The process of menopause usually starts around 2-3 years before ovulation stops completely. Menopause is thought to occur when there are no viable eggs left in the ovaries.
Menopause is defined when a woman has not experienced a menstrual cycle for at least 12 months. The section of previous years leading up to this point is called ‘Peri-menopause’, and this is when a woman will typically see her menstrual cycle become irregular with various possible accompanying symptoms such as heavy bleeding, night sweats, mood changes and sleep problems.
Average age for menopause is 51 but this can vary greatly. The main symptoms of menopause are hot flushes, vaginal dryness, headaches, forgetfulness, dry eyes, lack of concentration and also frequent urinary tract infections. A woman is born with an average of 1 million eggs and this number decreases as we grow older. The reduction of eggs results in a lowered amount of oestrogen and progesterone hormone production, which leads to an increase in follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) production and irregular menses. Excess FSH and LH typically results in excess androgens such as testosterone, which is able to be converted into oestrogen in our fat cells.
The support plan for menopause would vary from woman to woman depending on their symptoms. Typically, it would aim to support through:
Diet: studies have shown that a diet high in plant foods (especially phytoestrogens) and low in animal meat has been helpful in reducing some menopause symptoms such as hot flushes. Phytoestrogens have an oestrogenic effect by binding to oestrogen receptors. Foods typically high in phytoestrogens are organic whole soy and soaked flaxseed, however, eating a variety of vegetables will provide an array of phytoestrogens too (to a lesser extent).
Nutrients: It is also recommended that nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, boron, vitamin K, D and E should be focused on during menopause and beyond to help prevent cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease and osteoporosis (low bone density). Higher antioxidant status has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer and CVD after menopause, especially dietary carotenoids (found in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables and some fish including salmon). Women with the highest lignan concentrations (found in flaxseeds) were found in studies to have a better insulin sensitivity and lower body fat measures, reducing the risk of diabetes development. Vitamin E has been shown to improve symptoms of hot flushes with menopause, vitamin E is naturally occurring in foods such as beet greens, collard greens, spinach and almonds . Please see our supplement selection listed below.
Sage: has commonly been used as an aid for hot flushes and night sweats for menopausal women. In a study in Switzerland, the level of intense hot flushes were decreased significantly over the 8 week trial with once daily doses of fresh sage leaves. Try: Viridian Organic Sage supplement.
Black Cohosh: is the most well-studied herb for menopause symptom support. The clinical findings saw a reduction in hot flushes, mood swings and insomnia. It also seems to show positive effects on bone and vaginal health as well the brain.
Isoflavones: such as soy and red clover, have an oestrogenic effect and can help to reduce symptoms of menopause in some women. It is important to note, to get the full benefit from isoflavones from soy, you need to be able to convert the isoflavones into equol. This conversion greatly depends on our gut flora, therefore is it recommended that prebiotic and probiotic foods/supplements are included in the diet too. A lot of soy is genetically modified and processed, therefore the advice is to go for organic food sources. Here are some supplement suggestions: Terranova Dong Quai and Soya sprout complete and Viridian Flaxseed oil.
Healthy fats are important components of our hormones. Therefore, it is important to make sure we have them in our diet regularly. In menopause, we are more vulnerable to metabolic diseases and healthy oils can help with prevention of this, as well as reducing arthritis symptoms, reducing cancer risk and reducing inflammation in the body. Supplement suggestions are Cytoplan Borage and Starflower oil, Erbology Sea Buckthorn oil or powder and Terranova omega oil 3, 6, 7, 9.
Nervous system support: some women experience increased levels of anxiety and low mood during or after menopause. Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb which helps with anxiety and stress by modulating the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. A favourite is Wild Nutrition Ashwagandha Plus.
There are lots of menopause complexes in capsule and liquid form. They are derived from different herbs which help to reduce menopause symptoms and some include some vitamins and minerals too. They are complexes you can take on a daily basis: Viridian Herbal Female Complex, Wild Nutrition Botanical Menopause, A Vogel Menoforce, and Pure Encapsulations MenoVive.
Exercise: physical exercise has been shown to reduce hot flushes and improve bone density , circulation and heart function, endorphin levels (which decreases emotional stress), nutritional absorption and increase energy levels.
DUTCH test: this dried urine test looks at your hormone levels and their metabolites. It also includes cortisol and DHEA which helps to evaluate stress levels felt throughout the day and which may be contributing to your symptoms. This test will identify how you metabolise oestrogen and therefore can support with the decision of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) if you are considering it. For more information on the test click here.
Thyroid function: it is worth checking thyroid function, as this commonly changes around menopause. Usually testing for markers such as: TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), FT3 & FT, thyroid function tests can be sought privately or through your GP. Talk to us for further advice. Complete Thyroid Panel.
Metabolomix Plus Advance: this finger prick test provides a fully detailed analysis of individual vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and amino acids status, markers for gastrointestinal function, oxidative stress, essential fats status and the nutrient and toxic elements clearance. It helps to identify your nutritional needs, which if supported appropriately, could help with the transition into menopause by making sure your body has everything it needs for optimal health. Read here for more information.
NutrEval: This test provides a unique and comprehensive assessment of nutritional status, which is the same as the Metabolomix Plus Advanced with added extras. This test requires a full blood sample done via a partner phlebotomy service together with the urine sample and this provides the analysis of some additional markers such as vitamin D, glutathione and homocysteine. Click here for more information.
Our Nutritional Therapy team are experts in helping guide women through this important life stage. If you'd like to chat just call us on 01625 400113. For more information about Nutritional Therapy for hormonal balance click here.
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Please note that the information contained within this website does not and should not replace medical advice, and is not intended to treat or diagnose. We always recommend you consult with your doctor. Our Nutritional Therapy team is highly trained and we offer one to one Nutritional Therapy Consultations, which are designed to be complementary to any medical treatment from a functional medicine approach, as well as offering a preventative & optimal health focus.