Treating the Menopause Naturally

There are certain milestones in a woman’s life. The menopause is a time when many reflect on their lives to date. For some women, however, these hormonal changes can be a difficult time of mood swings, hot flushes and insomnia, and menopause signs can last several years. With a little attention, you can treat the symptoms of the menopause naturally, and the team at Real Foods are here to help out.

Contents

  1. What is the menopause?
  2. When does the menopause start?
  3. How long does the menopause last?
  4. When is the menopause over?
  5. What are the symptoms of the menopause?
  6. What can I do to treat Menopause symptoms naturally?
  7. Eating for the Menopause
  8. What other things you can do to ease Menopause symptoms
 

 

What is the menopause?

The menopause is the time when menstruation stops and women are no longer going to be able to conceive naturally.

Menopause is a natural occurrence, which takes place when your oestrogen levels decline and you stop releasing eggs from your ovaries each month.

When does the menopause start?

Most women experience menopause aged between 45 and 55 years old, most commonly at the age of 51 in the UK.

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According to the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, some one in every hundred women experience a premature or early menopause - before the age of 40 - due to ovarian issues. Often there is no clear cause.

The menopause can be triggered by some cancer treatments, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and if ovaries are surgically removed (known as oophorectomy). Those with long-term hormonal conditions such as Addison’s disease, or people with Down's syndrome have a higher chance of an early menopause.

Your local GP will be able to assess the cause of infrequent or changing periods with a menopause test.

 

How long does the menopause last?

There is no set rule about the time frame: menopause symptoms can last a few months or a few years, depending on individual menstruation. Sometimes your period will become infrequent, sporadic or may even stop suddenly.

When is the menopause over?

For some, the menopause can last for four years after your last period, or even longer, but it really does vary from woman to woman as to when you will reach post-menopause, the time when your menopause has finished.

What are the symptoms of the menopause?

All women experience the menopause differently. Some women are very lucky and have no obvious symptoms, however as hormonal changes are taking place, it is quite common to experience symptoms. These can range from slight differences in mood to very difficult symptoms that can affect your daily life.

The most common menopause sign are hot flushes. Often occuring in the middle of the night these are also known as night sweats. It is not that your entire body will feel hot either, sometimes it is just your face and neck that feel hot. Headaches, dry, flaky skin, and joint or muscle fatigue are frequent menopause symptoms also.

You may find that you have difficulty sleeping, or wake up earlier than usual. It is also common to find that your libido is reduced and that you find it uncomfortable to have sex or experience vaginal dryness. It is common to suffer from urinary problems, such as infections, trouble urinating or incontinence.

You might find that one minute you are feeling perfectly happy, and the next you are in a bad mood or feeling anxious. Mood swings frequently occur whenever your body’s sex hormones change. You might also notice that it is not as easy to concentrate or that you are more forgetful than usual.

The long-term effects of the menopause can be osteoporosis, a condition that can thin the bones, which is common with lower oestrogen levels. Similarly, the risk of high cholesterol, dementia, and cardiovascular disease, such as a stroke or heart disease, is higher post-menopause.

The menopause is still considered a taboo topic in some public circles and most who go through it suffer silently, but remember that you are not alone. About 80% of British women suffer from one or more of the above symptoms. If you are unsure whether your symptoms are due to the menopause, do seek medical advice.

What can I do to treat Menopause symptoms naturally?

You can lessen the symptoms of the menopause by making improved lifestyle choices, from changing your diet to upping the amount of time you exercise.

The most useful vitamins and minerals for reducing menopause symptoms are calcium and vitamin D,  as these both help prevent osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.

Eating for the Menopause

Real food matters. The earlier that you get into healthy eating habits, the less likely you are to suffer from extreme symptoms of the menopause. To make it simple, you can purchase organic, Fairtrade, vegetarian and special diet foods in store at Real Foods, Scotland’s largest independent retailer. Alternatively, get healthy foods delivered to right to your door when you order online.

Fruit and vegetables

As you get older, your metabolism slows down, and it’s reported that as you reach menopause age you are more likely to live a sedentary lifestyle. This in turn is a common cause of weight gain. To help you with nature’s journey, avoid processed, junk food and ensure you eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, which are low in calories and can counteract the fat.

Dairy products

Organic milk, low-fat yogurts, and low-fat cheese will increase your calcium, which in turn will boost your oestrogen, which is crucial to reduce bone loss. Eating protein-rich cottage cheese contains the amino acid tryptophan, which releases the happy hormone serotonin, which in turn can ease any feelings of sadness or irritability. Some leafy green vegetables like watercress and kale, as well as dried figs, also contain calcium.

Unsaturated fats

Saturated fat generally isn’t healthy for anyone, but this is more important when you are experiencing menopause symptoms. Why not replace saturated fats, such as butter, with healthier coconut oil, rapeseed oil and olive oil?

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High fibre

Choose complex carbohydrates: high fibre wholegrain foods, such as oatmeal, pasta, barley, brown rice and quinoa. These all provide vitamin B, which is important as it keeps your digestive system ticking and can provide a great boost of energy while keeping you feeling full and balancing your blood sugar levels. B vitamins also help you find an inner balance so you feel less stressed. Starchy-foods, such as potatoes, are a great source of fibre. Just be sure to leave the skin on! Pulses, such as lentils and beans, similarly contain fibre.

