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A Natural Approach to Menopause

A Natural Approach to Menopause

Menopause, peri menopause and healthy aging are subjects we talk about a lot with our customers at Amaranth and our supplements for menopause sell more than anything else in our stores.  So why do women struggle so much with menopause symptoms and are there remedies that can help?

What is Menopause/Peri Menopause?

Menopause is a natural transition that a woman goes through from fertility to the end of their reproductive years.  The phase during which the transition is taking place is called peri menopause.  This is where hormone changes are taking place and women may experience symptoms associated with the transition, but they are still experiencing menstrual periods.  Once there has been an absence of periods for 12 months, the ovaries have completely stopped producing reproductive hormones and this is known as menopause.

The menopause usually occurs between 45 and 55, with the average age of a women reaching menopause being 51.

During perimenopause, a number of changes are happening in the body  

  • The number of follicles (immature eggs) in your ovaries decreases as you age.
  • As fewer and fewer follicles remain in the ovaries, the hormones that control your reproductive cycle, oestrogen and progesterone fluctuate and start to decline. It is thought that it is these fluctuations that cause peri menopausal symptoms. Fluctuations will also lead to irregular periods and they may be lighter or heavier than your regular cycle.
  • As you get nearer to menopause, your oestrogen levels decline. As this happens, your adrenal glands start to produce another form of oestrogen called oestrone to compensate.
    Your adrenal glands are also responsible for the production of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.

 What are the symptoms of menopause?

Symptoms can vary but those most reported are

  • hot flushes and night sweats
  • cognitive decline and memory problems
  • emotional fluctuations
  • vaginal dryness
  • joint stiffness, aches and pains
  • loss of bone density
  • energy fluctuations
  • Sleep problems

Do remember that these symptoms can be driven by other factors and often this time in life is accompanied by other life changes and responsibilities. Our team can talk to you in a free health review call to help identify what is triggering your symptoms and so the best approach for you.

 How do I know if I am Perimenopausal?

You should always visit your GP with any health concerns or symptoms you have. They can assess your symptoms and they may or may not choose to do blood tests to give a guide to what is happening in your body.  Often a GP will suggest that you are perimenopausal based on your age and the symptoms rather than testing.

There are a range of private hormone tests that can be arranged, you may, for example have heard of The Dutch test or other female hormone panels.  Before you arrange any private testing, we suggest that you speak to a registered nutritional therapist.  Some testing will not give useful information  during perimenopause as your hormone levels fluctuate within your cycle and it can be hard to know which phase of your cycle you are in at that time.   Our team of registered nutritional therapists offer a free call so that you can discuss this further.

 Can a Natural Approach help with Menopause?

This is the big question!  Through my extensive training and over 10 years experience working with women one to one I have found seen some dramatic improvements in menopause symptoms and quality of life through a combination of :

  • Lifestyle Modifications
  • Diet and Nutrition
  • Specific vitamin and herbal remedies

 
Let’s explore little bit more on each of these :

  1. Lifestyle modifications

    I see time and time again in my practice the impact that stress has on the body. The menopause transition itself is a change and stressor and so adding to this with other external mental and physical stressors really does take an affect.  When we are stressed, our bodies produce cortisol from the adrenal glands, these adrenal glands are however also taking over the role of producing a form of oestrogen as the levels of oestrogen from the ovaries decline.  High stress levels may impact the ability of the adrenals to produce oestrone as they need to.
    At this stage in life, reducing stress can be easier said than done, we are often squeezed between older children, work and other caring roles, leaving little time for ourselves to rest and recover.  Building in a little time for yourself is however vital.  I highly recommend reflexology with an expert in female hormones, this can help rebalance and reduce stress hormones and it has been shown to bring a reduction in menopausal symptoms.   We have practitioners at our clinics in Bramhall and Manchester that I highly recommend.
     
    Weight and activity levels are also key factors.  Studies have shown that women who are overweight and obese have exacerbated menopausal symptoms(1) and so losing weight can see a reduction in these symptoms.  This can be challenge as menopause can also be a time of weight gain so alongside a healthy eating programme exercise and activity is very important.  A long walk in fat burning mode or a gentle gym class or some power yoga can do wonders for a metabolism boost and stress reduction.  Diet of course also plays a part and you may benefit from a lower carbohydrate or fasting approach.  I suggest you speak in detail to one of our nutritional therapists who can support you with this.

    Liver function is a further consideration.  Your liver is the processing site for toxins but also hormones that have been used by the body and are heading to waste.  So whilst busy lives, responsibilities and menopause symptoms can leave us feeling fed up and reaching for the wine, ideally save this to weekends or a few nights of the week and aim for moderation.  Sadly the short term benefits of a few glasses or wine can have longer term impacts on sleep quality, hot sweats and other symptoms.

  2. Diet and nutrition

    We could talk about diet for a long time when it comes to female health and hormones. Its hard to know where to start but at a high level, an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables, oily fish, nuts, seeds, beans and pulses is always going to be a good thing.  These provide a whole host of nutrients that work together for optimum health.

    More specifically :

    Vitamins and minerals. The more fresh food you eat and the more variety, the more vitamins and minerals you will take in.  These vitamins and minerals have a role in your energy levels, health skin aging and the creation of the feel good neurotransmitters in the brain.  A diet lacking in fresh foods and nutrients can leave you feeling flat with low mood despite menopause. 

    Pre and Probiotics :  It may sound odd but the health of you gut can impact how hormones are cleared through your body.  The gut microbiome is one of the primary regulators of circulating oestrogen(2) and this is something we want to keep as regulated as possible at this time.  A variety of fresh vegetables will provide pre and probiotics to help to maintain a healthy gut microflora. 

