Nutritional therapist Henrietta Norton explores the connection between our diet, lifestyle and menopausal symptoms
The menopause is a natural, transitional stage that moves a woman away from her child-bearing years into a time that, according to ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine, is characterised by ‘soul development’. Indeed, Dr Christiane Northrop beautifully states that ‘our fertility stops being about having children and starts being about what we create for ourselves, that benefits us and the people around us.’ Yet, during my 12 years in clinic, I have worked with many women whose experience of the menopause has been less than positive, dominated by unwanted symptoms such as hot flushes or anxiety. Fortunately, there are things you can do to ease the discomfort.
The full menopause is usually determined by the absence of a menstrual period for more than one year, and your GP may conduct a blood test to measure changes in determining hormones such as oestrodial, LH and FSH. This usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, with the average age for going through the menopause being 51 in the UK.
Prior to full menopause, there’s a stage known as the perimenopause. Women moving into perimenopause may experience PMStype symptoms, rather than classic menopause symptoms – so, these are not to be confused. Symptoms of perimenopause may continue for many years before full menopause is reached. It is thought that 80 percent of women experience vasomotor symptoms (night sweats, hot flushes and flashes) during this time. These symptoms occur when women experience often rapid changes in body temperature, plus palpitations and a shift between experiencing heat and chills. It is thought that the hypothalamus (a gland which helps control body temperature) is affected by a change in oestrodial and LH levels. Women should seek advice as soon as they begin to see changes in their cycle.
Supporting your nutritional and emotional wellbeing during this process can provide the perfect environment for turning the menopausal ebb and flow into a positive transition.
Be mindful of environmental oestrogens that may act as harmful hormone disruptors. To minimise your intake of these, don’t cook or heat foods in plastic – use glass or crockery instead. Use pots or frying pans made of steel or nontoxic cookware. Minimise your use of chemicalbased cosmetics and household cleaning products. Smoking can lead to an earlier onset of the menopause so, if you are a smoker, you must give up.
Establish a healthy weight. Women who are overweight may experience a later onset of menopausal symptoms. Genetic polymorphisms, or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), can also affect symptoms experienced in the menopause.
Stress can have a significant influence on your experience of the menopause. Set aside regular time to do something you love and that makes you feel good or try to find a hobby, and don’t feel guilty about spending time on yourself. Laughter in particular is highly stress-relieving.
I formulated Wild Nutrition’s Botanical Menopause Complex to nurture and support this process, from the initial mild changes of perimenopause to the changing landscape after the menopause. Here are just some of my preferred herbs and nutrients to support the journey:
Henrietta Norton is a nutritional therapist, author and co-founder of Wild Nutrition (wildnutrition.com). She has clinics at Grace Belgravia and SP & Co in London.
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