As the saying goes:
“If you decide to meet age with a smile, you greatly enhance your chance that it will smile back on you”[i].
Previously, research showed that Japanese women experienced very few symptoms of menopause and it was thought that this was due to their diet and lifestyle. However, newer research indicates that these women experience the same physical symptoms as Western women yet they are not so negatively affected by these symptoms. British women, on the other hand, seem to experience the worst menopausal symptoms[ii].
Researchers now put this down to a woman’s status in society and her quality of life – in cultures where age is respected and older women are valued, menopause is not such a negative experience. However, in the youth-obsessed cultures of the West, the emphasis of menopause is on loss, rather than on transition and hence menopause is considered more of a disease than a normal stage of life[iii].
So what can you do to help yourself through menopause? Firstly, and most importantly, understand and accept what is going on in your body not only during menopause, but also those often difficult few years before menopause - those years known as 'peri-menopause'.
What is Perimenopause?
For up to 6 years before menopause, oestrogen and progesterone levels start to decline and you experience surges of hormones, never knowing what is going to happen next or how you are going to feel. Your periods become irregular, scanty or heavier, and PMS often becomes more severe and uncontrollable. During this time it is not only your oestrogen levels that are changing, but your progesterone levels are also declining.
If you want to get a better understanding of oestrogens, progesterone and other hormones in your body then have a listen to this webinar I did on hormone health >
Lifestyle advice for perimenopause
During peri-menopause you should try to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and focus your attention on decreasing your risk of osteoporosis. Do this by avoiding smoking, doing weight-bearing exercises and eating foods rich in calcium, such as dairy products, tinned fish, sesame seeds and leafy greens.
There are also quite a few herbs which can help with peri-menopause, for example the herb Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus) is invaluable as it has an indirect progesteronic action and helps normalise your menstrual cycle and decrease your PMS symptoms[iv].
Please note - it is always best to consult a professional phytotherapist or herbalist before using herbs as they have strong effects and can negatively interact with medication that you might be using.
Following on from peri-menopause comes menopause, with her myriad of symptoms. Again, herbs can be a lovely help at this stage as can homoeopathic remedies.
Natural remedies for menopause
Hot flashes, vaginal dryness and decreased energy levels often develop during menopause. If these are your main symptoms, then homoeopathic remedies such as Lachesis muta, Sepia officinalis or Sulphur can be invaluable in working deeply to help your body find its new equilibrium.
In addition to homoeopathic remedies, an Evening Primrose supplement can be beneficial for your hot flashes, dry skin, mood swings and vaginal dryness. If vaginal dryness or itching is particularly bothersome, then pure vitamin E oil or aloe vera gel can also be used to lubricate the area.
Lifestyle advice for menopause
Women often struggle with fatigue and 'brain fog' during menopause and, if this is you, it is important that you eat to feed and nourish your brain and hormones instead of simply eating to fuel your body. If you're wondering what types of foods to eat then make sure you subscribe below to my newsletter and you'll get a list of "good" foods as part of the free 3-step guide, Where to Start. You should also try to avoid alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods during menopause as they are known to trigger hot flushes and aggravate urinary incontinence.
Menopause & depression
If you develop depression during menopause it is vital that you get some professional help instead of trying to help yourself. In addition to professional help, aromatherapy oils such as rose, bergamot, clary sage, neroli or ylang ylang are very “feminine” and “nurturing” oils that can help calm and relax you.
I hope these tips will help make menopause a little bit easier for you. If you need more help, please get in touch for a homoeopathic consultation. And remember....
"If nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies." - Anon
This blog is adapted from one of my published articles in: The South African Journal of Natural Medicine, May 2017.
[i] Natural Menopause Journey, June 2010 (online). http://www.natural-menopause-journey.com/perimenopause-symptoms-and-culture.html. Accessed: 21 March 2017
[ii] Jane Feinmann, What Makes British Women Have the Worst Menopause, Daily Mail, June 2010 (online). http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1286569/British-women-worst-menopause.html. Accessed: 21 March 2017
[iii] Natural Menopause Journey, June 2010 (online). http://www.natural-menopause-journey.com/perimenopause-symptoms-and-culture.html. Accessed: 21 March 2017
[iv] MediHerb Seminar Notes: Menopause, Endometriosis and Uterine Fibroids, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Premenstrual Syndrome. 2005: 1-29