The menopause can hit at any time around 50 but some women have it later or in their 30s or even earlier. It can also cause long-term problems making women more susceptible to brittle bones or osteoporosis and heart disease.
Sounds dreadful – but it needn‘t be! Read: Coping with menopausal symptoms
First of all – the Perimenopause
What is less known about is the perimenopause. Women in their 40s are constantly complaining that they forget everything, that they can’t sleep well, that they feel irritable or anxious but then they say ‘It can’t be the menopause because I’m still having periods and (groan) I’m not old enough yet’.
But the perimenopause can run for at least ten years before periods gradually slow down and stop. It is due to a drop in oestrogen and changes in ovarian function preceding the menopause. Symptoms include:
• Poor concentration
• Menstrual irregularity
• Heavier periods
• Hot flushes
• Mood swings
• Anxiety and irritability
Sounds just like the menopause. Because the symptoms are the same doctors are likely to prescribe HRT, but similarly all the natural alternatives that work for the menopause can help to relieve perimenopause too, so read on.
Treating the menopause
Sebastian Pole of Ayurvedic specialists, Pukka Herbs, says:
Women’s health issues are often treated with Hormone Replacement Therapies (HRT), anti-depressants or surgery. Ayurveda thinks that women’s health should be treated holistically and without synthetic hormones.
For example, the recent 2003 Lancet report of the ‘million women study’ showing that 20,000 extra cases of breast cancer had been caused by using HRT says it all. Menopause is not a disease, it is a transition, and the risks associated with invasive treatment outweigh the benefits.
The majority of women do not need invasive hormone ‘replacement’. Whatever stage of life you are in you may need some help with including some additional healthy living habits. Most of us do!
Getting to the heart of the problem
Ayurveda offers the potential for true healing to occur. And this is because it addresses the ‘heart’ of health, which is spiritual, mental and physical well-being. Ayurveda will treat every person on a multi-dimensional level and, generally speaking, I would recommend that for women to attain the best health you should:
• Take a daily multi-vitamin (from a wholefood source)
• Eat at least 50g of phyto-oestrogens a day – linseeds, lentils and soya products.
• Eat an array of multi-coloured vegetables and lots of whole grains. These contain cellular protective, heart and bone strengthening nutrients.
• Eat cold-pressed organic oils; hemp seed is my favourite as it contains a blueprint of the body’s essential fatty needs. These omega oils protect your heart, brain, joints and nervous system.
• Stop eating salads. They may contain more nutrients but they are poorly assimilated, weaken digestion and can cause weight gain!
• Eat cooked food. The cooker has ‘pre-digested’ the food making it more available for you.
• Take Aloe Vera juice with Shatavari capsules – it is well renowned for rejuvenating women’s health. Shatavari is one of those miraculous plants that really helps boost women’s health; it balances hormones, improves the flow of breast milk, improves fertility, improves libido and stops hot flushes.
• Take Ashwagandha. This is another wonderful herb that helps to settle your nervous system, give a good sleep and give you more energy. Herbs work in these multi-faceted ways because many of them help the body to respond. They are not a ‘replacement’ they are ‘food’.
• Perhaps most importantly, have a regular oil massage. You can give this to yourself, or receive it from your partner or see an expert. It is fantastic for your immunity, skin quality and for removing excess fluids. And it’s a treat.
Sebastian Pole is an Ayurvedic practitioner and Herbal Director of Pukka Herbs which offers 100% organic Ayurvedic remedies and teas, produced to high ethical standards, from herbs grown by farmers who are paid a fair wage. For more information, see www.pukkaherbs.co.uk or ring 0117 9640944 . Sebastian’s clinic is on 01225 466944, www.herbalayurveda.com
|Aloe Vera Juice||Pukka Herbs||500ml||£8.98|
|Ashwaganda||Pukka Herbs||90 capsules||£14.25|
|Ashwaganda tincture||Pukka Herbs||50ml||£7.45|
|Hemp oil||Pukka Herbs||250ml||£7.25|
|Shatavari||Pukka Herbs||90 capsules||£14.25|
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Why not take HRT?
You only have to follow the headlines to know that there have been a lot of scares for the 2 million or so women who take HRT in Britain:
- In recent years many women who swore by HRT and its miracle cures have come off it because of a host of scares particularly concerning increased risk of breast cancer, strokes, blood clots and Alzheimers.
- There has been definitive research that showed that the incidence of breast cancer was increased with users of HRT, and now it has been found that 1,300 women in Britain died from ovarian cancer in the 14 years between 1991 and 2005 because they were using the drug.
- Recent research has questioned the claim that HRT protects against heart disease and osteoporosis – studies have shown that any increase in bone mass is lost when women come off HRT.
- Two-thirds of women stop taking it in the first year because of the side-effects.
One of the worst disadvantages of HRT is that if you come off it suddenly you may see a robust return to hot flushes, night sweats and other symptoms. It is important to seek help from your doctor or other professional in women’s health to structure the cessation of HRT.
The Natural Health Advisory Service (NHAS) advises:
- A diet high in phytoestrogens: soy, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds, linseeds, and Red Clover supplements, to ease hot flushes, create new bone, provide protection from heart disease and improve memory and brain function;
- Cutting out caffeine, spicy foods, hot drinks and alcohol which all aggravate hot flushes;
- Avoiding tea, wheat and bran which contain tannin and prevent nutrients being absorbed.
Maryon Stewart, author and founder of the NHAS, says:
‘Our research indicates that many women of childbearing age are low in levels of magnesium, B vitamins, essential fatty acids and chromium. By the time they get to the menopause, if they haven‘t learnt to meet their body‘s nutritional needs it is impossible for the brain chemicals and hormones to cope.‘
Michael Dooley, Consultant Gynaecologist, Dorset County Hospital, Dorchester and Lister Hospital, Chelsea, London, says, ‘What works for women best are simple natural methods, positive attitude, feeling good and hopeful about themselves, a support network of family and friends, a phytoestrogen rich diet, physical activity, reducing stress and anxiety and relaxing’.
Maryon Stewart warns, ‘It is important that women shouldn‘t read bad publicity and come off HRT suddenly without finding a non-drug alternative before they do’.