Going through menopause can be a very distressing time for a woman. Symptoms may last for months or linger for years. Although hormone replacement therapy is readily available, scientifically based natural alternative programmes should not be underestimated as alone or adjunct approach. These programmes help combat the symptoms of menopause and aid in keeping the heart, bones and memory strong.
The key elements for a natural alternative approach are:
- A healthy diet rich in phytoestrogens or plant oestrogens
- The use of dietary supplements shown to help during menopause
- Moderate but regular exercise
- Daily relaxation
When menopause symptoms start to appear, these are likely to be more severe if your diet is already inadequate, you may have already some nutritional deficiency or you lead a stressful life. Therefore is important to be prepared for this time in your life and have a holistic approach to your wellbeing.
How can diet help?
A diet rich in phytoestrogens (substances similar to human oestrogens that occur naturally in plants) has been shown to be beneficial and help with symptoms such as hot flushes, as well as protecting you against heart disease and osteoporosis.
Research shows that Japanese women who eat a lot of soya do not suffer from hot flushes and other menopausal symptoms. In comparison, 80-85% of women on a western diet do experience these symptoms.
Natural sources of phytoestrogens are:
- Soya milk, Tofu, Soya Flour
- Red clover plant
- Organic linseeds – although known as flaxseeds
- Green and Yellow vegetables
- Sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds
- Lentils, chickpeas, mung beans and other beans
Standardised Red clover or soy supplements can also be used to supplement your diet.
Healthy Diet Tips:
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables rich in nutrients.
- Aim to drink 600 ml of milk a day. This will give you a good calcium intake to keep your bones strong.
- Nuts and seeds, whole grains, bony and oily fish (such as sardines and pilchards) and green leafy vegetables are rich in calcium and magnesium and these are needed for healthy bones.
- Include 1- servings of soy products if you can.
- Keep hydrated: try and drink at least 6 glasses of water a day. Go for herbal teas and decaf coffee & tea where possible.
- Reduce salt in your diet, as this will reduce the fluid retention and the calcium salt.
- Keep alcohol to a minimum, as alcohol reduces the absorption of good nutrients.
- Remember those spicy foods, hot drinks and alcohol make hot flushes worse.
If you are not exercising already is time to get started!
Physical activity is paramount for a healthy and long life. Try and make simple and long-lasting changes such as:
- Walk up the stairs instead of using lifts
- Walk to the shop instead of driving/ taking the bus
- Nourish the interests you may have that involve physical activity such as gardening or walking your dog
Sex can also be great exercise and research shows that women who make love twice a week suffer from less hot flushes. It also helps to boost circulation and reduces the dryness of the vagina.
Benefits of the exercise:
- Increases the good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol)
- Improves circulation
- Increases the bone density
- Improves the reaction time and coordination
- Improves your wellbeing
Benefits of Relaxation
Relaxation training has been shown to reduce the frequency of hot flushes in 60% of women.
Spending 15 minutes a day following a relaxation technique can help keep your symptoms at bay.
There are various methods for relaxation and you need to find the one that suits you. It may be a simple method where you lie down and slowly relax and breathe deeply or you may try yoga, massage, pilates, acupuncture or hypnosis.
If you suffer with insomnia, CBTi may help.
Tips for Coping with Hot Flushes
- If you feel a hot flush coming on, take a deep breath
- Avoid triggers such as hot drinks, soups, alcohol or spicy foods
- Wear several thin layers of clothing that you can remove as necessary
- Use breathable clothing material and lightweight bedding
- Carry some cool wipes in your handbag
If you have any questions or you wish to see a clinician for advice get in touch. At ROC we have a team of GPs, Menopause Specialists, Functional Medicine Physicians, Dieticians and Acupuncturists that can help.