Managing Menopause

  • 9 Feb 2015
  • Reading time 12 mins
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Menopause brings the increased risk of osteoporosis, breast cancer or heart disease but, for many women, it is not the fear of those illnesses that most concerns them but how to cope with the debilitating symptoms that affect their daily lives: the hot flushes, vaginal dryness, joint pains, fatigue, headaches, irritability, insomnia, depression and decreased sex drive. The degree to which a woman experiences any or all of these symptoms is highly dependent on how good her nutrition is. Indeed, you don’t have to suffer at all.

Hot flushes – how to turn the heat down

Three-quarters of all British menopausal women, particularly those who are thin, experience some hot flushes. These are a result of increased activity of the hypothalamus gland in the brain, which makes two hormones – follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinising hormone (LH). Extra-high levels of these two hormones occur as the menopause approaches, in an attempt by the brain to stimulate any remaining eggs to develop. Meanwhile, oestrogen levels fall, ovulation becomes infrequent and progesterone levels decline rapidly. Using ‘natural’ or bio-identical progesterone cream has been shown to help.

Supplementation with phytoestrogens, which are structurally and functionally similar to the body’s own oestrogen, have been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of hot flushes. Four studies show that the oestrogen-like, plant-derived substances known as isoflavones, found in high concentrations in soy and red clover, approximately halve the incidence and severity of hot flushes.

I recommend fermented sources of soy where possible, including miso, tempeh, natto and tamari. Tofu, soya milk and soya yoghurt contain less phytoestrogens than fermented sources and also have other disadvantages, Highly processed forms of soy like burgers often have very little. Opt for organic, not genetically modified, sources of soya.

If you have disglycemia – which means your blood sugar level goes up and down like a yo-yo – you are much more likely to experience hot flushes. By keeping your blood sugar level even by following a low-GL diet [], you can considerably reduce the number of hot flushes you have.

Other nutrients that may help during the menopause are vitamins C, E and essential fats (both omega-3 and omega-6). Choose a vitamin C supplement that contains berry extracts rich in bioflavonoids, as there’s some evidence that these help too. When vitamin E levels are low, there is a tendency for FSH and LH to increase. Vitamin E also helps to stabilise hormone levels and has been reported to help alleviate vaginal dryness.

Helpful herbs
The most promising of the herbs used to treat the symptoms of menopause is black cohosh, which can help reduce hot flushes, sweating, insomnia and anxiety. Also encouraging is new research that seems to indicate that black cohosh neither increases cancer risk nor ......

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