Menopause is a time of transition. Unfortunately, many women view it as the end of their good life as they know it and the start of a slide into old age, when in fact it can mark the start of a wonderful new era with all the opportunities that experience, wisdom and hard-earned resources can bring.
For some women, going through menopause can be a most unpleasant time. Technically, we only know menopause has occurred retrospectively. It is defined as the absence of a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months.
The time leading up to that date is what we now call perimenopause and may start in your forties. For some women perimenopause can last for a number of years with symptoms continuing on past menopause. During this time, hormone levels can fluctuate and the menstrual cycle can become erratic. As a consequence, during this transition phase some women will experience varying degrees of associated symptoms such as hot flushes, heavier bleeding, irregular cycles, vaginal dryness, insomnia, irritability, depression, poor concentration and more….not a lot of fun!
For many women, these symptoms will be non-existent or only a minor irritation but for others they can be very debilitating and really affect their quality of life and ability to function on a day-to-day basis.
In order to achieve this transition successfully and sail gracefully into menopause, it is wise to prepare for this mid-stage of your life.
The healthier you are in your forties, the greater your chances of minimal menopausal symptoms. (But, you know what…it’s never too late to make some changes).
Once you have had your last period you no longer have to worry about heavy bleeding, PMS or menstrual pain but you may still experience one or more of hot flushes, night sweats, insomnia, mood changes, brain fog, weight gain and vaginal dryness as your body loses the benefits of progesterone and oestrogen.
Often it is not just changing hormones contributing to your symptoms. For many, this is an extremely challenging time in a woman’s life. You may have teenage children, elderly parents and a demanding job. All these extra stressors in your life can exacerbate your symptoms. (It is believed that, for some women, a stressful moment will cause a release of noradrenaline which then triggers the hot flush).
Sometimes, other little health issues come up (such as thyroid conditions or digestive problems). These may have been there for a while but menopause seems to bring them out. It can be the straw that broke the camel’s back! This is part of the reason why every woman is different and needs to be treated differently.
What can you do to reduce your menopausal symptoms?
The good news is that a supportive diet and lifestyle complemented by some nutritional supplements and traditional herbal remedies can make a big difference.
Start with the following:
- Make sure your diet includes foods rich in phyto-oestrogens such as tofu and flaxseed and avoids coffee, alcohol, and very spicy foods. This can help with hot flushes.
- A lifestyle which incorporates some relaxation and exercise has also been shown to help in reducing symptoms. In particular paced breathing, yoga, tai chi, and meditation have been shown to reduce the incidence and severity of hot flushes.
- Maintain a healthy weight and don’t let the kilos creep on. (Those women with more central weight tend to report more hot flushes).
What can your naturopath do to reduce your menopausal symptoms?
Appropriately prescribed nutritional or herbal supplements can help to reduce the symptoms of menopause and restore sleep, mood, cognition and reduce hot flushes. If other factors such as stress, thyroid or other health issues are at play, this needs to be considered also.
What we will prescribe will depend on your unique presentation and take into account any prescription medications you might be taking.
If you haven’t done so earlier, menopause is the time to make the necessary diet and lifestyle changes to ensure you have the health and vitality to enjoy life to the full as you get older (I know, we may not want to admit it but getting old is inevitable if we are lucky so we may as well embrace it).
So if you, or someone close to you, are starting to feel the effects of a mid-life transition it is not necessary to suffer in silence. There are many things you can do to make life easier. But as always, before taking any nutritional or herbal medicines I would advise you to seek professional advice from a naturopath or herbalist to ensure you are getting the best possible support for your particular health needs, taking into account any other aspects of your health.