Menopause signals the end of a woman's reproductive years, when the menstrual cycle ceases, and quantities of the two female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, dwindle.
Rarely does it happen overnight; menopause often takes from two to five years, affecting each woman differently. The mixed bag of distressing symptoms may include hot flushes, depression, dry skin, less vaginal lubrication, osteoporosis, heavy bleeding, irregular bleeding, insomnia, depression and irritability. However, many women pass through menopause symptom-free. The ovaries cease production of hormones at menopause.
However the adrenal glands and fat cells may take over the role of hormone manufacture to a certain extent. Theoretically this means a smooth transition from high to lower hormone levels, unfortunately this does not always occur.
See also Osteoporosis.
- Menopause naturally occurs around the age of 50, but may come earlier if the ovaries have been damaged or surgically removed or because of thyroid or adrenal illness.
- Smoking lowers oestrogen levels and women who smoke experience menopause on average five years earlier than women who don't.
- Stress can cause menopause to occur earlier. Adrenal glands are meant to take up the hormone slack after the ovaries pack it in. Unfortunately, after a hard life producing an overabundance of stress hormones, the adrenal glands may not be up to the challenge.
What To Do
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) involves taking synthetic hormones that prevent symptoms. Some women find HRT an answer to their prayers, some experience side-effects, others prefer to enter this phase of their lives without chemical interference.
There is some concern about whether hormone replacements may be implicated in cancer of the breast and uterus, though there appears to be no substantial evidence either way. If the menopause symptoms are severe and do not respond to natural remedies, then hormone replacement may be part of an overall healthy approach.
- Avoid sugar, caffeine, alcohol.
- Avoid hot spicy food if you have hot flushes.
- Eat four servings of fish a week.
- Eat several foods containing phytoestrogens each day. Phytoestrogens exert a very weak hormonal influence, much weaker than that of the real hormone produced by the ovaries. Throughout the body there are hormone receptors, much like door locks, and hormones are the 'keys' that fit these locks. Phytoestrogens also fit these locks. Once the receptor sites are full with either phytoestrogens or oestrogens, any excess hormone is excreted, so in this way phytoestrogens help to normalise hormone levels. This is useful for menopause when there is too little hormone, and PMS when there is too much. Foods high in phytoestrogens include soya sprouts, alfalfa, green beans, split peas, olives, soya beans and soy foods, parsley, chickpeas, cherries, corn, oats, barley, rye, wheat, rice, pomegranate, hops, sesame seeds, linseed, buckwheat, millet, sage, fennel, celery, carrots, cabbage, rhubarb and garlic. (See also Phytoestrogens in Part One.)
- Hot flushes may coincide with times when blood sugar levels are low, for example half an hour before dinner. If this is the case see Hypoglycaemia.
- If you suffer from vaginal dryness, insert a 500 iu vitamin E capsule into the vagina each night.
Herbs and Supplements
- (See Cool Change)
- Take a herbal or food supplement that contains a concentrated source of the phytoestrogens.
- Herbs which may be of benefit include dong quai, wild yam, vitex agnus castus, red clover, licorice, black cohosh, false unicorn root and panax ginseng.
- Evening primrose oil capsules are extremely effective, but they have to be taken regularly for several months. Take 3-6 g daily.
- Take two cod liver oil capsules daily. Cod liver oil contains vitamin A, which is important for skin, and vitamin D, necessary for bone health.
- Each morning take a specially formulated women's multivitamin.
- Take 1 g of vitamin C daily, to help the adrenal glands.
- Take a calcium supplement, 1200 mg each night, as an osteoporosis preventative. See Osteoporosis.
- Cool sage tea has the reputation of reducing the severity of hot flushes. Drink three cups daily.
- Vitamin E can greatly relieve hot flushes. Take 500 iu morning and night.
- Rub a teaspoon of natural progesterone cream derived from wild yam onto the skin each day (for example the inner elbow).
- Depression descends on many women during menopause. St John's wort is the best medicine for you at this time.
- The Bach flower remedy mustard is good for depression that feels like a black cloud. Walnut is taken to help you through significant life changes.
- Relaxation techniques, especially yoga and meditation.
- Wear cotton clothes if you suffer from hot flushes.
- A treatment for hot flushes involves soaking your feet in a cold footbath with peppermint oil, or a cold peppermint oil compress, on your forehead and back of neck.
At a glance
- Good food
- Phytoestrogens, fish.
- Food to avoid
- Coffee, sugar, cigarettes, spicy food.
- Remedies to begin
- Evening primrose oil, vitamin E, St John's wort, vitamin C.
- Yoga, meditation.
- Menopause is decision time. Decisions by you, for you.