Menopause, also known as ‘the change of life’, marks the end of the monthly cycle of menstruation in a woman’s life and marks the end of the reproductive years. It is normally viewed as menopause when the period has stopped for up to 12 months. Most women reach menopause between the ages of 45 and 55, the average being around 51.
Menopausal symptoms can include: fatigue, hot flashes, night sweats, dry skin, vaginal dryness and atrophy, bloating, muscle aches and pains, itchy skin, urinary frequency, weight gain, irritability, anxiety, depression, forgetfulness, reduced libido, insomnia and bone loss. Diet and lifestyle can have a profound positive or negative impact on how menopause is experienced.
Factors that influence a women’s experience of menopause:
- Genetics – if your mother or grandmother had a hard time with menopause, there may be an increased risk that this change of life may be more difficult
- Stress – if you have been stressed for a period of time pre-menopause it may increase your risk and severity of symptoms
- Poor liver health – since the liver is responsible for metabolizing and breaking down hormones, a fatty or sluggish liver can influence its ability to metabolize and modulate these hormones
- Poor diet – a diet lacking in nutrients, plant phytoestrogens and fiber can and will affect hormonal balance and well-being
- Poor lifestyle – lack of exercise, smoking, exposure to environmental toxins such as xenoestrogens and other environmental and chemical influences can certainly have a negative impact on symptoms experienced and hormonal balance
Unfortunately, in clinic I have observed for many years when women take synthetic HRT, chronic liver inflammation combined with excess weight gain, it also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, blood clots, stroke and breast cancer.
Following an optimally healthy diet can reduce or even avoid menopausal symptoms particularly before these natural changes occur. Prevention is always key in maintaining excellent health and well-being and following a healthy lifestyle and diet helps to support other menopausal risks such as cardiovascular disease, breast cancer and bone loss.
According to new research from the Mayo Clinic, during perimenopause and menopause, many women gain weight as reduced estrogen levels trigger cells to store more fat and reduce the body’s natural fat burning hormones; it also redistributes fat cells to the belly rather than the thighs and buttocks.
How to naturally help reduce menopausal symptoms:
- Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that menopausal women who most closely follow a Mediterranean diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables and healthy fats cut their risk of hot flashes and night sweats by about 20%. Meanwhile, menopausal women who eat a diet high in sugar and saturated fat particularly trans-fats increase their risk by 23 %.As women age they may tend to slow down on their activity and with menopause and other factors this can mean weight gain. So by including plenty of high nutrient foods that are plant based, weight issues can largely be avoided. Reboot programs have been shown to be very beneficial in improving menopausal symptoms due to the high level of micronutrients that support hormonal health, liver function and mental well-being. Learn more on why juicing helps to balance hormones and what’s the skinny on fatty foods and breast cancer.
- Include natural phytoestrogens. These have the effect of providing a very mild estrogen-like effect that can reduce menopausal symptoms. Include fermented natural organic soy such as tempeh, miso and natto, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, legumes, oats, barley, mung beans, apples, carrots and other seeds and nuts.
- Add more herbal medicines and blends. There are herbal medicines that are routinely and successfully prescribed for menopause such as Red Clover, St John’s Wort, Black Cohosh, Shatavari, Sage, Wild Yam and Vitex to name a few.
- Exercise more often. Exercise has an important effect on balancing hormones and improving mood for perimenopause and menopause.
- Higher doses of vitamin D. This helps to prevent the natural bone loss that occurs during menopause. As the body’s estrogen declines, so does the osteoblasts that support the remineralisation of bone cells. Vitamin D helps to support and maintain healthy bones.
- Think happy thoughts. Positive thoughts and mindfulness has a major impact on our experience of menopause. So get those happy thoughts going!
- Avoid these foods that may aggravate menopausal symptoms. Avoid or reduce significantly spicy foods, caffeine, sugar, processed refined packaged foods, alcohol, commercially raised meats, and exposure to environmental xenoestrogens such as plastics and petrochemical body care products.