Oestrogen and progesterone are necessary hormones for reproduction which are produced naturally by a woman’s ovaries. At around the age of 50 the body slows down and eventually stops production of these hormones, which brings on the menopause or ‘change of life’. The menopause is, strictly speaking, the moment when a woman no longer has menstrual periods, but the term is generally used to describe the years leading up to and after that time.
For some the menopause can be uncomfortable and distressing. Symptoms can include: hot flushes, night sweats, palpitations, vaginal dryness, urinary tract infections, depression, mood swings, weight gain, memory problems or sore joints. The majority of women however will only suffer hot flushes and irregular menstruation, whilst others may not experience any symptoms at all.
Throughout the last four decades the use of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) has become the conventional treatment for discomfort. HRT involves taking supplements of oestrogen and progesterone or, occasionally, testosterone. The hormones used are either identical to human hormones, are extracted from horse urine or are manufactured synthetic substances.
Whilst it has been shown that long-term use of HRT may help to prevent osteoporosis and bowel cancer, studies have also indicated that the dangers of the treatment may far outweigh the benefits. The greatest concern is a much higher incidence of breast cancer cases, heart attacks, strokes and blood clots in women taking HRT.
Many are now choosing to return to natural remedies to reduce and even prevent menopausal symptoms and there are many simple alterations to your life style that can also make the experience a much more pleasant one.
For instance many plants such as soya, tofu and flax seed contain oestrogen and regular consumption of these foods appears to have the same benefits as hormone replacement therapy. In fact, in areas of the world such as China, Japan, Thailand and India these foods are part of the daily diet and the incidence of unpleasant menopausal symptoms in women is minimal.
Hot spicy foods, smoking, caffeine, stress and alcohol can all exasperate symptoms and bring on hot flushes so all should be avoided or kept to a minimum. Lack of sleep can contribute to depression and mood swings so get plenty of exercise every day and avoid working late and large meals before going to bed.
Certain vitamins and minerals can also help. For example, vitamin B12 can support the nervous system and give you energy whilst vitamin E can alleviate symptoms and is a great antioxidant.
A herbalist or naturopath will also be able to recommend plant extracts that will help your body find its own natural balance. These include wild yam cream, red clover and evening primrose.
In some people hypnosis and self-hypnosis techniques have helped relieve symptoms and tackle problems of low self esteem and body image. XF