How to sail through the menopause

There are women who are lucky enough to sail through the menopause with few or no symptoms but for others the hormonal changes that typically occur in our late forties and early fifties are a source of misery.


Hot flushes during the day can be embarrassing and exhausting to cope with. You may also wake up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat. Vaginal dryness can lead to loss of interest in sex and headaches and concentration problems can disrupt your daily routine. Fortunately, all these unwanted symptoms can be easily dealt with by making simple and natural diet and lifestyle changes.


Follow my advice below for easing the transition through the menopause and for beating specific symptoms of menopause and the chances are you’ll be one of those lucky women gliding through the menopause and having the time of her life.


Easing the transition with diet and exercise


First of all eat a healthy balanced diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, oily fish, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains. Drink eight glasses of water a day and avoid sugar, caffeine, alcohol and all refined or processed food. You should also eat plenty of phytoestrogens, substances which have a mild oestrogenic action and occur naturally in plants. Phytoestrogens have hormone balancing properties and can help relieve your symptoms and reduce your increased risk of heart disease, breast cancer and osteoporosis. Great sources of phytoestrogens include soya, flaxseeds (linseeds), lentils, chickpeas, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds.  Aim for around 100 mg of phytoestrogen rich food a day. In addition to a healthy diet as an insurance policy, a good quality multivitamin and mineral designed for the menopause is advised to guard against nutritional deficiencies that can contribute to hormonal imbalance. (see MenoPlus on the Resources Page).


Regular exercise is a must at the menopause to help balance your hormones, prevent osteoporosis and boost your mood and your immunity. Aim for 30 minutes each day five times a week. Best choices include brisk walking, swimming, dancing, jogging and aerobics. It also helps to spend at least 20 minutes a day relaxing because high levels of stress are known to trigger symptoms, such as hot flushes.


Beating specific symptoms


Hot flushes and night sweats: These are caused by a lack of oestrogen that may affect your hypothalamus – the region of your brain that controls body temperature. To help yourself, try the following:

  • Take long, slow and deep breaths to calm yourself down when you feel a hot flush coming on.
  • Wear several layers of clothes made of natural fibres so you can remove them if you get too hot.
  • Eat little and often and avoid spicy food. Large meals and spicy foods can sometimes bring on a flush.
  • Herbal remedies that can offer relief include black cohosh, sage and dong quai (see Black Cohosh Plus on the Resources Page).


Painful sex: Lack of oestrogen at the menopause causes a decrease in the mucous producing cells that keep the walls of the vagina lubricated and the result is that sex becomes painful.

To help yourself, try the following:

  • Pelvic floor exercises to strengthen your pelvic muscles and keep your vagina healthy. To find out which muscles you need to use, stop urinating mid stream by contracting your muscles; these are your pelvic floor muscles. Use them to perform the Kegel exercises: contract and hold for a count of five and then relax. Repeat 10 times at least five times a day.
  • Have more sex as regular sex and lots of foreplay can help vaginal lubrication.
  • Acidophilus inserted vaginally can help prevent yeast infection (see Intrafresh on the Resources Page).
  • Use a natural lubricant like Sylk or Yes that does not contain chemicals you would not want inserted into the vagina. 


Headaches: These are common during the menopause and may be the result of changing body temperature and hormones, fatigue due to hot flushes or general stress and anxiety.

To help yourself, try the following:

  • Complementary therapies such as massage, acupuncture and aromatherapy that can help ease headache pain.
  • Missing meals can trigger headaches so eat little and often.
  • Make sure you are drinking enough liquid.
  • Have a snack before you go to bed to avoid swings in blood sugar during the night that can trigger a headache.
  • Make sure your diet is rich in magnesium as deficiency can trigger headaches. Good food sources include leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds and whole grains.
  • The herb fever few may be beneficial for headaches and migraines.


Dry skin and wrinkles: This is due to the effect of lowered oestrogen on the skin’s main structural protein which keeps it firm and supple, collagen.

To help yourself, try the following:

  • Make sure your skin is well moisturised day and night.
  • Drink at least six glasses of water or herb teas a day to keep your skin hydrated.
  • Eat plenty of oily fish such as salmon. Oily fish is rich in omega 3 fatty acids which help keep your skin soft and smooth.
  • Takevitamin C 1,000mg as it helps in the manufacture of collagen.


Aching joints: Declining levels of oestrogen can cause aching joints.

To help yourself, try the following:

  • Eat plenty of foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids, such as oily fish, nuts and seeds as these foods help create anti-inflammatory prostaglandins that can ease the pain and inflammation of swollen joints. Also take a good fish oil supplement like Omega 3 Plus (see the Resources Page).
  • Try a heating pad or soaking in a warm bath for 30 minutes to increase the blood flow to the muscles. Try adding valerian essential oil to the bath water.
  • Use a supplement containing both MSM and glucosamine to help keep the joints flexible and reduce pain.  (See MSM Plus on the Resources Page).
  • Ginger baths, soaks and compresses may bring soothing relief to sore, aching joints.


Irritability: Feeling tearful or irritable is a common menopausal symptom that is probably caused by hormonal changes.

To help yourself, try the following:

  • Relaxation techniques such as meditation or calming complementary therapies like yoga.
  • Talk to friends and loved ones about how you feel.
  • Don’t leave more than three hours between meals and snacks as long gaps between meals can trigger mood swings and irritability.
  • Get at least 15 minutes a day of fresh air and natural daylight as sunlight is vital for physical and emotional health.
  • Herbal remedies that can help with menopausal emotional distress include St John’s Wort and Agnus Castus. 


Insomnia: Common causes include stress and night sweats. It is important to have good quality sleep because once you sleep better your mood and your concentration will improve and you will have more energy the next day.

To help yourself, try the following:

  • Get up at roughly the same time each day. If you need to catch up on your sleep go to bed earlier. Getting up late can unsettle your body clock and give you symptoms of jet lag without the holiday.
  • Avoid watching, reading or listening to anything too stimulating before you go to bed. Soothing music is ideal.
  • Lavender is a well known sleep remedy. Try using a lavender sleep pillow or put a few drops on essential oil on a cotton ball of handkerchief and tuck it into your pillow.
  • Valerian root has been used for centuries to induce sleep. Other herbs include catnip and chamomile.

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