Last edited, 13 April 2020.
Are you in your forties or fifties? Do you experience irregular periods, sudden flashes of warmness and mood swings? Your body may be undergoing a natural biological process known as menopausal transition or perimenopause.
Stages of Menopause
This is when a woman begins experiencing menopausal signs and symptoms, even though she still menstruates. The ovaries’ production of female hormones estrogen and progesterone begins to fluctuate and decline. That decline brings about hot flashes and other symptoms. Perimenopause may last four to five years or longer.
Menopause is defined as occurring 12 months after the last menstrual period, and is the permanent end of menstruation and fertility. The ovaries produce much less estrogen and no progesterone, and they do not release eggs. That normally happens between the ages of 45 and 55.
The years that follow menopause are called postmenopause.
Perimenopause symptoms are caused by changes in estrogen and progesterone levels. The ovaries make less of these hormones over time. Some medical treatments may cause estrogen levels to drop suddenly, such as chemotherapy, anti-estrogen treatment for breast cancer, or when the ovaries are removed surgically (called surgically menopause). Symptoms can be more severe and start more suddenly in these circumstances.
Symptoms include irregular menstrual periods, vaginal dryness, hot flashes, sleep disturbances, mood swings, irritability, depression, anxiety, palpitations, night sweats, forgetfulness (in some women), headaches, urine leakage, vaginal infections, joint aches and pains.
Importance of Healthy Adrenal Glands
Women are supplied with estrogen from their ovaries, adrenal glands and fat cells. Once a woman reaches menopause, adrenal glands and fat cells become the main sources of estrogen. Adrenal glands are small triangular glands located on top of both kidneys. One of their functions is to produce sex hormones such as estrogen and stress hormones such as adrenaline. Maintaining the health of adrenal glands supports both hormonal activity and the body’s ability to cope with stress. However, today’s poor eating habits and stressful lifestyles mean that many women reach their menopausal years with worn-out adrenal glands. Symptoms of adrenal stress are similar to menopausal symptoms – nervous tension, depression, irritability, fatigue and unpredictable mood swings. Adaptogenic herbs such as licorice improve the body’s response to stress, and help to extend the activity of adrenal hormones in the body.
There is an increased risk of some diseases after menopause.
Estrogen appears to naturally protect women from heart disease, presumably by promoting a favorable plasma lipid profile and healthy circulation. When estrogen levels decline, risk of cardiovascular disease increases.
Estrogen plays an important role in bone health by decreasing the rate of bone breakdown by osteoclasts. As estrogen levels decline, bones are broken down faster than they can be renewed. Bones become brittle and weak, leading to osteoporosis and an increased risk of fractures. Postmenopausal women are especially vulnerable to fractures of hip, wrist and spine.
Eat more calcium-rich plant foods such as sage. Strength training and weight-bearing activities, such as walking and jogging, are especially beneficial in keeping bones strong.
According to the American Cancer Society, using combined hormone therapy after menopause increases risk of breast cancer. It may also increase the chances of dying from breast cancer. This increase in risk can be seen within as little as 2 years of use.
Improve your Diet and Lifestyle will make Menopause Easier
- Consume plant foods rich in phytoestrogen as they can lower risk of estrogen-dependent cancers such as breast cancer. These phytoestrogens fill estrogen receptor sites on cells, thus keeping cancer-causing estrogen from forming. Phytoestrogen plant foods like Soy is safe contrary to the believe that it promotes cancer and endocrine issues.
- Eat more plant foods rich in vitamin C. One example is Acerola Cherry which has vitamin C content 33 times that of an orange. The vitamin C in plant aids tissue repair and iron absorption, which is especially important for women approaching menopause. Other vitamin C rich plant foods are raspberry and sage.
- Reduce fat intake. Avoid red meants, fatty dairy products and fried foods. Fats are storage for excess estrogens that lead to many hormone-driven diseases.
- Eat vegetable proteins, especially soy foods instead of meat proteins to support adrenal glands and other glands.
- Fiber aids the body in regulating estrogen levels. Increase fiber intake from whole grains and fresh vegetables.
- Consume plant foods rich in calcium to prevent osteoporosis. Examples of such are corn, seeds, soy, broccoli and greens. Dairy products are not a good source of absorbable calcium and can actually interfere with mineral intake. They are high in sulfur, which our body converts to sulfuric acid and makes the blood slightly acidic. This in turn increase the amount of calcium excreted in the urine.
- Avoid carbonated drinks loaded with phosphates as they deplete the body of calcium and other minerals.
- Avoid caffeine as it taxes our adrenal glands and upsets hormonal balance.
- Avoid refined foods as they have low nutritional value, little or no fiber and are usually high in fat, sugar and calories.
(Reference: The Natural Herbal Support for Women’s Health)
Food for women’s health
has neuroprotective effects on memory impairment-related neurodegenerative diseases. It appears to have a strong ability to lower high blood pressure, a serious risk factor for heart disease.
helps to reduce hot flashes and night sweats. Sage’s high levels of potassium and magnesium can help replenish minerals that the body loses in perspiration after hot flashes. Phytoestrogen in sage include genistein, daidzein and formononetin. They are helpful for menopausal symptoms caused by low estrogen levels. Menopausal women are 50% less efficient than adolescents in absorbing calcium. This may lead to bone loss. Hence it is important to consume plant foods such as sage for calcium and vitamin K to build bones. Sage has immunity-boosting qualities. It has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
helps to maintain hormonal balance, and relieve hot flashes and other effects of hormonal imbalance. Raspberry also relaxes and lubricate the uterus, and relieves dryness of the vaginal tract during menopause. Raspberries have around 50% higher antioxidant activity than strawberries and ten times the antioxidant activity of tomatoes. Raspberry is also useful for diarrhea and constipation. Its anthocyanins’ anti-microbial properties help to prevent overgrowth of bacteria and fungi in the body. Raspberry extract has been found to suppress cervical cancer cell production.
contains both phytoestrogens that help to restore hormonal balance and heart-protective terpenoids. Terpenoids have antioxidant properties and can help to improve blood flow by dilating blood vessels and reducing platelet stickiness. Ginkgo can ease memory lapses during menopause by improving blood flow to the brain. Ginkgo is helpful for perimenopausal effects of fatigue, depression, and memory problems, and postmenopausal visual or cognitive difficulties.
Stress can worsen menopausal symptoms. As an adaptogen, licorice improves the body’s response to stress. Post-menopause, adrenal glands continue to be a source of estrogen precursors. Licorice enables adrenally produced hormones to work for longer periods. It reduces symptoms of perimenopause caused by high levels of estrogen. Licorice raises progesterone levels by stopping progesterone from breaking down. This leaves more of it available to body cells. Flavonoids are phytochemicals with antioxidant activity to help fight free radical damage, which is liked to signs of aging. Licorice root is a rich source of flavonoids, such as glabridin and glabrene. Licorice root stimulates production of interferon, an important chemical in the immune system.
HRT – Hormone Replacement Therapy Risks
HRT may ease menopausal symptoms, but it can increase the risk of breast cancer, stroke and heart disease.
- increases incidence of gynecological tumors by 20% within two years of HRT
- increases risk of osteoporosis by 26%
- increases risk of heart disease by 80% within one year of HRT
- increases risk of stroke by 41%
- endometrial growth
- deep vein thrombosis