As women age, the level of hormones produced by the ovaries inevitably declines. However, if you are in good health and your glandular system is working well, going through the menopause does not need to be the miserable, uncomfortable, depressing process we are often led to expect.
Menopause is defined as the time menstruation ceases. Peri-menopause is the time building up to the when the periods have completely stopped. This process can go on for years and can come with many symptoms akin to pre-menstrual syndrome i.e. breast tenderness, moodiness, sleep disturbance and weight gain. If you are experiencing these kinds of symptoms and your menstrual cycle is becoming increasing less frequent and lighter in flow, then you are likely to be peri-menopausal.
Menopause is most commonly experienced in the late 40s or early 50s. One of the main indicators for the age of your menopause is when your mother went through hers. Peri-menopause can start from late 30’s onwards and can go on for years. To ensure your body manages this process and passes through menopause without all those horrid symptoms associated with menopause like hot flushes, depression, loss of libido, vaginal dryness, thinning skin & hair, fatigue and memory loss, it is essential you are in the best possible health as you approach and pass through peri-menopause.
Women who are undernourished, stressed, have poor blood sugar balance and/or are lacking in essential nutrients, are far more likely to struggle through teh menopausal process and beyond. Whereas, those in good health can pass through it without the need for any orthodox or even natural-health intervention and with minor, if any, unpleasantness.
Remember, the menopause is a natural process, just like going through puberty is, yet it is often regarded and treated like an illness.
So, here are some guidelines to helping your body through this hormonal shift:
Manage your stress: as the production of oestrogen and progesterone from the ovaries decreases, other glands in the body up their production. Your adrenal glands are particularly important for taking over from the ovaries but they can only do this if they are in good shape. Continuous levels of emotional, physical and psychological stress can lead to adrenal fatigue. If you approach menopause with worn out adrenals, you are far more likely to struggle through ‘the change’.
For happy adrenals eat plenty of wholegrains, fresh veg, pulses and small, regular amounts of good quality protein to nourish the adrenals; avoid refined sugars / carbs & processed fats and limit caffeine as these will further deplete the adrenals; address the main causes of your emotional and physical stress.
Maintain stable blood-sugar levels: Hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar levels, puts extra stress on the adrenals; trigger cravings for sugar; causes moodiness, fatigue & weight gain and, left unmanaged, will make menopausal symptoms much worse. To avoid this, eat a wholefood, unrefined diet; never skip meals, especially breakfast and don’t allow yourself to get too hungry.
Maintain a healthy weight and keep active: excess body fat, especially fat around the middle can upset hormonal balance and doing regular, weight-bearing exercise like fast walking, jogging and resistance exercises will keep your bones strong – osteoporosis being a very serious consequence for many women post-menopause.
Use natural herbs and supplements to enhance your hormonal levels*: herbs such as Black Cohosh, Vitex Agnus Castus and Red Raspberry Leaf are all well documented as being helpful in easing a range of menopause-related symptoms. Agnus castus is an adaptogenic herb, meaning it works on the pituitary gland, helping hormonal regulation.
Maca Powder: another adaptogenic, is a south American root proving to be really beneficial in easing symptoms of the menopause, especially hot flushes, increasing energy and boosting libido. It can be added to your cereal, to a smoothie or taken in capsules. It is very safe with no known side effects and can be of significant benefit throughout peri-menopause.
Natural progesterone cream: usually made from wild yam, is a very effective way of increasing progesterone levels naturally. It is absorbed through the skin – a much more direct process than taking it orally. Administered during the second half of the cycle (from day 16 – 27) can significantly ease headaches, irritability, extra sensitivity and low mood, as progesterone levels often decrease more dramatically than oestrogen levels and it is this imbalance that causes the symptoms.
Get plenty of essential fatty acids (EFAs) and vitamin D: refer back to earlier blogs to find out about how to get enough EFAs. Fish oils for omega 3 and borage or evening primrose oil for GLA will significantly help your hormonal levels and help prevent your skin becoming dry and thin. Vitamin D is absolutely critical for healthy bones, for a healthy immune function and for mood regulation.
Take a good quality vitamin and mineral supplement: maintaining good levels of your micro-nutrients like chromium, zinc, magnesium, selenium, manganese etc., is so essential to support your adrenal glands, to balance blood sugar levels, for liver function and for lots, lots more functions in the body. At a time when the body is going through a big transition, make sure you are giving it all it need.
* Please note: it is advisable to get further professional, more in-depth advice regarding use of herbal interventions.