What is the Menopause?
The menopause is a time during which levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which control a woman’s menstrual cycle, decline to the point where she is no longer menstruating and will therefore not bear children, a state of affairs devoutly welcomed by some and mourned by others.
There are, however, symptoms that result from the fall in levels of oestrogen and progesterone, especially if they fall precipitously or out of ‘sync’ with each other. The conventional treatment for this is to give artificially synthesised hormones (as Hormone Replacement Therapy or HRT) in an effort to persuade the body not to be menopausal. Many women, though, do not want to follow this route and prefer to do things naturally.
Some common problems and solutions
Factors: poor sleep, too much work, low iron levels, other nutritional deficiencies, food allergies… lots of possibilities.
Solutions: top up your iron with a natural iron tonic that won’t make you constipated.
Take remedies such as Passiflora or Valerian to help improve sleep. Clean up your diet and try avoiding caffeine and wheat for a while, as they tend to cause both bloating and tiredness.
Try a combination of energising Siberian Ginseng and calming Avena sativa. This will give you productive energy rather than nervy adrenalin surges. Remember that you can’t take Siberian Ginseng long term or with other medication.
Symptom: frequent, heavy periods, flooding at start of menopause
Factors: this is usually caused by unduly high levels of oestrogen. Sometimes the liver is not functioning very well (especially if the bowel is sluggish) and this creates a build up of oestrogen.
Solutions: Agnus castus, a herb that helps the body to produce more of its own progesterone, which balances oestrogen. This takes between one to three cycles to start working (more if you take a tablet instead of a tincture) and needs to be taken every day. It should not be taken if you are using hormonal contraceptives or are on HRT. If you have weight problems, bad skin or a slow bowel with the above symptoms, improve the regularity of bowel function and then take liver-cleansing herbs such as Milk Thistle and Dandelion. If you have varicose veins or piles with the above symptoms, use Aesculus to strengthen your veins and Ginkgo as a restorative to the pelvic region. These latter two herbs should not be taken if you are on anticoagulant medication such as Aspirin or Warfarin.
Symptom: hot flushes and night sweats
Factors: falling oestrogen levels can precipitate sweats, but another less acknowledged factor is high histamine levels. Histamine can become a problem if you are stressed, if you are eating foods that don‘t agree with you, if you are smoking or drinking too much alcohol, or if your diet focuses on highly processed foods and junk foods. If your skin is sensitive and you react violently to bites or stings, or get prickly heat, you are likely to have high histamine levels.
Solutions: the first thing to try for regular flushes is Sage, which helps to rebalance the sweat-regulating mechanism in the brain. This is a simple, non-hormonal approach and works well for many women. It can be taken throughout the day, or once during the day and then in an increased dose at night if night sweats are the main problem. If this doesn’t work, you can try Black Cohosh, which is a phyto-oestrogenic herb, i.e. it mimics oestrogen in the body. It cannot be taken with hormonal medication or HRT.
If you have the high histamine symptoms, your flushes may be nothing to do with your hormones. Take more care over your diet, drink plenty of water and avoid coffee, take nettles either as tincture or tea, and take a low dose vitamin C up to six times daily. These latter two are natural antihistamines.
Symptom: muscle and joint aches and pains
Factors: wear and tear and the build up of uric acid in the system due to poor diet, etc. can be factors. Low oestrogen, however, can also play a part.
Solutions: take nettles as tea or tincture, as they remove acids from the system. If you have other low oestrogen symptoms take Black Cohosh, which the Native American Indians used for this symptom in their menopausal squaws. If you have wear and tear damage, try a combination of Devil’s Claw and glucosamine sulphate.
Factors: those at greatest risk of osteoporosis are skinny meat-eaters with a high protein, high salt diet who are stressed, smoke, drink alcohol and don’t exercise. Having osteoporosis in your family doesn’t help but doesn’t mean you will inevitably suffer the same fate. The human body needs magnesium to absorb calcium, so low magnesium levels can play a part.
Solutions: supplement magnesium and/or increase your intake of magnesium-containing foods – wholegrains, beans, lentils, oats, green vegetables, dried fruit and nuts. Exercise moderately, reduce your intake of salt and red meat, and don’t smoke or drink alcohol. Take a natural combination of urtica, calcium and silica as it can help get calcium absorbed into the bone. Black Cohosh is thought to attach to oestrogen receptors in bone, which may help bone density. Many women believe that they must take HRT to prevent their bones from crumbling, but once you come off HRT, bone mineral density catches up fast, so within a few years you are back to the level you would have had without the HRT. Improving your lifestyle is therefore a better long term option for the prevention of osteoporosis.
Symptom: vaginal dryness
Factors: usually caused by falling oestrogen levels, although lack of vitamin E doesn’t help.
Solutions: take 200 to 400i.u. vitamin E daily. Try Black Cohosh, especially if you have either of the low oestrogen symptoms listed above. Siberian Ginseng is another possibility, although it has many contraindications and cannot be taken long term.
For more information on the menopause visit: avogel.co.uk/health/menopause