By guest writer Eileen Durward, Menopause Specialist
Oh no! They are back but with a vengeance this time! There you are, thinking that it took a lot of hard work for you to tame those menopausal symptoms, you’ve had 6 blissful months with no symptoms - then suddenly, here they are again.
What is going on?
Many women are under the illusion that the menopause is a static state: you start it, have certain symptoms, deal with them in what ever way you can, then that’s it until you are through it. However, it is not like that at all. In an ideal menopause your hormones would gradually fall, gently and in harmony, and your body would have the energy to rebalance itself without effort. But in today’s hectic world very few women will have it that easy. Most will have some sort of symptoms (which can usually be helped by natural methods) but they can come and go.
Your hormonal balance can fluctuate from month to month and can be affected by all kinds of factors such as stress, illness, change of diet to name a few. Your adrenal glands (which support your nervous system and help to deliver hormones), and your digestive system play a crucial part in helping to balance and support your body at this time. So anything that disrupts these will have a knock-on effect on menopausal symptoms, sometimes quite dramatically, as evidenced by Sally and Jane when they consulted me.
Sally started the menopause at 49. For 6 months she had very little problem, occasionally a few hot flushes but nothing that caused too much discomfort.
Suddenly her hot flushes increased, she had several hot sweats in the night, severe enough to wake her up and because of disrupted sleep she became irritable and easily upset during the day. She felt so dispirited and fatigued. On questioning her, I discovered that she had decided to lose weight and had gone on a strict diet and exercise regime.
What she had not realised is that in order to support her system at this time her body required more than adequate amounts of all nutrients. By cutting her nutritional intake this had a direct impact on her adrenal system thus causing the increase and severity of her flushes.
We discussed her diet and exercise regime and decided on a more sensible and gentle approach, adding in a good multivitamin and mineral supplement, plus Sage tablets in the evening to help reduce the sweats during the night. Within a few weeks her sweats had calmed down, she was sleeping better and felt brighter during the day.
Jane, 55, had suffered digestive problems for as long as she could remember : nothing serious (she had her symptoms checked out by her doctor) but daily discomfort, bloating and minor constipation.
When she started the menopause her symptoms worsened, she was getting more constipated, she found herself flushing during the day and her joints started to ache. She felt more and more tired and didn’t feel like exercising because of the joint pain.
Most women do not realise that the digestive system plays such an important part in supporting the menopause, especially as your friendly bacteria help to manufacture phyto-oestrogens, which are needed to keep your hormonal levels healthy during this time.
Disruption to the levels of friendly bacteria can occur through situations such as stress, antibiotics, poor diet and constipation. This area of the gut needs to be slightly acid to sustain the friendly bacteria and if this is left untreated, then the environment can become slightly alkaline which then inhibits the re-growth of the friendly bacteria. Constipation, too, can be a contributory factor for joint pain.
After discussing her symptoms, we decided to work on improving her digestion by using a prebiotic drink, called Molkosan, to help balance the acidity of the gut, and then added in a high strength probiotic - probiotics are supplements which contain a range of the bacteria found in the gut. We looked at her diet and eliminated wheat, caffeine and all processed foods. She was drinking very little water (which would have contributed to the constipation and hot flushes!) so she started drinking plain water instead of lots of cups of tea and coffee. A good fish oil supplement was added to help with the joint pain. After 6 weeks, her digestive symptoms improved, she was no longer constipated, she felt more energetic and her joint pains had all but vanished.
However, as time went by she slowly reverted to her old diet and was very upset when her symptoms started to reappear. She has now realised that this diet is a lifestyle one and ,as long as she sticks to it, her symptoms no longer have an impact on her daily life.
So, if your menopausal symptoms return, worsen, or you start to experience new ones do check the following list and try and resolve the issue if you can.
- Have you changed your eating habits or diet lately?
- Has either your digestion or elimination habits changed?
- Have you had prescribed medication, especially antibiotics?
- Are you drinking enough water?
- Has your lifestyle changed - more stressed, problems with work or family life?
Please remember if you have any worries regarding your health or menopausal symptoms it is important to discuss them with your family doctor before self-medicating.
For more tips and advice on the menopause visit the menopause avogel website where you can request a free menopause pack which contains helpful advice on recurring symptoms.