The peri-menopause is a period of time when a woman moves from the years where she ovulates into the menopause itself, and into the next chapter of her life. This transitional period can span several years. Many women make this physical and emotional change with relative ease, however a significant number experience uncomfortable symptoms such as hot flushes, palpations, sleep disturbance, mood and cognitive instability, PMS, vaginal dryness and muscular aches and pains. These symptoms often arrive at a time when other life pressures come to the fore - caring for ageing parents, children leaving home, and so on. With the average age for having children later than in previous generations, hormonal 'book ending' - where one's children are going through significant hormonal change at the same time - is common.
Peri-menopause symptoms can significantly reduce a woman's quality of life, and whilst HRT is often a first port of call there is much that we can do with lifestyle and dietary change.
Herbal remedies are also able to support the woman's body through this time and help alleviate symptoms.
Dietary phytoestrogens (oestrogen-like compounds from plants like flax and soy) are of immense value and have been shown to reduce hot flushes and vaginal dryness. They have also been shown to improve bone density and be cardio-protective making them beneficial in the diet beyond the peri-menopause and into the menopause itself, with its increased risk of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. Good gut health is also important due to its blood sugar-stabilising and anti-inflammatory effects, as well as for proper utilisation of dietary phytoestrogens.
From a herbalists perspective liver and adrenal support are also key to an easier peri-menopause. For example, dandelion root supports the liver in its removal from the body of hormonal breakdown products. As the ovaries slow in their production of oestrogen the adrenals begin to take over, and adrenal adaptogens and tonics are used to support this transition. Examples of herbs that provide symptomatic relief are red clover, hops and sage which are valuable in reducing hot flushes. Others, such as motherwort, can help reduce feelings of anxiety as well as menopause-associated heart palpitations.
Herbs are immensely valuable in supporting us through the peri-menopause and into a healthy older age. During a consultation we discuss in detail the patient's state of wellbeing, any health conditions they may have, as well as any medication they are taking; in this way I can create an individualised treatment plan and herbal prescription that safely supports a woman at this key time in her life.
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