October is Menopause Month, and we at The Herbtender have a lot to say about natural and holistic ways to support women during this pivotal time of life.
Menopause is a change that every woman will go through. Some will sail through it, and others may struggle. Despite this, it is a natural process, guided by nature and moulded by our individual temperaments and habits. It can be an empowering time when women turn their attention to their own dreams and wishes, unfettered by a monthly cycle and all it brings.
My experience as a herbalist shows that with some focus on our diets, care and attention to ourselves and a helping hand from mother nature, we can make the whole process much more tolerable, whether or not you are taking additional hormones.
In this blog, I’d like to cover some simple diet and lifestyle changes to support you through this transition period, talk about some of The Herbtender’s products that may help, and finish off with a delicious recipe packed full of phytonutrients to help nourish your system - while giving yourself a treat!
OUR TOP 6 NATURAL APPROACHES…
1. Get plenty of sleep
Sleep improves much in life, make sure you are not skimping on it. Ideally, we need 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Now is not the time to burn the candle at both ends!
We know sleep can be a challenge for menopausal women. Reductions in hormone levels can trigger hot flushes and night sweats, as well as anxiety and depression - all of which reduce sleep quality. Ironically, the lack of sleep can make all these symptoms worse, triggering a vicious cycle of worsening symptoms and poor sleep. This is often compounded by decreased melatonin production, partly due to age but also because melatonin secretion is influenced by oestrogen and progesterone. The Sleep Foundation* reports that sleep disorders affect between 35-60% of post-menopausal women.
If you are trying to sleep but not succeeding, then take a look at our blog post, '5 tips for a better night's sleep'.
2. Exercise regularly
Exercise, especially weight-bearing, is essential for menopausal women. It may surprise you to know that weight-bearing exercise is at least as significant (if not more so) for bone strength as diet.
Regular exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight and improve mood, sleep and cardiovascular health. So it's really important to find a type of exercise that you love and will do regularly. Increasing your stress levels by making yourself go to the gym three times a week when you hate the place is going to be completely counterproductive! Find a form of exercise that suits you and that you can build into your life regularly. There are so many options out there - walking, yoga, tai chi, chi kung, dancing, the list is endless. Even housework and gardening count!
If you already have some bone thinning, please do take advice before starting an exercise regime.
3. Reduce your alcohol intake
I apologise straight away for being a party pooper, but I have found that alcohol doesn't do a menopausal woman any favours. While it varies from woman to woman, in general alcohol tends to increase hot flushes, night sweats, anxiety, insomnia and mood swings.
It may vary with alcohol type, and some of my patients have reported fewer symptoms with more natural, organic (and, dare I say it, expensive) wines. It seems that red wines and spirits are amongst the worst.
If you do feel like having a drink, try to make it only special occasions and don't overdo it. There are many sugar and alcohol-free alternatives out there, including alcohol-free wines, beers and gins. Don't forget that herbal tinctures also contain alcohol, so you may benefit from taking herbs in capsule form at this time.
4. Enjoy a healthy & varied diet
The body needs a good balance of nutrients to work correctly. If you are living on pot noodle, diet coke and chocolate bars, the chances are that you won't have an easy time through menopause!
A whole-food diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, high-quality protein, dairy products and good fats is more likely to provide all the nutrients, fatty acids and phytochemicals your body needs to healthily navigate menopause. Your food should be varied and contain a rainbow of different colours, thus ensuring you get the widest possible range of nutrients.
Alex Laird, Medical Herbalist, says that we should be eating 30-40 different foods per day if we are to emulate the health-giving diet of our hunter-gatherer forebears!
5. Limit your cups of coffee
While coffee has many benefits, and some people get on well with it, my experience is that it is generally not a positive thing for most people. It can affect mood, inflammation, blood sugar balance and sleep. All good reasons to review your patterns of use!
I recently attended a talk by a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine who described coffee as ‘anxiety in a cup’. My own experience is not everyone is affected in this way by coffee. Still, if you are one of those women for whom anxiety is a big problem at this time, and you are drinking coffee, it may be worthwhile to reduce your coffee intake and see whether it helps.
In addition, a recent study by the Mayo Clinic** suggested that caffeine intake may worsen menopausal hot flushes and night sweats. Another reason for reconsidering an addiction to the brown stuff.
6. Last but not least, enjoy life!
Make sure you do something every day that makes you happy - something that 'fills you up’! Doing something you love on a regular basis helps your body to manage stress. This isn't the equivalent of a bucket list and it doesn't have to be big or complicated (if hiking in the Himalayas makes you happy, that's great, but I'm not imagining you will do it every day!).
Small things can make a real difference – whether walking the dog, smelling the roses or just having fairy lights all around the kitchen! So, if you are one of those people that is always putting yourself last, now is the time to make sure you put yourself first.
PRODUCTS BY THE HERBTENDER TO SUPPORT YOU…
While we don't currently have a product for menopause (watch this space!), here are some of our current products that might be useful to help you with some of your symptoms.
Often described as 'brain fog', many women have more difficulty focusing around menopause and perimenopause. The Herbtender's Focus & Clarity is designed to help with just that. Crammed full of adaptogens and nootropics, it's ideal for helping your brain stay on track and get you through the day feeling productive.
If sleep is an issue, Doze & Dream might be what you need to help you get those much-needed hours. Designed to help with both getting asleep and staying asleep, it is a supplement you can take regularly or just as and when you are having difficulties.
This supplement was specifically designed to help with anxiety. If that's something that has increased for you around menopause, make this your 'go-to'. Containing Ashwagandha, Lion's Mane and Tulsi, Calm & Collected can be taken in the evening to help wind you down before bed or during the day if you are particularly stressed.
OUR SUPER DELICIOUS GUEST RECIPE
This recipe is by one of my herbal colleagues, Ned Reiter FNIMH, and was designed to help with the symptoms of menopause. We hope you enjoy it - and do send us photos of your finished cakes! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
HRT Power Cake
By Ned Reiter FNIMH
A slice of HRT cake a day to keep the menopause at bay. Contains phyto-oestrogens, calcium and magnesium to lessen menopausal symptoms. May also help protect against osteoporosis.
4oz (100g) soya flour
2 pieces stem ginger – chopped
4 oz (100g) whole-wheat flour
4oz (100g) porridge oats
1/3 – ½ pint (200-300ml) soya milk
8oz (200g) raisins or sultanas
2oz chopped dried apricots
2oz (50g) sesame seeds
4oz (100g) linseeds
2oz (50g) sunflower seeds
2oz (50g) pumpkin seeds
2oz (50g) flaked almonds
1 tablespoon malt extract
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
- Put dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix thoroughly.
- Add the soya milk and malt extract.
- Mix well and leave to soak for ½ hour. If the mixture is too stiff, add extra soya milk.
- Preheat oven to 190 C or 375F gas mark 5.
- Put mixture into a lined loaf tin and bake for 75 mins.
- Turn out and leave to cool.
Feel free to adapt the recipe to your personal taste – other dried fruit may be added or substituted and the spices varied. Icing is to be discouraged. Where possible, organic ingredients are highly preferable. We advise enjoying a slice approx ¾ to 1 inch thick per day. More is fine too.
If you have any questions about the above or anything else The Herbtender related, we'd love to hear from you! Feel free to leave a comment below, pop us an email (email@example.com) or send us a DM at @theherbtender!