With the menopause is 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.
What is it that makes the menopause so potentially dramatic in effect?
It happens when a woman’s production of oestrogen and progesterone begin to decline because they are no longer needed to prepare the womb lining for pregnancy. As oestrogen levels fall, the menstrual flow becomes lighter and often irregular, until eventually it stops altogether.
Progesterone is oestrogen’s alter ego and the two need to be kept in the right balance. Too much oestrogen relative to progesterone – so called oestrogen dominance – results in too many growth signals to cells of the breast and womb, raising the risk of cancer. Consequently, many women in their 40’s, although low in oestrogen, are in a state of oestrogen dominance because their progesterone levels are even lower.
Symptoms of oestrogen dominance can include water retention, breast tenderness, mood swings, weight gain around the hips and thighs, depression, loss of libido and cravings for sweets.
The symptoms of progesterone deficiency overlap these, and also include insomnia, irregular periods, lower body temperature and menstrual cramps.
But you can do some simple things within your diet and lifestyle that can help these symptoms, but also prevent them:
Eating good sources of phytoestrogens every day will help balance your hormones. These include beans, chickpeas and fermented soya products like miso, tempeh, natto and tamari. You will probably need about 30-40g a day for an effect, which is about one cupful.
You will also need to increase your uptake of anti-ageing antioxidants that can be found in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables.
A good plan to follow for menopause, or the time leading up to the menopause, would be a Low-GL diet. You can find out how to start on a Low-GL diet by clicking here - https://www.patrickholford.com/topic/low-gl
Ideally you would need to take a high-strength multi-vitamin, a high-strength vitamin c supplement (around 1-2g per day) that also includes berry extracts and an essential fat (or omega3 and omega6) capsule.
It would also be a good idea to look into supplementing with chromium (about 200mcg) like Cinnachrome in the morning to help reduce menopausal symptoms and prevent them from occurring throughout the day.
There are a couple of herbs which are known to help balance hormones and relieve menopausal symptoms. Try black cohosh (about 50mg a day) or dong quai (600mg a day) with 300mg of St John’s Wort a day. Also if you are prone to depression or anxiety, look at including agnus castus at about 4mg per day.
Testing & Your GP
A good way to know where to start with changes in your diet and lifestyle when you feel you are approaching the menopause, or even in perimenopausal stage, is to get your homocysteine levels checked. If these are high, it is a good sign that you will need additional supplementation such as folic acid, B6 and B12 to help reduce your levels and regulate your hormones like the one in my range Female Balance.
You can also consider whether to use natural or bio-identical hormone treatments, both of which can be prescribed by your doctor – if this is something you are interested in then book an appointment with your GP.
The two best things I can advise for trouble-free menopause is focusing on getting fit and belly breathing.
For fitness, it is best to focus on weight-bearing exercises (not just weights) and balancing to help reduce your risk of osteoporosis – which increases due to the hormone changes during menopause.
Learning belly breathing is a great way to reduce your stress, increase your oxygen flow and reduce inflammation in the body. You can find many great tutorial videos online, or alternatively you can look at joining a yoga class.
In summary, if you do your best to bring most of these pieces together into your diet and lifestyle, and take the right supplements, the chances are that any menopausal symptoms you experience will be minor and short-lived.