Women’s bodies face a unique set of challenges during menstruation, pregnancy, and of course the menopause. Hormonal changes can impact on how the body copes with a range of health concerns. In particular, loss of oestrogen after the menopause increases vulnerability to certain conditions.
Getting vital nutrients and using natural therapeutic remedies promotes vitality and enables the body and mind to cope during times of transition.
Menopause usually occurs in women between 45 and 55 years old when oestrogen levels naturally decline. In the UK the average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 51.
Symptoms of the menopause can include:
- Absence of periods for 12 months
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Mood swings and irritability
- Difficulty sleeping
- Cognitive changes (difficulty remembering names, directions, losing focus/train of thought)
- Vaginal dryness
- Bone loss
- Lower sex drive
- Painful sex
There are three stages of the menopause:
- Perimenopause – the transitional time during which your hormone levels change, but before you stop having periods.
Menstrual cycles become irregular; you might have periods that are heavier and longer, or shorter and lighter. Sometimes you might miss a period altogether.
You may start to experience hot flushes and night sweats, mood changes, headaches and migraines, joint pain, weight gain and trouble with concentration/ memory.
- Menopause – Full menopause follows the final menstrual period and is confirmed when a woman has not had a period for 12 consecutive months. Many of the perimenopausal symptoms continue in this stage.
- Post-menopause – After menopause, the risk of certain medical conditions increases due to the depletion of oestrogen. Potential issues include:
- Osteoporosis – increased risk of fracture due to weaker bones
- Heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease
- Urinary incontinence and/or UTI (urinary tract infections) as the pelvic floor tissues become less elastic
- Vaginal dryness and lower libido
- Weight gain
A balanced diet that supplies vital nutrients can boost vitality and help ease or even prevent many of the health problems that affect women.
- Wholegrains such as wheat, barley, rice and rye provide slow release carbohydrates which help avoid energy peaks and troughs linked to hormonal changes.
- Probiotics not only boost immunity, there is increasing evidence of the role a healthy gut microbiome plays in regulating mood. Scientists believe that up to 95% of the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter serotonin is produced in the gut. Include live yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut and other ferments into your diet to balance gut bacteria. Also, include food such as beans and pulses in your diet as these act as prebiotics, feeding the existing good gut bacteria.
- Phytoestrogens, dark leafy greens such as cabbage, kale, and broccoli are not only high in free-radical fighting antioxidants but they also provide plant-based hormones known as phytoestrogens. These plant hormones work in a similar way to natural oestrogen produced by the body therefor helping to make up for the loss of oestrogen that occurs around the time of menopause.
- Calcium is essential for building and maintaining healthy bones. The loss of oestrogen in menopause accelerates bone loss putting women at risk of osteoporosis. Dairy products, leafy greens and oily fish all provide calcium.
- Nuts and Seeds especially flax seeds as well as tofu, pulses and legumes have plant oestrogens to help regulate moods and combat vaginal dryness.
- Celery, fennel and dill have a compound anethole, which can calm hot flushes.
Herbs can ease anxiety, liver tonics help balance hormones, and phytoestrogen herbs help manage hormone shifts.
Supports liver function (avoid with epilepsy or a chance of pregnancy).
Mildly oestrogenic to ease hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, insomnia and headaches. Avoid with an underactive thyroid or a chance of pregnancy. Take apart from other drugs as it may impede their absorption.
- Panax Ginseng
A tonic herb, which can support health and well-being. As an adaptogen, it helps the body to perform at optimum levels and counter the ill-effects of stress. A rich source of phytonutrients and eleutherosides, ginseng is also used by many women to counteract the symptoms of menopause.
A nutrient-dense food, rich in chlorophyll, along with vitamins (such as A, B6 and 12, C, D, E, K and P) and minerals (including magnesium, calcium, phosphorous and potassium). It also provides a rich source of isoflavones and essential enzymes. As such, and because it is a cooling, sweet, astringent legume, alfalfa has been used to relieve menopause symptoms, including hot flushes and night sweats.
contains natural plant oestrogens, in fact, scientists have now discovered that the hops plant may contain one of the most powerful phytoestrogens ever identified. This potent compound – known as 8-prenylnaringenin or 8-PN – effectively combats menopausal and PMS complaints and shows promise in protecting against bone loss and heart disease.
- Atriplex halimus
Also known as Mediterranean saltbush, Atriplex halimus is a nutritious plant, high in protein, as well as vitamins (C, A and D) and minerals (such as chromium). It’s the herb’s Chromium content that is thought to be particularly useful for treating menopausal symptoms. Chromium is involved with blood sugar balances, and it turns out that many symptoms associated with menopause are symptoms of blood sugar imbalance.
Boost libido, energy and vitality
- What to Avoid
Warming herbs such as cinnamon, ginger and cayenne, also alcohol can exacerbate hot flushes.
- Weightloss may reduce or eliminate hot flushes and night sweats
- A regular bedtime in a cool dark room helps manage symptoms
- Yoga can reduce stress and improve sleep in menopausal women.
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Red Bean and Yoghurt Dip
Red kidney beans are high in cholesterol-lowering fibre, and natural yogurt provides probiotics for gut health as well as calcium, protein, potassium and phosphorus for bones, helping to guard against conditions such as osteoporosis.
Serves 4 – Prep time 5mins!
- 125g Red Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed
- 60g Red Onion, diced
- 1 Clove of Garlic
- 1 Tsp Red Chilli, deseeded
- 1 Tsp Ground Cumin
- 1 Tbsp Tomato Puree
- 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 Tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar
- 150g Natural Yoghurt
Simply add all the ingredients into a blender and blitz to the desired consistency.
Women’s Wonder Superjuice
The cleansing power or Women’s Wonder is due to the influence fennel and chicory exert on liver and kidney functions. It’s phytoestrogens act as a natural HRT to help prevent bone loss and subsequent osteoporosis.
- 2 Apples, unpeeled, uncored and quartered
- 2 Carrots, unpeeled, unless organic, remove top and bottom
- 1 Head of Chicory
- ½ Fennel Bulb
Put all ingredients into a blender, blitz and enjoy.
Superjiuce M Van Straten 1999 p.32
Complete Wellness Neal’s Yard 2018 p.244 p.521