Managing the Menopause
Menopause is a natural, transitionary stage moving a woman away from the child-bearing years into a stage that, according to Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine perspectives, is characterised by ‘soul development’. Indeed Dr Christiane Northrop beautifully states that “Our fertility stops being about having children and starts being about what we create for ourselves that benefits us and the people around us.”
Menopause is a natural, transitionary stage moving a woman away from the child-bearing years into a stage that, according to Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine perspectives, is characterised by ‘soul development’.
Indeed Dr Christiane Northrop beautifully states: “Our fertility stops being about having children and starts being about what we create for ourselves that benefits us and the people around us.”
Yet, during my 12 years in clinic I have worked with many women whose experience of the menopause has been less than positive, dominated by unwanted symptoms such as hot flushes or anxiety.
What is the menopause?
Full menopause is usually determined by the absence of a menstrual period for more than one year and your GP may conduct a blood test to measure changes in determining hormones such as oestrodial, LH and FSH. This usually occurs between the ages 45 and 55, with the average age being 51 years in the UK.
Prior to full menopause is a stage known as the perimenopause. Women moving into perimenopause may experience almost PMS type symptoms rather than classic menopause symptoms – so these are not to be confused.
Symptoms of perimenopause may continue for many years before full menopause is reached, commonly in the early 40s. It can begin with symptoms such as:
- Change to sleep pattern
- Lower energy and then latterly
- Vasomotor symptoms
Vasomotor symptoms are more commonly referred to as ‘hot flushes’ or ‘night sweats’ where women may experience, often rapid, changes in body temperature, palpitations and a shift between experiencing heat and chills. It is thought that the hypothalamus (which controls body temperature) is affected by a change in oestrodial and LH.
Women should seek advice as soon as they begin to see changes in their cycle. Perimenopause can go on for some time, but it's not to be confused with PMS symptoms and only a professional will be able to support deciphering the difference.
A nutritional therapist may also recommend some hormone testing, either through the client’s GP or privately. Some changes in cycle and symptoms may be better managed naturally if dealt with earlier on. Very often women who are very tired, stressed and overworked will begin to find perimenopause a challenge and supporting the adrenal glands and energy systems should begin early.
What can you do to support your menopause experience?
Whatever a woman’s experience it is vitally important to remember that this is not a disease, it is a natural progression to a different stage of a woman’s life cycle and that it is mind, body and spirit experience. Supporting your nutritional and emotional wellbeing during this process can provide the perfect environment for this ebb and flow to be experienced as a positive transition.
- Imbalances in other systems in the body such as the elimination or detoxification channels can affect your experience of the menopause so consider a well-supported detoxification programme.
- Stress can have a significant influence on your experience of the menopause. Set aside regular time to do something that you love and that makes you feel good, or try to find a hobby; and don’t feel guilty for spending time on yourself. Laughter in particular is highly stress-relieving.
- Be mindful of environmental oestrogens that may act as harmful hormone disruptors. To minimise these, don't cook or heat foods in plastic –use glass or crockery instead. Use pots or frying pans made of steel or non toxic cookware. Minimise use of chemical based cosmetics and household cleaning products. Smoking can lead to earlier onset of the menopause so if you are a smoker, consider giving up.
- Establish a healthy weight. Women who are overweight may experience a later onset of menopause
- Genetic polymorphisms or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP’S) can also affect symptoms experienced in the menopause.
- Vitamin B6 and magnesium can support healthy energy production, hormone balance and psychological well being.
- In traditional cultures natural plants including turmeric, Dong Quai and Ashwagandha have been used to support wellbeing during this transition.