Managing menopause: can it be done naturally?

by Hannah de Gruchy September 26, 2021

Managing menopause naturally - banner

The menopause is a natural event in a woman’s life that signals the end of her reproductive years. This stage of life is preceded by a period of time during which a women can experience symptoms of the perimenopause including hot flushes, night sweats, mood changes, and changes to her menstrual cycle. 

51 years old is the average age for the menopause, but symptoms can begin when a woman is in her early to mid 40s. If a woman experiences the symptoms of the perimenopause before the age of 45, she’s said to be in an early, or premature menopause.

There are different ways of managing the symptoms of the menopause. These include prescribed hormone medications, natural supplements, diet, and lifestyle changes.

The menopause: fast facts

  1. The period of time before the menopause is called the perimenopause and it can last up to ten years.
  2. The perimenopause and menopause are caused by a natural decline in the female hormone oestrogen.
  3. A woman is menopausal when she hasn’t had a period for 12 consecutive months.
  4. The average age for the menopause for women living in the UK is 51 years old.
  5. The symptoms of the perimenopause and the menopause are the same and include hot flushes, night sweats, changes in mood and irregular periods.
  6. Perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms can be managed with hormone replacement therapy as well as natural supplements.

How is the perimenopause different from the menopause?

perimenopause and menopause woman

If a woman hasn’t had a period for 12 consecutive months, she’s then officially considered to be menopausal. So technically the menopause is actually a term used to describe something that’s happened in the past.

When discussing the symptoms of the menopause, it’s therefore more appropriate to talk about the perimenopause. The word ‘peri’ means ‘around’ and so describes the period of time leading up to the menopause, during which women experience symptoms

The symptoms of the perimenopause and the menopause are the same. The difference is, the perimenopause begins earlier, and many women don’t know or can’t tell when they move from being perimenopausal to menopausal.

This is because they might be experiencing symptoms at the same time as missing some periods, and then have another period, followed by no more or irregular cycles. It’s not until she hasn’t had a period for 12 consecutive months that she’s then menopausal but could still be experiencing symptoms for the next few years whilst her body adapts to the low oestrogen levels.

What causes the perimenopause and the menopause?

causes journey path

Both the perimenopause and the menopause are caused by the natural decline of the female hormone oestrogen. This decline is a natural part of a woman getting older and generally begins to become noticeable at around the age of 40 (although it can be earlier).

Declining oestrogen levels are responsible for the range of symptoms associated with the perimenopause and the menopause.

When a women is perimenopausal or has reached the age of around 35, she may find it difficult to become pregnant. However, she still could and therefore contraception should be used if she doesn’t wish to become pregnant.

Once a woman is menopausal, she is no longer fertile and cannot become pregnant. This is because she’s no longer having a menstrual cycle during which an egg is released that could potentially become fertilised.

What are the signs and symptoms of the perimenopause and the menopause?

Both the perimenopause and the menopause can cause a range of symptoms, both physical and emotional.

Some women experience all or some symptoms, whilst others may only experience a change in her menstrual cycle. It’s also normal to experience different symptoms at different times.

Common physical symptoms of the perimenopause and the menopause include:

  • More or less frequent, heavy or painful periods
  • Weight gain
  • Hot flushes
  • Night sweats
  • Breast tenderness
  • Recurrent cystitis
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Painful sex
  • Headaches
  • Hair loss
  • Dry skin
  • Heart palpitations
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle weakness caused by a reduction in muscle mass
  • Weak bones (osteoporosis)

Common emotional symptoms of the perimenopause and the menopause include:

  • Mood swings
  • Low mood
  • Reduced libido
  • Brain fog – problems with memory and concentration
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Tiredness

Conventional ways to manage the perimenopause and menopause 

Conventional ways doctor

The symptoms of the perimenopause and the menopause can be unpleasant and upsetting. Therefore, many women look for ways of managing their symptoms to make them more bearable.

Hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, is a treatment some women find extremely beneficial. It can only be prescribed by a doctor and is a way of replacing the lost oestrogen.

HRT is available in many forms including tablets, gels, patches, rings and pessaries that are used vaginally.

Speak to your GP if you’re struggling with your symptoms, they can discuss the option of HRT with you. Herbal menopause supplements can also be very useful either on their own or alongside more conventional treatments. If you intend to use both, speak to your doctor or pharmacist to ensure they’re compatible.

Managing the perimenopause and menopause through diet and supplements

The symptoms associated with the perimenopause and the menopause can also be helped by utilising herbal supplements and looking at certain aspects of your diet and lifestyle.

Herbal remedies and supplements for supporting the perimenopause and menopause

There are certain herbal remedies and supplements that can help to manage specific symptoms of the menopause, such as hot flushes and mood swings.

