Natural Health Solutions for Menopause
Every woman's journey through perimenopause and menopause is unique, but it can be a challenging time for many of us.
It can physically and mentally take its toll as we experience any number of symptoms, including night sweats and hot flashes, disrupted sleep, fatigue, muscular and joint aches and pains, brain fog, vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex, skin changes, thinning hair, increased facial hair, weight gain and lowered sex drive. Mood swings, anxiety, and depression are also distinct realities for many women.
Particularly in modern times, menopause can come with a lot of baggage. We have to adjust to how our body changes, its capabilities altering over time. The ageing process can lead to feelings of inadequacy, a sense of mourning for lost youth and fading beauty. For women with children, and especially for women who haven't had them, menopause can represent an ending, leading to grief and a sense of loss.
It's important to recognise that menopause isn't the issue. It's a natural transition. How menopause affects you depends on you. What's going on with you mentally and physically? How well are you looking after yourself and your needs? How's life? How are you spiritually and emotionally?
All these things contribute to how you're affected by menopause. All these factors determine how you manifest any illness or disease.
If you are struggling with the hormonal shifts associated with perimenopause and menopause, treat it as a wake-up call. What do you need to change? You hold the healing power. You can take control of your health.
Look after your liver, kidneys and adrenals during perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause
Your liver is a major detoxifier with over 500 functions, including aiding metabolism and digestion and breaking down fats. It processes and detoxifies hormones and works hard to balance them. All the toxins it processes are eliminated via the kidneys in urine or via bile as solid waste.
Your liver takes such good care of you, but you’ve got to return the favour for it to perform at its best.
Look after it at all times, but if, during menopause, you have low moods and depression, anger, irritability, hot flashes, tiredness and fatigue, weight gain, brain fog, sugar cravings, sluggishness, digestive issues or headaches, you need to support your liver.
As your kidneys are a primary source of elimination, you need to keep them in balance. The same goes for your digestive tract.
As your ovaries reduce their oestrogen production, you rely more heavily on your adrenals to make it which places extra pressure on them. They are still trying to perform all their other jobs, including producing other essential hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which benefit energy levels, your sleep-wake cycle and your ability to cope with stress. So if your adrenals are unbalanced, you’re more likely to struggle with menopause.
Tips for supporting liver function
Eating well and reducing your toxic load are two big things you can do to support liver health.
Toxins to avoid include processed foods and a poor diet, smoking, drugs (both medicinal and recreational), and toxic beauty and cleaning products. Also, avoid hormone-disrupting BPAs found in plastic containers – store your food in glass containers instead.
You can also take herbal tinctures or homeopathic organ support. For example, Carduus marianus aids the liver. Berberis Vulgaris is also an excellent homeopathic organ support for the liver and kidneys. Good hydration is also essential.
Increase foods your liver loves such as grapefruit, cranberries, blueberries, red grapes, cold-pressed organic olive oil, beetroots or beetroot juice, dark green leafy vegetables, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, walnuts, and oily fish.
Tips for supporting adrenal function
Try to reduce stress and focus on finding ways to cope with it effectively. Also, look after your blood sugar balance, avoiding high carbohydrate and sugary foods and drinks.
Eat a whole food diet with lots of leafy greens and brightly coloured vegetables, and make sure you don’t skip meals if you tend to get hangry when you don’t eat.
Adequate hydration is also a must as dehydration can aggravate stress and affect cortisol production
9 natural health tips for managing perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause
This is by no means a definitive list, merely some basic pointers. You are unique, with an individual set of circumstances.
Contact a practitioner of choice if you are suffering through perimenopause or menopause, would like to address things naturally and need more in-depth guidance.
From homeopathy, naturopathy and nutrition to traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture or functional medicine, many therapies can help.
Something as simple as ensuring you’re drinking enough water can ease almost all menopausal symptoms. It supports your liver, kidneys and adrenals, which are all working hard during this time. It also reinforces immunity, lubricates joints, regulates body temperature, hydrates your skin and aids digestion.
Good hydration helps to control weight, moods and stress levels. It can help to calm hot flashes and night sweats, improve memory and fatigue, ease bladder irritation and reduce the chance of urinary tract infections.
2) Eat well
What are you eating? Are you nourishing your body? This affects how well you cope with hormonal changes during this time.
Sticking to a balanced, whole food diet that is diverse and packed full of green leafy and brightly coloured vegetables and fruit is essential.
Eat healthy proteins and fats and complex carbohydrates rather than simple, refined ones. Reduce your sugar, caffeine and alcohol intake and cook from scratch whenever possible.
Love your body and your organs that are working so hard to protect you. Take some pressure off them by providing them with all the nutrients they need.
3) Balance blood sugar levels
Essential for stabilising your moods and energy levels, sleep regulation, a healthy weight, balancing hormones and supporting adrenal function.
We’re all different but limit your intake of foods and drinks that cause imbalance, don’t be excessive. Listen to your body and what it needs.
Be sensible and limit your alcohol and sugar intake (including high carbohydrate foods). Caffeine can also affect blood sugar levels.
4) Eat lots of B vitamins
These buffer your anxiety and stress and help reduce fatigue. They help to metabolise your food, freeing up nutrients and providing energy.
B vitamins can quickly become depleted because they play a crucial role in your stress response, so you need to ensure you’re getting enough. Vitamin B12 helps produce brain chemicals that affect mood, and vitamin B6 regulates adrenal activity.
