Menopause is a natural process which is inevitable but many women do not know what to expect.
The first stage of the menopause is called the perimenopause and it can begin anywhere between two and ten years before the menopause. It is a time when hormone levels fluctuate widely and oestrogen production by the ovary begins to gradually decline.
The menopause is reached when you have not had a period for 12 months.
What are the symptoms of the menopause?
The most common first symptom of the perimenopause is a change in how the menstrual cycle works. This can results in more or fewer periods, lighter or heavier bleeding and often a change in symptoms and severity of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). PMS symptoms of mood swings, swollen breasts and stomach cramps may worsen.
Other symptoms of the perimenopause and menopause can include hot flushes, difficulty in sleeping, vaginal dryness, mood changes, joint pain and headaches. Every woman’s experience of the menopause is different.
How to approach the menopause
Making changes to improve health can greatly reduce the severity of these symptoms. The key is improving diet and taking regular exercise. Diet should consist of plenty of vegetables and fruit-providing fibre, vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients.
Protein sources should ideally consist of chicken, fish and legumes such as beans and pulses. Increasing the intake of legumes, including soya, together with flaxseed provides a source of phytoestrogen and is an effective way of modifying the effects of fluctuating oestrogen levels.
It is important to prevent weight gain by cutting down on processed foods that are high in refined sugar. Exercise helps control weight, reduce hot flushes and raise mood. It is possible to include exercise such as walking that can more easily fit into your daily schedule but should also include resistance exercises or Pilates to help maintain bone density and prevent osteoporosis - brittle bones.
How herbs can support the menopause
Herbs can provide an effective way of managing the changes experienced during the menopause. Beneficial herbs include Chaste Tree to help balance hormone levels and regulate menstruation, and Ladies Mantle and Shepherds Purse to help reduce heavy menstrual bleeding. Herbs that help control mood changes include St John’s Wort and Vervain. Sage can be effective in reducing hot flushes.
It is important to minimise the effects of stress during the menopause and this can be supported with herbs that balance adrenal function such as Ashwagandha, Siberian ginseng, and Rhodiola.
Why visit a Medical Herbalist?
A medical herbalist can help you manage the transition through the perimenopause and menopause. Each woman has a different experience and a medical herbalist will provide dietary advice and select herbs tailored to the changes and symptoms that you are experiencing.
Contact me at the Clinic to arrange an appointment.
“I approached Gina because I was looking for a natural way to manage some symptoms of being (what I suspected was) peri-menopausal. Symptoms included night-sweats, aching joints, intermittent IBS, bad sleep pattern and irregular periods.
Gina helped me by looking at my symptoms, and lifestyle (food, exercise, previous medical history etc) and coming up with a holistic approach that fitted in with my busy work/life schedule. “
Mrs Jacky Cumberland