29 Jul 2022
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Menopausal symptoms are messages from the body that inform women about biological changes and help them understand what is happening. Hot flashes are commonly associated with menopause, but women may experience a range of physical, psychological, and emotional signs such as headaches, sleep disturbances, anxiety, brain fog, and memory problems. Some women experience all three types of symptoms, while others only have a few. Knowing about menopausal symptoms can provide better support for women to thrive during this transitional period.
Dr Anne Henderson explains that menopause is a time of significant physical, emotional, and biological changes, and symptoms can vary in intensity. Getting support throughout the stages of menopause is essential to minimize its impact on personal and professional life.
Focusing on yourself: Menopause can be an opportunity to focus on oneself and connect with the body’s needs. Adapting to the changes may require making lifestyle changes and taking care of health through tools like herbal remedies, nutrition, exercise, mental wellness practices, and conventional treatments.
The role of your loved ones: Family and friends can also help ease the transition. Campaigns like Make Menopause Matter promote better education, awareness, and support for women going through menopause.
1/ It can start before the age of 45
Some people go through premature or early menopause before the age of 45.
2/ It impacts physical, psychological and emotional health
Menopausal symptoms can vary considerably between people and may impact quality of life, performance at work, social relationships and overall well-being. Those going through menopause may struggle physically because of poor sleep, digestive problems and vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. Psychologically, they can experience brain fog and cognitive changes, struggling to do things they have done for years which can cause embarrassment, fear and worry.
3/ Those going through menopause are not under-performing
Menopausal symptoms can obstruct your ability to perform your job. Appropriate support, understanding and openness can make a huge difference.
In the workplace, there are important steps that businesses, organisations and employers need to talk about to better support their teams. These include:
Workplaces need to educate their leaders and team member about menopause, including premature and early menopause that can affect women in their 30s and early 40s, and how menopause impacts physical, psychological and emotional health.
2/ Understanding that menopausal symptoms can obstruct your ability to perform your job
3/ Implementing measures to support those going through the menopause
Increasing menopausal awareness can support the introduction of measures that make a huge difference, such as work flexibility, working from home, fans in the office, education in the workforce, etc.
Menopause is a natural transition from fertility to post-fertility that requires adapting to changing body needs. Knowing the changes in your body can help you find tools to support and relieve symptoms. This is a perfect time to make positive changes to your health and well-being with the help of health professionals and support from family and friends.
Dr Henderson emphasises a personalised approach to menopausal care, incorporating herbal medicine, nutrition, physical activity, mental well-being, and conventional medicine.
The first step is to identify the five key symptoms affecting your personal and professional life. Why? Understanding your symptoms allows you to focus on specific approaches rather than a scattered approach. This way, you can effectively deal with the symptoms that are affecting you the most.
Various herbal remedies have been studied for their effects on menopausal symptoms including hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, anxiety and skin changes. Herbs like black cohosh, red clover and sage were associated with reduced hot flashes and night sweats. For more examples of herbal remedies, read Natural Menopause written by Dr Anne Henderson and contributing experts.
1/ Do your background research
There are over-the-counter preparations but doing background research is really important to choose the right remedy for you. All herbs are not completely safe all the time. It’s important to research contraindications, especially if you have a high risk of certain diseases. For more guidance on safely taking herbal remedies, read this NHS article.
2/ Buy remedies covered under the umbrella of THR (Traditional Herbal Registration) granted by the MHRA which regulates prescribed drugs
Capsules come in a huge range of qualities. Remedies that are THR certified reach a much higher standard and are fully regulated.
3/ Start with a herbal infusion in small amounts throughout the day
A tisane or herbal infusion is the weakest form of herbal therapy. It works well as an introduction to see how you feel while still getting some of the properties.
4/ If you can, see an experienced herbalist and get a personalised blend
Diet can play a role in the severity and frequency of symptoms experienced during menopause. Studies evaluating dietary patterns showed an association between lower intensity of psychological symptoms, sleep disorders, and vasomotor, urogenital, and somatic symptoms and higher consumption of vegetables, whole grains, and unprocessed foods. For more details, read Eating and the menopause, written by our contributor Dr Harriet Holme.
Foods that can help support hormone regulation and help with managing menopause symptoms:
Yoga Nidra is an example of a practice that can support mental wellness and promote deeper and more restful sleep. It’s often described as a “meditation for non-meditators” because of its ease and effectiveness. Check out this complete guide, including physical, mental and spiritual benefits and how to get started.
Brain fog and energy
Part of the reason women experience brain fog and low energy is sleep deprivation, which needs to be addressed. Calming herbs can be helpful in the evenings such as valerian and camomile. In the morning, ashwagandha can be used to create energy for the day ahead.
To treat cognitive symptoms, it’s important to look at nutrition and whether there are any deficiencies in vitamin D, folate, B12 and ferritin. Many women are deficient in these nutrients even if they are taking supplements. Low levels of these are involved in many issues. For example, low vitamin D is linked to depression.
Middle-age weight gain can be a consequence of loss and muscle tone and mass. It’s important to look at the diet and ensure the intake of quality protein.
Going through menopause can be scary and overwhelming. The body goes through complex physiological changes over many years that mark the beginning of a new stage of life. But the body will settle to the ‘new normal’ and symptoms will change with time. This is why developing a therapeutic toolkit that works for you is essential to thriving through the change.
For more, listen to #157 Natural Menopause Remedies with Dr Anne Henderson and check out her brilliant book Natural Menopause, full of illustrations, tips and practical advice from a trusted professional.
A prospective audit of pragmatic herbal treatment of women experiencing menopausal symptoms using measure yourself medical outcome profile (MYMOP2) questionnaires - Journal of Herbal Medicine - 2019
Green J, Denham A, Ingram J, Hawkey S, Greenwood R. Treatment of menopausal symptoms by qualified herbal practitioners: a prospective, randomized controlled trial. Family Practice. 2007
Investigation of the role of herbal medicine, acupressure, and acupuncture in the menopausal symptoms: An evidence-based systematic review study
Guidelines for dietary management of menopausal women with simple obesity. Przegla̜d Menopauzalny= Menopause Review. 2015
Healthy eating and the menopause - British Nutrition Foundation
A Natural Approach to Menopause - Physician committee for responsible medicine
The effects of differing resistance training modes on the preservation of bone mineral density in postmenopausal women: a meta-analysis. Osteoporosis international. 2015
Is exercise an effective therapy for menopause and hot flashes?. Menopause. 2016
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