It’s essential to eat B vitamin foods daily with every meal. Include Wild Atlantic salmon and mackerel, sardines, cod, dark green leafy vegetables, parsley, broccoli, beetroot, turnips, asparagus, romaine lettuce, lentils, bell peppers, eggs, oats, full fat organic live yogurt, brussels sprouts, and peas.
5) Stock up on magnesium
Many of us are low in magnesium, partly due to a modern lifestyle and associated chronic stress.
Magnesium is nature’s tranquiliser. It’s an essential mineral with a multitude of responsibilities. If you’re frequently stressed, anxious or having trouble sleeping, upping your magnesium is an absolute must. For most of us, it’s a must anyway.
Research shows that if your magnesium is low, it increases anxiety. Many women crave sugar during menopause due to blood sugar imbalance, which zaps magnesium stores. Equally, stress massively depletes magnesium levels.
Deficient magnesium can also jeopardise bone density and health. If you’re not replenishing it daily, it’s time to start. Include magnesium foods with every meal, dark green leafy vegetables, okra, avocado, mackerel, halibut, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils, and bananas.
You might also consider taking a supplement – the safe upper limit for magnesium is 400mg. If you do supplement, take it in addition to a healthy balanced diet and still eat plenty of magnesium-rich foods.
Absorbing magnesium through your skin by soaking in an Epsom salt bath for 20 minutes is highly effective and can be a relaxing, stress-relieving self-care habit.
6) Look after gut health
Gut health is essential for hormone balance, and the gut microbiome is one of the principal regulators of circulating oestrogens.
The specific gut microbes that drive oestrogen metabolism and contribute to hormone balance are called ‘estrobolome’. A reduction in circulating oestrogens results when this delicate control mechanism is impaired due to dysbiosis (lower microbial diversity and gut imbalance).
This affects female health contributing to an increased risk of postmenopausal breast cancer, cognitive impairment, obesity, metabolic syndrome, obesity, increased cancer risk and increased cardiovascular disease. It can also contribute to PCOS development, endometriosis, and fertility issues.
In addition, you need a healthy digestive system to effectively eliminate toxins, taking pressure off your liver and other organs and systems. A healthy gut also ensures you absorb as many nutrients as possible from food, strengthens immunity and supports healthy sleep.
Eat fermented foods every day, such as raw sauerkraut and pickles, kimchi, raw apple cider vinegar, and kefir, and drink kombucha with no added sugar. Also, eat prebiotic foods such as garlic and leeks (preferably raw or put in at the final stages of cooking), onions, asparagus, raw cabbage, under-ripe bananas, and apples. You might also consider taking a good quality probiotic.
7) Eat healthy fats daily
Essential for brain health, cognitive function, heart health and healthy joints, skin, hair and nails. Essential fatty acids also support the liver and protect against heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Fatty fish and fish oils protect against depression and anxiety, affecting many women during perimenopause and menopause.
Healthy fats include cold-pressed linseed, olive and avocado oil, raw coconut oil, walnuts, chia seeds, linseeds, hemp seeds, egg yolks and avocados. For adequate amounts of the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA, eat oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon and herring two to three times weekly. You could take a daily fish oil supplement.
8) Get your vitamin C
You need vitamin C for collagen production, which provides elasticity, structure and strength for joints, bones, skin, muscles, tendons, cartilage and blood vessels – crucial as we age and during perimenopause and menopause.
Collagen supports immune function, improves energy, protects gums and teeth and helps prevent heart disease (dropping oestrogen levels can affect heart health). It also controls histamine levels (during menopause, you may be more susceptible to itchy skin and allergies).
Eat foods high in vitamin C daily such as bell peppers, leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kiwi, broccoli, strawberries and other berries, papaya, oranges and other citrus fruits, tomatoes and green peas. Alongside a healthy diet, you may also like to supplement.
9) Eat zinc foods daily
We don’t store zinc and need to replenish it by eating zinc-rich foods daily. During menopause, you’re going to pull on your zinc resources, so this is more important than ever.
Zinc improves collagen production, strengthens immunity, supports bone health, encourages healthy skin, and aids blood sugar balance. It’s essential for normal brain function, memory and learning and mood regulation (low levels are linked to depression).
Eat foods such as oysters and other seafood like mussels, shrimp and crab, beans, nuts including almonds and pine nuts, and leg meat from chicken and turkey as well as lean red meat. Also, eat seeds including pumpkin and hemp seeds, lentils, eggs, oats, quinoa and whole wheat.
If you choose to take a zinc supplement, ensure it’s highly absorbable and free from additives, fillers and other nasties. Make sure you don’t overdose, as too much zinc can inhibit copper absorption
This watershed time in a woman’s life is an opportunity for positive change. The transition through perimenopause to menopause and beyond highlights imbalances. It brings into sharp focus aspects of our health, wellbeing and everyday life we may have ignored or overlooked and is a call to healing anything we haven’t dealt with. This is a time of transformation, and with it comes wisdom, a new phase, and new adventures.
There are many ways to naturally support your health and wellbeing during this time, giving organs like your liver, kidneys and adrenal glands the extra help they need.
Aside from the suggestions above, exercise regularly, get good sleep, and take steps to manage stress effectively. Remember to find ways to have fun and enjoy life.
**The information in this post is intended for informational purposes only. Please remember, if you have a serious medical condition, it is advisable to seek the advice of a licensed practitioner for treatment options.
By Rebecca Rychlik, Natural Health Writer and Content Creator, Nutritional Therapist and Homeopath. Follow Rebecca on Instagram, Facebook and Medium, @rebeccabitesback.
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