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Menopause, The Change of Life

What is menopause?

Menopause is the period in a women's life marked by glandular changes that bring on the end of her menstrual cycle and reproductive years. Menopause usually results from a sudden drop in estrogen production, to about half the normal amount which is too low to produce another egg, thus menstruation ceases. However, prior to this, progesterone levels have been declining for about 15 years (since age 35) and it is during this time that many of the symptoms associated with menopause, as well as the bone disease osteoporosis may begin to develop.

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Symptoms of menopause...

Some women experience severe nervous symptoms and become irritable, anxious, or depressed. They may have headaches, abdominal pains, rushes of blood to the head and upper body, known as hot flushes, backaches, leg cramps, nosebleeds, frequent bruises, varicose veins, and ulcers. Some women find themselves extremely fatigued or experience insomnia. Night sweats, vaginal dryness, dry skin, brittle hair, poor concentration, tearfulness, rheumatic arthritic symptoms, constipation, fractures, and irregular bleeding are other symptoms.

Poor diet, lack of exercise, and emotional stress may exaggerate the symptoms and discomfort of menopause. 

Most women find these symptoms can go on for a number of months, but others may find that it takes years for the body to readjust and the symptoms disappear. Although the menstrual periods may cease, a women's normal sexual needs remain after menopause. She does not need to experience rapid aging.

Hormone Replacement Therapy...

HRT, or hormone replacement therapy, is used to eliminate symptoms of menopause and is a choice for many women. There are known side effects which range from an increase in the risk of breast cancer and abnormal growth of the endometrium.

Hulley and co workers published the results of the Heart and Estrogen/progestin Replacement Study (HERS) in the JAMA, No7, Vol 280 in 1998. This study is of particular importance as it was the first randomised trial proving that hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) does not prevent or reduce heart disease in postmenopausal women. Previously observational studies had found lower rates of coronary heart disease in postmenopausal women who take estrogen than in women who do not, but this potential benefit had not been confirmed in clinical trials. HRT has been predicted to reduce heart disease in postmenopausal women and this has been the major reason for starting this therapy. Interestingly, natural progesterone reverses the bone loss in ageing women to increase bone density (Lee.J Int Clin Nutr Review, July, 1990 Vol. 10, No3), and has an anti-tumour effect on the endometrium (Amer Soc for Repr Med, Feb Vol. 65, No2 1996).

Diet and other alternatives produce the same results with none of the side effects. Many foods and herbs are estrogenic. A discussion with a qualified natural health practitioner will help make the best choices and find the best therapy.

Nutrients required during menopause...

If long-term nutrient deficiencies have left the body unprepared for the stress of menopause, and particularly if symptoms are severe, all nutrients needed for a stressful situation and for supporting the adrenal glands should be taken. Nutrients really can help.

Vitamin E is often recommended, as the need for this vital nutrient is exceptionally high during menopause. It has been used to help with symptoms such as night sweats, hot flushes, backaches, fatigue, nervousness, insomnia, dizziness, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations in many people. If synthetic estrogen is taken, the need for the vitamin increases further.

As estrogen, made from the ovaries, gradually decreases, the adrenal glands start to make both estrogens and androgens and take over many actions of the ovarian hormones. At this time, calcium is absorbed less and excreted more. A deficiency can cause nervousness, irritability, insomnia, headaches, and depression. A long standing deficiency can contribute to osteoporosis, a lack of bone density. Vitamin D, zinc, boron and magnesium are needed for proper calcium absorption: Mineral Power is one of our preferred calcium supplements, which contains all of the co factors needed for proper calcium absorption. Super Calcium Complete is a special calcium formulation, which contains a bone growth factor, to help with better bone mineralisation.

Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B Complex and Zinc are important for skin maintenance. The B complex, especially Pantothenic Acid and PABA can help relieve nervous irritability. Vitamin C together with Bioflavonoids increases capillary strength. The calcium-phosphorus balance should be carefully maintained during the mature years.

Menopause and dietary requirements...

Dietary changes at the onset of symptoms can help.

