Early menopause on the increase

‘A leading women’s health expert, Dr Marilyn Glenville, claims that more and more women are having an early menopause – before 40 and sometimes in their 20s.  The normal age for ceasing periods is between 45 and 55 with an average of 50 years old.

‘The numbers are increasing and now around one in 20 women is having an early menopause,’ Dr Glenville says. ‘The good news is that doctors are recognising what is happening better, but the bad news is that this is more than likely to be due to the “ladette” lifestyle that more women are indulging in.’

There are of course women who have an early menopause due to reasons beyond their control, such as severe stress or because there is a family history of an early menopause.  However some of the main causes of this syndrome known as POF (premature ovarian failure) are poor diet, smoking, alcohol and stress.

Dr Glenville suggests that chemicals in our environment can also have a huge effect on the hormonal system in the body.  She believes that the increased use of non-stick pans may be another cause because the chemicals released by the non-stick coating are known to be hormone disruptors.  Other factors are radiotherapy treatment, surgery or problems with the autoimmune system when the woman’s own tissues knock out ovarian function.

Sterilisation may also induce premature ovarian function, as can too much stress. ‘When the body perceives that there is dramatic stress it shuts down ovarian function. This stress can even be the result of going on a crash diet which is perceived by the body as a famine situation. This is why crash diets can be seriously damaging to your long-term health.

One of the key questions to ask a woman in consultation is when their mother had her menopause because it usually follows the same pattern.  It ‘s possible that her mother had an early menopause because she smoked, so if the woman doesn’t smoke herself it may be that she will have the menopause later than her mother.

Dr Glenville believes that GPs have traditionally misdiagnosed POF and often the woman has gone away and come back in a year’s time with the same problem. ‘Recognition is improving now, but the problem is growing.’

Apart  from the obvious distress of becoming infertile when ovaries are no longer functioning, women run a greater risk of getting osteoporosis, brittle bone disease. See the article What is Osteoporosis? Marilyn explains, ‘If they have POF at (say) 30 they are going to have an extra 20 years without the body producing oestrogen.  This means they are far more likely to develop osteoporosis which is more prevalent in women who are post-menopausal.

‘Although I write books on alternatives to HRT for menopausal women, it is essential that women have hormone replacement therapy in these circumstances at an age when the body should be producing oestrogen.  Once they reach normal menopausal age I don’t believe they need hormone replacement therapy because nature has designed women not to produce oestrogen after menopause.’ 

See What is Osteoporosis?

Read Marilyn Glenville’s books, Natural Solutions to the Menopause, and Osteoporosis, The Silent Epidemic – both available from Amazon by clicking on the carousel on our home page.

Dr Marilyn Glenville practises in London and Tunbridge Wells: 08705 329244, www.marilynglenville.com

Natural baby

Finding out you’re pregnant is a time of joy and excitement, but you may also be apprehensive and nervous. Knowing that your life is going to change forever can be daunting and with a first baby you have no idea what to expect.

Physically you may feel great all through the pregnancy or you may suffer from fatigue and morning sickness, particularly at the beginning. Each pregnancy is different – even for the same person!  See also: Natural Baby.

And every woman is wary that something may go wrong, particularly in the early days. Currently one in five pregnancies ends in miscarriage affecting 250,000 women a year which is a huge figure. Some of this is accounted for by the older age of first time mums – 31 is the average in Britain, but lifestyle factors also play a part. It is helpful to get fit for pregnancy before you even try – have a look at the Foresight programme in Infertility Affected by Lifestyle?

There is plenty of information available about how to ensure a healthy pregnancy and birth. Many midwives have trained in complementary therapies too which help women throughout pregnancy and labour  to have positive experiences of childbirth.


Morning Sickness: ginger is great for morning sickness and can be taken in different ways. You can make a tea from fresh ginger root by peeling off the skin and cutting into small chunks. Infuse in a tea pot with boiling water, or you can try a ginger biscuit, ginger capsules, or sniff essential oil of ginger.

Depression: Clary Sage oil – put a few drops on a tissue so you can breathe it in. It’s very strong but it will help you to feel better.

Sleeplessness: Lavender Oil – try a few drops of lavender oil on a tissue, or have a bath with a few drops dispersed in the water prior to bedtime. Lavender is very soothing.

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Packing your case for hospital – apart from all the obvious things like nightdresses, sanitary pads, underclothes and wash bags, two invaluable items to take with you are:

Arnica: most women who take Arnica in pregnancy are sure that it helps their body to recover quicker. Arnica is for bruising and shock – both of which are relevant in childbirth. Start taking the Arnica as soon as you go into labour. Every two hours is fine – if you remember – and carry on once the baby is born. It can speed recovery remarkably.

