Holistic Approach to Menopause

Holistic Approach to Menopause

Menopause is a natural transition in a woman’s life, marking the end of her reproductive years, and it often takes women by surprise amidst the demands and schedules of a busy life. Some women sale through this time of transition, yet others experience various symptoms that can impact daily life, including hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, and sleep disturbances. Fortunately, complementary medicine offers a range of holistic approaches to managing these symptoms, including herbal medicine, nutritional and dietary strategies, and lifestyle adjustments to establish hormonal balance.

Vitamin C deficiency causing scurvy

Herbal Medicines for Menopause Symptoms

Herbal medicine has been used for centuries to support various aspects of health, including hormonal balance during menopause. A naturopath will prescribe a herbal medicine formulated to address your specific menopausal state drawing on some of these herbs and often others as well, but these following herbs will be drawn upon frequently in menopause formulas.

Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa formerly Cimicifuga racemosa)

Black cohosh has been shown to help reduce hot flashes, night sweats, and other menopausal symptoms by modulating hormone levels. Studies suggest it may have estrogen-like effects, which can help alleviate hormone-related symptoms.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Known for its calming properties, lavender can help reduce anxiety, stress, and insomnia often experienced during menopause. Aromatherapy using lavender essential oil may help improve sleep quality and promote relaxation.

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)

Rich in isoflavones, red clover may mimic estrogen in the body, helping to alleviate hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings. Some studies show positive effects on bone density and cardiovascular health as well.

Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus)

Chasteberry has been used to support hormonal balance, particularly in reducing symptoms of PMS. While its effects on menopause are less researched, it may help improve mood and support overall hormonal health.

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

Known for its mood-enhancing properties, St. John’s Wort can help alleviate mild to moderate depression and anxiety associated with menopause.

Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis)

Dong Quai has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to support women’s reproductive health. It may help balance hormone levels, improve mood, and reduce hot flashes, although more research is needed to confirm its efficacy.

Withania (Withania somnifera)

Also known as Ashwagandha, this adaptogenic herb can help the body adapt to stress, improve mood, and support overall hormone balance.

Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus)

A popular Ayurvedic herb, Shatavari is believed to help balance female hormones, support fertility, and alleviate menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, and vaginal dryness.

Korean Ginseng (Panax ginseng)

This adaptogenic herb may help improve energy levels, support cognitive function, and reduce fatigue during menopause. Some studies also suggest it can have a positive impact on mood and sexual function.

Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)

Milk thistle is often used to support liver health, which plays a crucial role in hormone detoxification. By promoting liver function, milk thistle may help maintain hormonal balance during menopause.

Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Sage has been shown to help reduce hot flashes, night sweats, and excessive sweating. It may also improve mood and cognitive function during menopause.

Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)

Another adaptogenic herb, Rhodiola can help combat fatigue, improve mental clarity, and support overall hormone balance.

It’s essential to consult with a qualified naturopathic practitioner before using herbal medicine, as some herbs may interact with medications or have contraindications. A practitioner can recommend the appropriate herbs, dosages, and formulations tailored to your individual needs and menopause symptoms.

wound healing phases

Nutritional approaches for Menopause Symptoms

 Optimising your nutrition during menopause is crucial for managing symptoms and maintaining overall health. A well-balanced diet, along with specific nutrient supplementation, can significantly impact your wellbeing during this transitional time. Here’s  of nutritional treatments and dietary strategies that may help alleviate menopause symptoms:

Phytoestrogens

Found in plant-based foods such as soy, flaxseeds, and legumes, phytoestrogens have a estrogen-like effect on the body. The addition of these foods in your daily diet may help balance hormone levels and reduce symptoms like hot flushes and night sweats.

Calcium and Vitamin D

With the decline in estrogen levels, bone density can decrease, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Consuming calcium-rich foods like dairy products, leafy greens, and fortified plant-based milk, along with vitamin D, can support bone health during menopause.

Magnesium

This essential mineral is vital for various physiological functions and can help reduce symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, and muscle cramps. The addition of magnesium-rich foods such as almonds, spinach, and pumpkin seeds into your diet is beneficial to hormonal health at all stages of life, but particularly in peri and menopause.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Found in fatty fish, walnuts, and chia seeds, omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flushes. They also support cardiovascular health, which can be impacted during menopause.

