In this world of over-sharing and information overload, it never fails to amaze me how much people don’t know about the natural process of menopausal change. Most people know about hot flushes, and may even expect them, but this is not the only symptom associated with menopause, nor is it inevitable!
Before menopause (defined by the absence of a menstrual period for at least 6 months) is peri-menopause. This is the time before your period actually stops, and it can be just like puberty! Periods can come and go, along with emotions, moods, sleep, and energy. This can last for years in some women, and is a time when natural medicines can be of great benefit. Hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) are fluctuating at this time due to irregular ovulations. Many women have very heavy bleeds at this time (menorrhagia), and again herbal medicine that is specific to the person can work wonders.
Menopause is when a woman hasn’t had a period for 6 months at least. It’s a whole new beginning, the end of her reproductive years and the start of a new phase. Hormonally, this means that the ovaries are no longer producing oestrogens. Instead, a small amount of oestrogens are still produced by the adrenal glands. Understandably, if a woman has had significant stress in her life, her adrenals may be a bit under-functioning and the menopausal change may be more difficult.
Some common symptoms associated with menopause and peri-menopause:
- Hot flushing
- Night sweats
- Mood changes: depression, irritability, anxiety, feeling fragile or weepy
- Vaginal dryness
- Skin and hair changes
- Low libido
- Cognition changes- memory and concentration problems, forgetting words is common!
- Insomnia or changes in sleep patterns
- Joint pain, muscular aches and pains, stiffness
- Weight gain
- Headaches or migraines
- Heart palpitations
- Changes in cholesterol or blood pressure
- During peri-menopause, changes in the menstrual cycle including much longer or shorter cycles, and heavy bleeding
Many more women are now seeking natural alternatives for the treatment of menopausal symptoms. While there is a raft of over-the-counter supplements available, these do not take into consideration a woman’s individual symptoms and health history. For one woman, hot flushing will be the worst symptom, while for another, it will be uncontrollable mood swings. Even the flushing can be different- for some women it is a sweating, drenching heat, worse in the afternoons, while for others it is only at night. Herbal medicine that is tailored to the individual can cater to these differences, and help the body ease its way through this time of change. Herbal medicine can be like a bridge that helps your body get from one side of the change to the other, with a minimum of fuss and bother!
Menopause (and peri-menopause) is a time to get your affairs in order! It can be a valuable time of reflection. In regards to health, diet and lifestyle choices you may have gotten away with in the past may have greater consequences now. Many women use this time to take a good long look at their life, their relationships, their activities, and their sense of purpose, happiness and wellbeing. Menopause is transitional in every sense of the word, not just hormonally.
Positive ways to support your transition:
- Clean up your diet- maximise fresh fruit and veg, fish and good oils, nuts and seeds
- Reduce alcohol, sugar and coffee- all can contribute to hot flushing
- Get regular enjoyable exercise
- Reduce stress from every part of your life
- It may be of benefit to check thyroid function and Vitamin D levels
- Sage teas can be useful for reducing excessive sweating
- Check your nutrient levels- especially magnesium! This can have a huge impact on symptoms
- Using natural plant oestrogens like tofu and ground linseeds can make a big difference for some women, providing you are taking therapeutic quantities of them. 1-2 Tablespoons of Ground Linseeds daily and/or 100g tofu daily would be considered therapeutic.
- Support your bones with weight-bearing exercise and natural calcium foods
- See your natural health practitioner for extra support if needed
Menopause is a natural transition in every woman’s life. Like most life changes, some issues may arise, but are individual and not inevitable. Looking after yourself body and soul, and seeking the right support when it is needed, can mean you’ll come out of this time with increased strength and clarity, ready for the next exciting chapter of your unfolding life.