Endometriosis: When Period Pain isn’t just Period Pain

Unfortunately, period pain has become such a common thing, that it is considered normal. Period pain is not normal. It’s a sign that something is out of balance. Severe period pain, that causes you to put your life on hold every month, could be caused by endometriosis and needs investigating. It’s estimated that 830,000 women in Australia have endometriosis and the cost to the individual and the health system is significant.

What is Endometriosis? 

Endometriosis is an inflammatory disease where the endometrium (the inner tissue layer of the uterus which thickens and then sheds during a menstrual period) is found outside of the uterus. 

This endometrial tissue can grow on other organs in the pelvis such as on the ovaries and fallopian tubes. The endometrial-like tissue behaves as it would during a menstrual cycle and can thicken, break down and bleed into the pelvic cavity with no way to escape. This causes inflammation, pain (sometimes severe), and the formation of scar tissue. 

Endometriosis can cause:

-Painful periods and pelvic pain

-Pain with intercourse

-Pain with bowel movements and urination

-Bloating, Diarrhoea, Constipation especially during periods.

-Excessive period bleeding

-Infertility

-Fatigue

Who’s at risk

Women who:

  • Have never had children
  • Had their first periods at a young age
  • Have late menopause
  • Have short cycles of less than 22 days
  • Have periods bleeds that last longer than 7 days
  • Have high oestrogen levels
  • Have a low BMI
  • Have a family history of endometriosis
  • Have any condition affecting normal menstrual flow out of the body. 
How is Endometriosis Treated?

Medical treatment of endometriosis includes:

  • Symptomatic relief with anti-inflammatory medications.
  • The use of the oral contraceptive pill to block oestrogen excretion by the ovaries.
  • An IUD (intrauterine device) to suppress endometrial lesions without shutting down ovulation or causing oestrogen deficiency. 
  • Surgical intervention. 

Unfortunately, surgical intervention is not always a long term solution, with 50% of cases of endometriosis recurring after 1 year.

With hormonal oral contraceptives, there may be side effects, and for some women, the risks are not suitable. Side effects can include an increased risk of blood clots, acne, weight gain, hot flushes, fatigue and mood disturbances. 

The good news is that for mild to moderate cases of endometriosis and period pain, there is much that can be done naturally to relieve symptoms, reduce the progression of endometriosis, regulate hormones and the immune system, reduce inflammation, support mood and manage the impacts on quality of life. 

Sometimes natural treatments are not enough on their own, but can also be extremely valuable when used as a supportive treatment after surgery. 

Diet hacks:

Avoid dairy and gluten. These foods are top of the list when it comes to potential triggers for inflammation and disruption of the immune system. You can read more about the inflammatory aspects of gluten and dairy here. There are mixed reports on the scientific basis for this recommendation, but what I and many practitioners in the health industry have observed is that the avoidance of these foods offers benefit. (read more on gluten and dairy here)

Herbal Medicine:

Black cohosh, Cramp bark, Chamomile, Corydalis, Ginger, Turmeric and Wild Yam may be useful to relieve pain, decrease inflammation and regulate hormones. 

Feverfew, Andrographis and Turmeric are showing promise as treatments that may assist in reducing the endometrial tissue volume and scar tissue. (nerd out with this research paper)

N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC):

Promising evidence for the benefits of this nutrient in the treatment of endometriosis growing. Benefits include pain relief and the reduction of endometrial tissue and ovarian cysts, as well as the preservation of fertility. 

with reference to the unmet medical needs of endometriosis, our results clearly show that NAC effectively treats ovarian endometriosis. In terms of reduction in cysts size, our data are even more favorable than those granted by the currently adopted hormonal treatments, with the further advantages of fertility preservation and of the virtual absence of undesired side effects.”

A Promise in the Treatment of Endometriosis: An Observational Cohort Study on Ovarian Endometrioma Reduction by N-Acetylcysteine

Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013; 2013: 240702.
Published online 2013 May 7. doi: 10.1155/2013/240702

Zinc: 

Zinc is an important nutrient involved in many biochemical processes within the body. Zinc’s role in regulating the immune system, tissue repair, and hormone regulation is of particular importance for endometriosis and post-surgical recovery. 

Not only can endometriosis cause pain and suffering, but it can damage other organs and tissues, contribute to mental health issues, damage fertility and cost women their quality of life. 

