Women’s Health: Focus on Natural Menopause
Written by Dr Arien van der Merwe
The hormone replacement therapy (to do or not to do!) debacle has been raging for many years. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was regarded as a panacea to prolong youth, cure symptoms of menopause and prevent heart disease and osteoporosis. For many decades, women were convinced to take HRT as soon as the first sign of menopause appeared and to continue using them indefinitely. Now we know it’s not as simple as that! Some of us simply do not do well with HRT, and some do not ever want to use it, because of associated health risks or previous side effects from contraceptives. Now, genetic screening (available from our office) can identify whether your enzymes can break down HRT effectively and quickly enough to prevent accumulation for later health risks to manifest. If you have a constant concern about whether to use it or not, please listen to your intuition and come find out the many natural therapies to support your body through this life transition period, by gently guiding your physiology throughout perimenopause, menopause and post menopause.
A billion-dollar scientific study that was conducted by the American Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), confirmed a while ago that using HRT for longer than 5 years increases a woman’s risk for breast cancer, heart disease, stroke and pulmonary embolism. The trials were actually halted three years early as the increased risks outweighed any benefit the continuation of the study might have provided.
Click Here for our Female Hormone Health Box
What is a woman supposed to do?
- Many trials have been conducted to prove the efficacy and safety of plant hormones. Natural alternatives to HRT have all of the same benefits as HRT, but very few side effects because they are only 1 in 1000 to 1 in 10 000 as strong as HRT.
- General health and wellbeing will improve by following natural guidelines. It is especially important for women to have a thorough heart health risk evaluation as part of an annual preventative medical examination, whether or not you have symptoms or a positive history. These include the usual blood screening tests, but be sure to request a complete thyroid and lipid profile incl. homocysteine, fasting glucose and insulin, C-reactive protein, and an exertion ECG.
Heart related symptoms differ in women:
- Chest pain or discomfort. Chest pain is the most common heart attack symptom, but some women may experience it differently than men, such as uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
- Pain in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
- Stomach pain
- Shortness of breath, nausea, or light headedness, with or without chest discomfort
- Sweating…breaking out in cold sweat
- Unusual fatigue.
We always associate chest pain with heart attacks, and for good reason, but it’s not the whole story — especially for women. While chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack, women can have symptoms that aren’t related to chest pain at all. They need to be on the lookout for other, subtler symptoms, as these are seldom as dramatic as you might think (pain thresholds differ among us), and it can feel like pressure or heart burn that comes on over time.
A natural approach to the menopause:
There are many ways to ensure a smooth journey through menopause while simultaneously protecting your bones and heart by deciding on a natural approach. Here are some examples, all specific combinations formulated by myself and available from our offices and also online:
- Suitable food supplements:
- Antioxidant combination with vitamins A, E, C, B-complex, mixed carotenes, Co-enzyme Q10, minerals zinc, selenium and copper. Also include iron if your periods are heavy. (e.g. Heart Brain Body Support & Antioxidant and Female Balance).
- Chromium to ensure constant blood sugar levels (in Appetrol and Heart Brain Body Support)
- Calcium, magnesium, boron – in an amino acid chelated form in the correct ratio and vitamin C and D to prevent osteoporosis and improve bone density. All of these work together in the metabolic processes and bone mineralization, so look for a supplement containing all of them. (e.g. Calcium and Magnesium Balance)
- Essential fatty acids (Omega 3, 6, 9) – needed in most body functions and important for female hormonal balance and health (e.g. Super Omega caps)
- Low impact weight bearing exercise such as yoga (the sun salute, cat, lion, cobra, thunderbolt, child or hare positions), dancing, walking, swimming. Refer to Anri’s FitSmart online 15 minute exercise guide)
- Some well researched and effective herbal remedies (the correct ratio of ingredients is available in Female Balance in combination with Heart Brain Body Support & Antioxidant, topped up by specific single herbal remedies for symptom support):
- Herbs that alleviate menopausal symptoms will also help for PMS, painful periods and irregular periods: black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), the isoflavones genistein and daidzein found in soy beans food, wild yam (Dioscorea species), Angelica sinensis (Dong quai) and chastetree berry (Vitex agnus castus).
- St John’s wort and Ginkgo biloba for brain fog, to improve concentration and mood, diminish palpitations and improve mild to moderate depression
- Angelica sinensis (Dong quai) balances female hormones
- Ginseng species, Ashwaganda and liquorice root as part of an adaptogen combination to support the body through stressful times
- Sage and black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) for hot flushes
- Daily relaxation and stress management techniques – at least 20 minutes every day of becoming quiet, focusing on your Inner Being or soul, the connection to your Source of Wellbeing; relaxing, breathing, contemplating, writing in a special journal and reflecting on your life, it’s ongoing purpose and the changing function in your roles as woman, that is a natural part of this life transition period. (My Stress Solutions relaxation CD will support you if you’re a beginner to meditation).
This is a time to pay attention to your soul needs, your life’s meaning and purpose and finding inner peace and happiness. The soul loves beauty: surround yourself with fragrant oils, flowers, silky colourful cloth, a special sacred space adorned with crystals, special symbols, pictures of loved ones, etc. Write down your life’s journey so far, and give thanks for the strengths that brought you to where you are. Consider your soul purpose, what you still have to do, or want to do with the rest of your time on earth.
- Eating guidelines for daily use (refer our EatSmart Guide for more info):
- Low in refined sugar and saturated fat
- Low in salt
- Steer clear of too spicy food, hot drinks, too much alcohol
- Increase daily intake of vegetables (3 portions, different varieties), fruit (2 portions) and a mixed salad
- Lower intake of red meat to once or twice a week
- Increase intake of fatty fish and poultry
- Increase intake of legumes, nuts, seeds, beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, linseeds, soy – at least 3 times a week, preferably every day
- Include 250ml of full cream dairy products, soy milk, yoghurt, etc.
- Increase use of cold pressed linseed, olive, grapeseed, canola oils
- Drink 250ml water for every 10kg in body weight every day
Peri-menopause: Some women go through a peri-menopausal period many years before the menopause actually starts. There can be a period of heavier bleeding, more painful periods and/or emotional upsets, even while the periods still occur fairly regularly.
And finally, we have to approach the transition into menopause in an integrative way. Managing menopause is about managing your entire lifestyle (including controlling fat accumulation in some of us), understanding that this is a natural life transition period into the wisdom years, surrendering and letting go of old emotional baggage, deeply connecting with your soul-self, using the correct food supplements, daily relaxation and healing herbs to gently assist you through the before, during and after-burn of menopause.
Click Here for our Female Hormone Health Box
Written by Dr Arien van der Merwe (co-owner of Ariani Health Solutions), is a natural, integrative medical doctor, author, specialist holistic health and wellness counsellor and stress management consultant, workplace wellness service provider and author. Dr Arien is a regular guest on TV and radio and contributes to many magazines and journals.