As a naturopath, I investigate if there are any underlying issues aggravating your menopausal symptoms, such as sluggish liver function, a nutrient deficiency, dietary triggers, an underactive thyroid gland and adrenal exhaustion as a result of stress.
Recommended naturopathic testing
I routinely test for hormone imbalances using Bicom Bioresonance testing and so therefore, rarely do I recommend any of the following (saving time and money for my patients!)
- Saliva Adrenal Hormone test measuring cortisol and DHEA
- Saliva female hormone panel including estrone, estradiol, estriol, progesterone and testosterone
- Serum (blood) expanded female hormonal panel, including testosterone and LH to FSH ratio
- Thyroid panel – TSH, T4, T3, Reverse T3, thyroid antibodies
- Blood lipid profile (cholesterol and triglycerides)
Following a well balanced, suitable menopause diet will help enable your body to adjust to the hormonal changes.
- Make sure you drink two litres of water a day to hydrate the skin and mucous membranes.
- Given the effects of caffeine on the bones and the decreased bone mineral density that typically occurs around the time of menopause, caffeine intake should be minimsised. Coffee, especially, can aggravate hot flushes.
- Avoid or minimise spicy food which can also aggravate hot flushes.
- Avoid or minimise alcohol consumption as this can also aggravate hot flushes, upset liver function and pull calcium out of the bones.
- Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that are similar in structure to human estrogens. Eating a diet rich in phytoestrogens can help reduce menopausal symptoms. Soy and linseeds (also known as flaxseeds) are probably the easiest food sources of phytoestrogens to incorporate into your diet. Try adding fermented tofu, tempeh and miso to your stir-fries and soups.
- Other phytoestrogens include pomegranates, legumes, lentils, beans such as kidney beans, lima beans, mung beans, broad beans, chickpeas, with the richest source being the soybean. Also sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, millet, buckwheat, split peas, oats, apples, carrots, parsley, green beans, barley, alfalfa, squash and olive oil.
- Ensure your diet contains enough calcium by including organic dairy products (if not intolerant to dairy), tahini, broccoli, cauliflower, salmon, fermented tofu and leafy green vegetables.
- Reduce/avoid red meats and most commercial cereal grains which increase calcium excretion and bone loss.
- Eat a slice of HRT cake daily! This phytoestrogen-rich wholesome cake is not only delicious, but it is also packed full of protein and essential fats. A great treat with a cup of herbal tea! Many of my patients now enjoy one slice of HRT cake a day as part of their healthy maintenance program for managing menopause naturally.
Recommended supplements for menopause treatment
The use of supplements for menopause treatment has been well documented.
- Sea Buckthorn oil from the berry of Hippophae rhamnoides is used in traditional Asian medicine systems (Tibetan, Mongolian and Chinese) to for dry skin and mucous membranes as well as to support healthy blood circulation. It contains a unique, natural, vegetarian blend of fatty acids including omega-7 (palmitoleic acid), omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid), omega-6 (linoleic acid) and omega-9 (oleic acid) fatty acids. It also contains Vitamin E, Vitamin C, carotenoids, amino acids and trace minerals. This should be the number one essential fatty acid to consider for vaginal dryness and dry skin. A nickname for this amazing oil is ‘fanny EFA’!
- Evening primrose oil can be helpful for breast tenderness, dry skin and vaginal dryness.
- Omega 3 oils (flaxseed, fish oils) are helpful for dry skin, vaginal dryness, fatigue, depression, lack of motivation, weight problems, memory problems etc.
- Vitamin C with bioflavonoids is shown to help reduce hot flushes. Vitamin C helps build up collagen, which gives skin its elasticity. It is also helpful in preventing and treating vaginal dryness (which can cause discomfort when the vagina loses some of its ‘stretch’). It can also help retain the elasticity in the urinary tract and prevent leakage or stress incontinence, which is common during menopause. Collagen is also important for your bones.
- Vitamin E is effective for reducing hot flushes and helping with vaginal dryness. It can be taken orally and used inside the vagina to help relieve dryness (as long as the base is not irritating).
- B vitamins are beneficial for your nervous system and adrenals, since hot flushes can be a result of a stress response. They also help boost energy, and ease anxiety and irritability.
- Calcium is essential to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis. Make sure you choose a calcium supplement which also contains vitamin D, magnesium and manganese for maximum absorption.
- Magnesium and calcium are helpful for fluid retention, cravings, anxiety, irritability and bone health.
NB. For best results, try these recommended supplements for a period of three months. These supplements are best taken under the care and guidance of your healthcare practitioner.
