Menopause is a significant part of one’s natural life cycle. It brings significant changes in a women’s body and daily life experience. As estrogen production slows and the ovaries stop producing eggs, a woman’s menstrual flow becomes erratic and then stops. Declining estrogen levels contribute to a period of time many women can find distressing but also transforming.
What happens in menopause?
During menopause women can experience one or all of the following;
- Itchy and dry skin – one of estrogens roles is to regulate moisture levels in skin tissue and stimulate production of collagen. And stress can trigger release of histamine which causes flushing, itching and redness.
- Bitchy – feeling irritable, teary, moody
- Dopey – one study showed that 62% of women have memory changes and/or poor concentration. Causative factors are undefined but hey…stress combined with poor sleep is a great recipe for dopiness.
- Bloatey – when hormones become erratic the balance of water retention (from estrogen) and diuresis (from progesterone) can cause bloating sensation. Another driving factor for abdominal bloating is possibly liver overload which reduces bile production.
- Sweaty – 80% of women experience hot flushes either as a sudden flash of intense heat or a mild warm sensation. Lasting 1 min or 15 minutes, they appear without warning and wreak havoc night or day. Sometimes accompanied with nausea, racing heart, heavy breathing and/or followed by a chill.
- Leaky – up to 50% of women experience stress incontinence or LBL (light bladder leakage) after a cough, sneeze or laugh. This becomes more common in menopause and in women with a chronic cough or are overweight.
- Stressy – as opposed to feeling ‘bitchy’, stress in menopause is experienced as anxiety sometimes with panic attacks, low mood and depression; or a general feeling of being unable to cope. An all too common experience in menopause is that of being “Wired, Tired and Fried“. This catch phrase is used by Naturopath’s to describe adrenal exhaustion… when a person is stressed, sleep deprived and/or exhausted. In menopause the adrenal glands (with help from fatty tissue, bone and brain) produce enough estrogen to prevent estrogen deficiency. Menopause symptoms appear when the adrenals are ‘depleted’ and the liver is unable to detoxify estrogen. Furthermore, stress in menopause is compounded by sleep disturbance, hot flushes, feeling out of control of your body and normal life changes (children leaving home, career change, ageing parents).
How to combat the 7 common experiences of Menopause
Menopause marks the transition into the next phase of your life. It is the ‘Passage to Power’ (the apt title of Leslie Kenton’s awesome book on menopause). Understanding changes in mood or how you feel about yourself are normal responses as you reflect on your wisdom, age and useful role in society.
Our Naturopath, Sasha Wray has a special interest in treating symptoms of menopause using herbal medicine, nutritional advice lifestyle guidelines. Some key points are to:
- Follow healthy eating guidelines.
- Have a lower total calorie intake.
- Increase intake of phytoestrogens (plants that have an oestrogen like action in the body). And reduce xenoestrogen (xeno = fake) exposure from plastics, pesticides and pollutants.
- Drink 6-8 glasses of filtered water daily.
- Manage stress and develop better coping skills.
- Establish an exercise regime at least 3 x week that includes weight bearing exercise to maintain bone density.
- Review your life, what’s most important and what positive life experiences do you want.
Self Help Tips
Calcium rich foods – Salmon, sardines, almonds, rolled oats, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, broccoli, parsley, figs, cabbage, spinach, yoghurt.
Seed mix recipe – rich in calcium and phytoestrogens, high in fibre and beneficial for reducing cholesterol. Linseeds, almonds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds; combine equal parts & grind/blend. Can be added to yoghurt, cereal, stewed fruit or even salads. Have 2 dstsp daily.
Research has found 1 tblsp / day of linseed reduces flushing. Linseed meal can be sprinkled in cereal, in smoothies or salads. It is quite bitter in taste so if you prefer whole linseeds include them in salads, home baked bread or muffins.
Sage Tea – soak 3 fresh sage leaves in lemon juice overnight. Drink with water in the morning.
Dry Skin – Use jojoba (ho-ho-ba) oil to re-moisturise the skin. This ‘oil’ is actually a liquid wax ester which gives it with superior moisture control and skin healing properties compared with oils.
Mindful Relaxation Strategies – 3 minutes breath awareness daily (noticing the breath not trying to change it anyway, follow it as it enters your nostrils and out again, notice the subtle movement of your rib cage as you breath in and out, notice the gentle rise and fall of your abdomen as you breath in and out) does wonders. Commit to do this 3 minutes each day.
Sasha Wray is a Naturopath and Occupational Therapist with 25 years experience helping women of all ages. She has a special interest in pain management, sleep and mental health concerns. She is experienced in provision of psychological therapies and is passionate about holistic therapy with an integrative approach.
Related articles Women’s Psychological Health