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Managing menopause naturally

Part 2

“When the Changing woman becomes old she starts to travel East. One day whilst walking, she sees herself in the distance, young as she was once, looking back at her. They approach each other and unite to become one. The Changing woman becomes young once again.”

Apache story

Chi Gung

Qigong (chi gung, or chi kung) is a form of gentle exercise composed of movements that are repeated a number of times, often stretching the body, increasing fluid movement (blood, synovial and lymph) and building awareness of how the body moves through space.

Chi Gung exercise movements are both external movements and internal movements. These internal movements, or flows, in China are called neigong, or ‘internal power.’ There is some evidence that by following a personalized set of Chi Gung exercises you may be able to reduce the amount of episodes or the intensity of hot flashes, night sweats, whilst reducing overall anxiety levels. There are also exercises to strengthen the shoulders, nourish the kidneys and reproductive organs. Get in touch with our Chi Gung expert at Studio Australia for some advice on which program might suit you.

Pilates

In traditional Chinese medicine, this phase of life is associated with the metal element, which implies that there is a hardening or tendency toward being more brittle in both body and mind. This is a good way to understand why we need to work hard to maintain flexibility at this stage in life. With lower estrogen levels bone density typically falls and we need to focus on core resistance and strength exercises.

Pilates is a method of exercise that uses controlled movements either on a mat or with equipment to tone, stretch, strengthen and if needed rehabilitate the body. At Studio Australia we have an international team of Pilates teachers who together, have more than 75 years of experience. We create specific programs to suit each individual that will work you out in a safe and enduring way.

Yoga

While I have placed Yoga in the exercise section because they are a series of physical movements, the real benefits from regular yoga practice are emotional and the exercises designed to help us reach mental clarity. Yoga teaches us how to find inner peace and harmony and contributes towards out spiritual development.

A regular practice can help you feel calmer and more centered during perimenopause.  If you cannot or do not want to go to a class, I highly recommend checking out Yoga with Adriene on Youtube, for really beautiful, free practices. For example, the healing yoga practice in the link here is specifically designed for when you are feeling an imbalance in the body or as preventative care. It can regulate the endocrine system and balance out hormones.

Cardio

It is always good to get the blood moving around the body and the heart rate up. Just 15 to 20 minutes of cardio of your choice on a daily basis will strengthen your heart, open your lungs and lift your spirits. Jogging, swimming or brisk walking are all great ways to push up your heart rate and get outside.

 

Your green pharmacy

We’ve already mentioned the mighty dandelion. But there are bundles of herbs, adaptogens and plant extracts available to us that can help ease or prevent symptoms associated with the menopause and boost our overall mental and physical health. To make it easy to reference I’ve listed the symptoms that may accompany the perimenopausal and post menopausal time of life and the remedies that have been used in ancient medicine systems around the world for centuries alongside some more modern discoveries. Always consult a naturopath or inform your doctor before taking supplements:

Hormonal imbalance

Shatavari (black or white) is an Ayurvedic herb that’s found in the tropical areas of Asia, India, Australia, and Africa. It’s of a unique family of herbs known as adaptogens, meaning it gives your body what it specifically needs in order to bring it back to homeostasis or balance. It has been used for centuries in India to help women with their reproductive health, restore and balance hormones, increase libido, fight fatigue, treat PMS and menopausal symptoms, strengthen the immune systems, and improve digestive health. It is also said be effective in treating decreased estrogen levels due to its phytoestrogen component.

Black cohosh – based on current research, black cohosh is most likely to relieve symptoms related to reductions or imbalances in the hormone estrogen. A 2010 review concluded menopausal women experienced a 26% reduction in night sweats and hot flashes when using black cohosh supplements.

Aches and pains

Comfrey root or Symphytum officinale, is part of the borage family. When used in an ointment, salve, or gel, it is said to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain when applied to the skin. According to research, joint pain that occurs as a result of hormone imbalances or weakening bone density post-menopause can be eased by the external application of an ointment or balm containing comfrey.

Comfrey may also be used to prevent or ease painful sex due to vaginal dryness and a thinning of the vaginal walls, post menopause. A comfrey sitz bath, where only the buttocks and hips are immersed in water (two quarts/liters of the infusion) is an old favorite for keeping vaginal tissues flexible, strong, and soft. Sit for 5–10 minutes in a bath filled with an infusion once a week.