The goal of Naturopathic Medicine is an individualised approach to reduce inflammation and pelvic congestion, modulate hormones, reduce pain, regulate the immune system, and address excess menstrual loss and it’s associated impacts. I believe it’s important to offer support that enhances and works with medical interventions and treatments. At the end of the day, the ultimate goal is to help you cope better with your menstrual cycle each month, so you can lead a happy, healthy and productive life as a woman!

Why do we ask you not to eat dairy?

Dairy can cause health issues in a lot of people from digestive upset and sinus congestion to inflammation, hormonal issues, and problems with the immune system. Don’t get me wrong, I love cheese, but as with most things, moderation is key. What is moderation? Well, that depends on individual circumstances. Moderation for me is completely different to moderation for my rapidly growing teenage son!

Below are some health considerations on dairy, which might help you define your needs.

Dairy Free
Dairy cows are stressed:

This could be due to the mass production and processing of modern-day dairy products, compared to those your great-grandparents may have consumed fresh from the farm cow. These days there is a massive consumer demand which requires farmers to have their dairy cows continually produce milk year-round, including when they are pregnant.  A stressed cow is an inflamed and unhealthy cow as is the milk they produce. Due to the unnatural demands on dairy cows, they are susceptible to mastitis, parasites, bloat, acidosis (from too much grain which they are not designed to digest), and liver abscesses. While the Australian livestock organisations state that antibiotics are used sparingly, and milk is closely monitored for antibiotic residues, there are other compounds such as ionophores added to the grain feed while the cows are being milked to enhance their tolerance of the grains and prevent bloat, parasitic infection and increase weight and production. Residues of these can remain in the milk.

Dairy foods increase growth hormones: 

The purpose of cow’s milk is to feed the calf and help it grow. Dairy milk contains naturally occurring hormones called insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), which when fed to people, also increases circulating (IGF-1). This helps with bone growth, yes, but studies show that IGF-1 promotes cancer cell growth too- particularly breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers. 

Dairy Foods Raise Estrogen: 

Estrogen is needed to maintain a woman’s menstrual cycle, fertility and bone health. However, too much, or the wrong types of estrogen are associated with increased risk of some cancers, endometriosis, breast cancer, uterine or ovarian cancers and early puberty. Dairy foods contain estrogen due to the cows being milked throughout pregnancy.

But what about the calcium for my bones?

Calcium is just one of the nutrients important for maintaining bone health among other things in the body. However, dairy is certainly not the only dietary source of calcium and adequate calcium intake is achievable through other food sources such as sardines, salmon, eggs, spinach, broccoli, dried figs, molasses, sesame seeds, chia seeds. In fact, 2 eggs and a cup of cooked broccoli contain more calcium than a glass of milk.  

What counts as dairy?

If your practitioner has asked you to avoid dairy, this means any product that comes from the milk of mammals, including cow, sheep or goat.  You will need to avoid:

  • Milk
  • Lactose Free Milk
  • Skim or Low Fat Milk 
  • Cheese
  • Cream cheese
  • Cheese spreads 
  • Butter
  • Creme fraiche
  • Kefir
  • Ice-Cream
  • Labna
  • Yoghurt

Please note – Lactose Free milk or other lactose free food products may still contain dairy. Be sure to read ingredients list carefully. 

You may not have to avoid dairy 100% forever. Talk to your naturopath or nutritionist about the best options for you and your lifestyle.

Why do we ask you not to eat gluten even if you don’t have Celiac’s Disease?

The main reason is that your gut is so very important to your overall health. The lining of your gut is the largest surface that provides a barrier between the environment and your body, thus it is crucial that the gut lining has the ability to critically select out what may enter and what shall not pass!

Leaky gut refers to an alteration in what your digestive tract allows to enter your body, compared to what it eliminates as waste. A large number of chronic inflammatory diseases including irritable bowel syndrome, Chron’s disease, asthma, arthritis, autoimmune diseases and autistic spectrum disorders have been associated with leaky gut.  Current research tells us that leaky gut increases after exposure to gluten in all individuals whether you have a predisposition to coeliac disease or not. If you have any kind of inflammation occurring in your body, removing gluten is a simple, dietary way to address one of the key underlying drivers or causes of that inflammation and work towards having the best gut health and therefore overall health outcomes.

Why is gluten so rough on our digestive system? 

