Menopause is that time in a women’s life when a series of hormonal changes brings the menstrual cycle to a conclusion. Ovulation no longer occurs and menstrual periods cease. There is a permanent shift from cyclic fertility to constant infertility.
A women’s body generally goes through a physiological transition over the course of several years as menopause approaches. Hormonal changes signalling the beginning of the perimenopausal period often begins in a women’s mid forties and may extend over a period of several years. The length of this hormonal transition can vary because each women’s physiology and fertility pattern is different. Such variables are race, hereditary, health status, diet and level of physical activity may influence the way the women experiences menopause, just as these variables might directly or indirectly affect menarche menstrual cycle and fertility in general.
The total number of follicles and eggs in a woman’s body decrease throughout her life due to ovulation. As the female approaches menopause, the number of follicles further decrease, causing a decrease in the amount of ovarian oestrogen produced. The lowered oestrogen levels are not sufficient to signal the brain to stop producing FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and so FSH continues to be released at high levels causing rapid, but inadequate follicular development. With fewer follicles remaining oestrogen production continues to drop. Insufficient oestrogen is produced regularly to induce the LH (Luteinising Hormone) surge necessary for ovulation. As ovulation ceases completely, the levels of both FSH and LH rise significantly.
Menopausal symptoms are usually due to ovarian failure associated with reduced oestrogen production. Symptoms of low oestrogen include hot flushes, night flushes, insomnia, headaches, mood swings and incontinence, increased risk of osteoporosis and increased bone turnover, high cholesterol levels, dry ski and dry vagina.
Many women experiencing the beginning of menopause symptoms can improve their situation by assessing their diet and lifestyle and improving. This helps to lighten the load on the liver and digestion and often uncomfortable symptoms can be appeased. Desensitisation, detoxification and regulation of the hypothalamic/ pituitary/ ovarian axis can be the missing link in the successful treatment of hormonal disorders.
DIET TIPS FOR PERIMENOPAUSE
- Avoid refined and processed foods
- Phytoestrogen (plant compounds with estrogenic effects) such as flavones, lignans and isoflavones. These can be found in most cereals, fruit and vegetables, seeds (especially linseeds and flaxseeds). Isoflavones can be found in legumes such as clover, soy, lentils, chick peas and beans (the highest concentration in soy beans and soy products). Acting as phytoestrogens, plant sterols regulate steroid receptors to provide additional oestrogen stimulus
- Increase consumption of Calcium and Vitamin D and Lutein rich foods (spinach, kale and cod liver oil)
- Take a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar daily (add it to lemon juice with grated ginger) to ensure optimal digestion and absorption of minerals
NATURAL REMEDIES FOR PERIMENOPAUSE
- Apply natural progesterone cream to the skin
- Take 1-2 teaspoons of cod liver oil daily
- Vitamin D3 supplementation is required due to the loss of Calcium in the bones. Include Magnesium, Calcium and Boron in a supplement, these increase the absorption of minerals
- Support adrenal gland function, as it is the reservoir of oestrogen during menopause – Vitamin C, Vitamin B5 and DHEA
- Herbs to support the nervous system and adrenals are Hypericum, Sacred Basil, Chamomile and Withania
- Herbs to support hormone balance and symptomatic relief of menopause are Kudzu, Black Cohosh, False Unicron Root, Ginseng, Salvia, Anemarrhena, Vitex, Epimedium, Phellodendron and Dong Quai
- Consider a multivitamin supplementation to ensure that optimal nutrition is reached
- Take a B Vitamin supplement to support adrenals
LIFESTYLE TIPS FOR PERIMENOPAUSE
- Exercise (stretching, yoga, swimming and walking)
- Increase water intake to avoid dehydration
- Consider taking the anti-inflammatory herbs Turmeric, Devils Claw, Cramp Bark and White Willow Bark to ease muscle tension
- Address liver congestion as dirty blood can dramatically decrease blood circulation, increase inflammatory molecules and create an acidic environment
- Consider taking meditation classes or listen to a guided meditation daily to help reduce the stress and tension which can often cause headaches
- Assess the ergonomics of your working environment and sleeping area
- Speak with your Healthcare practitioner about a hormonal test to properly determine whether the hormonal shifts of menopause are occurring
- Take regular breaks from sitting at your desk and do some gentle stretching across the shoulders, back and arms to help reduce any repetitive strain injuries and tension
- Consider body therapies such as massage, saunas (heat drastically reduces muscle tension), osteopathy or cranio-sacral balancing
- Exercise and stretching are important to help balance hormones
- Manage stress as this further drains the adrenals and increases
- Address any insulin resistance problems
- Consider a detoxification regime to increase the elimination of toxins (endogenous estrogen, pesticides, smoking, alcohol, heavy metals) which may contribute to liver congestion and hormonal problems
- Avoid smoking
- Avoid alcohol