The menopause lasts on average 5 years, however in some cases it can last as long as 12 years. It is not an illness and shouldn’t be something we fear; it is part of a woman’s hormonal cycle when menstruation ceases. The process is divided into 3 parts. Peri-menopause generally occurs between the age of 45 and 50 years; menopause between 50 and 52 years and post menopause from 55 years. However it can begin as early as 35 years or as late as 65 years.
During the menopause oestrogen and progesterone levels decline, because the ovaries stop working. However the adrenal glands also make oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, so it is important to support the adrenals during the menopause.
Testosterone is important for healthy bones and is also responsible for sexual desire. Oestrogen is responsible for cell growth where there are oestrogen receptors and progesterone balances excess oestrogen activity. Other hormones of importance are DHEA (made from cholesterol and can be converted into oestrogen and testosterone) and Cortisol (the stress hormone) too much of which can deplete Calcium from your bones leading to osteoporosis.
Symptoms of menopause can include:
Hot flushes, night sweats, sleep disorders, depression, mood swings, anxiety, lethargy, poor memory, poor concentration, low libido, vaginal dryness, pain on intercourse, increased urgency and frequency of urination, decreased muscle strength causing aches and pains, decrease in breast size. Quite a lot there! However not all of these symptoms will apply to any one individual and the good news is we can support our symptoms through diet, lifestyle and supplementation.
Areas to support
• Check thyroid due to endocrine disruption
• Monitor bone density due to lack of oestrogen and therefore an increased risk of osteoporosis.
• Check levels of Calcium, Magnesium, Boron, Vitamin K and D.
Foods to avoid
• Dairy – due to exposure to hormones and pesticides (xenoestrogens).
• Processed food.
• Foods packed in plastic (xenoestrogens).
• Limit alcohol and caffeine – theses act as a stimulant and can therefore increase hot flushes.
Foods to consume
• Phytooestrogen rich food – Lignans (flaxseeds) non GMO fermented soy products such as tempeh, natto. Also oats, barley, brown rice, sesame seeds, Isoflavones (these have been proved to reduce bone resorption caused by oestrogen deficiency) – chickpeas, lentils, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts.
• Brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, Brussels’ sprout) – anti-carcinogenic.
• Fibre for healthy hormone metabolism – whole grains, organic vegetables and fruit.
• Legumes – kidney beans, chick peas, etc.
• Exercise 4 times per week for 30 minutes.
Some beneficial supplements
• Vitamins B5 and potassium to support the adrenals.
• Folic acid to protect bones.
• Vitamin D and K2 (together) – K2 keeps Calcium in the bones and out of arteries.
• Vitamin E – reduces hot flushes.
• Maca – increases oestrogen and progesterone naturally.
As with all cases, before taking any supplement, please check with your healthcare provider for possible interactions with other medication you may be taking.