B Vitamins

Essential for energy production and mood regulation, B vitamins can help alleviate fatigue and mood swings. Having a diet rich with whole grains, lean meats, and leafy greens will boost your vitamin B levels, but you may still benefit from taking a good quality B complex supplement.

Probiotics

A healthy gut microbiome is essential for overall health and hormone balance. Consuming probiotics through fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut, or taking a high-quality probiotic supplement, can support gut health and promote hormone regulation during menopause.

Antioxidants

Menopause can increase oxidative stress, leading to inflammation and chronic health issues. Boost your intake of antioxidant-rich foods like berries, dark chocolate, and green tea  to combat oxidative stress and support overall health.

Sea Buckthorn Oil

Sea buckthorn oil is rich in essential nutrients including Vitamin E, Omega fatty acids 3, 6, and antioxidants and phytonutrients. These properties make sea buckthorn oil particularly helpful for peri and menopausal women experiencing vaginal dryness, a common symptom of hormonal changes during this stage of life. Sea buckthorn oil can be taken orally as a supplement but is especially good as a topical treatment for vaginal dryness.

Hydration

Staying hydrated is essential for maintaining healthy bodily functions, including hormone regulation. Aim to drink at least 8 cups of water daily and consume water-rich foods like fruits and vegetables to maintain optimal hydration levels, if you live in the tropic you will probably need even more water during the summer months. It’s important to point out here that soft drink, colas, tea and coffee and of course alcohol are not included in this fluid intake, although herbal teas do count.

Balanced Diet

Create a diet plan that focuses on whole foods, including lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, to support hormonal balance and overall health during menopause. Limit processed foods, added sugars, and excessive caffeine to avoid exacerbating symptoms.

Mindful Eating

Listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues can help you maintain a healthy weight during menopause, which is important for hormone balance and overall wellbeing. Practice mindful eating techniques, such as eating slowly, savoring each bite, and paying attention to your body’s signals.

Incorporating these nutritional treatments and dietary strategies into your daily routine can significantly impact your menopause journey. If you would like assistance with formulating a healthy eating plan to support you through menopause, I love working with women and creating meal plans that inspire and delight the senses and improve your vitality in menopause. Working with a qualified naturopathic practitioner who can tailor a personalised nutrition plan for your unique needs and symptoms can be a game changer in menopause.  Remember, consistency and patience are key when implementing new dietary changes for lasting results.

Protein for wound healing
omega-3 for wound healing

Lifestyle Suggestions

In addition to herbal medicine and dietary changes, making some lifestyle adjustments can help manage menopause your symptoms.

Exercise regularly

Engaging in regular physical activity such as yoga and tai chi can improve mood, support bone health, and help maintain a healthy body weight during menopause. These practices can also help enhance balance, flexibility, and mindfulness, which contribute to overall wellbeing.

Prioritize sleep

Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night to support hormone balance and overall wellbeing. Establish a consistent sleep schedule and create a calming bedtime routine to promote better sleep. Sprinkling some lavender essential oil on your pillow promtes sleep and relaxation.

Manage stress

Chronic stress can exacerbate menopause symptoms. Incorporate stress-reduction techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or mindfulness practices into your daily routine. Finding the right work-life balance can also help reduce stress and create a more harmonious lifestyle.

Stay connected

Maintaining social connections and nurturing relationships with friends, family, and intimate partners can improve mood and provide a support network during menopause. Open communication and understanding can also enhance sexual intimacy, as you and your partner may need to adapt to physical and emotional changes that occur during this time.

Foster sexual health

Menopause can lead to changes in sexual desire and comfort during sexual intimacy. Vaginal dryness commonly happens with the drop of oestrogen and needs to be addressed to prevent trauma and discomfort during penetrative intimacy. Many women find they need to make changes to sexual routines during menopause, due to lower libido, vaginal dryness and thinning. Talk with your partner about ways to adapt, and find solutions that work for you. Experiment with different forms of intimacy, lubricants, or relaxation techniques to maintain a fulfilling sexual relationship. Speak with your GP or Naturopath to explore solutions so you can enjoy sexual intimacy for as long as you wish.

Embrace self-care

Taking time for yourself is crucial during menopause. Prioritize self-care activities that nourish your body, mind, and spirit, such as reading, journaling, taking a relaxing bath, or engaging in a creative hobby.

By incorporating these lifestyle modifications into your daily routine, you can create a supportive environment that allows you to better manage menopause symptoms and enhance your overall quality of life.

