I have an interesting household at the moment… two teens who are under exam pressure and me, myself and I (yes, all 3 of me!) currently dealing with menopause. The potential for a hormonal tsunami is umm, extremely high! Being all too aware of the possible cancer dangers of HRT, I’m keen to try to manage this stage of my life naturally. Many women experience different symptoms and at different levels of severity. HRT is an important life line, but there are other things we can do in addition or in place of… the journey is obviously a very personal one and each woman needs to choose her own path.
The ‘usual’ symptoms are fatigue, weight gain, hot flashes, hair loss or poor condition, low libido, dry skin and mood swings.
Fatigue often results from broken sleep brought on by night sweats, hormonal imbalance or by stress. Taking the proverbial deep breath and maintaining/increasing physical activity can help, along with a healthy vegetable laden diet. Yoga and meditation are also highly recommended. I use my time in the pool or jogging to try to do ‘mental breathing’, but find something that works for you. St. John’s Wort has long been a herbal remedy for mood swings, improved sleep and reduced anxiety associated with menopause. Taking a relaxing bath and adding 5 drops each of the following essential oils is a great way of signalling ‘time-out’ to your mind and body: Basil, Roman Chamomile, Geranium and Clary Sage.
Weight gain is not a middle age excuse, it is sadly a reality of menopause. Unstable hormones change how we store weight because the body may be receiving stress signals, which triggers it to store food for survival. Add the Western diet which is high in inflammatory food such as sugar and refined carbohydrates and we are not doing ourselves any favours. Good quality protein and vegetables with healthy omega 3 fats should be the bulk of our diet; especially cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and kale that contain indole-3-carbinol which helps to balance estrogen levels.
Hot flashes are the result of the withdrawal of oestrogen. Edwardian ladies always carried fans and lavender smelling salts – now I know why! Not only is it really uncomfortable, but it can also be embarrassing as we resemble sweaty beetroots! A peppermint essential oil hydrosol is a must-have in the handbag. I also recommend a blend of Peppermint, Clary Sage, Lavender and Cypress essential oils to deal with flushes, night sweats and water retention. These can be inhaled in a burner or steamer or simply added to the bath. If you are really battling in the night, try leaving a wet facecloth with 3 drops each of the oils, in a container next to the bed.
Dry, brittle hair or crocodile/dry skin are yet another delightful side effect of menopause. As a book club friend commented: “not only are we spreading around the middle, wrinkling and drooping, but now we have bad hair days every day!” Dry skin and dry hair is part of aging, it’s also a result of hormonal imbalance. First thing to do is throw out all your chemical-laden hair and skin products that contain ingredients such as: Propylene Glycol, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or Laureth Sulfate, and Oleyl betaine Minerals. These can dry and irritate the skin, let alone what they do to the environment. Introduce natural products and feel free to add the following essential oils: Lavender, Rosemary, Sandalwood, and Geranium. These all nourish and encourage renewal and growth. I find Baobab oil especially good for dry skin.
Mood swings - all 3 of me would agree that this is a major challenge… my kids would second this! Hark back to how confused and irritable you were as a teenager and acknowledge that the hormones are doing their thing again. Sadly, while society tends to give teenagers a break, the same forgiveness doesn’t occur in middle age. So, we must deal with our kids’ mood swings and our own and maintain a veneer of being civil human beings! Lavender, Geranium and Clary Sage are great essential oils for bringing a little peace and calm to your life.
I like to bath with these oils and for good measure, have a glass of cold Chardonnay while listening to Adelle… Cheers!
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