The natural approach to Menopause

Menopause should be a time to embrace the changes in the female body, not a time of dred, the word alone can send cold chills (or hot flushes) down the spine of many women! But does it really have to be that way? Is there anyway to maneuver through menopause and maintain one’s sanity? Acupuncture and Naturopathy can have a positive impact in this transitional time.

Although by definition the date of a woman’s last menstrual period; the term menopause commonly refers to the period of change, when the egg supply becomes exhausted and the levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone fall.  Ovulation and menstruation become less frequent and eventually stop.  This usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age and constitutes a major transition period for most women. It can also happen at a younger age.

The Symptoms of Menopause

Symptoms in the transitional period may be felt for a short period or for several years depending on the body’s ability to adapt. They may include:

  • a change in the frequency or volume of blood flow of periods
  • emotional swings, irritability, depression
  • hot flushes and night sweats
  • headaches
  • insomnia
  • loss of sex drive, vaginal dryness and recurrent vaginal infections
  • weight changes, reduction in breast tissue
  • bone loss of calcium may also occur.
  • However, many of these symptoms are also the natural side effects of ageing.

Menopause

Hot Flushes and Night Sweats

Hot flushes and night sweats are experienced by more than 85% of menopausal women with varying degree of severity up to ten years after their last period.  They occur because the brain decides that the body is overheated and responds by increasing the blood flow through the skin. The heated skin reddens and begins to perspire. The  symptoms rise to a peak over about 4 minutes and then decline during the next 15 minutes accompanied by cold chills. Hot flushes are often accompanied by an increased heart rate and palpitations. Although harmless they can be very uncomfortable and distressing. Night sweats often cause frequent interruption of sleep, contributing to fatigue.

Menopause and Bone Health

The repair and maintenance system of bones is mainly controlled by hormones, including oestrogen and progesterone. As levels of these hormones fall, bones begin to deteriorate and loose density. Osteoporosis literally means: “bone that has holes”.  It leads to an increased risk of fracture especially of the spine and long bones of arms and legs (hip fractures). It may cause pain, especially in the lower back, loss of stature, and various deformities (Dowager’s hump).  Osteoporosis is a complex condition which also involves lifestyle and nutritional factors, and prevention is much better than cure.

Treatment of Menopausal Symptoms – The Naturopathic Approach

Long term poor diet, emotional stress, and lack of exercise may lead to an increase in menopausal symptoms.

Diet (Food, drink and drugs)

Eat a wholesome diet predominantly based on fresh organic foods. Prepare your own meals whenever possible.

Foods to eliminate or reduce                                   

Sugar, cakes and other refined carbohydrates

Processed ready meals

Hot spices

Animal fat from meat and dairy

Dairy products

Hot fluids

Coffee, tea and alcohol

Stop smoking

Increase beneficial foods

Plenty of fruit and vegetables

Brown rice and whole meal bread

Lentils and beans

Nuts and seeds

Organic poultry and fish and eggs

A non-dairy milk source – Coconut, rice, almond etc…

Cold pressed oils (olive, linseed etc.)

Cooling foods and foods rich in natural oestrogens (see below)

In Chinese medicine, the consumption of cooling foods is recommended. Such foods are wheat germ and its oil, mung beans, mung bean sprouts, string beans, seaweed, spirulina, millet, black beans, tofu, kidney beans, barley, black sesame seeds, fenugreek seeds, saffron and cold sage tea.

Increase plant foods high in natural oestrogens (phytoestrogens). These include: soya products (don’t over-consume), flaxseed oil, flax seeds, nuts, whole grains (such as brown rice), apples, fennel, celery, parsley, and alfalfa. Maca powder has been proven to help reduce menopause symptoms and has been named the natural HRT.

http://www.naturalmenopausenow.com/2012/03/23/how-to-use-maca-to-get-rid-of-menopause-problems/

Blood sugar control is also very important for hormone balance.

Drinking plenty of water keeps the body vital and young. Increase amounts gradually to about 1.5 to 2 liters per day.