Rescue Remedy: it’s great if you go into a panic – your partner might even need it, and it’s safe for you and your baby. Just put a few drops on your tongue or in water that you sip regularly.

Lavender oil – in the bath before and after birth, on a tissue to help you sleep and in massage oil if you are lucky enough to get anyone to massage you during labour!

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Haemorrhoids (piles): Cypress aromatherapy oil: A tip from Maggie Tisserand’s Aromatherapy for Women five drops of cypress oil in the bath after labour can ease haemorrhoids and help them to heal, or dilute just a couple of drops in a basin of water and gently dab it on. (Don’t apply neat). Allthough it sounds unpleasant, piles do happen to many women due to the pressure of the baby being born and they can take a long time to go away.

Sore Nipples: Kamillosan is an excellent cream made with chamomile. All the others I tried didn’t work.

Not enough milk: Guinness – I began to really enjoy it mixed with lemonade because it did the trick. Wouldn’t touch it now! Fennel tea is also supposed to be good!

Baby blues: Aromatherapy oils can help out on the day you feel weepy and depressed. Some aromatherapy oils that are good for easing the blues are Clary Sage, Ylang Ylang and Jasmine. Have a bath with a few drops dispersed in the water, use an oil burner, or put them on a tissue tucked into your clothes, so that you are breathing them all the time.

If it goes on for a long time it is more likely to be post-natal depression and you should see your doctor or be referred to a counsellor – don’t be fobbed off by your doctor. If you have a good health visitor talk to them about how you’re feeling.

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‘Breast is best’

This has been the motto of the NCT for some years. The belief is that babies get natural immunity for their mothers’ breast milk, and may be less likely to become allergic to certain foods and substances.

Natural Childbirth Trust (NCT), is the UK’s biggest parenting charity which can give advice on pregnancy, childbirth and the early years. They provide a variety of services and classes prior to birth: www.nct.org.uk

See also: Eating for Two?


PMS solutions

From a young age until menopause a woman can experience pre-menstrual tension which can make them feel emotional, angry, depressed, uncomfortable, bloated and much more.   Sometimes these last for as much as a week, or even more and interfere with daily life.

There’s plenty that can be done to ease symptoms by changing diet (See PMS can be prevented with Ian Marber).
Here are some other solutions:

Breast tenderness

Be aware of regular changes in the breasts and see a doctor if you are worried about unusual lumps.  Breasts usually get sore up to a week before a period.

  • Agnus castus helps to rebalance hormones and helps with breast tenderness and mood swings, according to homeopath Beth Maceoin. Take it in the morning when the pituitary gland – which controls female sex hormones – is more responsive. If breasts are tender every month follow a low fat diet, rich in seeds, nuts, and oily fish.
  • Lachesis homeopathic remedy helps if the pain is more on the left and gets worse from ovulation onwards. ‘It suits women whose pre-menstrual symptoms disappear as if by magic as soon as their period starts, Beth says.

Buy homeopathic remedies in the 6c potency and take three times a day for two to three days, stopping when symptoms improve.’

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  • A dessertspoon of golden linseeds with cereal cleanses and loosens the bowels, followed by two glasses of water to flush it through
  • Two cups of dandelion tea each day releases fluid.
  • According to homeopath Beth Maceoin, Lycopodium for bloating which gets worse as the afternoon goes on with gas, rumbling and constipation.
  • Nat mur for fluid retention, headaches, feeling withdrawn and run down, particularly if cold sores are also a problem, according to Beth.
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  • Take a multi-vitamin supplement with 20 to 30mg zinc in it.
  • Says our expert, Alison Cullen, ‘Many women are marginally anaemic and can benefit from a two week course of Floravital, a natural plant-based iron tonic.
  • To get a good quality sleep take  Passiflora Complex or Valerian Hops Complex which is a knock-out herbal mix, 30 minutes before bedtime, according to Alison.
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  • Plenty of exercise even if feeling awful
  • 20 minutes of relaxation every day
  • Nux vomica can enable symptoms to disappear ‘as if by magic’ according to homeopath, Beth Maceoin, particularly for someone who sleeps badly, has headaches and relies on tea, coffee, alcohol or cigarettes to keep them going.
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  • Vitamin B supplements can ease anxiety and irritability.
  • Valerian is a great herbal remedy for keeping you calm.
  • Rescue Remedy – a few drops in your water and sipped all day is great, as well as the RR pastilles.
  • Sepia is recommended by Beth Maceoin for anxiety, indifference, feelings of not being able to cope.
  • Anxiety that descends at night with a fear of feeling out of control, nausea, nervous diarrhoea benefits from Arsenicum alb, says Beth.
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High Five B Complex and Magnesium Absorbate Viridian Nutrition 30 veg caps £6.10
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Sepia 6c Nelson’s 84 tablets £5.45
Arsenicum alb Nelson’s 84 tablets £5.45
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Beth Maceoin practises homeopathy in Newcastle, 0191 236 6935 

