Herbs for an easier menopause

We hosted a really inspiring webinar recently on using Herbs, supplements and lifestyle adjustments to ease the transition to menopause. The expert who was answering questions was Alison Cullen from A.Vogel, who is a nutrition therapist and practitioner for many years and an expert in women’s health. Alison is also in incredibly inspiring speaker and is passionate about finding the right solution to each woman’s unique menopause symptoms. 

In many way the subject of the Menopause is still somewhat taboo – many of us have very little idea of what it entails, when it might start, how long it might last and how it might affect us. And for many women (myself included!) the menopause can arrive quite suddenly and throw us into the unknown. So the more we talk to other women, read up and ask questions, the better prepared we will be and (hopefully) we will have an easier smoother menopause as a result.

One really good thing to know is that with some easy lifestyle adjustments, most women will go through the menopause with only a few symptoms. Some really lucky ones will have none at all! However, a small number of women will experience deep hormonal shifts and these can cause issues in the menopause, but with relatively inexpensive nutritional and herbal supports these can often be eased. 

As with so many things in life, preparation is key – we all know that the healthier and fitter we are, the better our chances are of having to having an easy menopause. So diet, exercise and lifestyle are really important factors and the earlier you start to prepare, the better. If you are in your early to mid 40s, you are at the ideal age to start this journey. 

Alison was very emphatic about one thing – ‘stress reduction’ is key to managing our hormones, at all phases of life. When we are stressed, our adrenal glands are very busy producing adrenaline and cortisol, and this will make your ride through the menopause a lot bumpier. And tied in to this is reducing your caffeine intake, as caffeine plays havoc with our hormones!

Staying hydrated is hugely important during the menopause, Alison mentioned drinking enough water about five times during the webinar! Keeping hydrated helps to boost energy (dehydration affects energy levels), can fix sluggish digestion (enough water keeps your friendly bacteria alive and thriving) and will ease painful Joints (dehydration can worsen joint pain). If you have heart palpitations and hot flashes in the night, drink more water. 

When we are approaching the menopause our moods can become very dis-regulated, and that came up repeatedly in the questions.

Low mood, low energy and low libido was mentioned by many women. Oestrogen is a mood enhancer, and falling levels can have a huge impact on how you feel every day. Here, once again, herbs to the rescue! A fermented soy supplement can help to gently raise and balance oestrogen, and this can have a direct impact on your mood. Called Menopause Support from A/Vogel, this is available in all good Healthfood shops. 

If ‘anger’ is one of your main symptoms, if you keep catching yourself reacting in a way that doesn’t feel like the real you, and if your cycle length is varying and becoming erratic, then the herb Agnus Castus could be a good idea for you. You have to take it for three cycles to see if it’s right for you. Agnus castus doesn’t boost any one hormone but will help your body to regulate hormones and it can help if you are bleeding too heavily. Magnesium also helps to balance moods, and in Organico we also recommend a supplement by Viridian, which includes Saffron and Calendula, both amazing at balancing hormones. If anxiety is predominant or causing distress, try the Passiflora range by Vogel – there’s a spray you can carry around to use when you need it, as well as drops and a new tablet. 

Alison suggested that if Agnus Castus and magnesium didn’t help anger issues, or if you are feeling sluggish, then it’s time to look at your liver. Your liver needs taking care of before and during the menopause. Our liver synthesises all the hormones – once they have done their job they are sent to the liver to be deactivated and excreted. If your liver is struggling this process might not be efficient so it could create further imbalances. Your liver also cleans your blood, makes and stores energy, and keeps your blood sugars at the right level. Taking a Spring and Autumn course of the herbs Milk thistle, Artichoke and Dandelion can really help your liver to stay in shape.

Several women had questions around aches and pains – and someone even commented that it was very reassuring to hear that feeling very achy was a common complain for menopausal women. Falling oestrogen can affect the hydration in your joints, muscles and ligaments. This can make you feel less like exercising but it’s very important to keep active for several reasons. If your joints and muscles are sore, the best kind of exercise is yoga, swimming and walking. For reducing inflammation in the body,  Alison’s suggestion included paying attention to your diet and making sure you had good Omega 3 Levels – lots of flax seeds, oily fish and possibly a supplement as well. Also drinking lots of water! And finally there is a herbal supplement that can help sore joints, it’s called Devil’s Claw and can be taken in drops or tablet form. Magnesium is also important here and a good quality collagen supplement can be a good idea – collagen helps joints and skin as well. 

This is just a taste of what we covered in the discussion with Alison – if you would like to receive the playback, email me on info@organico.ie and I will send it on to you. 

Hannah Dare

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

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