Menopause. We can’t run and hide from it. So whether you’re experiencing it now, or want to prepare your future self, Naturopath Nikki Warren shares her top tips on how to manage the symptoms.
By Nikki Warren
First things, first. Let’s talk about the stages – perimenopause and menopause.
The perimenopause stage, which lasts for at least 5-10 years, brings with it dry skin, irregular periods that may be lighter or heavier, mood swings and trouble sleeping.
“For some menopausal women, night sweats can be debilitating. I have had women tell me that they were so bad their sheets were saturated, and they would have to get up in the middle of the night to change them.”
Most women experience menopause, which is when the ovaries stop producing eggs and monthly periods stop, between 45 and 60 [the average age of menopause is 51].
Menopause is actually an event, which only lasts for one day, and that is when 12 consecutive months without a single period have passed. Then the woman is considered post-menopausal.
Common symptoms during perimenopause and menopause
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Mood changes
- Sleep disturbances
- Hot flushes and night sweats
- Vaginal and urinary symptoms
- Muscle and joint pain
- Headaches and migraine
- Lack of self-esteem
- Reduced libido
Tips to Manage Menopause
Nutritious diet: Choose a wide variety of plant foods, whole grains, lean meat, fish or chicken. Include foods rich in phytoestrogens such as soy, tofu, whole grains and legumes. Phytoestrogens may mimic the action of oestrogen in some women which may assist with managing symptoms.
Regular exercise: To support heart, adrenal and thyroid health. Aim for 30-45 minutes per day and include weight bearing exercises to decrease the risk of osteoporosis. Some studies have suggested that exercise can reduce hot flushes.
Relaxation and managing stress levels: This may help to improve hot flushes as well as mood and sleep imbalances. Try mindfulness exercises and connecting with nature on a regular basis.
Prioritising sleep: Use light-weight sleepwear and bedding to assist with night sweats. Ensure a dark and cool temperature to promote restful sleep.
Manage weight: Women who are overweight may have more hot flushes than women in a healthy weight range.
Avoid hot flush triggers such as spicy food, caffeine and alcohol.
Quit smoking: Those who smoke may experience an earlier menopause with increased adverse symptoms.
Herbs can help
During the perimenopause stage, start taking Chaste Tree to keep your cycle regular and support progesterone levels. It is important to support DHEA levels, a steroid hormone produced by the adrenals. DHEA converts into testosterone and testosterone is converted into oestrogen via an enzyme called aromatase.
When oestrogen levels start to decline, this is usually when menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats commence.
Rehmannia is my favourite adrenal tonic for during the day for menopausal women, and Withania my favourite PM adrenal herb to help combat the effects of stress on the body and reduce cortisol levels.
Hot flushes are accompanied by a sharp rise in luteinising hormone (LH) levels and this is one of the theories behind the prescription of black cohosh which is known to reduce LH levels. Black cohosh is also a selective oestrogen receptor modulator, helping to bind to oestrogen receptors and mimic the effect of oestrogen.
For some menopausal women, night sweats can be debilitating. I have had women tell me that they were so bad their sheets were saturated, and they would have to get up in the middle of the night to change them.
Sage and zizyphus are renowned herbs to reduce night sweats with the added benefit of zizyphus assisting sleep.
Valerian and hops are well-known herbs to help you drop off to sleep, with hops having the additional benefit of being oestrogenic.