Menopause is the final significant hormonal change we will go through as women. It occurs on average around the age of 50 – give or take. You may even be experiencing some of the symptoms right now...irregular menstrual cycles (when your peri-menopausal), hot flashes or night sweats, mood swings, anxiety, foggy brain, insomnia, body aches and fatigue (and the list goes on!).
Although these are all commonly experienced symptoms, some women appear to make the transition relatively quickly and smoothly while others may take years (even decades) and find it all extremely challenging. It’s helpful to understand that our adrenal glands play a key role in the entire process.
Up until now our ovaries have been producing our sex hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, while our adrenal glands have been producing small amounts too. As ovarian hormone production reduces, the transition gradually continues until eventually we are relying on our adrenal glands to produce estrogen and progesterone in sufficient levels to avoid the menopausal symptoms. So you can see why it is so important to take care of the two bean-shaped glands that sit perched on top of each kidney. If these glands are in a shabby state, unable to perform because they are adrenally fatigued, then it stands to reason the menopause road could be pretty rocky.
Stress in all its glorious forms directly affect the production and balance of our hormones; personal relationships, work pressures, financial worries, lack of sleep, anxiety, environmental stressors, or even nutritional deficiencies or intolerances, are all recognized by the body as stress. Throughout a typical day we may go in and out of countless “stressful” situations. It doesn’t have to be as serious as a death or divorce to warrant the “stress” label. Those panicky, heart-racing moments come in all shapes and sizes. Something as insignificant as the sudden loud noise of your alarm first thing in the morning, or worse - waking up suddenly and realizing you’ve overslept because you didn’t hear your alarm, these experiences could trigger the same response as something much bigger.
This is why it is vital that we find a handful of stress busting techniques that actually work for us. One technique probably won’t fit all situations, so it’s a good idea to have a few in your toolbox. Assess your quality of your life, if your jaw is always so tense it aches, or your having heart palpitations at a red light because your late for an appointment (again), these are all signs that stress is a major player in your day to day life and changes need to be made. But right now your are in the moment so you will have to rely on your toolbox, which tool will shift you from the ‘flight and fight’ mode to ‘relax and refresh’ mode and take the pressure of your adrenal glands? Diaphramatic breathing (taking slow belly breaths) may be the tool you use here. It may be self talk, reminding yourself that it’s all okay; you’re life is not in danger, you can calm down.
Pilates classes or regular massages may be effective ways to keep calm and carry on. Walking, reading, or watching a movie, can all be healthy ways and effective de-stress tools. It’s all about taking time out to totally refresh and restore yourself. Try different techniques so you know you are kitted out. You know which tool to use to bring your body out of the stress mode in the shortest time. The take home here is, know what works for you.
The foods that we eat can be another cause of stress on the body, processed foods, too much meat and alcohol can all cause inflammation in the body and disrupt hormone regulation. Therefore, eating a plant based wholefood diet, incorporating sources of phytoestrogens such as flaxseeds, fennel, parsley, carrots, celery and legumes are supportive. Our food choices are another valuable tool. The right foods can soothe and nourish our body and may also further reduce menopausal symptoms.
A recap of some stress busting techniques for your toolbox:
Diaphragmatic breathing or “belly breathing” as this is known to calm our nervous system and is great in the moment.
Medicinal herbs are a fantastic way to help deal with stress and its effects on our nervous system. Herbs may be in the form of a cup of Chamomile or licorice tea, tablets or a liquid tonic.
Tai-chi, Pilates and Yoga are a fantastic way to keep calm, using a mind-body approach. These practices provide relief from anxiety and stress. At this stage of life it is important to nurture our bodies.
Massage is also a beautiful way of relieving stress. · The right nutrition to soothe, heal and nourish our body.
Nutritional supplements such as a quality Multivitamin, or Vitamin B complex, can support your body’s stress response.
As natural health practitioners, our clinical focus is to establish the current hormonal status, through pathology testing, as this provides us with a baseline. We use this information, together with the presenting symptoms, to personalise treatment incorporating a combination of lifestyle, diet, exercise, herbal medicine or nutritional supplements as required.
Finally, from having gone through menopause myself, what I would like to say is…get excited ladies! This may be as big as when we went through puberty, but once our body can find balance, we can settle in and enjoy life for the next 50 years.