Managing menopause symptoms can be effectively approached through a combination of  herbal medicine, nutritional and dietary strategies, and lifestyle modifications. By taking a holistic approach, you can improve your overall wellbeing and navigate the menopause transition with greater ease. If you’re interested in a more comprehensive and guided approach, consider joining our upcoming Menopause Makeover program, designed to provide personalized support and tailored solutions to help you thrive during this phase of life. Don’t forget to follow us on social media for regular updates, tips, and resources to support your journey towards optimal health and wellness during menopause and beyond.

 

Vitamin C deficiency causing scurvy

Menopause Makeover – 8 week program

Check out my blog post on Healthy recipes to support you in menopause.

If you’d like more information on how I can support you during menopause, I’d love to work with you.

Contact me

 

The Gut – Estrogen Connection

The Gut – Estrogen Connection

Did you know that the gut microbiome plays a significant role in estrogen metabolism? The relationship between the gut’s microorganisms and estrogen is an essential factor in determining one’s lifetime exposure to this hormone. In this blog post, we’ll explore the gut microbiota-estrogen axis and discuss how targeting this connection could lead to innovative treatments for hormonal imbalances. 

 

Understanding the Gut Microbiota-Estrogen Axis

The gut microbiota-estrogen axis refers to the interactions between the microorganisms present in the intestines and the β-glucuronidase enzyme activity that converts estrogen and its metabolites into free, active circulating estrogen. This process affects estrogen levels in the body, making the gut microbiome’s composition and diversity crucial in regulating hormonal balance.

 

Vitamin C deficiency causing scurvy

The Role of the Gut Microbiome in Estrogen Metabolism 

A healthy gut microbiome contributes to proper estrogen metabolism, which is essential for various bodily functions, including menstrual cycles, bone health, and mood regulation. When the gut microbiome is imbalanced, it can result in the overproduction or underproduction of estrogen, leading to hypo or hyper-estrogenic states. These imbalances can cause conditions such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and menopausal symptoms.

 

 

Factors Influencing Gut Microbiome Diversity

Several factors can impact the gut microbiome’s diversity and composition, including diet, stress, antibiotic use, and exposure to environmental toxins and some pharmaceutical drugs. A balanced diet rich in fiber, prebiotics, and probiotics can promote a healthy gut microbiome, while managing stress and limiting exposure to toxins can also contribute to better gut health. Prebiotics foods contain indigestible carbohydrates and fibers which lowers the PH of the gut due to the action of the microbiome in the fermentation process. The resulting gut environment shifts to a lower PH which promotes the growth of healthy gut bacteria, and the reduction of bad  or pathogenic bacteria. Prebiotic supplements are available through your naturopath, but it better to add prebiotic foods to your daily diet.

Great prebiotic food include garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, dandelion greens, bananas, and seaweed. Generally, fruits and vegetables and whole grains like wheat, oats, and barley are all excellent sources of prebiotic fibers.

wound healing phases

Potential Therapies Targeting the Gut Microbiota-Estrogen Connection

As research into the gut microbiota-estrogen axis continues, potential therapies that target this connection are emerging as a novel approach to treat hormonal imbalances. Apart from  prebiotic and probiotic supplements and dietary changes; chronic stress has emerged as a significant factor impacting the gut microbiome leading to hormonal imbalances. Including stress management techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga and exercise has become important inclusions in naturopathic treatment plans to promote a healthy gut microbiome and hormonal balance. If microbiome testing is undertaken a personalized interventions based on an individual’s unique gut microbiome composition allow your naturopath to drill down with targeted treatment strategies specific to your microbiome. 

 

Vitamin C deficiency causing scurvy

Inconclusion, the gut microbiome’s impact on estrogen metabolism is a crucial factor in maintaining hormonal balance. By understanding the gut microbiota-estrogen axis and exploring potential therapies targeting this connection, we can develop innovative and personalised treatments for those experiencing hormonal imbalances. If you’re concerned about your gut health and its effect on your hormones, consult with a qualified naturopath to discuss potential treatment options and lifestyle changes that can support a healthy gut microbiome and overall hormonal health.

 

Check out my blog post on Prebiotic foods, or enquire about the Menopause Makeover program starting soon. 

