begins 12 months after your last menstruation.
Signs & Symptoms of Menopause
The experience of menopausal symptoms varies greatly between women.
● Hot flashes and night sweats
● Lethargy, sleep disturbances
● Lack of concentration, memory difficulties
● Irritability, aggressiveness, depression, mood swings, anxiety
● Decreased libido, vaginal dryness
● Increased urgency and frequency of urination
● Joint related aches and pains
During perimenopause, your hormones become out of balance.
● Oestrogen and progesterone are both declining, but the latter at a slower rate, leading to a higher risk of oestrogen dominance. This can account for many symptoms experienced, including brain fog, hot flashes, and night sweats.
● Thyroid hormones may also become imbalanced. This can lead you to feelings of continual tiredness, constipation, putting on weight, hair loss and feeling cold, amongst other symptoms.
● When the ovaries stop producing sex hormones, the body relies on your adrenal glands. This is where your stress hormones are produced, such as cortisol. Thus, stress hormones may become imbalanced, leading to, for example, mood changes, anxiety and putting on weight.
● Fat cells also produce oestrogen.
Liver: At this time, the liver needs support to help us excrete unhealthy forms of oestrogen. Otherwise, oestrogen can be recycled and goes back into general circulation in a potentially harmful form.
HRT: There is an enormous selection of HRT on the market, if you feel that following the natural route by itself is not working. This should be discussed with your GP. However, It is still beneficial to combine HRT with the natural approach, making changes to your diet and lifestyle. This can still make an important impact on relieving symptoms and health.
Dietary Changes: a well balanced diet will help the body cope with the changing hormonal levels, and ensure that all the necessary nutrients that hormones need are there. Here are some suggestions.
● Organic Food: Organic food can be very expensive, but where possible it should be bought, as it is free of pesticides and added hormones. There is a list called the dirty dozen and the clean 15, which suggests which foods should always be organic, and those that don’t need to be. EWG’s 2021 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce https://www.ewg.org › foodnews
● Water: Drink a minimum of 2L of water per day. This will help flush any toxins from your system, reduce bloating and help lubricate dry skin. Try herbal tea, or flavouring the water with cucumber, orange slices, or mint.
● Protein: Eat protein at every meal. This can help you stay energised between meals, without big energy dips, and leave you feeling fuller for longer. Also try to eat less meat, and replace with legumes. Meat is often injected with hormones which will add to your hormonal load. Pulses and beans can help balance oestrogen, and are high in fibre and nutrients.
● Cruciferous vegetables: For example, cauliflower, broccoli, watercress. They help breakdown and excrete excess oestrogen. Eat a closed fistful twice a day.
● Fibre: For example, brown rice, oats, vegetables. It helps to support a breakdown of hormones, and slows down the release of energy.
● Fats: ‘Good fats’ are essential for the production, storage, and transport of hormones. Try olive or avocado oil. Include a small handful of nuts, a tbs of flaxseeds or a few olives each day.
● Exercise is imperative for helping you cope with the menopause, especially strength training. For example, It supports the breakdown and excretion of toxins, through waste and sweat. It supports bone health, reduces stress and increases fat burning.
● Xenoestrogens:these are environmental chemicals found in herbicides, pesticides, and plastics. They have oestrogen effects within the body, and can accumulate in our fatty tissue, interfering with our hormonal balance, and increasing the risk of hormonal cancers.
● There are supplements available, specifically targeted, or for general support. Magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin E are useful in supporting the menopause.
● Herbs: There are a number of herbs that can support you through the menopause. However, they can interact with some medications or HRT, so should be taken with caution. I would recommend seeking advice from a qualified nutritional therapist before taking them.
I hope this information gives you a starting point for coping with all the menopause symptoms.