Natural Menopause Management Plan
Menopause can be a difficult phase in life. Symptoms of hot flushes, sleeplessness, weight gain, irritability, aches and pains, itching skin and reduced libido are a few of the challenges women have to face.
You certainly are not alone - with 85% of women reporting symptoms associated with menopause. Menopause is a natural process and yet it is treated as a disease… hence women struggle to find effective treatments.
‘The secret to managing menopause effectively in the short and long term, is to support the body through its natural process’
What is the natural process of menopause?
As women approach menopause, their natural production of progesterone and oestrogen from the ovaries reduces. A little known fact but a VERY important one is that the body shifts its hormone production from the ovaries to other areas of the body - primarily the adrenal glands, breast tissue, fat cells and even the brain.
The misconception is that menopausal and postmenopausal women produce very small amounts of oestrogen and zero progesterone. This is true, however, the body changes the forms of hormones produced. Estrodiol E2 drops, however Estrone E1 becomes the dominant form of oestrogen and the body becomes dependent on androgen conversion from the adrenals for hormone levels. Interestingly Chinese and Japanese women had the highest levels of a hormone called DHEAS during and post menopause.
This is very important to understand as the successful transition through menopause depends on stimulating the body’s own production of hormones, rather than providing external hormones which effectively prolongs the menopausal process.
The average age women enter menopause is 49 to 51 and is officially classified as one year without a menstrual cycle. This classification is erroneous, however, as the process of perimenopause and eventually menopause begins up to 5 years prior as cycles become erratic. Symptoms of menopause can begin well before the cessation of a cycle, with some women waiting to be officially diagnosed with menopause before seeking help.
The mistake here, again is putting a disease label on a natural process. It is a process and part of a woman’s reproductive journey. Support the process and women are able to successfully navigate this time of life and flourish.
Menopause is not a disease
Menopause is going to happen… it is inevitable and a fact of life. Classifying menopause as a disease is not only the wrong approach long term, but it creates a stigmatism for women that can impact in many areas of their personal, work and social lives.
How to manage Menopause Naturally
Menopause is NOT a disease and the successful navigation of menopause depends on supporting your body, not suppressing symptoms. Symptoms can be avoided and minimised when the body is given the right tools and environment to flourish. Because every woman will have their own unique experience with menopause. The best approach is a holistic one and I will outline at the end of this article the generalised approach to managing menopause. First, let’s look at the most challenging symptoms associated with menopause, why they occur and tips to minimise them.
The most commonly reported symptom women suffer are sleep disturbances. Poor sleep is also a compounding factor for all the other symptoms associated with menopause. It is often assumed that poor sleep during menopause is associated with the symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes. This is true, however, a deeper endocrine imbalance is at fault. The production of natural melatonin reduces during menopause. Melatonin is your body’s natural sleep hormone and reduced levels of melatonin during menopause in combination with disruptive sleep symptoms such as hot flushes is the reason why many women suffer from poor sleep.
A positive approach to improving sleep during menopause is to encourage the production of natural melatonin and, of course, manage hot flashes in particular. There are also many other tips to improving sleep quality and stimulating natural melatonin which can be investigated in this article.
Stress is one of the major factors in triggering hot flushes. During episodes of stress the release of epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) from the adrenal glands causes the heart to beat faster and blood flow to increase. Stress also places a long-term strain on the adrenal glands which should be focusing on hormone production during the menopausal transition. Stress is accumulative, so it is important that you implement regular stress-release techniques. Exercise, yoga, meditation, reading a book and even time management techniques should all be part of a regular focus on reducing and managing stress during menopause.
Weight gain is a constant complaint from our community of women going through menopause, and there is a physiological reason why. Diet of course plays a pivotal role, however, it is important to understand why women gain weight when they start to enter menopause.
Earlier in the article I discussed how the body shifts its hormone production from the ovaries to the adrenals, breast and fat cells. FAT CELLS!! Yes… there is a metabolic reason why you are gaining weight. Your body is hoarding fat to assist with the production of your hormones which are needed for your overall wellbeing.
BUT… there is a hack. By stimulating the adrenals to produce the necessary hormones needed during menopause, your body will be less reliant on fat cells. Less reliant, but there is no way of totally short-circuiting nature. This metabolic phenomenon will always exist, so our approach is to use healthy meal replacements for one meal a day to reduce your overall calorie intake.