Recommended herbs for menopause treatment
The use of herbs for menopause treatment dates back thousands of years, with Dong Quai being a classic example.
- Dong Quai has been used in Asia for thousands of years for menopause, especially hot flushes. Dong Quai contains phytoestrogens (plant oestrogens). These natural plant oestrogens compete with the oestrogen in the body for binding sites. The phytoestrogens in Dong Quai produce oestrogenic activity when the body’s oestrogen levels are low, as is the case in menopause, and the ability of the phytoestrogens to occupy oestrogen receptor sites also helps reduce high oestrogen levels.
- Black Cohosh is effective for balancing hormones and alleviating symptoms such as hot flushes, vaginal dryness and menopausal arthritis.
- Sage has been traditionally used for hot flushes combined with sweating/nights sweats.
- Tribulus is a popular and successful herb used in Europe for menopausal symptoms. Please note, the Tribulus used must be Bulgarian.
- Zizyphis is a popular herb both in Chinese and Western herbal medicine for sweating, especially night sweats. A 10ml dose of a good quality liquid extract before bed can work wonders to reduce and even stop night sweats.
- Passionflower when combined with Kava and Zizyphis makes for a wonderful sleep mix.
- Chaste tree is another herb to consider for sleep problems/insomnia. A dose taken in the evening has been proven to increase melatonin at night, our sleep inducing hormone.
- Other herbs that are very effective for menopausal symptoms include St John’s Wort, lavender, red clover, sage, Shatavari and wild yam.
- Lastly, a popular blend of Korean herbs that Korean women swear by, Biomedica’s Minerva, is extremely effective at managing a range of menopause symptoms from hot flushes, low mood, irritability, vaginal dryness to joint pain. What’s more the dose is just one capsule per day so this makes it a ‘winning’ choice for many of my patients.
NB. You should not take any of the above herbs if you are taking the oral contraceptive pill, fertility drugs, HRT or any other hormonal treatment or other medication unless they are recommended by a registered, experienced practitioner.
Bioidentical hormones (BIHT) are identical to the hormones our bodies produce and are derived from natural precursors found in nature such as soy beans (isolated soy isoflavones – the healthy part of soy) and yams. As an effective menopause treatment, they can be customised to the needs of an individual. BIHT does not use synthetic hormones (which have been linked to breast and uterine cancer) and are considered a safe option. The effects are consistent with your normal biochemistry, therefore side effects are minimised. Bioidentical hormones also have anti-aging properties and can rejuvenate our bodies.
Your naturopath or doctor will usually conduct some blood and saliva testing to determine your hormone levels before prescribing a suitable, individulised treatment program. BIHT are often dispensed as dissolvable troches or creams.
Oestradiol/estradiol (E2) are Estriol (E3) are often prescribed together in the form of ‘Biest’ and can be administered as a vagnial pessary – targeting vaginal dryness at the same time as other menopause symptoms.
Other BIHT hormones which may be prescribed include progesterone (often found as part of a troche or as cream), testosterone, DHEA, cortisol and pregnenolone.
BIHT is the answer for many woman especially if their menopause symptoms are severe.
Natural Hormones Beats Menopause in 97%
“This paper reports a 12 plus month follow up on 189 patients who were prescribed natural oestrogen plus progesterone with our without DHEA or testosterone according to a rationalized protocol. 97% of the patients experienced varying degrees of symptom control, whereas three had minimal or questionable benefit”.
Mahmud K, Gynecol Endocrinol. 2009 Dec 8 Natural hormone therapy as a form of menopause treatment.
More natural alternatives for menopause
Additional recommended menopause treatment strategies are listed below.
- Regular exercise is important to reduce the likelihood of developing osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercise is best. However, if your bones and joints are weak, swimming may be more appropriate for you – ask your healthcare professional.
- Calcium storage in the bones takes place over the course of your whole life. It’s never too early to start regular weight-bearing exercise and calcium supplementation.
- Homoeopathic medicines – your homeopath or naturopath will prescribe the most appropriate remedy for you.
- Acupuncture can help facilitate the free flow of energy through the body.
- Aromatherapy can assist and support the reproductive system, and can gently contribute to rebalancing your hormones.
N.B. Always consult a registered practitioner.
After menopause, the risk of developing heart disease, high cholesterol, and dementia is higher. Always maintain a well-balance diet, with lots of nuts, seeds and fish. Regular check-ups with your healthcare professional as part of your menopause treatment plant will help you keep an eye on your blood pressure and cholesterol.