Maryon Stewart is at the Natural Health Advisory Service, 01273 487366 www.naturalhealthas.com

Alison Cullen is the nutritionist at A. Vogel (Bioforce), www.bioforce.co.uk

Alison is one of Healthy Soul’s Healthy Experts

Read Ian Marber’s advice on PMS can be prevented

Eating for two?

In the last few years there is much more awareness about the need for pregnant women to be careful about what they eat and drink while carrying a baby. Organic food for babies is virtually the norm in the UK now, even in ready-made foods. Scientists believe that a baby is programmed for a lifetime of good or poor health in the first few months of its life according to the type and amount of nutrition they receive.

If babies are better off eating organic food, it makes sense to avoid pesticides during pregnancy as well to avoid chemicals passing through the placenta to the foetus.  Also see Natural Baby.

What to eat:

When you’re pregnant you need plenty of:

Fruit and vegetables – broccoli is high in calcium, green leafy vegetables contain folic acid and all fruit and vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Wholegrains – such as brown rice, wholemeal bread and wholewheat pasta.

Protein – fish, chicken, eggs, cheese, pulses (beans or lentils), or soya products such as tofu.

What not to eat or drink

Research has shown that just 200mg (two cups) of caffeinated drinks – coffee, tea, hot chocolate – can cause miscarriage in the early part of pregnancy.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is planning on advising women to avoid caffeine altogether in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and some may suggest cutting it out for the whole of the nine months. Herbal teas make a good alternative.

The new study carried out by Dr De-Kun Li and colleagues looked at 1,063 women who were in the first couple of months of pregnancy. They asked them to keep diaries about their caffeine intake until the 20th week. Out of the group 172 women miscarried before 20 weeks and there was an obvious link with caffeine. There was an increased risk of miscarriage of 15 per cent in those women who drank 200mg (four cups) of caffeinated drinks (hot chocolate, coffee and tea) a day, and a 25 per cent greater risk if they drank more than that.

Other foods to avoid:

Raw or partially cooked eggs to avoid salmonella and this includes mayonnaise, salad dressings, mousses and ice cream made with raw eggs. It’s healthier to eat organic/free range eggs and much healthier for the chicken too

Soft cheeses like Brie, Camembert and chevre (type of goat’s cheese) as they are unpasteurised

Pate of any kind because it can cause listeria

Liver products – and supplements that contain too much Vitamin A, such as cod liver oil

Some types of fish – only shark, swordfish and marlin and no more than two tuna steaks a week or four medium sized cans due to mercury content

Raw or undercooked meat

Undercooked ready meals

Raw shellfish because it can contain harmful bacteria and viruses

Peanuts if you think your baby is at risk – for instance if someone else in the family has a peanut allergy

Sugar and fat – it’s easy to put on additional weight when you’re pregnant because you are eating for two but it’s harder to take off afterwards, so try to avoid too much saturated fat and sugar in cakes, biscuits, sweets

What not to drink:

Caffeine – due to research above it is important to either cut out or drastically reduce intake of coffee, cola, tea or coffee. Try herbal teas instead or coffee substitutes like Bambu.

Alcohol – many women get caught out with alcohol before they realise that they are pregnant. Current advice is to avoid alcohol entirely or just drink one or two units (small glass of wine) a week.

To find out about latest findings on food in pregnancy go to www.foodstandards.gov.uk

Vitamins and Minerals:

Folic Acid: 400 mcg (microgram) supplement daily from the time you start trying for a baby until the 12th week of pregnancy, and eat plenty of dark green vegetables (cabbage, spinach, greens, chard). The reason for taking folic acid is that it is believed to reduce the risk of neural tube defects in the baby, such as spina bifida.

Iron: You may need to ask your GP about iron supplements if you are deficient. Floradix is a good all round tonic, high in iron, which is derived from vegetables.

