Tips featured in the segment:
- Menopausal discomforts don't start until your period stops: Hormonal changes can begin as early as the late 30s or early 40s. Many women begin to experience night sweats, hot flashes, insomnia, anxiety, mood swings, headaches, changes in sex drive and changes in the menstrual cycle long before their periods stop.
- Hot flashes are due to low estrogen levels: Hot flashes can occur in women with high estrogen levels (during pregnancy) or with fluctuating estrogen levels. Other triggers include low progesterone, low testosterone, high follicle-stimulating hormone, surges of luteinizing hormone, increased cortisol and low beta-endorphins and antioxidants.
- Low sex drive is a normal part of aging: Many perimenopausal and menopausal women experience lower sex drive, but others find their sexual appetite increases with age. Low or high estrogen, low progesterone and low testosterone levels may contribute to a decreased sex drive, while stress, life changes and illness can also be factors.
- Menopause means hot flashes: Hot flashes are a common discomfort in menopause, but they are neither universal nor the only health concern. Some women never experience hot flashes but may experience anxiety, depression, foggy thinking, headaches, insomnia, weight gain, water retention and vaginal dryness.
A healthy diet is one of the most important influences on menopausal symptoms
- Poor quality foods - highly processed and packaged - impede the function of our organ systems and clog the pathways of elimination.
- When the system is clogged, hormonal fluctuations will be exaggerated, heightening symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings.
- We all would do best to eat foods high in fiber: organic fruits and vegetables across the color spectrum. A variety of whole, organic grains (including oats, quinoa, kasha and amaranth) is preferable to high quantities of white flour and GMO corn by-products. When choosing animal foods, go for quality over quantity: smaller portions of organic meats and cheeses, and not at every meal.
- Also, many menopausal women find that hot, spicy foods or beverages will aggravate their symptoms. Low-quality fats should be avoided, since they tend to go rancid quickly, and will clog the system.
- Weight-bearing exercise can help maintain strong bones and prevent bone loss.
- Flexibility can help prevent falls and hip fractures.
- Ideally, an exercise regimen includes a blend of cardio, weight and flexibility training, and this can certainly include yoga and pilates.
- It's generally recommended to get 20 minutes of aerobic exercise three times per week.
- Breathing is important to include into any exercise regimen, and breath exercises on their own are a great way to reduce stress and calm the mind.
- When you can incorporate these healthy foods into your meal plan, do so.
- Flax seeds can be added whole or ground to many meals, including cereal and salads.
- Omega 3s are found in fatty fish like sardines, anchovies, mackerel and salmon.
- Red clover blossoms make a pleasant tea to drink.
- Many people choose to supplement their meals, to ensure they are getting a sufficient therapeutic dose.
- Black cohosh is most commonly taken in supplement form, either capsules or liquid extract, although it was traditionally brewed as a tea.
- What's best for you is decided by several factors, beginning with an assessment of your current diet and eating habits.
- Traditional treatment options include Hormone Replacement Therapy, often compounded in a bio-identical formulation specific to the individual.
- Estradiol, Progesterone and Testosterone are used, sometimes alone, sometimes in combination. Hormone Replacement Therapy replaces hormones that are diminishing in the body, and levels are adjusted until symptom relief is achieved.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy can help reduce symptoms, and in some women, can help prevent bone loss and cardiac disease. But the benefits and risks of Hormone Replacement Therapy should be discussed with your practitioner. If a woman has had estrogen-dependent cancer, or a family history of cancer, this might not be an appropriate treatment option. Other women find great relief with this treatment protocol.
- Of course, there are many traditional options for addressing specific symptoms of menopause. For example, sleep aids are used for insomnia, and anti-depressants are used for mood swings.
About Sheila Devitt, Certified Herbalist (C.H.):
Sheila is a certified herbalist and member of the American Herbalist Guild, trained in plant medicine traditions from around the world. She received her certification with distinction following an apprenticeship with master herbalist Christopher Hobbs (L.Ac., R.A.H.G.) and is currently pursuing further studies with Michael Tierra (O.M.D., L.Ac., R.A.H.G.).
Sheila is an experienced formulator and manufacturer of herbal teas, salves and tinctures and has extensive training in aromatherapy, flower essences and organic gardening practices.
She has served as an educator in clinical skills centers at several teaching hospitals, and also volunteers at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, where she teaches elementary school children about plant habitats and conservation.