Struggling with menopause?
Are you struggling with hot flushes and night sweats? Or perhaps you are feeling more forgetful, experiencing depression or anxiety about things that would not previously have bothered you. Are your joints aching? Are you putting on more weight around the middle? Are you suffering with insomnia? Do you have a reduced sex drive or vaginal dryness. If you are experiencing these symptoms you may be entering menopause.
Menopause is a natural process
Menopause is a normal and natural process. It represents the end of your menstrual cycles and is a natural transition that occurs during a woman’s life. There are of course exceptions, such as a surgical menopause or menopause due to ovarian damage, following chemotherapy or radiotherapy. However, in general, menopause occurs when the ovaries stop producing the hormones, oestrogen and progesterone. And the ovary naturally runs out of egg cells, all of which are already present before birth.
While some women sail through the menopause, hardly noticing anything different except the cessation of their monthly bleed, others can experience extreme and debilitating symptoms. We don’t know why it is that there is such a difference between women’s experiences of the menopause. But we do know is there is much you can do to help yourself, before, during and beyond menopause.
From the age of 40 there is a more rapid decline in the number of egg cells in your ovaries. This makes the ovaries less responsive to hormones produced in the brain, which leads to fewer hormones being produced by the ovaries themselves.
Look after your adrenal glands
Although your ovaries may cease production of sex hormones, your adrenal glands still continue to produce them. While your adrenal glands produce lower levels of hormones than your ovaries, it is even more important to look after these glands. This means minimising stress as much as possible, which I have discussed in a previous blog.
When should menopause occur?
The average age of menopause is naturally 51 years. However, a woman can experience menopause earlier or later than this. When menopause occurs before the age of 45 it is considered to be early. Before 40, it is said to be a premature menopause. In general you are likely to experience menopause at a similar time to your mother.
Look after your bones
After menopause the drop in oestrogen levels predisposes women to a rapid decline in bone density. In a large proportion of women, this can lead to osteoporosis – a condition in which low bone density can cause fractures. At the clinic, we strongly recommend that all women have a DEXA scan to check their bone density and understand their risk of osteoporosis.
While menopause is a normal process, not to be feared, it is always advisable to be prepared. This helps to minimise some of the less desirable symptoms that you may experience. Having worked with many women going through menopause over the years, we have seen the profound benefits of this.
Should I consider hormone replacement therapy (HRT)?
Every woman is unique, experiencing the menopause differently. Equally every woman will choose a different way to manage her health during menopause. Some women will consider hormone replacement therapy (HRT), of which there are different types.
In certain cases, HRT is an important option to consider and should be discussed with your doctor. For example, if you go through a premature menopause (before the age of 40 years), replacing hormones is vital. In this case you are just putting back the hormones that you would naturally still have had at this young age. These will help preserve your bone density.
There are a wide range of natural therapies available to help manage menopause symptoms, which include vitamins, minerals, and certain herbs. But all women would benefit from focusing on diet and lifestyle improvements. This not only helps target your current symptom concerns, but also long term health, such as bone health.
If you are experiencing menopausal symptoms, here are some tips:
· Consider having a hormone test to help confirm whether you are going through the menopause.
· Take steps to rebalance your hormones through a healthy diet and lifestyle.
· Manage stress to optimise the health of your adrenal glands, responsible for sex hormone production at menopause.
· Consider herbs and supplements to help manage symptoms.
· Look after your bones. Check your current bone density via a DEXA scan and take steps as needed to optimise your bone health.
· Discuss HRT with your doctor if you have had a premature menopause as this is vital to help preserve bone density.
As menopause is a normal and natural process, we always advocate the use of natural solutions to manage symptoms and help provide a smooth transition. However, if you do opt for HRT, natural management of menopause symptoms in combination with HRT will still be beneficial to your health.
Dr Sharon Pitt is a registered nutritionist at Nutrition First, with 18 years’ experience.
Nutrition First is a small and personal nutrition consultancy providing expert nutrition advice, based on sound scientific evidence.
At Nutrition First we help patients manage their menopause symptoms naturally. Contact us at Nutrition First to see how we can help you.