Another interesting fact is that exercise reduces the severity and frequency of hot flushes. Several studies show that regular, moderate exercise reduces hot flushes by improving the thermodynamic control of the body. Exercise also assists with elevating feel-good hormones and reducing depression and anxiety.
Urinary symptoms are common as women age, which are related to a reduction in hormone levels, as well as structural issues developed from childbirth, operations, prolapses and changes in mycology.
A weakened bladder can be the cause of many embarrassing and uncomfortable symptoms during menopause and beyond. 50% of women over the age of 50 experience some form of bladder weakness and incontinence. A weak bladder also contributes to poor sleep with women having to urinate several times during the night. Aside from Kegel exercises, there are natural herbal medicines which can tone the bladder and improve symptoms.
The most dramatic symptom which usually forces women to seek treatment is undoubtably hot flushes. The severity and duration of hot flushes vary from woman to woman, yet the same mechanism remains in place. The drop and fluctuations in oestrogen is primarily to blame, and stimulating your body to produce its own levels of hormones is the secret to successfully navigating menopause and managing hot flushes.
Thankfully, nature has provided us with the tools to stimulate the body to do exactly that. Herbal medicines can assist the body to manage the symptoms of menopause. The most common adaptogenic herbal medicines to do this are sage, vitex, black cohosh, and maca. All of these herbs have been specifically included in therapeutic dosages in Happy Hormones.
Hair loss and facial hair
As hormone levels drop, and the body starts to utilise androgens more as a primary source of hormones, hair thinning and facial hair can become an issue for some women. Three natural medicines can be used to encourage the healthy conversion of these androgens. Kelp, zinc and silica all work to prevent hair loss and facial hair from developing.
Dietary and lifestyle factors
The more balanced your internal body biochemistry, the better your chance of avoiding the main symptoms associated with menopause.
Common dietary triggers of hot flashes
Caffeine is a well know stimulant of hot flashes. Too much caffeine(more than 1 cup per day) causes the adrenal glands to be overstimulated which has an adverse effect on producing your own hormones.
Sugar has many negative impacts for menopausal women. Apart from weight gain, sugar leads to a metabolic condition called insulin resistance. Research shows that when there is a higher serum glucose level due to insulin resistance hot flashes are more regular and intense.
Spicy foods excite the receptors in the skin that normally respond to heat. The receptors, known as polymodal receptors, are a pain fibre. Spicy foods stimulate these receptors, which are already sensitive due to hot flushes.
Alcohol consumption is one of the most well documented and common triggers of menopausal symptoms. In Chinese medicine it is said that alcohol increases the heat in the liver. This heat rises and triggers hot flushes. What is actually happening is alcohol increases the heart rate and causes dilation in the skin blood vessels, which adds to the existing tendency of flushing during menopause.
This is a lesser-known trigger, however, we commonly see women with food intolerances are more susceptible to hot flushes. Food intolerances, like alcohol cause an elevation in heart rate and a tendency towards reddening of the skin and flushing.
Many studies have shown that women from Asia have less menopausal symptoms. Larger meta-analysis studies show that Asian women eat less animal products and are more reliant on plant-based diets.
Treatment Guidelines Summary
The real secret in managing menopause is to change your perception. Menopause is not a disease, it is a life process. Therefore everything you can do to improve your general health and wellbeing will result in a reduction in symptoms. Menopause is a normal process, however, the symptoms are not a certainty.
Natural medicines can be used as tools to accelerate the transitional process, and encourage the body to produce the necessary levels of hormones it needs for its wellbeing, and to avoid many of the symptoms commonly associated with menopause.
- Consume a plant-based diet avoiding sugar, alcohol and caffeine specifically.
- Exercise regularly to reduce hot flushes and improve mood and sleep.
- Focus on a healthy sleep routine.
- Implement stress management/release techniques regularly
- Use natural medicines wisely to support your body to transition and produce its own hormone production.
Our protocol is used successfully by thousands of women to manage their menopausal process. If you need additional guidance and support, our practitioner team are available for advice - and even offer online consultations to develop your own bespoke management guideline.
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