Health: Menopause – A Natural Transition
Menopause is the natural termination of the menstrual cycle and usually occurs between the ages of 42 and 52. This should not mean a transitory termination of an emotionally balanced and vibrant woman, yet for 70 per cent of Western women this transition is not a smooth and easy experience.
At this time the female sex hormones produced primarily by the ovaries, gradually decrease, while the adrenals begin making oestrogen and androgen to replace it. This decline and subsequent withdrawal from oestrogen can create symptoms such as hot flushes, headaches, heavy periods and night sweats which can lead to irritability, depression, insomnia and fatigue. Author of Healing with Whole Foods, Paul Pitchford suggests building blood and fluids which calm the liver at this time. He recommends foods such as wheatgerm, green beans, seaweeds, spirulina, millet, black beans and black sesame seeds.
Vitamin E may stimulate the production of oestrogen and whole wheat (best eaten in the form of Essene Bread, which is sprouted wheat slowly cooked on a low temperature) calms the nerves and strengthens the kidney-adrenal function. Herbal medicines may also assist the body to adapt to changing hormone levels and modulate uncomfortable symptoms.
As post menopausal women rely on production of sex hormones from the adrenal glands, poor tolerance to stress or low energy and libido could be caused by adrenal deficiency. Studies have shown herbs such as Withania somnifera (Ashwaganda or Withania) demonstrate significant anti-stress activity and increased endurance.
The relaxant effects of Valeriana officinalis (Valerian) are mainly attributed to enhancement of the neurotransmitter GABA which prevents overstimulation of the nervous system. Cimicifuga racemosa (Black Cohosh) is thought to interact with hormone receptors in the brain which regulate secretion of hormones in the body, allowing the body to gently adjust to the effect of oestrogen withdrawal.
Should a woman find their menopausal transition is not so gentle but a complex process throwing out an array of symptoms, they may require the assistance of a medical herbalist who can knowledgeably and safely create a herbal formulation covering their individual needs.
Fiona Miller is a Naturopath, Homeopath and Medical Herbalist practising from Waipu Natural Health on Mondays; 021 222 6048 / 09 4321325.