For more advice of foods to eliminate and increase please contact me.

Exercise

Endorphins are the body’s own mood-elevating and pain-relieving compounds. They are also thought to relief hot flushes. Regular exercise enhances endorphins and has many benefits on health of bone and the cardiovascular system. It reduces stress, boosts the metabolism, increases energy levels and assists in achieving and maintaining normal body weight. In addition exercise may also help mobilise some stored estrogen, which may make for an easier transition.

Exercise in average 3 – 4 hours per week; Combine aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, cycling, swimming with toning and strengthening exercise such as Yoga and Pilates.

Stress Management

Learn to adopt less aggressive attitudes. A relaxed, un-stressful life will greatly help overcome menopausal symptoms.

Supplementation & Herbs

Vitamins and Minerals

In addition to a good general supplement programme (multivitamins & minerals, fish oil) the following vitamins and minerals may help relieve menopausal symptoms:

Vitamins E and C – For hot flushes, night sweats, irritability and vaginal dryness

B-Vitamins, especially B6 – For hormone balance, energy production and a healthy nervous system

Vitamin D & Calcium – For protection against osteoporosis, and for hot flushes

Magnesium – For night sweats and irritability

Evening Primrose Oil – For hot flushes & breast pain

Vitamins, Minerals and Herbs can help with Menopausal symptoms
Vitamins, Minerals and Herbs can help with Menopausal symptoms

Herbs

Much of the effect of herbal medicine is thought to be a result of phytooestrogens in the plants and the plants’ ability to improve blood flow.

Dong Quai (Angelica Sinensis): has a mild oestrogenic effect and stabilises blood vessels

Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra): mild oestrogenic effect and raises progesterone levels

Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa): relieves hot flushes, depression, vaginal atrophy

Chaste berry (Vitex Agnus-Castus): Balances secretion of certain hormones

Gingko Biloba: Improves blood flow to the extremeties and to the brain.

Red Clover and Korean Ginseng may also help because of their oestrogenic effects.

Combining all of the above is thought to produce greater effect.

For advice on recommended amounts please contact me.

Other useful tips

Menopause can often be a time of lowered energy. Get adequate sleep and even take a nap when feeling tired. If hot flushes and night sweats are your main problems:

  • Keep a record of your hot flushes and see if there is a pattern developing.
  • Wear loose clothing, made of natural fabrics, with short sleeves and V-necks
  • Use a battery operated fan and keep a flask of iced water near by
  • Relaxing during a hot flush can diminish its intensity.
  • Keep your bedroom cool
  • Use night clothes and bed linen made of natural fabrics
  • Keep a sponge and a bowl of water near your bedside to cool yourself down easily.

Acupuncture & Menopause

Acupuncture can help women suffering from the most common symptoms of menopause, it is claimed. A study suggests that Acupuncture can curb the severity of hot flushes and also relieve mood swings among women receiving it regularly.

Hot flushes can suddenly produce an uncomfortable feeling of intense heat, while frequent flushes at night can disrupt sleep. The symptoms are caused by the dilation of blood vessels in the skin and are linked to hormone imbalances, but they are still not fully understood.

Medication proven to combat flushes includes Hormone Replacement Therapy and some antidepressants, which appear to damp down the body’s blood vessel system.

In the study, which was published in the journal Acupuncture in Medicine, Turkish researchers looked at 53 menopausal women. Twenty seven received acupuncture twice a week for ten weeks. This involved placing needles at certain points on the body to boost energy and release endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.

The remaining volunteers were given ‘dummy’ acupuncture with blunted needles.

At the end of the trial, those receiving genuine treatment had lower scores for the intensity of the hot flushes and mood swings they experienced – which progressively improved over the treatment period – compared with those given dummy needles.

The researchers said the effect on endorphins might curb flushes by stabilising the body’s temperature controls, but they were unable to say how long the effect lasted after treatment finished.

The researchers admit the trial was small but claim that Acupuncture is worth trying for menopausal women unable or unwilling to use HRT.

Please contact if you would like any further information or to see how I can help you.

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