Every woman’s experience of the menopause is different, but the average age range is anywhere between 40-55.
The first signs to look out for are any irregularities with the menstrual cycle; these could be anything from an unusually shorter or longer cycle, very light or heavy bleeding or skipping a cycle for example.
The menopause occurs when a woman has her last period. It signifies that there are no longer any follicles (which contain a woman’s eggs) left in the ovaries. During this time, the ovaries essentially shut down and they no longer secrete oestrogen and progesterone; a woman’s two key sex hormones.
Oestrogen and progesterone are responsible for regulating the menstrual cycle, so the menstrual cycle therefore stops when these two hormones are no longer secreted, as there are no longer any follicles (eggs) for release. The menopause is a natural change in a woman's life. Menopause can be positive and liberating if we are kind to ourselves.
The best way to approach this is to look at foods that will help to balance oestrogen levels within the body. Here are a few top tips:
Cruciferous veggies: Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and cabbage contain several powerful nutrients that help metabolise oestrogenic molecules. Read more on the importance of eating plenty of nutrient-dense, phytonutrient-rich foods.
Healthy fat-rich foods: These are foods that are rich in saturated and omega-3 fatty acids. It includes plant-based fats such as coconut oil, hemp seed oil, extra virgin olive oil and avocados. Raw nuts (other than peanuts) and seeds contain oestrogen balancing plant sterols.
Allium family: The alliums include garlic, onions, scallions, chives and leeks - all of which are rich in sulfur-containing amino acids that both help the liver detoxify and reduce the production of oestrogen.
Lentils: All lentils contain beneficial amounts of phyto-oestrogens that help to balance oestrogen-progesterone levels. Soy is well known for this, but all pulses are helpful.
Incorporating daily practices such as yoga, meditation and mindfulness can be helpful, along with listening to what your body needs, being in tune with your energy levels and making sure you are not overdoing it.
It’s also worth considering cooling and calming plants. Roses are a wonderful example and can be made into ice teas or you can try refreshing rose water sprays for the skin.
If you are noticing changes, it is important to give yourself a break and understand that what your mind and body are going through is totally natural. The body has been functioning in a certain way for a length of time and this has now changed.
The change in hormone levels can affect energy, mood, motivation, libido and emotional health. The first and most helpful step is understanding how your body has changed and what, for you as an individual, is going to be most helpful. For example, if stress is your preliminary influencing factor, this is where your focus needs to be concentrated.
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Viv is a gut physiologist and has recently achieved a Foundation in Herbal Medicine. She leads Pukka’s research programme to explore how herbs can benefit our health and be used to widen healthcare choices. This includes research into herbs for Women’s health and as alternatives to antibiotics. She establishes global research partnerships and enthuses the next generation of scientists through Pukka’s Scholarship Scheme. She is a champion of diversity in science and open access to knowledge.
BSc, PhD, PFHEA
30+ years in the wellbeing industry and academia
Degree in Physiology University of Sheffield, PhD University of Sheffield, Foundation in Herbalism Heartwood, MBA Entrepreneurship (on-going) Edinburgh Napier University, Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
Membership of Nutrition Society, Physiological Society, Society for Chemical Industry, and other herbal and botanical groups.