Find out how you can change the direction of your menopause and enter this stage of life with vigour, enthusiasm and renewed energy with
Paul Foley, Nutritionist.
Ancient and indigenous traditions don’t even have a name for this process, but in the West it has become a phenomenon to be feared and medicated. Traditionally the menopause was viewed as a spiritual process from nurturer to wise elder of the community. In many communities there was not even a name for it. In her later years a woman was revered for her wisdom, experience and knowledge.
This is a far cry from the image which we hold menopause in today. The negative image that we have of menopause spans back to a Dr. Robert Wilson who in the 60’s wrote a book entitled Feminine forever. In his work he extolled that oestrogen replacement would mitigate the worst of the symptoms of menopause. His view was that menopause destroyed not only the health of a woman but also her character and promoted it as ‘’living decay’’. Grr you say.
As a solution he promoted an oestrogen pill that would act as a fountain of youth and restore the vitality of the struggling woman. Many of his concepts were ill founded and did not prove true scientifically. They were however widely promoted in mainstream media. The pharmaceuticals came running, patenting hormone therapy to save women from the terrible disease of menopause. As a fall out, not a great amount of work was carried out looking at natural and nutritional measures that would address some of the issues that hormonal fluctuations can produce.
It is not the purpose of this article to address societal image or menopause but I feel it is an important consideration when looking at what this important life phase is. As a nutritionist it is my role to explore the influences of the western diet on the hormone process. The refined diets that are prevalent today are a big contributor to some of the more excessive symptoms that women experience during the menopause and their hormone years. From examining countless diet diaries I can say that the worse the diet is, the worse the hormone dysregulation will be.
When it comes to a natural program for menopause the main aims are to:
Relive menopausal symptoms (flushes, irregular bleeding, Atrophic vaginitis, mood changes, cognitive changes, body aches, sleep disturbances & fatigue)
Mitigate dry mucus membranes
Preserve Bone mass
Support detoxification of hormones
There are many tests available that look at both hormone balance and also liver clearance of hormones which is most commonly the cause of hormone imbalances. The most comprehensive test that I run to date is the Dutch complete hormone test run by Regenerus Laboratories.
AVOID DAIRY PRODUCTS. Dairy is high in animal hormones and should be avoided in any hormonal related issues. It is also acidic. For the body to counter the acidity created by dairy it must use calcium as an alkaline agent. It must turn to the calcium in the bones to alkalise the acidity so guzzling back milk for calcium is not the best method of supporting bone strength.
INCREASE FIBRE. If there is a slow transit through the colon for metabolic waste then there is a possibility of estrogens being reabsorbed and compounding the hormone load you have to deal with. An important remedy for this is to increase the amount of fibre in your diet. The easiest way to do this is to drink a tablespoon of psyllium husk every day mixed in water and follow with a second glass of water.
EAT FOODS RICH IN PHYTOESTROGENS
These include Soy foods, legumes, flaxseeds, fennel, celery, sage, red clover and parsley. Pytoestrogens in plants are natures answer to medications like Tamoxifen & raloxifen. They bind to your oestrogen receptors but have a much less of an impact than your own endogenous estrogens. These foods have also been shown to reduce the risk of breast, colon and prostate cancer.
Soy contains two isoflavones (daidsein & genistein) that can inhibit the effect of oestrogen on the body. Some of the benefits can include a reduction in hot flushes/night sweats, stabilization of bone density, lower total cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides, homosyteine and blood pressure. Aim to consume fermented soy products such as tempeh, miso, natto and soy sauce. For the initial stages if symptoms are extreme then consume for 1 month 1 mug of soy milk every day. Make sure that all soy products are non GM.
This is the richest source in the in the plantworld of phytoestrogens. Consume 2 Tablespoons of ground flaxseeds daily. If you can grind these at home then the freshness will greatly conserves the nutritional content for maximal benefits.
Load up on cruciferous veg. Cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables are rich in a substance called DIM. These are potent detoxifiers of hormones and have been shown to be protective of breast cancer. Foods to include are cabbage, broccoli, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, rutabaga, and turnip.
Do what you love and vary what you do. Walking, rebounding, yoga, running, gym, swimming etc all will work for you to help improve you health and wellbeing.
SUPPLEMENTS & BOTANICALS THAT ‘TONE’ THE FEMALE HORMONE SYSTEM.
These are my favourite five supplements that I have found most helpful when naturally supporting someone with menopause symptoms.
VITAMIN E: May be crucial to reducing hot flushes. Improves bloods supply to vaginal wall when taken for more than 4 weeks so also useful for vaginal dryness. Vitamin E oils can also be used internally or topically to improve membrane dryness.
GAMMA ORYZANOL: It promotes the release of endorphins and regulates the function of the pituitary which is the hormone control centre in the body. Has also an ability to reduce cholesterol levels. Dose of about 300mg daily.
BLACK COHOSH: the most important and well researched herb for Menopause. Has been shown to support insomnia, hot flashes, fatigue, irritability, vaginal dryness, night sweats, headaches and mood swings.
VITEX AGNUS CASTUS: Progesterone levels fall during menopause and thought to be a driving factor for some of the symptoms during menopause. Vitex increase Luteinzig hormone which then raises progesterone levels.
RED CLOVER: Red clover is a well rounded supplement. It has been shown to reduce a wide spectrum of menopausal symptoms as well as improving cholesterol profiles by reducing LDL and increasing HDL cholesterol.