Menopause represents a natural but major transition period in the lives of most women. The average age of menopause is 51 with most women entering menopause between the ages of 45 and 55. Up to 80 per cent of women will experience mild to moderate menopause symptoms, while 10 to15 percent will suffer severe symptoms. Symptoms include: anxiety, hot flashes, night sweats, sleep problems, brain fog and memory problems, mood swings, irritability, depression and weight gain.
Nutrition and diet can greatly influence menopause and menopausal symptoms. One of the most important dietary recommendations for all menopausal women may be to increase foods that are high in phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are plant versions of the human hormone estrogen. They’re considered to be weak estrogenic compounds with an average of about two per cent of the strength of estrogens. They can be beneficial when estrogen levels are either too high or too low. When metabolized, they bind on the same cellular sites as do estrogens, altering estrogenic effects. The best food sources of phytoestrogens are non-genetically engineered soybeans, flax seeds, oats, rye, lentils, fennel, chickpeas, alfalfa and sesame. Much research shows that women in Asia experience less menopausal symptoms because their diet contains a higher concentration of phytoestrogens, compared to women who adopt a North American diet.
Our North American diet is also typically deficient in essential fatty acids (EFAs), which are very important in many health conditions, ranging from inflammation and PMS to menopausal symptoms. Supplementing with essential fatty acids from flax or better yet from a good quality fish oil rich in omega 3s will also help with various menopausal symptoms.
Other important health tips to include are:
After you’ve corrected your nutritional intake by your choice of food and lifestyle changes, choose supplements and herbs wisely. Strategies should include ways to balance fluctuating hormone levels, support the adrenal glands and prevent the risk for osteoporosis and heart disease. Look for a formula at your local health food store containing black cohosh, chasteberry, gamma oryzanol, hesperidin and dong quai to reduce hot flashes, night sweats and other symptoms of menopause naturally.
Dr. Marita Schauch BSc ND is a graduate of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, Canada’s premier institute for education and research in naturopathic medicine. Dr. Schauch’s recent book, The Adrenal Stress Connection, and health articles educate the public about health and wellness and have been featured in numerous print media. She currently resides and has her clinical practice in Victoria B.C.