Menopause

Menopause

Menopause is a natural biological transition that involves many changes within the female body, and tends to occur between 44 and 55 years of age, although some women experience it earlier or later than this. The reduced hormone production that marks the end of a woman's fertile years also has implications for the health of the heart, skeleton, skin and other tissues and organs.

Symptoms

  • The time surrounding a woman's last periods can be smooth sailing for some, or Stressful and physically difficult for others - every woman's experience is different. Symptoms may include:
  • Periods may cease suddenly, or the cycle and flow may undergo changes in the months or years leading up to menopause
  • Periods may become infrequent, with significantly lighter or heavier flow than previously
  • Hot flushes, night sweats
  • Mood swings, Anxiety, Depression, irritability, short temper
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating, short attention span, Memory Problems
  • Dryness and reduced lubrication of the vagina
  • Reduced libido
  • Heart palpitations or flutters
  • Aches and pains (for example in the joints and ligaments)
  • Headaches
  • Increased susceptibility to Candida and Cystitis, and may feel the need to urinate more frequently
  • Dry skin
  • Some women develop facial hair or experience hair loss
  • May gain weight, or have greater difficulty losing weight
  • Increased susceptibility to Osteoporosis and heart disease

Causes

  • At menopause, the ovaries stop releasing an egg each month, and their production of the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone declines, sometimes fluctuating widely in the process
  • The hormonal fluctuations cause the hot flushes and night sweats; night sweats may contribute to Insomnia
  • The lowered levels of oestrogen cause changes to the sexual organs (e.g. vaginal dryness), ligament strength (which may result in aches and pains), and also cause the bones to lose calcium, increasing the risk of Osteoporosis
  • Some of the symptoms (such as itchiness of the skin), may in fact be withdrawal symptoms as the body adjusts to having lower levels of female hormones in its system
  • Increased tendency to put on weight may be due to relatively higher levels of androgens (male hormones), which may also contribute to other symptoms, (e.g. increased facial hair)
  • Smoking is associated with an earlier menopause, and consequently increases risk of Osteoporosis

Nutritional & Herbal Support

  • Take a high potency multivitamin that provides a broad spectrum of nutrients to support energy production and help combat nervous tension and Stress. A formula containing Siberian ginseng may be particularly beneficial because this herb has traditionally been used to raise energy levels and improve the ability to withstand Stress
  • In addition, take a herbal and nutritional formula that's specially formulated to provide menopause support. Key ingredients to look for include the herbs black cohosh and dong quai, which relieve menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, InsomniaAnxiety and Fatigue.
  • Other important ingredients include evening primrose and vitamin E, which help promote moist, healthy skin
  • Vitamin E may also help to relieve symptoms of vaginal dryness
  • Take extra calcium to reduce your risk of developing Osteoporosis. Choose a formula that provides around 900 mg of calcium per day (preferably in three doses of 300 mg), along with co-factors such as vitamin D3, magnesium, manganese and boron to support the absorption of calcium and its uptake into the skeleton
  • Vitamin D3 improves muscle strength in older people, and may therefore reduce the incidence of falls and the risk of hip and other fractures. Vitamin D3 plays an important role in stimulating calcium absorption by the body and may help to improve bone health and bone density.
  • Kava has traditionally been used to relieve Anxiety. Clinical studies have shown it to be just as effective for the condition as some prescribed medicines. Kava is specifically indicated when Anxiety symptoms are associated with menopause, or Insomnia. Look for kava tablets providing 2400 mg kava standardised to contain 60 mg active kavalactones
  • St John's wort is another herb that is clinically proven to relieve mood disorders such as Anxiety and Depression, and again, may be particularly beneficial when these conditions are associated with menopause
  • Valerian is an effective but gentle sedative with additional anti-anxiety properties, and may help to relieve Insomnia and improve sleep quality
  • Valerian is sometimes combined with other herbal sedatives such as skullcap and hops, and the minerals potassium phosphate, calcium phosphate and magnesium phosphate to relieve Anxiety, nervous tension and Stress

Diet & Lifestyle advice

  • Making decisions about treatment for menopausal symptoms is complex, not least because some treatment options have been associated with adverse effects and are controversial. Talk to your doctor or natural health professional about your options, and make sure you understand all the information you are given before making any decisions
  • Reduce your consumption of animal foods, and instead choose vegetable sources of protein, such as soy products (e.g. tofu and tempeh), legumes (e.g. soy beans, chickpeas, lentils), and nuts and seeds (especially flaxseeds). This increases your intake of phytoestrogens, plant compounds that have oestrogen-like effects in the body, and which may help to reduce menopause symptoms and protect skeletal and Heart Health after menopause
  • At the same time, eat plenty of whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, and high quality proteins. Oily fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines are an excellent choice because they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which support the health of the cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and nervous systems
  • Unless you are intolerant or allergic to dairy products, they are likely to be the richest source of calcium in your diet. Aim to include two to three serves of low-fat dairy products in your diet every day. If you're not able to consistently consume this much dairy, a calcium supplement is highly recommended
  • Menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes are more common in women who are physically inactive. Exercising more often may help to reduce frequency and severity of your symptoms. After seeking your doctor's approval, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most or all days of the week. A brisk walk is a great start, and in addition to helping menopausal symptoms will also promote Heart Health, a healthy body weight, and a balanced mood
  • Exercise is also important for the prevention of Osteoporosis. Regular exercise throughout life helps to maintain skeletal health in old age. Exercise helps to improve bone and muscle strength, delays age-related bone loss and improves co-ordination and balance, reducing the risk of falls. The most important forms of exercise for the prevention of Osteoporosis are weight-bearing exercise (e.g. jogging, walking, dancing and aerobics) and resistance training (e.g. weight lifting). However, if you already have Osteoporosis these activities may not be suitable for you, so talk to your doctor or physio about an exercise program that's specially tailored to your individual needs
  • Avoid smoking, caffeine, alcohol, sugar, soft drinks and salt, all of which have negative effects on the body's calcium stores
  • Enjoy 10 minutes of sunshine on your hands, face and arms on most days of the week to promote the formation of vitamin D in your skin, and reduce your risk of Osteoporosis
  • Avoid wearing synthetic fibres, and instead choose cotton and natural fabrics that are naturally cooling, and allow the skin to breathe
  • Learn and practice meditation or relaxation techniques in order to improve your ability to cope with StressDepression or Anxiety, and to help you wind down in the evening. Playing a hypnotherapy or relaxation CD at bedtime may help you sleep

If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. Information provided is of a general nature and should not replace that of your healthcare professional.

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