Vitamin D: It is advisable to take Vitamin D supplements because few people in Britain get enough sun for the body to make the amount we need for pregnancy.

You should not take Vitamin A in pregnancy

There are a number of good supplements that can be taken in pregnancy – see below:

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What is osteoporosis?

Ask a woman about osteoporosis and she’ll probably tell you it’s something that happens when you get older and your bones become brittle.  But that’s not something she needs to think about now is it?  In truth whether you walked to school or not has an impact on your chances of getting the disease.

There’s predicted to be a massive rise in the number of women with osteoporosies in future due to a number of lifestyle issues: including lack of exercise, too much dieting, poor nutrition, , smoking, contraceptive injections and fizzy drinks which strip the body of calcium.

Osteoporosis is when bones become porous and full of holes. Bones are changing and renewing throughout our lives but the problem arises when the rate of renewal doesn’t keep up with the rate of breakdown.  There is, however,  little warning of this until one of her bones is fractured        and she doesn’t even know how it happened.

The statistics*

  • One in two women and one in five men over 50 break a bone, mainly due to poor bone health.
  • Almost three million people in the UK have osteoporosis.
  • The numbers have risen by 17 per cent in 10 years in England.
  • Every year there are 230,000 osteopathic fractures in the UK.
  • More than 14,000 women die every year after breaking a bone as a result of osteoporosis (more than die of breast cancer).
  • One in five people who suffer a hip fracture die within three months.
  • 1,150 people die every month as a result of hip fractures.

Figures from The National Osteoporosis Society: www.nos.org.uk

Who gets it?

One in three women over 50 have osteoporosis as opposed to one in nine men. The risk factors include:

• A family history of osteoporosis
• Suffering from eating disorders such as anorexia
• Having irregular periods
• Some pharmaceutical drugs including steroids
• Lack of weight-bearing exercise and conversely too much exercise!
• Early menopause or hysterectomy
• Heavy alcohol, fizzy drinks and caffeine intake
• Smoking cigarettes

According to Dr Marilyn Glenville, women’s nutritional health expert and author of Osteoporosis – The Silent Epidemic,  ‘Oestrogen protects against the disease as does testosterone but around the time of the menopause women experience a dip in the hormone’s production.  The dip in testosterone for middle aged men is not as extreme but if a man takes steroids his chances of getting osteoporosis are just as high as a woman’s.’

Deficiency in calcium and Vitamin D can lead to osteoporosis. Vitamin D should be combined with calcium, and magnesium should be taken with calcium, so the following products are suitable.

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What to do if you have it

Most people who have osteoporosis need to take prescription drugs but they can also adopt lifestyle measures aimed at prevention to make sure that bone mass does not deteriorate further. Anyone who has a scan and finds that they are borderline can encourage bone growth by doing weight-bearing exercise, eating healthily and avoiding cigarettes, alcohol, fizzy drinks, caffeine and sugar.

Bone density scan

It’s not easy to get a bone density scan on the NHS unless you’ve already had fractures, but they are available at various private clinics, and Boots is running a pilot  service in Birmingham and Bournemouth stores – £95 for a 30 minute scan.

The advantage of having a scan is that you know whether your bone mass is healthy or if you are on the way to developing a problem.  Prevention is better than cure, so it’s important to exercise and eat healthily anyway to prevent osteoporosis and all other kinds of illness.

Young people at risk

‘We took a group of 69 people and gave them a bone density scan,’ said Maryon Stewart of the Natural Health Advisory Service and author of The Phyto Factor.  ‘It turned out that the women in their 20s and 30s were the ones with low readings. This is because they are drinking alcohol much earlier, have lots of fizzy drinks, eat junk food and have a diet low in calcium.

‘There is a consensus that bone marrow is reaching its peak when a woman is in her early 20s and then it goes downhill. Many women do not know how to meet their body’s needs, they don’t get enough nutrients and they become low in calcium, magnesium and essential fatty acids.’


Healthy Eating

High acid foods can remove calcium from the bone so it is important to eat more alkaline foods as well such as  fruit and vegetables. The most acidic foods are red meat, cheese, caffeine and sugar.

• It’s important to cut down on caffeine which decreases the absorption of calcium and increases its excretion through the urine, as do salt and sugar.
• Alcohol decreases the activity of bone-building cells.
• Fizzy drinks are so high in phosphorus which encourages the body to believe it needs more calcium which it takes from bones – they also contain caffeine and sugar.

