(without mentioning Yoga!)
I've received phone calls recently asking me to give women oestrogen! Of course I can talk about phytoestrogens and supplements but I think maybe I haven't yet made it abundantly clear that I'm really about having a healthy natural menopause first before making a decision on HRT; so today I'm going to explain the top 11 natural ways to reduce symptoms of menopause.
If you like to try one thing at a time and have a order in which to try then this is for you. When I first started out making changes to help relieve my symptoms of the perimenopause 6 years ago I knew what I was trying to achieve with each small step. Now with my years of experience I know what order the body likes to clear symptoms up in, for example if you do have hot flushes then this is the hardest symptom to resolve straight off so I explain to my clients that if we work on the other symptoms then once you've made these natural changes your hot flushes will lessen or completely go.
Hot flushes are like the culmination of everything, probably the truest of all menopause symptoms; where as many symptoms especially under the banner of the perimenopause are stress and nutritional depletion. The key though is if we sort these out then things really do start to change, you feel healthier and happier and you won't need to place your power in the hands of pharmaceuticals.
11 natural ways to reduce symptoms of menopause
The reason I'm so passionate about making natural changes before looking to pharmaceutically produced products is because I want you to have the best health. If you're in the best health you don't have menopausal symptoms. All the symptoms you're experiencing are a health imbalance and there is one major reason why these are so bad for your current generation - stress.
This generation has had more emotional and physical stress placed on its shoulders than any other previous generations. Living the modern western life style exhausts you, mentally and physically. This leads to your body becoming more and more stressed, and the stress hormone Cortisol, which is now probably in excess wants to get working on destressing you and for this it requires a lot of nutrition.
It grabs this nutrition from your everyday life and food intake which then leaves you feeling really tired, getting anxious, insomina creeping in, brain getting foggy, memory degrading. This is how I was 6 years ago, and I think I'd been heavily stress for the best part of the previous decade or more!
Now you know that you need to combat stress to lessen your symptoms and feed the cortisol so it can do it's job let's look at the 11 natural ways to reduce symptoms of menopause:
1. EAT THE RAINBOW
Have you heard this term before? It applies to fruit and veg. A lot of time I speak to women and they may only be eating 3 types of veg a couple of days a week, this isn't going to give you the rich nutrition your body now requires. Plant sources contain a variety of the vitamins and minerals that you need to combat that stress in your body, 2 major ones are vitamin C and calcium. There are veg like bell peppers which are a much richer source of vitamin C that you realise and leafy greens like Kale are rich in calcium.
Think about eating a variety of 30 a week, and with variety comes flavour. Your main meals should be a plate of veg topped with some tasty protein, vegetables are a side order no more!
And here's a thought for you:
Your mood is what your food is!
2. TAKE A MULTI VIT AND MAGNESIUM
Yes they are separate as you'll never get enough Mg in an multi vitamin. A lot of women go for fancy supplements and herbals and completely skip over basic body chemistry - vitamins and minerals and these can radically alter your symptoms. Think nutrient deficiency before you step into maca, black cohosh and the lot. Also think nutrient deficiency before you even go to the GP and talk about HRT. Add in a good dose of vitamin D whilst you're at it if you're feeling low; we will never get enough from the sun and you won't get any if you put sun block on.
Many of the burgeoning list of symptoms in the peri/menopause are nutrient deficiency, caused by your stress hormone (which is too high) needing and using up any available nutrients in your system. Feed the cortisol so that it can do its job to lower your stress, and you'll lessen your symptoms too. If you need help getting started on supplements I have some guides here.
3. FEED YOUR GUT, FEED YOUR BRAIN!
If you haven't been eating fruit and veg every day then your gut health won't be as good as it can be. Do you have brain fog? Look to your gut - 90% of your brain chemistry is created there. Feed your gut with a good probiotic (I take a fabulous liquid one - Biolive) and this will repopulate the much needed bacteria to then extract all the nutrition it can from your food, then give it the food it needs. Your gut bacteria are like bunny rabbits, they love veg! Feed them and keep them happy, and you'll feel happier too! I couldn't believe what symptoms were resolved when I started on a good probiotic, I was a extreme hayfever sufferer all my life, but not once I sorted my gut out!
4. TAKE THE RIGHT FATS
Let's start here - fats are not fattening, fats are what drive our brain and body. The types of fats I'm talking about are the oily fish and seeds ones. If you can't tolerate oily fish then you're looking at taking a good Omega 3 oil. Seeds and nuts contain high levels of Omega 3 and 6, learn what you need, plus lots of olive oil in your life. A lot of your nutritional depletion will be that there just aren't enough of these types of foods in your current diet. Over 1/3 of the symptoms are related to a lack of these fats also know as essential fatty acids. If you have low motivation and forgetful ness, dry skin, cracking nails, limp hair these are some of the indicators you need more good fats in your life. Get supplement advice here.
Often people drink water but don't know why they're drinking it, sounds odd doesn't it? Understanding why you need to flush through regularly is useful. We dehydrate easily, and more so as oestrogen declines. Sipping water all day is good, it then flushes out toxins that are in your sytem. Your wee by lunchtime should be clear, it should only be darker first thing in the morning. If you have pale wee right from the start then you're doing well. If it's dark throughout the day you're definitely not drinking enough. If you have headaches, drink more. If you're constipated you may need to drink more, or you may need additional help with either Magnesium, flax seeds or psyllium husk to flush water into your colon. Seek help with a holistic therapist if you're constantly constipated, specific herbals can help too; you need to have more fluid stools to help flush out the toxins in your body.
