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Natural ways to beat the menopause

MagazineJune 2007 (Vol. 18 Issue 3)Natural ways to beat the menopause

Remember your adrenal gland

Remember your adrenal gland. A healthy adrenal gland will continue to supply your postmenopausal body with a form of oestrogen. Continual high levels of stress will cause the adrenals to atrophy (shrink). Also, when under stress, the adrenal gland is too busy producing the stress hormone cortisone to produce other useful substances. The herb Rhodiola rosea (aka golden root) is reputed to have antistress, mood- and memory-enhancing actions. Panax ginseng and Ahswagandha may also help.

Eat a variety of foods and increase your intake of plant foods. This increases the number of different phytochemicals you ingest and decreases the likelihood that any one type will be ingested in unbalanced and overly large amounts. The most recent evidence suggests that women who follow such a diet are at a lower risk of premature death from all causes (JAMA, 2000; 283: 2109-15). Also, avoid sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and fried and highly processed foods.

Supplement - with more than calcium and vitamin D. Make sure you are getting enough potassium (2-3 g daily) and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5, 25-100 mg daily), either in your diet or through supplements. Low levels of vitamin B5 can result in fatigue, headache, sleep disturbances, nausea and abdominal discomfort. Your body needs adequate amounts of vitamins C and B6 as well as zinc and magnesium for the adrenal gland to manufacture its hormones.

Take boron. This is helpful in preventing postmenopausal osteoporosis as it stimulates the body to produce more of its own oestrogen (J Trace Elem Exp Med, 1992; 5: 237-46). Low levels of boron have been associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis and a decline in cognitive function (Biol Trace Elem Res, 1997; 56: 273-86; Environ Health Perspect, 1994; 102 [Suppl 7]: 65-72).

Omega-3 fatty acids can help with menopausal problems, and may also help to prevent postmenopausal osteoporosis, breast cancer and cardiovascular disease (Obstet Gynecol Surv, 2004; 59: 722-30). Omega-3s lower triglycerides, high levels of which are associated with heart disease, particularly in women. Good dietary sources include oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel, and linseed oil, one of the most concentrated plant sources of Omega 3.

Stay active. Research suggests that women who exercise at least 30 minutes a day cut their risk of breast cancer by 10 per cent; one hour a day cuts the risk by 20 per cent (Arch Intern Med, 1999; 159: 2290-6). Weight-bearing exercise can increase bone mineral density (BMD) in premenopausal women by 14-37 per cent (Lancet, 1996; 348: 1343-7). Postmenopausal women who engage in weight-bearing exercise can increase lower spine BMD by 6 per cent (Ann Intern Med, 1988; 108: 824-8). Women who engage in some form of regular exercise generally have better balance and overall health, and a 50-70 per cent reduced risk of hip fracture (Epidemiology, 1991; 2: 1625; BMJ, 1989; 299: 889-92).

Seek support. The social context in which a woman ages has a great deal to do with her experience of menopause (J Women Aging, 1999; 11: 57-73; Maturitas, 2000; 35: 11-23). Expectations of disease, degeneration and menopause as a medical condition can sometimes become self-fulfilling.

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