In the West, menopause is generally something we don’t want to think or talk about – but the good news is that we are no longer putting our heads in the sand about it. The trouble is, we still see it as medical problem, like our body has gone wrong rather than it being a natural phase of our lives.
It really can feel like things have gone wrong if you are experiencing hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, anxiety or any one of the other numerous symptoms attributed to going through the menopause.
In Chinese Medicine, this time of our lives is referred to beautifully as “The Second Spring”, a natural stage of life when a woman can actually work with nature to have a positive impact on her health.
The body is fantastic at maintaining its natural balance, but with so many factors in our lives pushing it off kilter, what can we do to bring ourselves back to health? The more knowledge we have, the more we can empower ourselves to make choices that can really help.
With some basic strategies, we can start to take more control of our own health and over time improve our health and wellbeing.
Here are my top suggestions for your menopause tool kit – the fundamentals are diet, exercise and stress reduction. You could also try some complementary therapies such as acupuncture to further support you.
- Eat your plant hormones: Phytoestrogens are chemicals in plants which can mimic the activity of oestrogen in the body. They stimulate your oestrogen receptors where you need them. Many traditional diets are high in these chemicals.
- Beans, pulses, lentils, flax, whole soya products and sprouted beans such as mung and alfalfa are naturally high in phytoestrogens, countering the effects of fluctuating or reducing levels of hormones. Studies have shown that women consuming soy and isoflavane containing foods had fewer hot flushes and other symptoms (Nagata et al, 2001) (Thomas et al, 2014).
- Eat vegetables and fruit in a rainbow of colours to include a full range of vitamins and helpful antioxidants.
- Supplements: Key vitamins for menopausal symptoms are Vitamin C, Vitamin B, Omega 3. Sage may combat hot flushes.
- Keep your blood sugar stable. Smaller more regular meals may help regulate insulin and cortisol, keeping oestrogen levels more stable.
Find stress reducers. When we are stressed our adrenals produce cortisol and other stress hormones which can interrupt the balance of oestrogen and lead to familiar menopause symptoms.
Find your own method to get your body into a parasympathetic (rest and recovery mode) rather than the constant fight or flight that modern life regularly puts us in. Yoga, tai chi or meditation are ideal; there are many meditation or mindfulness apps available and some women find that exercise which gets them ‘into the zone’ helps (mindfulness in motion, e.g. swimming, running, etc.) helps.
Many women around the world look to acupuncture to help them through the menopause. There are lots of evidence based trials to support its use; a recent Danish trial showed that acupuncture was able to reduce hot flushes, emotional symptoms, sleep and skin and hair symptoms (Lund et al, 2019).
There are lots of other strategies you can use, but be mindful not to add more stress to your life by trying to do everything. See what works for you to help you move gracefully through your ‘Second Spring’.