Natural ways to relieve the symptoms of menopause
Going through the menopause is part of life’s natural rhythm. It marks the beginning of a new chapter in a woman’s life and can often be a time for renewed self-confidence.
But for many women these hormonal changes can create an unwanted challenge; with both emotional and physical symptoms to deal with, such as hot flushes, night sweats, loss of sex drive, weight gain and mood changes.
We caught up with our Senior Herbal Specialist, Katie, to explore the causes of menopausal symptoms and why they occur in the first place. Katie has also provided great advice on ways to naturally ease the symptoms of menopause using teas, supplements, herbs and nurturing daily practises.
When does the menopause occur and how do you recognise it?
Every woman’s experience of the menopause is different, but the average age range is often anywhere between 40-55. The first signs to look out for are any irregularities with the menstrual cycle.
This could be anything from an unusually shorter or longer cycle, very light or heavy bleeding or skipping a cycle for example. This is often the first indicator. It is normally after this that women start to experience some of the more common symptoms such as hot flushes.
What causes menopausal symptoms?
The menopause occurs when a woman has her last period. It signifies that there are no longer any follicles (which contain a woman’s eggs) left in the ovaries.
During this time, the ovaries essentially shut down and they no longer secrete oestrogen and progesterone; a woman’s two key sex hormones. As these two hormones are responsible for regulating the menstrual cycle, the menstrual cycle stops as there are no longer any follicles (eggs) for release.
The change in production of oestrogen and progesterone affects the functioning of a woman’s body. Over time, as the body adjusts, symptoms will reduce but can nonetheless be distressing when at their worst.
What are the key symptoms of menopause?
Aside from an irregular or absent menstrual cycle, women can experience a variety of symptoms, the most common are:
- Hot flushes
- Fluctuations in mood and emotions
- Urinary urgency
- Reduced libido
- Vaginal dryness
The reduction in oestrogen can also affect bone density in post-menopausal years.
What causes hot flushes?
Although the exact cause of hot flushes is not clear, it is thought that they are influenced by the part of the brain, known as the hypothalamus, which senses and controls body temperature.
As oestrogen reduces during the menopause, it affects the way in which the hypothalamus senses body temperature causing it to think you are too hot. Its reaction is to cool the body down, causing more blood to be directed towards the skin and sending the sweat glands into overdrive, resulting in a ‘hot flush’.
From a dietary point of view, how can a woman ease symptoms?
The best way to approach this is to look at foods that will help to balance oestrogen levels within the body. Here are a few top tips:
- Cruciferous veggies: Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and cabbage contain several powerful nutrients that help metabolise oestrogenic molecules. Read more on the importance of eating plenty of nutrient-dense, phytonutrient-rich foods.
- Healthy fat-rich foods: These are foods that are rich in saturated and omega-3 fatty acids. It includes plant based fats such as coconut oil, hemp seed oil, extra virgin olive oil and avocados. Raw nuts (other than peanuts) and seeds contain oestrogen balancing plant sterols.
- Allium family: The alliums include garlic, onions, scallions, chives and leeks. These are all rich in sulfur-containing amino acids that both help the liver detoxify and reduce the production of oestrogen.
- Herbal teas: Green tea and licorice specifically balance oestrogen levels.
- Lentils: All lentils contain appreciable amounts of phyto-oestrogens that help to balance oestrogen-progesterone levels. Soy is well known for this but all pulses are helpful.
Pukka teas and supplements supplements to try:
- Womankind Menopause capsules
- Aloe Vera Juice
- Clean Greens capsules or powder
- Ginseng Matcha Green
- Clean Matcha Green
- Three Licorice
- Mint Refresh
What lifestyle changes can help ease menopausal symptoms?
One of the primary influencing factors on the severity of symptoms of menopause is stress. Increased severity of symptoms can often be correlated with individuals undergoing external stress.
The stress response is also managed by hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol, so it also makes sense that a significant change in the hormonal balance of the body will affect the functioning of other primary hormones in a woman’s body and put the body under a level of physical ‘stress’.
Incorporating daily practices such as yoga, meditation and mindfulness can be helpful, along with listening to what your body needs, being in tune with your energy levels and making sure you are not overdoing it. Start now by downloading our free guided meditation.
What herbs can help during the menopause?
One of the very best herbs for supporting hormonal change throughout a woman’s lifecycle is shatavari. The name shatavari is derived from the Sanskrit words shat, which means ‘100’ and vri, which means ‘root’. The word vari can also mean ‘husband’, which may explain why shatavari is often referred to as ‘she who has a hundred husbands’. A reference to the traditional uses of the root, which for centuries has been used to treat and nourish women’s health.
Shatavari is a renowned tonic for the female reproductive system and contains natural precursors to female hormones that help to balance hormones and reduce menopausal symptoms. It is also naturally cooling and moistening to the reproductive tract, making it perfect for the hot, dry symptoms of menopause whilst also boosting libido.
This plant is also classed as an adaptogen, tonifying a weakened system exacerbated by stress and undergoing change.
It’s also worth considering cooling and calming herbs that will soothe the nervous system as well as the heat. Roses are a wonderful example and can be made into ice teas or refreshing spray’s for the skin.
Do women need to consider their health after the menopause?
One key difference after the menopause is that the lower levels of oestrogen can impact on bone density, so increasing key minerals to support bone health and incorporating herbs that boost circulation to the muscles, such as turmeric, can be especially helpful.
However, the key here is understanding that the body has undergone a significant change. It has been functioning in a certain way for a length of time and this has now changed.
The change in hormone levels can affect energy, mood, motivation, libido and emotional health. The first step is understanding how your body has changed and what, for you as an individual, is going to be most helpful.
It may be that stress is your preliminary influencing factor, so this is where the focus needs to be concentrated.