Click here for prebiotic and probiotic recipes at The Cooking Naturopath

 

My Favorite Tofu Salad

My Favorite Tofu Salad

This simple Tofu Salad or Korean Dubu salad could not be easier and is one of my all time favourite tofu dishes. Is makes it very easy to boost your phytoestrogen intake which is great if you are menopausal, but not if you are taking hormone blocking drugs. I enjoy it on its one or as a side dish in a Korean meal. This recipe comes from the wonderfully inspiring Korean food blogger Hyosun from Korean Bapsang. Her recipes are always delicious and generally very simple so if  you love Korean food as I do, she is a great place to start, her Kimchi recipes are spot on too, I always have a batch in my fridge.  

Vitamin C deficiency causing scurvy

Ingredients

1 package Soft Or Silken Tofu
57 grams Spring Salad Mix
2 Scallions , Finely Chopped (1/4 cup)
1/2 tsp Minced Garlic
2 tbsps Soy Sauce or tamari or Soyu
1 tbsp Vinegar or Lemon Juice
1 tbsp Rice Wine (mirin)
1 tsp Sugar
1/2 tsp Gochugaru (Korean red chili pepper flakes)
1 tsp Sesame Oil
2 tsps Sesame Seeds

 

Instructions

Mix all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
Wash the spring mix and drain.
In a medium size pot, bring about 4 cups of water to a boil and add the tofu. Cover and
boil for 5 minutes over medium heat.
Carefully transfer the tofu to a colander to drain and cool.
Cut the tofu into two blocks. Cut each block into about 1/2-inch thick slices.
Spread some spring mix on a plate. Arrange the tofu slices on top of the spring mix.
Drizzle the sauce over the tofu when ready to serve.

 

Protein for wound healing

If you have enjoyed this recipe and want to explore more healthy meal suggestions, check out my foodie business,

The Cooking Naturopath, or follow me on Instagram or Facebook for meal inspiration.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous Vegetables – bioactive superfoods

I’ve just had a question about cruciferous vegetables on a previous post, so thought I’d write a quick blog to highlight this group of vegetables and the powerful effect they have as bioactive foods in our bodies. I do recall a recurring horror experience with cruciferous vegetables as a child. But back then most Australian home cooks were boiling their vegetables within a second of their lives, depleting them of their delicious spicy flavour and crunchy texture, but that was how it was done then. So now we know how delicious this group of vegetables can be if we prepare them in ways that don’t destroy their delicate taste and texture. Let’s explore this group of vegetables which I now love. In fact, I’ve just enjoyed a snack of red cabbage and broccoli sprout sauerkraut, the fermentation process produces probiotic microorganism which help maintain and restore the gut microbiome, more on this in another blog.

Vitamin C deficiency causing scurvy

Cruciferous or Brassica vegetables come from the Cruciferae or alternately, Brassicaceae family. This family includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, rutabaga, turnips, Bok choy, and Chinese cabbage.  Other edible cruciferous vegetables include radish, horseradish, watercress, and wasabi.  

Why are Cruciferous vegetable so good for us

The reason mums all over the work want their kids to eat these vegetables is because they are so good for us. They provide a rich source of sulphur containing compounds called glucosinolates (β-thioglucoside N-hydroxysulfates) which give us the slightly pungent aroma and spicy or peppery taste. These glucosinolates and the metabolites they break down into are the reason we want to eat them for their health benefits. We now have a large body of evidence supporting the health promoting and disease preventative effects of these glucosinolates with Indole-3-Carbinol and Isothiocyanates leading the pack.

Cruciferous vegetables are important sources of vitamins and minerals, fibre and various phytochemicals including the glucosinolates. (see table) There is some evidence showing cruciferous vegetable intake has a preventative effect in cardiovascular disease, reducing obesity, normalising blood lipids and in the prevention of vascular complications in diabetes. Yet the real super food status comes from the effect of cruciferous vegetables as a cancer preventative food. In animal studies the bioactive indoles and isothiocyanates have been found to help protect cells from DNA damage, whilst helping to inactivate carcinogens. They also have antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects as well as inducing cell death or apoptosis (which is a good thing), and they inhibit blood vessel formation and tumour cell migration which are both needed for tumours to spread or metastasize away from the initial site of cancer. The cancers found to be influenced by these compounds in cruciferous vegetables include prostate, colorectal, lung, cervix and breast cancer and most specifically hormone dependent cancers.

wound healing phases

Cruciferous vegetables also play an important role in managing the hormonal fluctuations during perimenopause and menopause. Our bodies breakdown or metabolize estrogen into various metabolites. Some of these estrogen metabolites are good for us, but others are bad causing inflammation, epigenetic changes to our DNA and proliferative effects which alter cells and contribute to the undesirable symptoms of menopause. This is where cruciferous vegetables comes in, as the Indole-3-carbinol (13C) a metabolite of cruciferous vegetables regulates estrogen metabolism to increase the good estrogens whilst reducing the bad ones.