Comfrey ointment is also recommended for improving skin flexibility and thickness. It is also hailed as a great natural lubricant for sex and regular application may help to keep the vulva plumper and moister.

Anxiety and sleep disorders

Ashwagandha is an orange-red fruit that has been used in India for over 4,000 years as a tonic medicine to boost energy, learning levels and libido and to help prevent premature ageing.  Reports also suggests that it aids sleep, reduces anxiety and supports the immune system. High in antioxidants, the plant has been used traditionally to maintain a youthful complexion and is even said to help slow down the growth of grey hair. Sounds to good to be true!

In one small study a group of 634 subjects with a history of chronic stress took ashwagandha over a period of time and levels of cortisol were shown to be significantly reduced. The report concluded that the root appeared to improve an individual’s resistance towards stress. Another small study found that women (ages 21 to 50) who took ashwagandha for eight weeks had improvements in sexual health compared to those taking a placebo.

Passion flower may help treat anxiety, insomnia, and certain forms of pain because it may increase levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical the brain makes to help regulate mood.  In one study, that focused on menopause and associated symptoms, participants reported less headaches, an easing of depression, insomnia, and anger, compared to a control group, after taking passionflower for 3–6 weeks.

An Ayurvedic recipe for insomnia

Equal parts (1/4 tsp each per cup of milk) of jatamamsi, ashwagandha, shatavari, and nutmeg boiled in milk.

Hot flushes and nights sweats

Red clover may relieve hot flushes and night sweats. In a 2017 study, scientists gave 59 perimenopausal women a supplement containing red clover and friendly bacteria and found they experienced a significant drop in both hot flushes and night sweats.

Sage contains compounds that may have a mild estrogenic activity. It is said to improve mood, cognitive performance and memory.  In 2011, Swiss researchers discovered that sage could reduce hot flushes by 50% in four weeks and by 64% within eight weeks. It may also reduce the psychological symptoms of the menopause, such as mood swings. You can pick up a bunch of sage at your local market or grow it yourself. It’s delicious taken as a tea. This is herb wisdom at its best.

An Ayurvedic recipe for hot flushes

Add ½ teaspoon of shatavari and jatamamsi or gulkhand, the special Ayurvedic rose petal jam, to a glass of dairy or vegetable milk.

A new beginning…

In traditional Chinese Medicine, rather than having a monthly period, a yang activity that drains the kidney of vitality, with the menopause the flow of energy is reversed in the center of the body, and the blood and jing are directed up to the heart. The reversal of this energy flow is a yin activity and occurs in order to conserve our energy and prolong our lifespan.

It is fundamental that we dispel the discouraging negative connotations of menopause that send most women in our society into this phase feeling defeated before they even begin. This is a transition that can be enjoyed, even embraced and by encouraging our daughters to do the same we can reverse some deeply rooted, often damaging attitudes and misconceptions.

A few final words from Maisie Hill, author of the groundbreaking book Period Power:

“Post-menopause is associated with an improvement in emotional wellbeing, I suspect because we feel more certain of ourselves and our place in the world, stop caring about other people so much, and especially what they think of us. Thanks to the baby boomers and the fact that we’re living a lot longer than we used to, there are now more post-menopausal women on the planet than there has ever been; that’s a hell of a lot of powerful women and we need their voices in positions of authority.”

-Maisie Hill, Period Power

Books

“Menopausia. Los años de la regeneración de la energia” Clara Castelloti

“Period Power” Maisie Hill

“Women who run with the wolves,” Clarissa Pinkola Estés

 

Links

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-47279032

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22537466

http://www.medicalqigong.org/index.php/icmq-news/resources/55-publications/124-menopause-and-medical-qigong

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22537466

https://www.energyarts.com/what-qigong/

ttps://www.menopausewoman.com/blog/2016/vitamin-k-the-unknown-nutrient/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21630133

https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/living-ayurveda/health-guides/menopause-guide/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3296386/

http://www.somamatha.org/ayurvedic-recommendations-for-menopause.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3580139/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5462345/

https://chopra.com/articles/what-is-ayurveda

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK79338/

 

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