The menopause signifies the end of a womans reproductive phase of life, it is a natural transition. Approximately 57% of women will have symptoms at menopause including: hot flushes, night sweats, sleeplessness, depression, vaginal dryness and low libido. For many women these symptoms can be overcome with changes in diet and lifestyle. For others (approximately 22%) they can interfere with work, socialising, relationships and self confidence. Research has proven that herbal medicine can offer a real solution for many women suffering with these symptoms.
Menopausal symptoms can be complex and variable. This is why seeing a trained medical herbalist can address the symptoms that you as an individual experience. A medical herbalist can also prescribe herbal medicines such as St Johns Wort which has a proven effectiveness for mild to moderate depression. Herbal medicines have an excellent safety record; if you are currently taking orthodox medications a medical herbalist will be able to safely prescribe herbs suitable for you.
Changing diet and lifestyle factors can have significant influence on menopausal symptoms. Here are a few tips!
- Avoid hot drinks and caffeinated drinks, coffee, tea, fizzy drinks, and spicy foods as they can encourage hot flushes.
- Adding 100g of tofu and 1 tablespoon of ground linseeds to the diet can reduce hot flushes and vaginal dryness. Linseeds should be ground fresh and used straight away as their beneficial properties are gradually reduced on exposure to oxygen, the same goes for most seeds!
- Cold sage tea can also help hot flushes. Take 5-6 fresh sage leaves, infuse in boiling water, add cold tea to your daily bottle of drinking water and sip through the day.
- Eat regularly, dips in blood sugar can also trigger hot flushes, avoid quick fix high sugar and refined carbohydrate foods as they can cause blood sugars to see-saw up and down.
- Look out for ‘low sugar’ or ‘low calorie’ products as they will often contain artificial sweeteners. Look out for aspartame, which is 180 times sweeter than sugar and is found in many soft drinks, it is associated with weight gain and binge eating.
- Useful remedies for difficulties sleeping include Passiflora incarnata (passionflower) which is a sedative for the nervous system and is useful in cases of transient insomnia.
- Ensure you have enough fibre in your diet. It is important, for reducing bloating, flatulence, lowering cholesterol, maintaining blood sugar balance and balancing hormones.
- Soluble fibre is especially important in helping recycle hormones in the body; this can be found in oats, vegetables, rice, fruit, and beans. Bran may not be the best source of fibre as it contains phytates which prevent the efficient absorption of iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium which are important in osteoporosis prevention. Instead go for insoluble fibre in the form of vegetables and whole grain sources. Adequate fluid intake is also important if you are increasing fibre intake.
Hypothyroidism is common in post menopausal women, if you are suffering symptoms of fatigue, weight gain, swollen ankles, swollen facial features especially eyes, hair loss, limp lack lustre hair, low libido, vaginal dryness, dry skin, depression, anxiety (especially if for the first time), insomnia, skin rashes, aching joints and muscles especially with exercise; these could all be a hint to get a full thyroid profile done. Most GP’s will check for TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and T4, I have found that this is inadequate and will miss those who have a normal TSH, T4 but have a low T3, (essentially poorly converting the inactive free T4 to the active free T3 hormone).
Research has proven that there are many cases of clinical depression which have been ‘unresponsive’ to conventional medication only to improve when administered T3 hormone. There are also vast amounts of research which have proven that dietary changes and herbal medicine can make a marked difference to this condition.