Menopause may be the brunt of many jokes but for a lot of women there is nothing funny about living through this life-altering life stage. Though the reality of the physiological and psychological changes may not be something to look forward to, UK nutrition expert Patrick Holford says that armed with a few lifestyle changes, dietary “know-how” and the right mind set, you can naturally put the “pause” on your menopause.
Dealing with those dreaded hot flushes
Cool down hot flushes by taking natural phytoestrogen supplements. Soya, red clover and chickpeas as well as fermented sources of soy – such as miso, tempeh, natto and tamari are foods with a good source of isoflavons which can dramatically decrease the occurrence of hot flushes. Be wary of highly processed forms of soya as they have very little of the plant-based substances. Vitamins C, E and essential fats can also help with relieving menopausal symptoms. Choose a Vitamin C supplement that contains berry extracts rich in bioflavonoids, as evidence indicates that these can also help.
Black Cohosh is another helpful herb to take during menopause as it decreases these hot flushes as well as insomnia, sweating and anxiety. Take 50mg per day of Black Cohosh three months on, one month off and to avoid if you are taking liver toxic drugs or have a damaged liver.
Dong quai, a plant native to China, is another useful herb for combatting hot flushes and for balancing hormones but please be advised it can cause thinning of the blood so it is best to consult your GP beforehand.
Agnus-castus (chasteberry) can also help with hot flushes. Agnus-castus’s therapeutic powers are attributed to its indirect effects on decreasing oestrogen levels while increasing progesterone and prolactin which lowers oestrogen levels. 4mg per day, as was used in most trials and research on this herb, is suggested.
Another vitally important component in managing menopause is regular exercise and breathing deeply. The basic principle of all breathing exercise is to use your diaphragm, rather than the top of the chest as we tend to do when we are anxious. The diaphragm is the dome-shaped muscle at the bottom of the lungs. Trials have shown that this type of breathing can reduce the frequency of hot flushes by about 50%.
The moody blues
Regular exercise, a low-GL diet and the right nutrients are essential for calming moods and emotions often associated with menopause. So is ensuring that your daily diet includes essential fats in the form of oily fish and nuts and seeds, such as flax or pumpkin.
The St John’s Wort plant has powerful anti-depressant qualities, and at the same time can relieve the symptoms of headaches and fatigue. For best results, combine with Black Cohosh.
Sex? What sex?
Vaginal dryness can lead to a declining interest in sex during menopause. Supplements of the vitamins A, C, and E, as well as zinc, encourage natural mucous production as declining oestrogen levels tend to dry up vaginal secretions. Natural hormone creams can help, especially if you are deficient in hormones. They are also successful in treating vaginal dryness and can reduce occurrence of urinary tract infections, restore normal vaginal mucous membranes and provide the right environment in the vagina to inhibit growth of unfriendly organisms.
Women tend to sleep less as they get older and often more so during menopause. So if you have a habit of waking up in the early hours, do something creative rather than worry about losing sleep. Meditation is a restful way to spend this time, and could be used to compensate for that lost sleep. To fight insomnia, avoid caffeine, and take a supplement which combines 5-HTP, magnesium and calming herbs at least an hour before you go to bed.
Menopausal joint pain
Weight management through regular exercise and Patrick’s low-GL diet is key to easing painful joints often experienced during menopause. Food intolerances may become more prevalent during menopause. Wheat and dairy are the most common offenders – and can be a cause or contributor to joint pains. Supplements such as Vitamin B6 may help to soothe painful joints, as will avoiding red meat, dairy and wheat or gluten products. Try rubbing progesterone cream directly onto the painful joint or tissue.
Preventing memory loss
If you are worried about memory loss as you age, it is important to eat well to prevent this from happening. However, even this may not provide enough nutrients – especially B12 – which is increasingly poorly absorbed as you age. All evidence suggests that both age-related memory loss and Alzheimer’s is, in almost all cases, completely preventable if you follow the right diet, take the correct supplements and have a healthy, active lifestyle.