  • Adequate protein (a serve at each main meal)
  • Whole-grain cereals, and fruits and vegetables are good choices.
  • Vitamin E foods are wheat germ and nuts, peaches, whole-grain cereals, broccoli, dried prunes, spinach, avocados, vegetable oils, and seeds.
  • B vitamins are found in wheat germ and are good when taken with fruit and a B complex supplement.
  • Three servings of calcium-rich foods like low-fat milk, cheese, yoghurt, green leafy vegetables like kale and mustard greens, cooked dried beans, tahini and whole-grain cereals is recommended.
  • Caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, and refined and processed foods are not good choices and should be kept to a minimum.
  • Remember, Water is the elixir of life!
  • Foods that have been shown to help raise estrogen levels are soy flour and flax seed. Soy products that could help include organic tofu, soy milk, tempeh, and textured soy protein.
  • Boron helps boosts estrogen levels to that of replacement therapy. Foods that are rich in this mineral are grapes, dates, peaches, soybeans, almonds, hazelnuts, honey, apples, pears, and raisins; although this mineral is deficient in NZ soils, so foods grown here may be void of this mineral. Wheat bran, legumes, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage are also estrogenic foods.
  • Judith Gavaler, Ph.D., from the University of Pittsburgh, suggests that a beer (even alcohol free), a glass of wine, or a shot of hard liquor every other day can raise estrogen levels, prevent heart disease, and guard against osteoporosis in older women. Any more than 6 alcoholic drinks does not increase the effectiveness and excessive amounts may be very harmful. Also, hot fluids (coffee and tea) and alcohol (one ounce of 40 proof whisky) may bring on hot flushes.

Herbal support for menopause...

The herb Dong Quai has reportedly been beneficial in relieving some of the symptoms of menopause. Siberian Ginseng has been found to be successful in treating hot flushes, sweats, anxiety, and vaginal dryness. However black cohosh is one of the best known to relieve menopausal symptoms. Especially when combined with Soy Isoflavones, as with Estrosoy Plus. Other popular products include Femaprin and Meno-Life. DIM is also an excellent consideration, especially for those where nothing else has helped.

Natural supplements as alternatives to HRT:

Xcel Health Femplex (A herbal and nutritional complex to support hormone balance. It contains estrogen balancers such as DIM, Paeony, Red Clover and Chaste Tree
Natures Way Black Cohosh
clear beneficial effects have been noted in studies
Kiwiherb Meno-Balance extracts of key female centred herbs for hormonal imbalances
Natures Way Femaprin extract of the highly popular Vitex agnus castus
Radiance Vitamin E relieves menopausal vasomotor symptoms such as flushing and hot flashes
Radiance Boron helps increase estrogen levels and maintains bone health. Needed for Calcium utilisation
Nutralife Super Calcium Complete containing the clinically proven microcrystalline hydroxyapatite form of calcium, providing an excellent source of calcium and specialised growth proteins/synergistic trace minerals.
Ethical Nutrients Ethical Bone Builder High Strength Calcium from Hydroxyapatite may assist in the prevention and treatment of Osteoporosis. Contains a source of calcium from hydroxyapatite, which may assist in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis


Some interesting points on menopause...

  • Aerobic exercise is vital to the health of the menopausal women and is best when combined with yoga. Walking, swimming, or any enjoyable activity that raises the heartbeat to the individual target rate is beneficial.
  • 2 foods that can be beneficial for a menopausal woman is fermented soy products such as miso and tempeh, as well as flax seeds. These two foods are rich in phytoestrogens which are converted by intestinal bacteria to hormone-like substances, possessing weak estrogenic activity. They also lower cholesterol.
  • Waking with a hot flush between the hours of 1-3am can show of liver stress and the need for a liver cleanse. Radiance DIM can help to clear this excess estrogen, which can cause this symptom.  Other contributors are liver stress.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, added sugar, salt, spicy foods, as these can trigger a hot flush, as well as over load your liver.
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The Naturopathic Team
Ideal Health

Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered and is intended to be used for educational and general information purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice or as a means to diagnose, treat, cure or prescribe for any particular condition or disease. You assume all responsibility for the treatment which may be undertaken as a result of the information on this site, or treatment recommended by any other party. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.

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