Having a healthy menopause

Did you miss our recent webinar on the Menopause and Osteoporosis? We were amazed and delighted at the response – we had nearly 500 sign-ups, which is a record for us, and just serves to underline how important these subjects are and how many people they affect. 

If you missed the webinar but would like to watch it, it’s available as a playback until April 25, so just drop us an email and we will send you the replay link. Here’s a few of the key lifestyle and dietary points Marilyn and Heather discussed though, to get you started!

Firstly, Marilyn is very clear that the menopause is not an illness. If you subscribe to the standpoint currently held by the conventional medical profession, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was. Women in many other cultures do not experience the menopause as a crisis demanding medical intervention – and yet we all have the same set of hormones. Many of them simply do not suffer the physical and emotional symptoms that women in the West are programmed to accept as inevitable. In our society the focus of the menopause is one of loss, to which the answer is often to ‘replace’ hormones, using HRT. 

Marilyn’s approach is to consider the menopause a perfectly natural and normal experience, and in her experience, if we combine lifestyle changes with dietary and herbal solutions, we should be able to reduce the challenging effects of this transition without resorting to medication. Preferably she would like to see us start the lifestyle adjustments early on in our 40s or even 30s though, to give ourselves the best chance of sailing through it: 

The menopause is a time of change and the female hormones are going to be fluctuating up and down until a woman comes out the other side and into the post-menopause, when the hormones will stabilise. What a woman eats at this stage can make the difference between having a difficult or easy menopause. 

To start off with she talked a little about HRT, about the different types and about the benefits and the risks involved. Overall, she would prefer to see women trying natural solutions, because there are considerable risks associated with HRT, particularly if it is started young. If you are interested in learning more about Marilyn’s views on HRT, please watch the talk, as she shared several slides detailing research you can look up for further information. 

In terms of diet and how it affects our experience of the menopause, and our chances of developing osteoporosis, there are a number of things we can do. Firstly, Marilyn talked about phytoestrogens and discussed research, which concluded that a diet high in phytoestrogens protects women from breast cancer as well as osteoporosis. Phytoestrogens are found in soy-based foods and all beans and lentils, as well as flax seeds, and herbs like Red Clover and Hops.

“Research has shown that a daily intake of soya (about 100ml soya milk or the equivalent) reduces the risk of hip fractures by 20-30pc. But don’t just focus on soya; have a good variety of all the legumes including chickpeas, kidney beans and lentils.”

She also discussed the importance of balancing our blood sugars, how the blood sugar rollercoaster disrupts our sleep, and how to achieve balance through diet:

“From the dietary point of view, the most important factor is to get blood sugar under control. I would like women to know that sugar and foods that are broken down into sugar quickly (e.g. white flour etc) are the major culprits behind most women’s health problems.”

Then Marilyn moved on to discuss osteoporosis, which she described as a silent killer of women, and how if we aren’t active enough, if we smoke, or are on certain medications, our chances of suffering from bone loss increase significantly. She also talked about what we can do to reduce our risk and retain our bone strength, in particular avoiding or reducing certain foods (mainly fizzy drinks/colas, coffee, and animal proteins). 

Basically, because these foods are so acidic, our body needs to draw calcium and other minerals from our bones to get back to the alkaline state it thrives in, and this leaching of essential minerals is very detrimental to our bone health. She also talked about the crisis that is being caused by drinking cola and other fizzy drinks – again, the acid in these drinks causes minerals to be leached from our bones and it is causing even teenagers to have weak and brittle bones, which is terrifying, and could cause you to wonder how these drinks are even allowed to be on sale in the first place!

She discussed research on diet that showed that women on a highly acidic diet (lots of animal protein, cheese, colas) were 4 times as likely to have hip fractures than women on a less acidic diet.

She was careful to point out that oranges and lemons are actually alkalising when we eat them, so it pays to take a careful look at what foods have an acidifying effect and which don’t, as it can be confusing. Coffee is also acidifying and causes calcium and magnesium to leech from our bones, but Apple Cider Vinegar is alkalising, hence it being such a good drink to soothe an acid stomach. 

Marilyn also discussed supplements, both herbal and vitamin/minerals, and how essential they are to maintaining bone health, staying calm and keeping well during these years. And Heather gave us some examples of case studies with women she has worked with, showing the power of dietary and nutritional adjustments in overcoming difficult symptoms. In particular, we learned about the importance of Omega 3 supplements, magnesium, and calming herbs such as valerian and Theanine. 

If you’d like to watch the whole talk, we will happily send it on to you. As Marilyn said, we are all different – but there are some basic changes that can be made to improve our chances of having an easy menopause. And it’s never too late to start. 

Take care and stay well, and have a good April!

Hannah Dare

Hannah Dare co-runs Organico, the café, bakery and health shop in Bantry, West Cork.

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