    Essential fats :  Our bodies need a balance of omega 6 and omega 3 essential fatty acids.  The western diet tends to be higher in omega 6 fats with a lower ratio of Omega 3, yet omega 3 fats are essential for brain and cognitive function.  Omega 3 fats are also associated with lower levels of inflammation and so this may have a beneficial effect on joint health and inflammatory conditions.  The best source of omega 3 is oily fish but you can take a vegan omega 3 supplement.

    Phytoestrogens :  Beans, chickpeas, flaxseeds and fermented soy, along with certain herbs (red clover and dong quai) contain compounds that are structurally very similar to oestrogen, it is therefore believed that they can have oestrogen like effects which may be helpful as natural oestrogen levels decline.  These foods are also rich in fibre and other nutrients so they are very helpful for this phase in life in other ways too

  1. Specific herbal and nutrient remedies

    Here is where we enter a minefield.  The supplement industry is big business and a great way to make some money is to take a nutrient or herb that has shown some benefit with menopause, make it as cheaply as possible and bottle it.  I am so passionate about this, there is so much rubbish out there that good quality supplements are tarnished and get a bad name.

    There are some herbs and nutrients that we have seen incredible results with in our clients. The supplements we recommend at Amaranth are selected by our team of registered Nutritional Therapists to ensure that they are of the required dosage and quality that they can be absorbed and utilised by your body to get results.  The supplement you need may not be the same as the one that worked for a friend and so we are more than happy to talk to you in a free one to one 15 minute consultation so that we can give you specific recommendations – book now


Supplements for Menopause

To give some ideas, here are a few of our most recommended supplements :

Magnesium : We refer to magnesium as the ‘anti stress mineral’ or ‘natures tranquiliser’. Magnesium a cofactor in 300 different processes in the body, from producing the neurotransmitters to help use feel happy and calm, to being one of the key nutrients for the energy production that takes place in our cells.  There are different types of magnesium available and you are looking for a supplement that gives around 300mg per day. Our nutritionists can help advise on the right form for you.

Omega 3 Fish Oil or Vegan Omega 3 :  Omega oils are essential and as I mentioned earlier, they are important for brain health and have an anti-inflammatory effect.  It has been identified that the decline in oestrogen correlates with an increase in inflammation and this may affect joints and cognitive function.  If you are not eating oily fish three or more times a week, I would always recommend a fish oil or vegan omega 3 supplement.
Quality is key here as cheap fish oil supplements may contain toxins from contaminated waters. I recommend Viridian Nutrition or Eskimo fish oils.

Sage :  Sage is a traditional remedy for heat and hot flushes(3), it is one a of a group of foods and herbs known as phytoestrogens.  A recent study reported improved menopausal symptoms such as flushing, night sweat, heart palpitations, muscle and joint pain, depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, and sexual desire in response to sage extract(4). 

Milk Thistle : Milk thistle has long been used as a liver tonic. The liver has a vital role in detoxifying hormones and toxins and getting them ready to be excreted.  Like a car, we will function better with a clean engine and so extra liver support can be important during menopause.

Adaptogenic herbs.  I love adaptogens and I’m pretty sure that they hold me together on some days.  Adaptogens are a collection of herbs known to support the stress response and the nervous system. Ashwagandha, maca and rhodiola are all adaptogens. These are often included in formulas designed for menopause due to the connection between stress and menopausal symptoms and the role that the adrenals have on future oestrogen production.

Omega 7. If dry eyes and vaginal dryness are a concern for you, Seabuckthorn Oil (omega 7) is highly recommended.  In a double-blind study on post-menopausal women experiencing vaginal discomfort, those taking omega-7 SBA24 experienced improvements in vaginal health over the study duration versus those taking placebo capsules (5)A further trial of participants with dry eyes showed significantly reduced dryness, grittiness, soreness, burning redness and blurred vision compared to placebo(6). Our local optician swears by this for his clients. 

Calcium and Vitamin D.  Oestrogen plays an important role in bone growth and regulation.  A fall in oestrogen levels post menopause results in a loss of this protective effect and so a top up of calcium can be important especially if you have a low intake of dairy products which are the highest dietary source of calcium.  Vitamin D helps to deliver calcium into your bones. This essential vitamin may also help to protect the immune system and the Department of Health recommend that everyone takes a supplement of at least 400IU per day

 These supplements are available in supplement form as tinctures, powders, teas and capsules.  The team can talk you through the options available and help you choose the right ones for you.

The Best Selling Supplements for Menopause

In some cases, our favourite brands have done the hard job for you and formulas are available that combine some of the herbs mentioned.  Here are our top picks

  1. Wild Nutrition Botanical Menopause : This complex is the best selling supplement across both of our stores it has a unique blend of milk thistle, ashwaghanda, dong qui and turmeric.

  2. Supernova Life Powder. Jo’s favourite.  A protein vegan protein powder with many additional benefits including the adaptogens ashwaghanda and maca.  I blend this with a plant milk, berries and then stir in some ground flaxseeds for a hormone and nervous system smoothie to start the day.

  3. Herbal female complex. This is a blend of herbs and phytoestrogens selected for this life stage including sage, oat seed, shatavari and agnus castus.

  4. Viridian Calcium and Vitamin D. It is rare to find a calcium supplement that has 400mg in one capsule like this one from Viridian

  5. Cytoplan Womens Wholefood Multi. If you have a restricted diet, limited home cooking or have had a period of illness, a good multi vitamin will give you the security that you are getting the vitamins and minerals that you need.


I hope this has given some insight into the options available for you. Myself and the team at Amaranth would love to help you find the right natural solution to menopause symptoms for you, you can book a free health review via our website or you can email your questions to me at joanne@amaranth-wellbeing.com

References available on request