Any woman over forty years old knows that the menopause is coming sometime in the near future.
There has been a lot of publicity about HRT and how, through taking this hormonal replacement, all your worries are over. The facts, however, are not as clear cut and you might well want to consider your options.
This article is offering some alternatives to help you through this period of time because if you go the more natural route once your menopause is over, it's over. It's important to know that those who choose HRT, when they finish their treatment, are still facing symptoms of the menopause! In other words, hormone replacement therapy postpones the symptoms.
hormone replacement therapy
Hormone Replacement Therapy replaces the female hormone oestrogen in normal doses. This involves daily oral oestrogen tablets or weekly oestrogen patches applied to the skin, with the addition of the hormone progesterone for some women.
long-term use of HRT
We are now learning that HRT is not always suitable for long-term use, as it increases risks of breast cancer, stroke and heart disease (Women's Health Initiative - WHI study). New clinical guidance recommend that GPs offer HRT in only the worst cases and for a period of only five years. Even in the early stages of use, 4 out of 5 women find that HRT doesn't agree with them.
A recent survey of 2,000 women revealed that 6 out of 10 women had tried HRT, and 33% had chosen to come off it after less than a year.
a personal choice
The decision whether to take replacement hormones remains a very personal one. A woman should discuss this with her doctor before reaching any conclusions. Although not for everyone, hormones may provide relief of some of the annoying symptoms of menopause, but women should be aware that potential risks exist.
homeopathy is an alternative to HRT
Homeopathy is safe and effective, especially when used alongside changes in your lifestyle and diet. Homeopathy is very helpful in the treatment of hot flushes, mood-swings, menopausal headaches and a host of other troublesome symptoms.
Hormonal imbalances respond very well to homeopathic treatment. A remedy or remedies will be chosen by your homeopath from a variety of natural sources. Remedies such as Pulsatilla, Sepia or Lachesis are a few of the many effective remedies.
The choice of remedy is highly individual and requires expert help, so it's not advisable to try and choose your own remedies in a shop, for your menopausal problems. I have experienced quite a few women trying out various remedies from the chemist and ending up getting very confused.
One of the most common symptoms is the hot flush. This can not only become a problem during the day, especially if you are working, but can cause sleep problems at night with constant waking up because of flushes of heat.
here are some pointers to help:
Wear layers so you can manage your temperature.
Wear natural fabrics that breathe.
Try to relax when you're having a flush. This will help.
Carry moist tissues to freshen up after a flush.
Exercise is good. While short bursts of exercise can trigger a hot flush, regular exercise will help to reduce the overall number of attacks.
Stress also is known to be a potent trigger. Other triggers of hot flushes include coffee and alcohol.
foods to reduce hot flushes
The two main dietary sources of help with symptoms such as hot flushes are soya foods and linseeds (also called flaxseeds). The optimum intake to reduce hot flushes and other menopausal symptoms, is around a 100gram serving of tofu, soya yoghurt or a large glass of soya milk at least five times a week. A tablespoon of ground linseeds sprinkled onto cereal or into yoghurt daily can be effective after about six weeks. Make sure you also eat wholegrains such as rye bread or crackers, porridge oats and wholemeal bread. Oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, tuna and salmon are also beneficial.
An easy way to make sure that you are taking enough of the phyto-oestrogens is to make a cake that is rich in these foods and simply eat a slice every day.
here is the recipe:
50 grams sunflower seeds
50 grams pumpkin seeds
50 grams linseeds
50 grams sesame seeds
50 grams almond flakes
50 grams raisins
100 grams cranberries
150 grams chopped dried apricots
2" stem ginger, chopped
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon,
1 tablespoon malt extract
3 tablespoons apple juice
425 ml (approx) of soya milk
(add more if necessary to make a soft dropping consistency).
Mix all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
Add the cranberries, apple juice and soya milk and stir well.
Leave to soak for approx ½ hour.
Pre-heat the oven to 190°C.
Line a loaf tin with baking paper and spoon mixture in.
Cook in pre-heated oven for approx 1¼ hrs. When cooled, slice and store in freezer. It is better to slice the cake before freezing, this makes it easy to take out a daily slice each day.
If you really don't want to bake cakes every month there is an alternative called: The Linda Kearns Cake made by Wellfoods. Tel: 01226-381712.
They will send you (next day delivery) choices of flavours and choices of wheat free cakes, based on the same recipe as above.
help with herbs
European, Asian and Native American herbal traditions have a long history of easing menopausal symptoms. The most widely used herbal supplements or tinctures for reducing menopausal symptoms are:
black Cohosh is a popular Native American herb that is very effective for restoring hormone balance.
sage - This is a good herbal remedy for easing night sweats and hot flushes.
agnus Castus is a great hormone balancer. It works best taken first thing in the morning, every morning. It stimulates the pituitary gland which is in charge of producing and setting hormone levels.
don Quai has proved to be most effective for relieving symptoms of the menopause, in particular hot flushes as well as vaginal dryness.
st john's wort - This herb is effective in mild to moderate depression and may help to alleviate some of the temporary low moods associated with the menopause.
essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) If you suffer from dry skin and hair, aching joints, breast pain and difficulty losing weight, you could be lacking in essential fatty acids.
Supplement with evening primrose oil and fish oils to make sure you are getting enough of both Omega 3 and Omega 6. Essential fats have also been shown to help relieve symptoms of vaginal dryness. Evening primrose is also very effective for painful, cystic breasts that can occur at this time.
vitamin C will help with hot flushes and also helps to build up collagen, which is what gives your skin elasticity. This should help prevent vaginal dryness.
vitamin E has been studied for many years for its ability to help reduce hot flushes. It is also beneficial for vaginal dryness and is a protective antioxidant that keeps skin healthy and supple.
B vitamins. When the ovaries begin to slowly produce less oestrogen, the adrenal glands are called on to start producing a form of oestrogen to counteract this. Supporting adrenal function is therefore vital. The B vitamins are renowned for their ability to relieve stress and support the adrenals.
B vitamins also help to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, low energy levels and poor concentration that are often associated with the menopause.
[For the actual amounts needed per person of herbs and supplements, I'd advise that you check with an expert. ]
supplements for osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is usually a symptom of advancing age, but it can also be a consequence of the menopause. Oestrogen protects you by keeping calcium in the bones and thereby maintaining bone density.
During and after the menopause, when oestrogen levels are reduced, bone density decreases at a more rapid rate so it is advisable to take a preventative supplement.
Most chemists like Boots carry a combination supplement to help the bones. You'd need one which has Calcium, Magnesium, Boron and Vitamin D, all important nutrients for maintaining strong healthy bones. The Magnesium and Vitamin D are as important for you as the Calcium.
Drinking two litres of water a day is definitely beneficial to your general health. During the menopause, with constant fluid loss from hot flushes and night sweats, it is very important to make sure you are replenishing your system.
As stress can have such a detrimental effect during the menopause it can make a big difference to your health if you are as relaxed as possible. Obviously in this day and age we tend to lead busy lives, so try taking some time out each day to relax. Yoga, meditation, reiki or listening to relaxation music can all help. Visit:. www.calmtime.co.uk
I have written further articles about the menopause. One article helps you to understand just what the menopause actually is and the various symptoms you might have and another article is about how much your attitude can help.
Daphne Nancholas has for the past 10 years helped women in the UK through the menopause. You can find out more from her website: http://www.menopausesupport.co.uk , where she has several articles about menopause. She is a published author and she and her partner Graham Smith have produced a relaxation CD which you can purchase from http://www.calmtime.co.uk . They live in Cornwall and are part way through producing their next CD.