Recent media attention to the findings that HRT can increase the risk of breast cancer may understandably have made many women reluctant to take these synthetic hormones. Other long term effects have been suggested such as increased risk of blood clots, weight gain and gynaecological problems and host of other short term effects that makes many women give up the treatment within the first year. Therefore before embarking on HRT it may be worth considering and trying some natural alternatives. There are many dietary, exercise and lifestyle improvements that can be made and will be covered in part two of this article next week. Here are just a sample of some the more natural supplements available to counteract the effects of menopause and boost wellbeing. As with all supplements professional help must be sought to ensure your individual suitability and correct dosage.
Sage has been used through the centuries by both the Romans and Greeks and was actually used for many purposes including as a fertility remedy for woman. It can be used for hot flushes and sweats in the form of a cooled tea or a tincture. A dose at night-time may help prevent night sweats.
This native American remedy is used as a female hormonal tonic. It is a phytoestrogen (plant source of oestrogen like substances) and can boost oestrogen and give oestrogen like effects. It is indicated for a wide range of menopausal symptoms including hot flushes and depression. Evidence has also shown Black Cohosh can lower blood pressure and be calming to the nervous system. It can also be used to help relieve PMT symptoms. This herb is indicated where there are low oestrogen levels (approx. 30% of women suffering menopausal symptoms).
One of the most well known supplements for the effects of the menopause .In studies in Europe a study showed that out of 551 patients taking the supplement for three months or more there was an improvement in symptoms in 83% of the patients with 29% actually becoming symptom free . The action of agnus castus is to moderate oestrogen levels and is therefore suited to those with high oestrogen levels . It also reduces high levels of prolactin which is associated with breast tenderness .Note therefore that it has the opposite effect of Black Cohosh.
Don quai is an adaptagen ( hormonal balancer) and can safely be used for either high or low oestrogen levels. It has long been used in Asia to treat menopausal symptoms and may also help with cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure and circulation problems. Generally considered to be of low toxicity but fair-skinned people may become more sensitive to sunlight whilst taking it. Therefore limit time in sun and avoid sunbeds.
Many women fear the menopause but with the correct nutrition, exercise and the help of complimentary therapies some or even all of the unpleasant symptoms can be relieved. Recent media attention to the increased risks associated with HRT will give many women the impetus to try natural alternatives. Here are some general guidelines:
Good nutrition can be of significant benefit during menopause. In brief: – Eat a healthy diet with at least five portions of fruit and vegetables daily.
Increase fluid intake preferably water-to counter excess sweating and reduce sugar and salt intake.
Cut down on red meat and replace with lean poultry, beans, pears and lentils, chickpeas and oily fish which all have benefits.
Ensure you consume adequate calcium or take specially formulated supplements. Semi-skimmed milk is a good source of calcium but so are green leafy vegetables, unsalted nuts, bony fish , cheese , almonds, sesame seeds, yoghurt and calcium fortified products.
Cut down on saturated fats. Use monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats such as sunflower oil or olive oil and ensure a good source of fatty acids at least twice weekly such as oily fish, walnuts, or linseeds.
Eat three or four low-fat (but not fat free) nutritious meals daily which contain good amounts of fibre and whole grains to help keep blood sugar levels even and tiredness and irritability at bay.
Reduce caffeine and fizzy drinks.
Increase your intake of Soya, eating at least one portion a day.
Japanese women whose diets are traditionally rich in Soya suffer little from menopausal problems and levels of breast cancer are much lower. Soya contains isoflavins (oestrogen like plant compounds) which are known to decrease hormone related cancers and reduce menopausal symptoms including hot flushes.
Other important nutrients at the time of the menopause are Vitamins B (Complex) C and E as well as many minerals including Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Boron, silica, Selenium and Zinc.
Is essential in the menopause to ensure that the heart and cardiovascular system are kept in good shape as well as weight bearing exercise keeping the bone density good – helping to offset the risk of osteoporosis. Exercise will also help keep stress levels under control and help keep body weight down and metabolism up , as weight gain is usual with the menopause. Do weight bearing exercise three times a week such as walking, low impact exercise classes or dancing and other forms of exercise that are preferred.
Moderate your lifestyle where possible to ensure quality leisure time. Give yourself pampering treats such as massages or reflexology. Keep up all health checks such as Blood pressure, cholesterol , smears and mammograms and focus on keeping your health optimised.
Read up on the menopause and be advised of all the options open to you. The menopause with the right help and attitude need not be a time to dread but can be happily got through naturally.