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A nutritional approach to menopause

Tuesday, 18 July 2017  |  Editor

Soothe the transition during menopause

Menopause for a woman is a time she is transitioning into a new phase of her life. This is a time for liberation, change and celebration. However for many it can be a difficult transition that can be painfully drawn out due to a number of lifestyle and emotional factors. Nutritionally speaking, we can support that woman into the next phase of her life by supplying her with the nutrients her body needs to successfully make that transition.

Menopause can lead to exhaustion and fatigue

Biologically, her body’s ovaries are retiring from a relentless task of producing the main female hormone, oestrogen. This baton is passed to the adrenal glands and fat tissue which take over the role of hormone production. If these adrenals have had a lifetime of stress with little time for R&R then it will be a difficult transition for the body to make as they will not be able to manage the extra burden.

This can lead to fatigue and exhaustion which has a bludgeoning impact on the body’s ability to cope emotionally and psychologically through an important time in a woman’s life.

Conventional medicine can only have a limited effect

Most menopausal fatigue is due to female hormone fluctuations, namely oestrogen and progesterone. These play a key role in sleep cycles. Oestrogen promotes REM during sleep, which is a vital process for heal and repair. When oestrogen levels drop so does time spent in REM cycles which leads to less refreshing and restorative sleep. This lack of good quality sleep contributes to perpetuating the cycle and exacerbating the symptoms of menopause such as loss of skin elasticity, mood changes such as anxiety and depression, headaches, hot flashes and palpitations.

Conventional medicine uses a symptom driven approach, which can only have a limited effect.

Some herbs can ease the menopause transition

Therapeutically there are a number of nutrients and herbs that can be used to ease the transition and prepare the female for a healthier future. A nutritional approach would include nutrients to balance hormone levels, support the adrenal glands, balance blood sugar levels and support mental health.

Here are some key nutrients to consider peri-menopausally:

  • Magnesium contributes to a reduction of tiredness and fatigue, reduces hot flashes[i] and promotes relaxation.
  • Phytoestrogens such as red clover, sage, celery seed and alfalfa help to reduce hot flashes and vaginal atrophy. They improve sleep and cognition, and have a positive effect on bone health[ii][iii][iv]
  • Licorice contains isoflavones and beta sitosterol. This potentiates cortisol by reducing its breakdown[v], reduces body fat mass, especially in women[vi], and exerts oestrogen-like activity[vii]
  • Hops contain flavonoids which helps to balance oestrogen levels[viii]
  • Indole-3-carbinol from cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli actively promote the breakdown of excess damaging oestrogen[ix]
  • Vitamin E reduces symptoms relating to constriction of blood vessels such as hot flashes, palpitations and poor circulation[x]
  • Omega 3 from fish oils reverse oxidative stress[xi]. Oxidative stress may lead to premature aging, poor cognition and decreased cardiovascular function.

With a targeted combination of products a woman can equip herself psychologically and biologically for the changes ahead so she can look towards a strong and healthy future.

Click here if you would like to see the supplements available on the site, which are specifically designed to help with menopause transition.


References:

[i] Park et al. Pilot Phase II trial of magnesium supplements to reduce menopausal hot flashes in breast cancer patients. Support Care Cancer. 2011; 19: 859-63.
[ii] Bedell. The pros and cons of plant oestrogens for menopause. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2014; 139: 225-36.
[iii] Guttuso. Effect and clinically meaningful non-hormonal hot flash therapies. Maturitas. 2012; 72: 6-12.
[iv] De Leo et al. Treatment of neurovegetative menopausal symptoms with a phytotherapeutic agent Minerva Ginecol. 1998; 50 (5): 207-11.
[v] Whorwood. Licorice inhibits 11 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase messenger ribonucleic acid levels and potentiates glucocorticoid hormone action. Endocrinology. 1993; 132 (6): 2287-92.
[vi] Armanini et al. History of The Endocrine Effects of Licorice. Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes. 2002; 110 (6): 257-61.
[vii] Somjen. Oestrogenic activity of glabridin and glabrene from licorice roots on human osteoblasts and prepubertal rat skeletal tissues. Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2004; 91(4-5): 241-6.
[viii] Montero et al. Modulation of breast cancer cell survival by aromatase inhibiting hop flavonoids. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2007; 105 (1-5): 124-30.
[ix] Michnovicz et al. Changes in levels of urinary oestrogen metabolites after oral indole-3- carbinol treatment in humans. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1997; 89 (10): 718-23.
[x] Kass-Annesse. Alternative therapies for menopause. Clin Obstet Gynecol. 2000; 43 (1): 162-83.
[xi] Cappellari et al. Treatment with omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids reverses endothelial dysfunction and oxidative stress in experimental menopause. J Nutr Biochem. 2013; 24: 371-9.