Written by Joey Christensen, Guest Blogger
There are many factors that will influence your experience with menopause and when it comes to matters of the reproductive system, every woman must be treated individually. We can set our body up to win if we ensure a wholesome diet, stay active, manage stress and emotional issues, educate ourselves, and understand or own individual needs. If we properly nurture the body, mind and soul, menopause can be a time of wisdom and power instead of being a phase of feeling our system is taxed and letting us down. In this article I will give insights into how you can best set yourself up for this change of life so it can be manageable, so you can continue to shine instead of feeling like crawling under a rock.
We spend 40 years gaining life experience, knowledge and confidence, yet when our womanhood takes a turn we often lose energy, lightness and self confidence. Well, we don’t have to, with the right information, diet and new tools, we can shine through this transition instead of feeling drained, continuing to build on who we are as women, and sharing our knowledge and wisdom with others.
These changes can start several years before menopause actually sets in and can present with many symptoms. It often begins with with erratic periods or unusually heavy or light bleeding. This phase is called perimenopause or premenopause and provides an opportunity to prepare emotionally and physically for the larger transition to come. Menopause itself usually begins in the mid-forties to early fifties, when the ovaries stop producing significant amounts of estrogen and progesterone, and the menstrual cycle ceases; a woman who has had no periods for a year is said to be menopausal. The symptoms of menopause can include a change in the frequency or volume of blood flow of the periods, irritability, hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, headaches, depression, insomnia, loss of sex drive, and weight changes. Vaginal dryness and a weakening of the vaginal area tissues may occur, along with other internal metabolic shifts such as bone loss. This is where attitude can be very important. Many women feel a loss of libido, and don’t feel sexy. It is up to us to dismiss these ideas that our hormones are the only thing which drive us sexually. We are beautiful, smart, driven and intelligent and this makes us sexy too. We need to tell ourselves that it is not just our body that makes us feel sexy, womanly. It is what we know, how we relate to our world and ourselves. We as a culture need to change our way of thinking that aging is a bad thing, that getting old means getting run down or worn out. Age brings wisdom and wisdom brings change and menopause is change.
If a woman is healthy, active, and well nourished, her adrenal glands will usually respond to menopause by creating a precursor hormones such as pregnenolone and DHEA, which are then converted into estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. And if she takes natural steps to encourage this process, it is possible that she can avoid harsh and potentially dangerous medications altogether. There are times when the early onset of menopause is indicative of a disorder or a serious problem. If menopause arrives for unnatural reasons, such as from anorexia, bulimia, or extremely intense exercise, the root cause must be treated so that the cycle returns. When menopause is brought about by a hysterectomy or removal of the ovaries, natural hormone replacement therapy may be necessary to counter the sudden depletion of estrogen and progesterone and the resulting bone loss. Every woman must be addressed individually, and it is best to get a hormone test done to find out which hormone imbalances you may have. For women with mild to moderate symptoms of menopause, generally the use of diet, exercise, and nutritional supplements, especially herbal and homeopathic remedies, are recommended. For women with extreme symptoms that are unresponsive to nutritional supplements, the use of hormone replacement may be required. This is particularly true of women who had their ovaries removed at an early age or for others with moderate to severe osteoporosis.
There are many factors that influence the intensity of symptoms and probably even the time they appear. A poor diet, emotional stress, and lack of exercise may lead to an increase in symptoms, particularly when these lifestyle habits have been going on for years. Women who become aware of the connection between lifestyle and menopause before it starts can change their habits to help build themselves up with diet and supplements.
Here are some suggestions on steps you can take to help mitigate the negative effects of menopause:
A diet with good quality and quantity of protein foods may help delay the onset of menopause by supporting the pituitary gland, which regulates the ovaries and the female cycle. Good sources of protein include fish, milk products such as yogurt and cottage cheese, eggs, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Increasing plant foods, especially whole grains, legumes, fresh vegetables, and fruits, is important because these foods contain phytosterols, naturally occurring nutrients that have a hormone-balancing effect. Eating foods which contain phytosterols will also give you the fibre that is needed to keep your heart healthy and the nutrients that will encourage a strong vibrant response to menopause. Liagnans, which are phytonutrients that have estrogen-balancing properties, are found in flaxseeds and soybeans, as well as in sesame seeds, grains, fruits and vegetables, and have been known to decrease the incidence and intensity of hot flashes and improve vaginal dryness. It is important to reduce your intake of sugar, refined flour products, cured meats, fried foods, and other refined and processed foods,
It is a good idea to avoid carbonated drinks because they can possibly deplete calcium form the body. It is recommended try to eliminate caffeine and alcohol as these substances can aggravate hot flashes. Instead, drink about a glass of clean water every two waking hours to flush out toxins and replace fluid you may have lost during hot flashes.
Supplementing the diet with vitamins can also help manage symptoms. Vitamin E regulates estrogen production and helps with irritability, night sweats and hot flashes, as does vitamin D. Certain herbs can be helpful: cohosh herbs, unicorn root, and licorice root are known to help manage menopause symptoms. Seek the professional guidance of a Homeopathic or Naturopathic Doctor for herbal therapies that are best suited for you.
Exercise, Rest & Stress Reduction
Regular exercise is also important. It strengthens the bones and improves calcium metabolism. Outdoor exercise, such as walking, bicycling, swimming, golf, or tennis with mild sunlight exposure aids the body’s vitamin D production, which then improves calcium utilization.
Menopause can often be a time of lowered energy. Therefore, it is also wise for women to get adequate sleep and even take naps if feeling tired.
Lastly, stress reduction and dealing with concerns and worries about aging are important. Massage therapy is a excellent stress reliever. If you do not already receive regular massage treatments, this is a good time in your life to start. Acupuncture can really help to minimize headaches and hot flashes, soothe tension and help you sleep.
In numerous recent studies done by Psychology students at Kings College, London England it was proven that negative social attitudes about menopause can greatly affect symptom experiences. Women who participated in an intervention aimed at reducing negative attitudes found a reduction in perceived frequency and severity of menopausal symptoms.
I have provided a link at the end of the article for viewing of these studies.
As women it is our responsibility to educate ourselves about our bodies and then to share our new wisdom with each other like sisters so we can all have better experiences in life. In doing so we create a nurturing environment within ourselves for the changes in our bodies to happen. We feel supported by our bodies instead of feeling let down by our system for no longer being able to reproduce, a stigma that has long been attached to menopause. A good attitude embraces the fact that we are the matriarchs of our species, yielding knowledge only those who have gone through this rite of passage possess.
Guest Blogger, Joey Christensen is a student at CSNN (The Canadian School of Natural Nutrition). Joey is passionate about healthy living. She believes in the interrelationships of the mind, body and spirit, and the importance of addressing these interactive factors which are unique to each individual.
1) Staying Healthy with Nutrition, by Elson M. Haas, MD with Back Levin, PhD, RD
2) Prescription for Natural Cures, by James F. Balch. MD with Mark Stengler, ND
3) The impact of attitudes toward the menopause on woman’s symptom experience:A systematic review,by Beverly Ayers, Mark Forshaw, Myra S. Hunter www.psychol.cam.ac.uk/wellbeing/article3