The way we experience menopause can be as varied as the way we experience puberty. Some women just stop menstruating, have minimal symptoms and hardly miss a beat, whereas for others it is an extremely challenging time where both physical and emotional symptoms are hard to cope with and can be debilitating and prolonged.
Fortunately there are effective natural ways using herbs, vitamin/minerals and dietary ‘tweaking’ to help hormone balance and ease the passage through this time. It is after all a normal stage in our reproductive health rather than a disease.. as natural as puberty.. just the other end of the cycle.
Menopause is defined as the physiological cessation of menses as a result of decreasing ovarian function. Ader 12 months of no periods you can consider yourself ‘menopausal’. However symptoms may start much earlier.
A blood test to assess whether you are menopausal can be misleading and can leave you wondering what is wrong with you. I have had patients who are experiencing 15 flushes a day, can’t sleep and cry at TV adverts, whose blood results come back as normal. They feel anything but normal!
Salivary hormone tests can be very useful and I find that ascertaining an accurate symptom picture by taking a thorough history is imperative to treatment.
Symptoms of menopause can be many and varied but commonly include;
• irregular/absent/altered periods
• hot flushes
• mood instability e.g. poor memory & concentration, depression, anxiety, overwhelm
• poor sleep and fatigue
• vaginal dryness
• decline in libido
• weight gain
Symptoms, both physical and mental, are largely due to a decline in oestrogen and the repercussions of this. Oestrogen affects our neurotransmitter production which affects memory, moods, cognitive function and focus.
The aims of successful menopausal treatment include:
- Modulating hormones using herbs such as Black cohosh, Wild yam, Dong quai and Zizyphus
- Providing liver support to effectively clear hormones
- Supporting emotional balance with herbs such as St Johns wort, Skullcap, Passionflower and Avena
- Optimising vitamins and minerals – including B6, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin E, CoQ10 and zinc.
- Reducing risk factors such as osteoporosis and heart disease.
- Exercise – reduces symptoms and weight gain and helps moods
Diet – to reduce severity of symptoms.
Treatment depends on your specific symptoms rather than “one size fits all”. If you have depression and intense hot flushes treatment will be different from someone who experiences anxiety, insomnia and weight gain.
For women who have chosen to take HRT and are wishing to come off it, herbs can be of great benefit to prevent a resurgence of menopausal symptoms whilst they transition slowly off it.
If you would like a hand navigating your way through perimenopause, come and see me to tailor-make a treatment protocol to help you to get back to optimal hormonal health.
By Julia Chazan
Naturopathic Medicine Practitioner
Julia has been helping women naturally with hormone health issues for over 25 years in her busy practice.