Some of the distressing, but by no means
universal, symptoms of menopause can be ameliorated by Hormone
Replacement Therapy (HRT). Whether women choose HRT or not, they
should be aware of the range of lifestyle changes and alternative or
complementary therapies capable of lessening menopausal symtoms and
enhancing long-term health.
Dong quai or Chinese angelica, a
type of Chinese medicinal herbs known throughout Asia as the 'female
remedy', and Vitex agnus-castus are herbs often used for hot flushes.
Prized in the East for thousands of years, modern research has
confirmed they they reduce sweating and help the body adapt to heat
stress, enhancing energy and stamina in trying conditions.
Dong quai contains plant oestrogenic substances, called
phytoestrogens which is being used for centuries for conditions such
as those common in menopause, which are now treated with synthetic
oestrogens, especially hot flushes. Dong quai has also
been found to lower blood pressure (a common condition for women after
menopause) and has demonstrated pain-relieving and tranquillizing
effects combined with a smooth muscle relaxing activity. Dong
quai is used for menstrual cramps, migraine headaches which are
often associated with the menstrual cycle and arthritis.
Vitamin E and Evening primrose oil have
strong advocates among some women with severe flushes. Natural dietary
sources of vitamin E are oils made from corn, soybeans, coconut,
peanuts and olives plus alfalfa, sesame seeds, barley, rolled oats,
cabbage, spinach and asparagus.
Calcium seems to overcome sleeplessness,
as do the popular herbal sedatives Valerian and Chamomile tea.
Calcium and vitamin D (which helps metabolize calcium) are also
important for maintaining the integrity of the skeleton. Foods
rich in calcium include tofu, yoghurt, leafy green vegetables,
almonds, hazelnuts and oily deep-sea fish. Large amounts of
wheat bran, coffee and alcohol all reduce the absorption of calcium,
and in the case of wheat bran, zinc absorption is also reduced.
Vitamin D is produced in the skin in the presence of sunlight.
Small, regular exposure to early morning or late afternoon sun will
improve calcium absorption.
Dry vagina and bladder irritability are
treated by many naturopaths with vitamin A. Calendula ointment
has been recommended for irritated vaginal tissues. This herb
has been credited with oestrogen-like properties and an ability to
treat and prevent vaginal infections.
Light work or chores, outdoor exercise,
plenty of sleep, wholesome diet and tonic treatments such as daily
cold mitten frictions usually improve the general health and make the
menopausal symptoms less severe.
Hormones taken under a physician's
direction are often helpful in relieving headaches, nervousness and