Dealing with those dreaded hot flushes
Hot flushes are a result of increased activity of the hypothalamus gland in the brain, which produces two hormones – the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and the luteinising hormone (LH). Extra-high levels of both these hormones occur as menopause approaches in an attempt by the brain to stimulate any remaining eggs to develop.
Cool down these hot flushes by taking natural phytoestrogen supplements suggests Patrick. Soya, red clover and chickpeas as well as fermented sources of soy – such as miso, tempeh, natto and tamari – are foods with a good source of isoflavons which can dramatically decrease the occurrence of hot flushes. But be wary of highly processed forms of soya as they contain very little of these plant-based substances.
Vitamins C,E and essential fats can also help with relieving menopausal symptoms.
“Choose a Vitamin C supplement that contains berry extracts rich in bioflavonoids, as some evidence indicates that these can also help,” says Patrick.
Black cohosh is another helpful herb to take during menopause as it decreases these hot flushes as well as insomnia, sweating and anxiety. Patrick recommends taking 50 mg per day of black cohosh three months on, one month off and to avoid if you are taking liver toxic drugs or have a damaged liver.
Dong quai, a plant native to China, is another useful herb for combatting hot flushes and for balancing hormones but please be advised it can cause thinning of the blood. It is best therefore to consult your GP beforehand.
Agnus-castus (chasteberry) can also help with hot flushes. Agnus-castus’s therapeutic powers are attributed to its indirect effects on decreasing oestrogen levels while increasing progesterone and prolactin which lower oestrogen levels. Patrick suggests 4mg per day as was used in most trials and research on this herb.
Another vitally important component in managing menopause is regular exercise and breathing deeply says Patrick.
“The basic principle of all breathing exercise is to use your diaphragm, rather than the top of the chest as we tend to do when we are anxious. The diaphragm is the dome-shaped muscle at the bottom of the lungs. Trials have shown that this type of breathing can reduce the frequency of hot flushes by about 50%,” says Patrick.
The moody blues
Regular exercise, Patrick’s low-GL diet and the right nutrients are essential for calming moods and emotions often associated with menopause. So is ensuring that your daily diet includes essential fats in the form of oily fish and nuts and seeds, such as flax or pumpkin.
The St John’s Wort plant has powerful anti-depressant qualities, and at the same time can relieve the symptoms of headaches and fatigue. For best results, combine with black cohosh, advises Patrick.
Sex? What sex?
Vaginal dryness can lead to a declining interest in sex during menopause. Supplements of the vitamins A, C, and E, as well as zinc, encourage natural mucous production as declining oestrogen levels tend to dry up vaginal secretions. Natural hormone creams can help, especially if you are deficient in hormones. They are also successful in treating vaginal dryness and can reduce the occurrence of urinary tract infections, restore normal vaginal mucous membranes and provide the right environment in the vagina to inhibit growth of unfriendly organisms.
Women tend to sleep less as they get older and often more so during menopause. So if you have a habit of waking up in the early hours, Patrick advises to do something creative rather than worry about losing sleep. Meditation is a restful way to spend this time, and could be used to compensate for that lost sleep. To fight insomnia, avoid caffeine, and take a supplement which combines 5-HTP, magnesium and calming herbs at least an hour before you go to bed, says Patrick.
Menopausal joint pain
Weight management through regular exercise and Patrick’s low-GL diet is key to easing painful joints often experienced during menopause. Food intolerances may become more prevalent during menopause says Patrick.
“Wheat and dairy are the most common offenders – and can be a cause or contributor to joint pains,” he says.
Supplements such as Vitamin B6 may help to soothe painful joints; as will avoiding red meat, dairy and wheat or gluten products.
“Combine vitamins B6, B3 and C with zinc, calcium and magnesium to ease this pain. The omega-3 fat, EPA, and culinary herbs such as turmeric and ginger, as well as red onions and olives all have potent anti-inflammatory properties which can help reduce the inflammation,” says Patrick.
He also advises rubbing progesterone cream directly onto the painful joint or tissue.
Preventing memory loss
If you are worried about memory loss as you age, it is important to eat well to prevent this from happening. However, says Patrick, even this may not provide enough nutrients – especially B12 – that are increasingly poorly absorbed as you age. All evidence suggests that both age-related memory loss and Alzheimer’s is, in almost all cases, completely preventable if you follow the right diet, take the correct supplements and have a healthy, active lifestyle.