Peri-menopausal changes to healthy transition
by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist
Client name and identifying information changed
Peri-menopause and menopause is not an easy time for many ladies and being a ‘baby boomer’ myself, I know too well the changes that happen during this time in a girl’s life.
Vanessa, had been a client of mine for a while before her peri-menopause arrived, so she had already worked on some issues to do with her gut, but there was a constant adrenal issue that hadn’t been resolved in time before the onset of peri-menopause.
Stress was a huge part of Vanessa’s life and therefore her adrenal reserves were very low, so it really was no surprise when hot flushes came knocking at Vanessa’s bedroom door.
Most of her hot sweats were at night while she was trying to sleep, so this made it difficult for her to get the necessary rest for her adrenal fatigue. It was a ‘catch 22’ situation in that poor adrenals contributed to the hormonal imbalance, and then the hot sweats that woke her several times per night meant that she was further depleting her adrenals.
We did some saliva hormone tests that showed Vanessa’s hormones were all quite low and her conversion of hormones was on a pathway that could increase her risk of reproductive cancers. Added to this was family history of breast cancer and vascular clotting, so HRT was simply not an option for her to choose. Her mum had a history of menopausal hot flashes for 15 years, so Vanessa did not want that to happen to her.
Previously, Vanessa had tried progesterone cream which actually converted to estrogen, so she had estrogen dominance issues of tender swollen breasts. Herbs for hot flushes/flashes didn’t seem to have any effect on her whatsoever. What seemed to help a little was some B5 and B6 for her adrenal glands plus magnesium, but that was about all she could tolerate from supplements.
I often saw clients who had a hard time taking certain supplements because of issues with certain genetic pathways that convert hormones, so diet was the best approach for most of them. Vanessa fell into this group of people.
Remember, we had already worked considerably on her gut, which may be important to reflect on if you feel this situation relates to you. You may need the help of your practitioner to ensure that your gut function is good, otherwise even the best diet, if not digested properly won’t fix some things. A good diet will certainly be better than a bad diet, but you may not get the results you are looking for without a foundation of good gut health.
Because Vanessa’s adrenal fatigue was the main source of her peri-menopausal unrest, it was important to keep working on adrenal support with her diet as well as looking at her lifestyle choices and stress levels. Vanessa was advised to drop foods that did not support her stress.
She was eating too many ‘quick meals’ that were not very nourishing. She was also not taking time to self-nurture, to focus on her needs. Instead, between her family and her job, she was constantly draining her adrenal and kidney energy.
I recommended a good counsellor to help Vanessa find ways and a plan to address the stress in her life. This made a huge difference for her.
I encouraged Vanessa to create a weekly meal plan from the list of adrenal and hormonal supporting foods I gave her, and incorporate it with a complete shopping list so that she knew she would always have nourishing foods. By having a plan, Vanessa had less stress, which meant that meal times were more relaxed and nutritious.
Certain foods that drained her energy were eliminated, such as gluten, dairy and sugar. These all placed unnecessary extra drain on her immune, hormonal and digestive systems. As a result, her body was more able to cope with day to day stress.
Thousands of my clients have found that eating this way helps them to cope with stress so much better, especially when the diet is rich in magnesium, B vitamin and C vitamin foods. Stress sucks these nutrients out of the body, so ensuring you have plenty of these nutrients can have a huge beneficial impact.
Vanessa was also encouraged to eat plenty of the brassica family (broccoli) foods to help support her hormone pathways to balance the types of estrogens she had.
I feel the biggest impact on Vanessa’s wellbeing was planning her meals and her days so that she minimised stress and allowed her adrenals to restore themselves. Hot flushes still woke Vanessa for about another six months, but by taking some of the stress away and saying that it’s ok to have an afternoon nap as part of her lunch break, it helped her to stay in control of her life, rather than let life control her.
The naps and other self-nurturing activities, such as quiet walks in nature or the beach, massages, meditation, being gentle with herself and ensuring that she put herself as ‘number one’ (not in a selfish way) all made a huge difference.
Even though it took a little while for all symptoms to go away, Vanessa felt so much better within just a few weeks with her more structured days and self-loving ways.