A female´s symptoms may be more pronounced if there is hormonal imbalance in the years preceding menopause (known as PMS). Lifestyle factors such as body mass index, smoking, alcohol consumption, exercise, use of contraception, life events (stressors), chemical overload (xeno-oestrogens) will all impact symptoms during peri-menopause and into menopause. These are areas that you can manage and be in control of and in effect reduce symptoms.
Whilst I cannot give information to suit the individual in a group setting, I can let you know which supplements may be supportive in certain individuals. However, it is important to understand that vitamins, minerals and herbs work in synergy.
I have listed some herbs and nutrients in this post, which I feel are worth considering when putting your own support strategies together. You are responsible for any you may wish to try. I can only give 1:1 support for those clients I see for private sessions and have an understanding of their health history. Always go “low and slow” when introducing anything new.
First, an update on NEW RESEARCH and how important DIET is for female hormone balance and managing symptoms:
A new study, published by the North American Menopause Society in the journal Menopause has found that a diet intervention is about as effective (88%) as hormone replacement therapy (70%-90%) for reducing menopausal hot flashes, without the associated risks from unwanted sideeffects.
“Our results mirror the diets of places in the world, like pre-Westernised Japan and modern day Yucatán Peninsula, where a low-fat, plant-based diet including soybeans is more prevalent and where postmenopausal women experience fewer symptoms”. The study published last month is the second phase of a two-part trial, the first of which was published, also in Menopause, in 2021.
“These new results suggest that a diet change should be considered as a first line treatment for troublesome vasomotor symptoms, including night sweats and hot flashes”, explains Dr Barnard. Included in the study were 84 postmenopausal women reporting two or more hot flashes per day. They were randomly assigned either to an intervention group – consisting of a low-fat, vegan diet, including half a cup of cooked soybeans daily – or to a control group that made no diet changes for 12 weeks.
“This study demonstrates the effectiveness of a dietary intervention for menopausal symptoms”, Dr Barnard explains. “As well, it is precisely the diet that would be expected to reduce the health concerns of many women reaching menopause: an increasing risk of heart disease, breast cancer, and memory problems”
“These new results suggest that a diet change should be considered as a first-line treatment for troublesome vasomotor symptoms, including night sweats and hot flashes”. – Lead researcher Prof Neal Barnard, MD, George Washington University School of Medicine. (A webinar replay of “Food, Hormones, and Health: Your Body in Balance” with Dr Barnard is available at https://www.forksoverknives. com/wellness/food-hormones-health-your-body-balance-webinar.)
Magnesium is commonly referred to as nature’s tranquiliser. It helps to regulate the brain-adrenal axis which is often overtaxed due to the stressors of our modern society. It has anti-anxiety and antu-depressant properties and a lack of magnesium is associated with fatigue, poor sleep, headaches, muscle cramps, constipation, 300mg per day should see improvements to all categories.
B6 is required to make stress hormones and is often depleted. It is also used to regulate serotonin, dopamine and GABA which are the “feel-good” hormones as well as support blood sugar balance. It´s effects upon alleviating symptoms of PMS are well documented.
CHECK: Omega 3, VITAMIN D & CALCIUM requirements
POTENTIAL NATURAL SUPPORT FOR SYMPTOMS
Sage has been used clinically to help with normalising excitability of various brain waves during mental challenge and females given fresh sage extract showed more focus, relaxed state of mind and reduction in number of hot flushes and improved sleep after 8 weeks (100mg sage).
Sage extract has no oestrogenic action therefore should be usable for those who have had oestrogen receptor breast cancer. It is also usable for those on diabetic or thyroid medication.
Ashwagandha has a calming effect and has a long history of use for reducing anxiety and stress. It is able to help regulate the brain-adrenal axis and bring cortisol, DHEA and C-reactive protein (an inflammation marker) back into balance. It has been recognised for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-depressant, immune modulating effects. Ashwaganda is also useful for those with thyroid issues. With regards to perimenopause and beyond it has shown the ability to support: stress, food cravings, depression, anxiety, immune health, cognition/emory, sport endurance and recovery and sexual function.
Shatavari: Also known as wild asparagus shatavari is considered a female reproductive tonic with the ability to nourish the ovaries and support female libido, It has natural phytoestrogenic properties demonstrating natural mood and memory enhancing properties, anti-stress and antioxidant effects.
Rhodiola is known for enhancing mental and physical performance as well as having a stress protective effect. With regards to menopausal females it may improve the neuropsychological symptoms including fatigue, anxiety, depression, stress tolerance, cognitive dysfunction, memorey decline. In addition it may be cardioprotective, osteoprotective, anti-carcinogenic and extracts are ”unlikely” to cause oestrogenic effects or increase cancer risk in hormone sensitive tissues.
Saffron is a potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and endocrine protective effect. The bioactive compounds in saffron have been shown to support relaxation and a positive outlook. A 12 week study of 28mg of saffron extract appeared to improve the psychological symptoms of menopause, such as hot flushes, night sweats, mood changes, and sleep. It does not contain oestrogenic compounds.
Rosemary: improved concentration, performance, speed, accuracy, and even mood.
It may be used for relief of stress, fatigue, physical exhaustion and loss of stamina. It is said to heighten vitality.
Lemon Balm is known to have calming effects and support sleep.
Dong Quai: A gentle herb which has shown to be effective in supporting oestrogen levels. It may decrease the intensity of hot flushes, improve sleep and diminish fatigue.
Maca: The maca plant belongs to the brassica (mustard) family and like broccoli and cauliflower, is a cruciferous vegetable. Maca in perimenopausal and menopausal women has been linked to an increase in hormones, including progesterone and luteinizing hormone (which stimulates ovary function). The maca also stimulated oestradiol and suppressed the production of chemicals like the stress hormone, cortisol. It has been used to reduce in hot flashes, night sweats, depression, insomnia, nervousness and anxiety, as well as improved concentration. Though it’s not well understood how maca works, one of the main theories is that the plant sterols in maca stimulate changes in the action of the HPA axis and also, the adrenal, ovarian, pineal and thyroid glands. Women with an under-active thyroid can take maca without any problems if they are low in iodine.
Red Clover: Belongs to the legume family and is a phytoestrogen with properties that help to reduce high cholesterol, osteoporosis, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal atrophy and dryness. Research in 2012 showed that two capsules of 80mg per day for 3 months reduced hot flashes and night sweats. This was supported in another research paper in 2016. In 2018 red clover was shown to improve lipid markers in perimenopausal and post menopausal women. Improvements were seen in HDL cholesterol levels and a decrease in LDL cholesterol.
Whatever kind of “treatment” you choose to follow, you need to remember that all pass through the liver. Making sure the liver is supported is KEY to optimising your health in multiple ways.
Here are some supplements you may wish to explore yourself:
MENOVIVE by PURE ENCAPSULATIONS
ORGANIC HERBAL FEMALE COMPLEX by Viridian
MENOSAN by A Vogel
FLUSHES NO MORE by Allergy Research Group
ESTROLIBRIUM by Nutri
PMS HERO by Dr Vegan (perimenopause)
AGNUS CASTUS by The natural health practice (particularly helpful in menopausal years)