The more you can understand about the transition to menopause, and how to naturally support your body through this time, the smoother the, at times, very bumpy process is! While menopause has somewhat been vilified in the Western world, many cultures believe this time to be a new stage of life with vigour to follow – let’s go with that, shall we!?
Natural ways to support menopause symptoms
In order to survive menopause relatively unscathed, it helps to nourish and support your body by eating the right foods, supplementing with herbs where indicated and implementing lasting lifestyle changes.
Your diet will play a huge role in how your body processes menopause. During this time your natural sex hormones (oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone) are beginning to reduce their production, due to depleted ovarian follicles. Oestrogens are essential to bone formation and integrity, as well as supporting healthy breast tissue, mood, sleep and cardiovascular functionality. Here's how you can regulate those hormones and keep your oestrogen levels in check.
Start with your food
These are vital to support your bone density, structure and integrity which can become depleted during menopause. Aim to add a daily source of calcium-rich foods into your diet. The best sources include organic dairy and eggs. Tip: Try to avoid excessive black tea or coffees as this can deplete bone mineralisation.
Phytoestrogens compete with oestrogen receptors and help to balance out hormonal fluctuations. When eaten over a period of 12-weeks, these foods have been shown to decrease menopausal symptoms substantially.
There are 4 different types of phytoestrogens: lignans, coumestrol, phytosterols, Isoflavones. Mix them up daily so you can get the maximum benefits. Aim for a quarter of your daily caloric intake to be abundant in these food sources, and preferably organic.
- Lignans: Linseeds, rye, millet, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, seaweed, buckwheat
- Coumestrol: Soy sprouts, alfalfa, red clover, green beans, mung beans, red beans, split peas
- Phytosterols: Olives, soybeans, pumpkin kernels
- Isoflavones: Soybeans, alfalfa, red clover, parsley, chickpeas, mung beans and organic brown wholegrains
Turn to herbs
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Sage has traditionally been the go-to herb for menopausal women to reduce hot-flushes and promote stress reduction. It has been shown to bind to GABA receptors in the brain and positively impact the nervous system. Often menopause excessively stimulates the nervous system instigating hot flushes, sweating, and anxiety. Supplementation can improve memory retention, reduce stress and reduce excessive sweating without all the harsh side-effects. This is a great herb to make as a strong tea for those fiery moments.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon balm is a calming and sedative herb, perfect for getting you that well deserved restful sleep. Menopause often disrupts rejuvenating sleep due to night sweats, hot flushes, increased anxiety and nervousness. A recent 2020 study found that supplementing Melissa officinalis can significantly improve sleep, sexual desire, heart palpitations, flushes, sweating and even joint pain. If you feel constantly on edge with mood changes galore and a longing for deep restorative sleep, lemon balm might just be the herb for you.
Note: Herbs and nutrients can interfere with other medications; it is important to seek advice from a trained professional prior to starting alternative therapies.
Update your lifestyle
Ensure adequate sunshine
This is by far the best way to get your Vitamin-D and the perfect excuse to immerse yourself in nature. Nature really is essential for mental health and wellbeing.
Do things that make you feel genuinely happy
Time to self-evaluate! What do you do for fun? What makes you feel genuinely happy? It’s time to start doing this on a daily basis, life is too short to waste it feeling uninspired.
Keep an eye on your weight
If you’re feeling like the weight just keeps packing on, fatigue is your new shadow, and depression is lurking – it might be time to check your thyroid. A visit to your GP is the first step in getting your levels checked.
Get those endorphins going! You won’t ever regret a workout, you’ll feel strong, capable and ready to take on your next task.
Find your female tribe!
Get together with other women your age, be amongst the strength of women – support them and they will support you. We have evolution behind us with this one, there’s nothing like spending time with women who have been there and come through the other side.
By Renee Grandi, Nutritionist and Naturopath at Chiva Som International Health Resort in Hua Hin, Thailand.