Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Have you heard of the seven dwarfs of menopause? – Grumpy, Bloated, Moody, Pimply, Achy, Hungry and Sweaty?
What joys can the menopause spectrum bring? – 85% of women experience a number of the following symptoms:
Night sweats, weight gain, cravings, mood swings, hot flashes, dry hair, fatigue, thyroid issues, sleep issues, vaginal dryness, chills, slowed metabolism, loss of breast fullness, bone loss, less stress resilience
Unfortunately a often prescribed allopathic response to the symptoms might be anti-depressants, bio-identical or synthetic hormones, sleeping pills or even diabetes medication for weight management
Peri-menopause is rough for many women, as the ovaries begin to run out of ripe eggs, first progesterone levels drop and it’s harder to soothe yourself, sleep or relax (this can often start to begin as early as mid to late thirties or could start mid/late forties and go on for many years).
During peri-menopause, even though estrogen (especially estradiol) levels start to later also decrease (often last 1-2 years before final period), you can still experience and be suffering from estrogen dominance due to very low progesterone levels.
Testosterone levels also drop leading to fatigue, low libido, less confidence and less muscle mass and more fat mass.
Cortisol, Thyroid, Insulin and Leptin hormones also usually join the party and often become out of whack.
This is why it’s important to test the hormones for the most targeted and accurate solution dependent upon what stage in the process you are at
What if I told you that you don’t have to suffer and struggle to the extent listed above?
To achieve a smoother more natural transition, we need a good understanding of the law of individuality and must seek out the root causes that exasperate the symptoms or hormonal imbalances.
A good functional practitioner with a holistic approach will not just test hormones but will assess hormone metabolites, diet, lifestyle choices, epigenetic factors, detox capacity, toxicity, gut health, mindset and of course adrenal stress and its many contributing factors.
Of course menopause doesn’t happen in a day, it progresses over months, even years.
Officially biological menopause happens when your ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone and you haven’t experienced a menstrual cycle for 12 months or more.
While menopause is an inevitable and natural part of every females life, the good news is it doesn’t have to be hell and can be well managed with good nutrition and lifestyle changes, the right exercise, stress management and sometimes supplementary interventions
Tips to help manage a smoother transition
Remove/Reduce inflammatory foods as they will increase severity of symptoms. These include; processed/packaged foods, gluten, commercial dairy, hydrogenated oils, refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, fast/junk foods, non organic caffeine, alcohol
Nutrition, Nutrition, NUTRITION, eat to fuel your body and mind, not to feed your emotions or give into hormonal cravings. Incorporate nutrient dense foods at every meal possible
Eat plenty of protein spread throughout the day. Grass fed pastures meats, organic eggs, superfoods, nuts, seeds, spinach, wild fish etc.
Hydrolized collagen powder could also be added to smoothies to keep skin tight and add elasticity. This will also help to slow down the muscle loss that often comes with aging and menopause
Get your thyroid levels checked – TSH, T4, T3, FT4, FT3, reverse T3 and thyroid antibodies. Thyropause is very common during Menopause and when the thyroid isn’t functioning well you can expect weight gain, slowed metabolism, fluid retention, low libido, fatigue, cold hands and feet, hair loss, depression, anxiety and brain fog
Eat plenty of healthy fats at every meal to support hormones: Avocado, Oily fish, Nuts, Seeds, Coconut oil, grass fed butter, Olive oil etc.
Make sure you are eating loads of fibre (35-45 grams per day) – Add vegetables, flaxseeds, chia seeds, gluconammon or psyllium to foods and smoothies
Incorporate hormone balancing foods: Kale, cherries, cranberries, Maca, passionflower, black cohosh, motherwort, turmeric, omega 3
Completely avoid commercial meats, farmed fish and regular dairy as it’s usually chocked full of hormones that can exacerbate your menopausal symptoms
Drink loads of water throughout the day and commence the day with some fresh lemon or lime juice squeezed into the water to help to alleviate bloating and fluid retention
Move everyday, walking, yoga, weight training, cycling, dancing, Pilates, anything you can find to stay active, not too much and not too little, choose yin or yang activities that will suit your energy levels
Support the liver as it plays a crucial role in the detoxification, transport, conversion and flow of hormones. You can use fresh beets, dandelion leaves, herbal teas, glutathione or milk thistle to support liver cleanses but the most important thing is to reduce the toxic load.
Eat more magnesium rich foods (leafy greens, seaweeds, Fish, avocado, bananas, almonds etc.), supplement with magnesium oil before bed or take a soak in the bath using Epsom salts or magnesium chloride
Stress management techniques that re-engage the para-sympathetic nervous system – find what works for you: exercise, yoga, meditation, therapy, NLP, energy work, acupuncture, EFT, chi gung etc. and consider using adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagsndha, rhodiola, ginseng it holy basil if adrenal issues are problematic (menopausal women often have low cortisol during the day causing fatigue and high cortisol at night causing insomnia and anxiety/worry)
Support your gut health as it effects every modern chronic health problem. The term estrobolome refers to a set of bacterial genes that code for enzymes that metabolise estrogen within the gut, therefore gut flora can either predispose you to excess or deficient estrogen. A good prebiotic and probiotic strategy is always supported of good gut health.
Sleep, rest and recovery – this is how your body recovered and recharges. Have a good night time routine (e.g. no smartphone in bed, aromatherapy, dark room, camomile tea, guided meditation, cacao, magnesium oil etc)
Detox your life as much as possible – use organic or homemade where possible! Endocrine (hormone) disruptors are synthetic chemicals that are rampant in plastics, cosmetics, cleaning products, processed and non organic foods, paints, gardening chemicals etc. These chemical toxins known as ‘obesogens’ overburden the detox capacity and have the potential to make us toxic, overweight, hormonal and sick.
Symptom relief for Peri-menopause (still ovulating)
Try Chasteberry as it increases the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) from the pituitary, which nudges the ovaries to release more progesterone (helps with mood, libido, anxiety, sleep). It can be taken in supplement form or as a tea.
Symptom relief for menopausal women
Try Maca powder daily in your smoothies or chia seed breakfast, it increases estradiol and may help with sleep, mood, memory, focus, hot flashes, vagina dryness and energy.
Try Acupuncture, yin yoga and meditation as these have been reported to be most effective
MACA CHIA SEED BREAKFAST recipe
Combine all ingredients In mason jar, sit in fridge overnight and add toppings
Black Cohosh – research shows it can be effective for the relief of hot flashes, insomnia and anxiety
Weight gain during menopause is common due to blood sugar issues, high insulin and cortisol dysfunction.
Try Berberine, a supplement that cools inflammation, supports healthier blood sugar levels and acts as an antioxidant.
Try incorporating some intermittent Fasting protocols using 16/8 protocol (feed 8, fast 16) as it helps with insulin resistance, If thyroid/adrenals use 14/10 protocol (feed 10, fast 14) and less times per week.
Try Alpha lipoid acid (ALA), a powerful antioxidant, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory that helps to reset blood sugar for healthy weight management, repair cell damage, reduce premature aging and protect bones.
If you have done all that you can in terms of diet, lifestyle choices, stress management, botanical intervention etc and natural methods, if the symptoms are still too much, you could discuss the use of bioidentical hormones with a functional medicine practitioner who can advise you carefully and track your hormones and results very closely.
For some excellent science-backed tips on reaching balance without just synthetic hormones, I recommend reading The Hormone Cure by Sara Gottfried and checking out her website and podcasts. Knowledge, understanding and awareness is a powerful tool when dealing with hormones.