General characteristics

General characteristics

The word menopause literally means 'menstruation stops/pauses' and refers to the time of life when the fertile, childbearing years are gradually brought to an end. It is a perfectly natural part of any woman's life and in many traditional cultures, even today, it signals the beginning of the so called 'crone' or wise years. A time when a woman can be dedicated to putting her accumulated lifelong wisdom and caring into action within the community at large (if she wants to), without the distractions of motherhood and wife-hood. The whole process can take place over many years, usually beginning in the forties with slight changes in the monthly cycle and culminating in the fifties with the cessation of periods. Many other changes beside menstrual irregularities will gradually take place within the body, mind and spirit, such as softening and thinning of the skin, changes in hair colour and texture, joint pains, headaches, changes in hormone levels (very high and very low), changes in sexual appetite (increase or decrease), as well as changes in weight, energy levels, mood, sleep patterns, body temperature, bone density and vaginal fluids.

The menopause can be sectioned into three phases, peri-menopause (when subtle changes first begin), the menopause itself (the usual symptoms of hot flushes, mood changes, erratic bleeding etc.) and post-menopause (when menstruation stops completely), though in reality the stages very often overlap and seldom follow a defined timetable.

The menopause occurs in response to changes in hormonal levels and cycles within the body. In the peri-menopause, oestrogen and progesterone levels can be erratic, leading to irregular periods with heavier or lighter flow. During the menopause itself, oestrogen and progesterone levels begin to decline consistently, egg supply dwindles and periods become fewer. The post menopause is described as being the period when menstruation has been absent for 12 consecutive months.

Menopause can also be brought on through surgical removal of the ovaries, ovarian damage from chemotherapy and radiotherapy in the pelvic region (not always permanent) and some autoimmune disorders.

Healing objectives are to maintain good all-round health through good diet, herbal nutritional support and exercise and to ease any unpleasant symptoms with herbal remedies and natural healing techniques.

Websites detailing menopausal facts and remedial actions as well as many aspects of female health written by expert herbalist and natural healer Susan Weed can be found here:

See also individual entries such as hot flushes for more specific advise and remedies.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Throughout the entire period of peri through to post menopause, keep you intake of plant based minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium and iron high by eating wholefoods and avoiding processed and refined foods wherever possible. Menopause takes a big toll on mineral and vitamin reserves so eat good quality foods all day every day.

Phytoestrogens are substances present in plants that can be utilised in the body to counteract the activities of other hormones, often reducing the symptoms of erratic hormone levels experienced in the menopause. Taken at normal levels as food they help to smooth the transition through the natural hormonal fluctuations and bodily changes. There are many sources of phytoestrogens in the plant world including foods such as beans, whole grains, flax seed, green leaves, fruits and berries such as blackcurrants and also in the culinary seeds such as aniseed, coriander seed, cumin seed, caraway seed, poppy seed and fennel seeds. Eat foods containing phytoestrogens daily and use the medicinal herbs more sparingly according to your individual needs.

Avoid fizzy/carbonated drinks, even fizzy water to some extent as the high levels of phosphates present in them causes minerals to be stripped from the bones.

Dried fruits such as dates, figs, apricots, raisins and prunes contain high levels of calcium, iron and other minerals so use as jam on crackers or as a snack.

Eat foods rich in essential fatty acids (EFA's) such as sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, evening primrose oil, walnuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, pecans, whole grains and oily fish if from a good source (such as wild river caught salmon or trout). EFA's help to regulate hormone balance and can ease some symptoms of menopause such as hot flushes and help keep the heart strong and healthy.

Foods rich in bioflavanoids such as berries, coloured vegetables and fruits and citrus peels have a hormone like effect which, if eaten regularly can give a good boost to post menopausal women and help prevent osteoporosis, wrinkles, heart disease, failing eyesight and many other conditions associated with ageing.

Add edible seaweeds to soups for their exceptionally high mineral, phytoestrogens and nutrient content, or a pinch to herbal teas.

Foods containing calcium will help to keep bone density high. Good sources include sesame seeds and tahini spread, carrots and fresh carrot juice, all edible green leaves, beans and legumes, broccoli, sweet potato, yams and squashes, organic dairy and animal protein (especially live full fat yoghurt), barley and other whole grains.

Stop smoking as it is linked to earlier menopause and more severe hot flushes.

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

You could try at least 1 cup daily (preferably 2) of nettle, oatstraw, lady's mantle, red clover flowers and red raspberry leaf. Use equal parts and use a tablespoon per cup, standing for at least 10 minutes to get maximum strength and nutrient content in your tea. The mix contains calcium, iron and many other helpful nutrients to help maintain bone density, calm and soothe the nerves and emotions, ease joint pains and keep the entire reproductive area in good health from peri-menopause through to old age. Lady's mantle and red clover help to balance hormones and normalise menstruation too.
You could consider adding an equal amount of horsetail and red clover flowers to the above mix to drink every few days when menopause is complete and you head into old age, to help stave off osteoporosis, heart problems, joint disorders and protect against bladder infections and incontinence.
Agnus castus tincture can help to balance hormone levels, reduce many symptoms of fluctuating hormones and ease the passage through the earlier stages of the menopause. Take 1 teaspoon (5ml) of tincture daily in a little water or added to a herb tea.
Crampbark can help with both painful cramping and flooding. Take 10-20 drops of tincture as and when needed.
Phytooestrogenic herbs include black cohosh, red clover, fenugreek seeds, hops, dried citrus peel, green tea, alfalfa, dong quai, agnus castus, wild yam, sage, fennel seeds, blackcurrant buds, liquorice and sarsaparilla root.
Schisandra berries work to help keep hormones (adrenals, thyroid, pituitary) in balance and alleviate many symptoms such as hot flushes, tension, stress, insomnia etc.
Lemon balm tea can ease stress, tension, anxiety and depression. It is also cooling and aids sleep.
Damiana contains hormone precursors and can act as a hormone balancer, capable of reducing hot flushes and alleviating vaginal dryness and atrophy.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Daily exercise such as walking, swimming, gardening, dancing, yoga etc will help to keep bones strong, relieve stress and release happy hormones.

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