Dong quai

Also known as female ginseng, dong quai comes from the same family of plants as celery and parsley. It’s been used for generations in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) alongside other herbs such as black cohosh and red clover to help reduce hot flushes and night sweats

Evening primrose oil

Evening primrose oil is produced from the seed of the evening primrose flowering plant. Studies have shown that it can be effective at reducing hot flushes associated with the perimenopause and the menopause.

Korean (panax) ginseng

Korean ginseng has also been used for millennia in TCM. Research is in its early stages but early results suggest that it can be helpful in lifting the mood during the perimenopause and menopause as well as improving a low libido.

Coenzyme Q10

Often referred to as “nature’s spark plug”, coenzyme Q10 helps to power the cells and provide energy. This can therefore be a useful supplement for women experiencing perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms such as low energy levels and brain fog.

Calcium

Oestrogen helps to support good bone strength and as levels begin to naturally decline during the perimenopause and menopause, bone loss can become a problem. This can eventually lead to weakened bones, and in severe cases, osteoporosis.

Calcium is a mineral essential for bone health and calcium supplements can help to support bone strength in perimenopausal and menopausal women.

Available natural supplements 

G&G Meno Pack Menopause Supplements
G&G Meno-Time 15-in-1 Capsules contain vitamins and herbs that help to support a woman’s body throughout her perimenopause and menopause by helping to improve hormone regulation. They contain active forms of herbal remedies including dong quai, evening primrose oil and coenzyme Q10 as well as calcium and magnesium. 

 

G&G Meno Pack Menopause Supplements are a complete 28 day supply of sachets containing nine different supplements. Included are the G&G Meno-Time capsules along with multivitamins, omega 3 fish oils and a calcium-magnesium mix.

If you’re taking any other regular medications for any other health condition including the menopause, then it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any herbal remedies to check if there are any known interactions.

Diet recommendations for supporting the perimenopause and menopause 

Diet recommendations

The benefits of herbal supplements and/or HRT can be enhanced by living a healthy lifestyle. This includes eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables to help support a strong immune system, alongside healthy fats from oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds, wholegrains and lean protein sources such as chicken breast, fish, tofu, beans, pulses and grains such as quinoa.

Green leafy vegetables, dairy products and fish with edible bones are a good source of calcium, which can help to prevent the development of weak bones.

Soya products, such as soya milk, tofu and edamame beans can also be beneficial due to their soya isoflavones that can mimic oestrogen in the body, helping to relieve symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats.

Avoiding hot, spicy food, too much caffeine and alcohol, quitting smoking and losing weight, if necessary, can also be beneficial in preventing hot flushes and night sweats.

Lifestyle changes to manage symptoms

Lifestyle changes sleep mediatate

Gentle strength building exercise such as practicing yoga and lifting free weights helps to strengthen the muscles and the bones. This can be beneficial in preventing wastage in later years, which in turn can help to improve stability and prevent fractures and breaks.

Hot flushes and night sweats can be helped by wearing loose, cool clothing in layers that can be easily removed. Natural, breathable fabrics such as organic cotton, hemp, linen and bamboo will also help. As will sleeping in a cool room with open windows and breathable bed linen.

Vaginal dryness as a result of decreasing oestrogen levels can lead to painful sex and recurrent bladder infections. Oestrogen gels and pessaries, available on prescription, can be useful in preventing these uncomfortable consequences of the perimenopause and menopause.

Taking steps to reduce stress such as practicing regular mindfulness and yoga can help to minimise anxiety and a low mood. Talking therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT, can also help and is available either via a doctor referral or a self-referral to online CBT courses. 

The importance of seeking help for your symptoms

Many women live a fulfilling and enjoyable life post-menopause. In fact, many women thrive during their middle years. But getting there can feel lonely, overwhelming and confusing. Help is available, and as the menopause is such a normal part of life, you’re not alone. Seek solace from your female peers, friends and family members who may be experiencing the same struggles as you.

There are many online resources available which can prove to be a wealth of information and support. These are some I would recommend:

Whether or not you choose to use HRT, herbal supplements can provide invaluable support during this time of life.

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Managing menopause



Hannah de Gruchy
Hannah de Gruchy

Author

Health and wellness author and biologist specialised in sustainability, nutrition and eco-living.


1 Response

Jessica
Jessica

May 18, 2017

Reading this article was a total joy. I, myself, have been going through menopause. I wish that someone would have told me a few years ago to start preparing for it, by nourishing and supporting my body. While I can say that menopause wasn’t a complete surprise for me, I really hate the hot flashes and the crabbiness that I have. I didn’t have a diet of clean, natural foods when I was in my younger years. I do wish looking back now that I would have made better choices. I am going to try to reduce my stress load now, so I can get through this stage of my life. Hopefully, I will be able to thrive once more!

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