What can you do to help yourself through menopause? Firstly, and most importantly, understand and accept what is going on in your body.
As the saying goes: “If you decide to meet age with a smile, you greatly enhance your chance that it will smile back on you”[i].
Previously, research showed that Japanese women experienced very few symptoms of menopause and it was thought that this was due to their diet and lifestyle. However, newer research indicates that these women experience the same physical symptoms as Western women yet they are not so negatively affected by these symptoms. British women, on the other hand, seem to experience the worst menopausal symptoms[ii].
Researchers now put this down to a woman’s status in society and her quality of life – in cultures where age is respected and older women are valued, menopause is not such a negative experience. However, in the youth-obsessed cultures of the West, the emphasis of menopause is on loss, rather than on transition and hence menopause is considered more of a disease than a normal stage of life[iii].
For up to 6 years before menopause, oestrogen and progesterone levels start to decline and you experience surges of hormones, never knowing what is going to happen next or how you are going to feel. Your periods become irregular, scanty or heavier, and PMS often becomes more severe and uncontrollable.
During this time it is not only your oestrogen levels that are changing, but your progesterone levels are also declining.
Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus)
At this stage the herb Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus) is invaluable as it has an indirect progesteronic action and helps normalise your menstrual cycle and decrease your PMS symptoms[iv].
Please note – it is always best to consult a professional phytotherapist or herbalist before using herbs as they have strong effects and can negatively interact with medication that you might be using.
Cimicifuga racemosa, Dioscorea villosa, Salvia officinalis and Tribulus terrestris
Hot flashes, vaginal dryness and decreased energy levels often develop during menopause. If these are your main symptoms, then herbs such as Cimicifuga racemosa, Dioscorea villosa, Salvia officinalis or Tribulus terrestris can help. These herbs all work very deeply and can help your body find its new equilibrium.
Evening primrose oil
In addition to herbs, an Evening Primrose supplement can be beneficial for your hot flashes, dry skin, mood swings and vaginal dryness. If vaginal dryness or itching is particularly bothersome, then pure vitamin E oil or aloe vera gel can also be used to lubricate the area.
Diet & Lifestyle
You should try to avoid alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods during menopause as they are known to trigger hot flushes and aggravate urinary incontinence.
From as early an age as possible, you should also start trying to decrease your risk of osteoporosis by avoiding smoking, doing weight-bearing exercises and eating foods rich in calcium, such as dairy products, tinned fish, sesame seeds and leafy greens.
Menopause & depression
If you develop depression during menopause it is vital that you get some professional help instead of trying to help yourself. In addition to professional help, aromatherapy oils such as rose, bergamot, clary sage, neroli or ylang ylang are very “feminine” and “nurturing” oils that can help calm and relax you.
This blog is adapted from one of my published articles in: The South African Journal of Natural Medicine, May 2017
[i] Natural Menopause Journey, June 2010 (online). http://www.natural-menopause-journey.com/perimenopause-symptoms-and-culture.html. Accessed: 21 March 2017
[ii] Jane Feinmann, What Makes British Women Have the Worst Menopause, Daily Mail, June 2010 (online). http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1286569/British-women-worst-menopause.html. Accessed: 21 March 2017
[iii] Natural Menopause Journey, June 2010 (online). http://www.natural-menopause-journey.com/perimenopause-symptoms-and-culture.html. Accessed: 21 March 2017
[iv] MediHerb Seminar Notes: Menopause, Endometriosis and Uterine Fibroids, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Premenstrual Syndrome. 2005: 1-29