Getting back to the little girl faced with three piles of uneaten and unappetising cruciferous veggies. Please don’t over cook these vegetables, you will ruin the taste and reduce the super bioactive nutrients they offer, and you will scar your child’s appreciation of this fine and delicious vegetable.

I’ll include some tasty and easy recipes for you to experiment with, until then make sure there are some cruciferous vegetables on your plate and remember in order to get them on your plate you need to buy them at the market. 

wound healing phases

Cooking Cruciferous Vegetables – less is more

As a general rule cruciferous vegetables taste better and retain more bioactive compounds if you keep the cooking time to a minimum, with a view exceptions such as cabbage rolls which need to be well cooked. They are also the perfect vegetable for fermentation for saurkraut and kim Chi. This amplifies their super food status to next level. I’ll do a post on fermentation so check it out. 

Nutty Broccoli

Ingredients

Broccoli – cut into florettes

Hazelnut oil – 20 mls

Almonds (lightly roasted) – cut into slithers

White wine vinegar or White Balsamic vinegar – 20 mls

Season with black pepper and salt to taste.

Method

You can either lightly steam the broccoli or blanche in boiling water for a couple of minutes. I prefer the blanching method as it’s quick and easy. 

Combine the hazelnut oil and vinegar in a jar and shake to combine, its good to add the pepper to this to boos the flavour of the dressing. 

Drain the broccoli and add to a serving bowl with the dressing, toss to dress the florettes. Sprinke with roasted almonds and season with sea salt flakes. 

This dish is delicious hot or cold, so make extra for snacks the next day. 

 

Protein for wound healing
omega-3 for wound healing

Croatian Red Cabbage Salad

This recipe was given to me by Mrs Krznaric a lovely Croatan woman I know who always has this dish on the Christmas table by popular demand. It is simple, but truly delicious with the piquancy of the pumpkin oil and red wine vinegar dressing.

Ingredients

Red cabbage shredded finely

Sea salt

Pumpkin oil or Olive oil (1-2 Tbs)

Red wine vinegar 2 Tbs (adjust to taste)

Cracked black pepper

Parsley to garnish or a sprinkle of dill seeds which marry perfectly with cabbage.

Salt with cabbage with 1 Tbs of sea salt, and allow to drain in a colander for a couple of hours.

Once the cabbage has wilted and drained well, dress with the pumpkin seed oil and red wine vinegar and freshly cracked black pepper and toss well to ensure well combined.

This dish improves the next day, and even the day after so make extra for snacks in the coming days. Thanks Mrs Krznaric for the inspiration.

Wound Healing Smoothie

Wound Healing Smoothie

Recipe

This wound Healing Smoothie will support wound healing for new and chronic wounds.
Recipe
Pineapple 1 medium slice
Spinach 1 cup
Vaalia Probiotic yoghurt 100 gms
Strawberries 1 cup
Walnuts 14 halves
Banana 1 medium
Hemp seeds 3 Tbs
Flaxseed oil 1 Tbs
Milk 1 cup
Extra water and ice as needed

This smoothie will make a large drink you can drink throughout the day. It provides all of the nutrients you need for wound healing and more.

Protein for wound healing
omega-3 for wound healing

Nutrient analysis of specific wound healing nutrients per recipe.

Protein 31 gm
Carbohydrate 82 gm
Vitamin C 159.1 mg
Vitamin A 369 IU
Vitamin B 2 0.8 mg
Iron 5.3 mg
Magnesium 366.5 mg
Zinc 5.4 mg
Omega 3 oils 13017 mg
Omega 6 oils 1.69
Tryptophan 296 mg
Glutamic acid 4919 mg
Copper 1.3 mg
Selenium 12.6 mcg
Calcium 573 mg

Check out my blog on Nutritional influences on Wound Healing.