The menopausal years are an inevitability for all women – when hormonal changes in the body bring about the gradual decline in her fertility and an end to her ability to bear children naturally.
Menopause is not a health condition as such, but a transition into a new era, where her hormone levels change and her menstruation years comes to an end. For many, the menopause brings a variety of symptoms, ranging from mildly upsetting to those severe enough to disrupt their lives.
While every woman experiences menopause uniquely, and a fortunate few breeze through with few symptoms, common symptoms include hot flushes, tiredness, depression, anxiety, low libido, mood swings, headaches, sleeplessness, joint and muscle pain, dry skin and vagina.
It doesn’t sound like something to look forward to, does it? And if you are in the middle of experiencing these symptoms it can feel inexhaustible. Well I have some good news, there are things you can do in your diet and lifestyle that can ease you through the journey of menopause lightly.
The first and in my opinion most important is stress management. We all know stress affects our health in many ways but I want to explain how it is directly related to menopause. Our adrenal glands, which are worked hard when we are stressed, become our main creator of oestrogen and progesterone as we go through menopause. As the ovaries decline their production of these hormones, the adrenal glands take over. But if the adrenal glands are ‘too busy’ dealing with the stress we are under, they have little time and energy to produce the much needed oestrogen and progesterone, leading to much more severe menopausal symptoms.
I am realistic in my approach to stress, sure it would be great if we could hide away from all of our daily stresses and spend our days relaxing on a beach but for most of us that is far away from our reality. We all have stress in our lives and we all handle it differently. The best thing you can do to give your adrenal glands a rest from stress is to take time out for yourself every day! Isn’t that a radical idea!
Spend twenty to thirty minutes doing something you enjoy daily!
There is one catch, no screens allowed – no televisions, tablets, phones or computers during your ‘me time’! Here are some ideas – a walk along the beach, writing in a journal, stretching your body, singing, playing an instrument, crocheting or knitting – you get the picture, simple but a challenge for most women to do. During your ‘Me time’ you slow down, focus on your breathing, relax your shoulders, neck and face and just be!
Many women put on weight as they go through menopause, so what do they do? Cut fat out of their diet. This is a big mistake as we need fat (as well as protein) to make hormones. The production of both oestrogen and progesterone are dependent on good levels of fats from the foods you eat. So cutting down on the ‘so called’ unhealthy foods such as eggs, milk and butter, actually leaves you with less of the ingredients that these hormones are made from. This topic is huge and deserves an article of its own but my simple advice when it comes to fats is natural fats from fish, grass fed meats, dairy products, nuts and seeds and healthy oils, such as olive and coconut are an important part of a healthy diet. In fact I recommend full fat dairy (organic) and I don’t have a problem with eating fatty cuts of healthily raised meats. These fats are natural and healthy. Take the fat out of your dairy products and you’re also stripping them of their fat soluble nutrients such as vitamin A and D. Removing the fat requires more processing and it leaves your body searching out the nutrients it is missing in the form of cravings. Think about it, the incidence of heart disease, high cholesterol and obesity has continued to rise despite the reduction of our intake of saturated fats. Could something else be to blame?
The fats we need to avoid are ‘man made’ fats, such as hydrogenated oils, margarine, shortening, as well as vegetable oils such as canola, sunflower, safflower, soy and corn. We also need to be aware that many processed food products contain these unhealthy fats in them, pastries, commercial breads, chips, roasted nuts, cakes, biscuits, buns, crackers, dips and sauces are just a few examples. These fats are inflammatory and can exacerbate the symptoms of menopause.
Herbs can work wonders, not just to relieve menopausal symptoms but to correct the underlying imbalances that are causing the symptoms. Herbal medicine is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach and it is recommended you see a naturopath or herbalist to find out which herbs are best suited to your individual health picture.
The menopausal years are more than just a stack of unpleasant symptoms, they mark a profound change in a woman’s life, physically, mentally and emotionally and should be looked at in a positive light.