Oatmeal is particularly good as it contains serotonin-boosting tryptophan, and enhances your mood and helps you sleep.

Wholegrains often contain folic acid, which prevents your risk of cardiovascular disease.

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Phytoestrogen-rich foods

Adopting a vegetarian, plant-based diet is a great way to treat the menopause naturally. There are two types of phytoestrogens, isoflavones which mimic oestrogen, and lignans, which change oestrogen metabolism.

Isoflavones are found in soy compounds and early studies show that this provides relief for hot flushes. You can get your soya fix from edamame beans, tofu, soya milk or soya flour. If you haven't had a diet rich in soya previously, however, it may cause some digestive discomfort. Try fermented soya products, such as natto, tempeh, or miso soup. Or try getting Isoflavones from non-soya foods such as lentilscelery and rhubarb.

Lignans are found in cereals and flaxseed, as well as fruit and vegetables.

Legumes, nuts and seeds

Almonds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds are great ways to combat dry, flaky skin as they naturally contain vitamin E, calcium and zinc, which all add moisture to your skin.

Flaxseed is a woman’s superfood as it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and fibre, plus it keeps your arteries healthy. It is very easy to include flaxseed in every meal – you can add ground flaxseed in soups, salads, cereal and yogurt, or make a tasty flaxseed and nut crumble for veggie bakes and baked desserts.

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Low or no-salt foods

You should never eat more than 6 grams of salt a day, so read nutritional labels, opt for low-salt foods, and try to avoid adding extra salt in your food. Instead, give food extra flavour with dried herbs.

Magnesium rich foods

Magnesium is crucial for ensuring healthy bones and is found in fresh fruits such as apples, pears and grapes. You can also find it in dried fruits, such as dates and raisins, and nuts.

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Dietary supplements for the Menopause

You may want to consider taking some key vitamin and mineral supplements, including vitamin D, magnesium, calcium, zinc and vitamin E. Before you do, consult your doctor who will conduct a blood test to check if supplements are required and if so, in what quantity.

What other things you can do to ease Menopause symptoms

Hydrate

In order to stop dry skin and vaginal dryness, it is important that you drink a good daily dose of water to maintain the moisture in your skin. Ensuring you have eight glasses of water each day can prevent bloating, which often occurs during the perimenopause, the time just before your menstruation ceases.

Maintain a healthy bodyweight

Keep a healthy and stable bodyweight to avoid the long-term, more serious effects of the menopause.

Spend time in the sunshine

The sun provides a whopping dose of vitamin D, so make sure you spend at least 20 minutes each day in the sunshine. It doesn’t need to be a completely clear day, and you might not want to go in the direct sunlight, but a little dose of the sun can do you the world of good. Just be sure to cover your head and arms with a hat to avoid sunstroke. In addition, you can find vitamin D in eggs, or opt for foods that have been fortified with vitamin D.

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Say no to sugar

A sharp increase in blood glucose levels are often followed by a dip, which will make you feel tired and drained. This is what happens when you munch on sugary snacks, so they are best avoided. Instead, snack on fresh fruits, nuts and seeds.

Cut out caffeine

Caffeine has the power to heat up your body, which is far from ideal during hot flushes, so cut it out! Real Foods has a selection of caffeine-free beverages and herbal teas.

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Spicy food

If you are experiencing hot flushes then spicy food is not a good idea. Like coffee, spices tend to increase your body’s natural temperature.

Reduce your alcohol intake

As soon as you limit your alcohol consumption your risk of cardiovascular disease will decrease. Drink in moderation and opt for low-alcohol beverages. A few alcohol-free days every week is a good idea. Adults should never drink over 14 units a week, which is approximately the equivalent of five large (250ml) glasses of wine.

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Avoid phosphorous-rich foods

Steer clear of phosphorous-rich foods such as red meat, processed foods and fizzy drinks, which all accelerate the loss of vital minerals.

Stop smoking

Smoking provides a curse of ailments and enhances menopause symptoms. Research funded by the US National Institutes of Health highlights that smokers are likely to experience menopause signs two years prematurely. There’s no other way of saying this: it’s time to stop.

Get active

Whether it is joining your local gym, going for a walk around the block, playing tennis, dancing, enjoying an aerobics class or having a daily swim, it’s time to get out there and embrace physical activity! Try to do at least two and a half hours of moderately intense activity or half an hour daily, as well as additional muscle strengthening exercises every week. The fitter you are, the less likely you are to experience post-menopause symptoms.

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Cognitive therapies

If you find yourself with a low mood or feeling anxious then sometimes talking to a trained counsellor can help with regular sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Medication

If menopause symptoms are severe then your doctor may suggest medication, such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which come in the form of tablets, gels, implants and skin patches. Sometimes, in order to combat vaginal dryness, an oestrogen cream, lubricant or moisturiser is prescribed.

Treat the menopause naturally with fresh foods and high quality wholefoods at Real Foods. Choose from a range of delicious ingredients in our online store, or pop into one of our Edinburgh shops. Click here to go to our store locator.

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