If you suffer from heat symptoms and feel you can't drink enough water then you will need to look at a liver detox, this is especially do if you have raging night sweats, read more about how to relieve your heat symptoms in my liver detox guide.
6. LOWER SUGAR INTAKE
This is a lot about processed foods for starters. Those that are obviously sugary and those that you may not think are. Look on the back every product has a carbohyrates per 100g - this is the same as a percentage. Even a biscuit can fluctuate, one with nuts in is much lower in carbs than one that doesn't.
Then there are the foods that turn to sugar that you may not realise like pasta, rice and potatoes. White pasta/rice/bread turn to sugar quicker (affecting your blood sugar levels) where as the brown equivalent are slowed down by the fibre content (also very good for your gut).
Fruit is also sugar, berries are the best as they are lower/slower than other fruits, tropical fruits being the highest. Fruit sugar does not metabolise and store as glucose to be used for energy. If you don't use fruit sugar up quickly it metabolises to belly fat. Dried fruit and fruit juices are the worst cases of this!
If you would like to get started on eating for perimenopause and life beyond my ebook is an indepth explanation of the foods you need in your life and what to avoid for menopause.
7. GETTING YOUR SLEEP BACK
Understanding why you can't sleep at certain times of the night is the power behind getting your sleep back. You often see articles about sleep hygiene to help you get to sleep but what about sleep nutrition? This is what your body requires during the night to stay asleep. This is complex and breaks down into times of night - getting to sleep, awake 11-12, awake 1 to 3 (night sweats), awake from 4am onwards (nervous system and nutrition). If you have insomnia then it's most likely stress based - however read my indepth blog on Insomnia here.
8. EXERCISE - THE SWEET SPOT
Yes it is about getting a variety of exercises into your life to help your heart and bone health for now and post menopause; but it's also about doing it within the boundaries of you feeling great!
If you exercise and you can't sleep or you have low moods virtually all of the time then your exercise is wrong. If you exercise daily for the 'high' straight after, but then you cry easily then you're doing too much of the wrong type. If you wake up fatigued, the exercise isn't right for you.
Exercise if not in the right balance, actually causes more stress on your body. If you do exercise a lot then you really need to be on top of your nutrition levels. I really delve into this as part of my Feel better, relieve symptoms in 28 days - video series.
9. REDUCE OVERWHELM
Overwhelm is your brain full up, it just can't take any more, and leaves you with no cognitive power to make a decision. My classic saying is 'step away from the computer', normally because the computer, the internet or technology is about to push me over the edge! To combat overwhelm step away from what has triggered it, and it need only be for a few minutes - I call it a firebreak, take time out to recompose and calm your mind.
Do some long slow deep belly breathing for a couple of minutes, focus on nothing but your breath, use a mindfulness app, 3 minutes of Qi Gong and many more ways to calm your brain. At that moment of time you're back in your reptilian brain, fight or flight, or more recently and just as important - frozen. This isn't a state you want to be in for more than a couple of minutes at a time but in modern life we're in it for hours, days, months, years - this is why your cortisol levels are so high.
Reduce over whelm, reduce anxiety, reduce stress, they're inseparable. I've written a few blogs that can help you, start with this one: read this blog
10. PRACTISE SELFCARE
Don't skip over this one! Funnily enough this is one of my least read blogs which really saddens me because if you understand and practise selfcare (which costs nothing, and barely takes up time as it's a thought process!) then your symptoms will lessen!!!
There was a study in Australia last year about women, mindset and menopause, the outcome being that women that were more open-minded and positive had less symptoms. How is this?
The answer again comes back to stress. If you regularly feel guilty, feel 'you should', feel put upon, resent - you create stress, and as we now know stress creates symptoms.
If you're open-minded, positive to making change, respect your own time and your body, say no (nicely), give yourself back some TLC - you remove stress, and so you lessen symptoms.
Want to read that self care blog now?
11. LOOK INTO PHYTOESTROGENS BEFORE HRT
And really listen to the facts.... by this I mean read this and read into it:
'50% of women that took HRT said it helped'
Did you read that as I did?
That 50% of women that took HRT felt either no effect or as I regularly hear - there symptoms got far worse.
This isn't HRT bashing, for some women it is a real life line, I believe when their oestrogen drops so quickly and their stress levels are incredibly high this is when HRT can help them. But there we go again, they've done nothing about their stress levels.
My point is, before going straight to the end game, make all the small steps to change beforehand. I get if you do way 1 to 10 in this blog then HRT becomes a less critical option just a personal choice.
There is a shortage of HRT at the moment, but I haven't heard that there is a shortage of phytoestrogens which are the supplement stepping stone to HRT. Soy isoflavones, red clover extract are a % strength of HRT so why not try those first?
There are plenty of foods that are also phytoestrogens - flax seeds, soy products, nuts, seeds, even apples! Which brings us back neatly to point 1 - eat more natural foods and if you'd like help with understanding how to eat for the perimenopause and beyond I just happen to have a guide that is exactly what you need! Get it here!
Would you like to chat about how I can help you?
As well as books and programmes to help you navigate certain areas of menopause I also do 1:1 consultations via zoom. This allows me to look at your exact symptom set and produce a bespoke plan of action for you. This plan isn't just for now, it's for life and I include a complementary follow up call to check on your progress to. Read more about consultations here.