Eating to beat osteoporosis:

• Fruit and vegetables – preferably organic, but not spinach or rhubarb that block calcium absorption
• Isoflavones – lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, garlic, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds, linseeds,  and GM free soya
• Wholegrains – rice, oats, barley, wheat
• Sprouting vegetables like alfafa

Asian women do not tend to suffer from hot flushes in menopause nor do they have a high incidence of osteoporosis, and they eat loads of soya!

The British Association of Nutritional Therapists (BANT): www.bant.org.uk, 08706 061284
The Institute for Optimum Nutrition, www.ion.ac.uk, 020 8877 9993

What is weight bearing exercise?

Fairly obviously any exercise where you put weight on your limbs is weight-bearing – so swimming does not count.  However, the ones that do include:

• Walking
• Running
• Bouncing on a mini trampoline
• Skipping
• Playing tennis
• Dancing
Dr Marilyn Glenville explains, ‘Your skeleton is constantly fighting against gravity, and it is that fight that helps to maintain bone density. You need to load the skeleton and put it under stress for it to respond.’

Four or five sessions of weight bearing exercise a week will help to build up b one mass but it’s important to choose something you enjoy.


Known to benefit health in a variety of ways yoga is excellent for developing balance – if someone can stand on one leg they are far less likely to fall over!  It improves flexibility, keeps the body supple and encourages people to breathe properly. Most people breathe in a shallow way and do not get enough oxygen to the cells of the whole body.

T’ai chi and chi kung

Some NHS practices have put T’ai Chi and Chi Kung on prescription for pensioners because of its many benefits.  Both encourage balance, build up energy, improve posture and suppleness, helping with co-ordination and focusing the mind thereby improving memory and clarity!  You don’t need to be old to benefit!


Less gentle than T’ai Chi and Yoga it helps to tone and build up muscle and release strain on the back. The exercises can be quite tough but they are done from a standing, lying or sitting position and can certainly enhance confidence about balance and posture. 

Complementary therapies:

Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique is all about learning where you are holding tension and how to release it. It improves posture, balance and breathing and as it is not exercise it can be undertaken by anyone, regardless of their mobility.

Ian O’Donnell, Alexander Technique teacher, claims, The Technique is helpful for encouraging people to sit, stand and perform activities in a more balanced and co-ordinated way putting less stress on the spine and the rest of the body.’


In a perfect world we would get all the nutrients we need from our food but many women get out of shape by the time they reach the menopause due to years of periods and pregnancy. 

It’s important to ensure a good intake of calcium, magnesium and essential fatty acids such as fish oils or flaxseed oil (linseed) on top of taking a multivitamin.  According to Maryon Stewart, ‘If you take Vitamin D, calcium and fish oils it will help your body’s uptake of calcium.’  She suggests recipes for delicious smoothies packed with nutrients in her book The Phyto Factor.


It combines lifestyle advice with herbal medicine and nutrition.  Rosalind Blackwell, herbalist and naturopath suggests Vitex Agnus Castus as a plant that regulates hormones and helps the body to produce progesterone which is needed to prevent osteoporosis.  ‘Nettle tea is rich in minerals because of its deep roots. Women who are at risk need to supplement with magnesium as so many are deficient in it, and boron which has an effect on the metabolisation of oestrogen.’

Homeopathy:  completely safe and holistic so will take into account all symptoms as well as the person’s own constitution and personality:
Acupuncture:  can relieve muscle tension and specific aches and pains by bringing energy to the area:
Cranial osteopathy:  practitioners can detect imbalances in the cranio-sacral fluid and correct them through very gentle manipulation improving general health of the body:
Reflexology:  the zones of the feet relate to parts of the body and the treatment offers an all round health benefit. Contact: The Association of Reflexologists, www.aor.org.uk
Counselling:  depression and anxiety have a knock-on effect on the body and it’s hard to stick to a healthy lifestyle when you’re feeling down. 
Dr Marilyn Glenville practises in London and Tunbridge Wells: 08705 329244, www.marilynglenville.com. Postal consultations available.  Her book Osteoporosis The Silent Epidemic is available at Amazon and Nutricentre – click on the ads on this page.

Maryon Stewart practises at The Natural Health Advisory Service, 01273 487366, www.naturalhealthas.com

Rosalind Blackwell practises at Crickham, Somerset, www.thebarnpractice.co.uk 01934 712848,

The Phyto Factor by Maryon Stewart costs £10.99, call 020 7631 4235

Ian O’Donnell MSTAT practises in Surrey,  www.releaseforlife.co.uk

STAT: (Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique): www.stat.org.uk 0776 4907 162