Gluten Triggers Inflammation

Gliadins and glutanins are two main components of the gluten protein occurring in wheat, barley, rye and oat seeds or grain. It is thought that gliadins are most implicated in the immune reaction that occurs in celiac disease, but glutanins and gliadins are so similar in structure that they are both considered to be inflammatory and can trigger an immune system reaction. 

Zonulin

It sound’s like an alien planet, but it’s in your gut and opens up “doorways” in your intestinal lining to allow nutrients and other molecules to get in and out of your gut. Too much zonulin, opens these “doorways” too far, allowing toxins, large immune- reactive protein molecules, intestinal contents and bacterial waste to enter your bloodstream. This not only triggers  inflammation and an immune response but also increases the workload on the liver to filter out “garbage” for disposal. In other words too much Zonulin equals leaky gut.  

The triggers for too much Zonulin include overgrowth of harmful bacteria or yeasts in the gut, parasitic infections and the consumption of gluten.  

Regardless of whether you have the genes for celiacs or not, the gliadin in gluten has been shown to significantly increase Zonulin in the gut.

But what about all the B vitamins and fibre I’ll miss out on?

B Vitamins are abundant in many foods, not just those containing gluten. Unprocessed gluten free grains such as brown rice, quinoa, teff, legumes, vegetables and meats and offal are all great sources of B vitamins.   Eating a variety of foods from the various food groups is the key to balanced nutrition, and is completely doable without touching gluten. 

Just because it’s gluten free doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

The mistake many make when going gluten free is to look for replacements in the supermarket which are labelled gluten free. The problem with this is that the usual substitutes most sort after are bread, pastas, biscuits and crackers.  The market has portrayed gluten free to be a healthier option, but in many cases, this is not true. Often, gluten free products contain more refined grains, additives and sugars to maintain a similar appearance, taste and texture of the original product attempting to be cloned.  For example, a gluten free brownie, doesn’t automatically become a healthy option and some gluten free breads are higher in sugar, white flours and food additives than regular breads. 

A gluten-free sweet still remains a treat or sometimes food.  In order to improve your overall health, the fundamental key is to eat less processed, packaged food overall.

Which foods contain gluten?

If your practitioner has asked you to avoid gluten, this means any product that is derived from :

  • Wheat
  • Spelt
  • Kamut/Khorasan
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Triticale
  • Khorasan
  • Oats

This may include cous cous, semolina, bourghal, bulgar. 

Also remember to check the labels on foods which you may not have thought contain gluten grain products such as wraps, condiments, muesli bars, ice-creams, vinegar, some supplements. 

Common foods mis-interpreted as gluten free are: mountain bread, sauces, cous cous, bourghul or tabbouli, noodles, ice-creams, yoghurts, milks containing malt. Always check the ingredients list!

Here is handy resource to help you find ways to swap out gluten.

How strict do I need to be?

You may not have to avoid gluten 100% forever. Unless you are a celiac, you are not allergic to gluten and the occasional indiscretion may not be critical to your health. Discuss your specific needs with your practitioner to decide whether any forms of gluten can be introduced along the way or at a later date, and what to look for to avoid inflammation and optimize nutrition. 

References:

Leaky Gut & Autoimmune Disease https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22109896

Zonulin, a regulator of epithelial and endothelial barrier functions, and its involvement in chronic inflammatory diseases. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25734566

It’s been a crazy year to say the least! Is anyone else sick of the words unprecedented, new normal, pivot? Now, more than ever we need to be setting healthy boundaries for ourselves. I’m not talking about physical distancing, I’m talking about emotional, spiritual, intellectual and time boundaries. 

Almost every client I am seeing at the moment reports exhaustion, fatigue, overwhelm and just trying to push through to the end of this year. Some describing it as clawing their way to the arbitrary finish line we have nominated with the Christmas season.

In many cases the solution has partly to do with setting healthy boundaries. Personal boundaries are dynamic guidelines we set for ourselves within relationships. A person with healthy boundaries can say “no” to others when they want to but can also feel okay with opening themselves up for some closer interactions.

Healthy boundaries can help us have better control over not just our physical space, but also our body, energy levels and feelings. You can tell your boundaries are on-point when your self-esteem is positive, you feel physically and emotionally vital, and you feel empowered in your health and sense of wellbeing. 

Healthy boundaries are actually about defining the connections that are healthy for you and those that are best avoided.  They are not about excluding and isolating, but rather about conserving your emotional energy and rationing your physical and mental limits so you can be true and honest with yourself and others. 

“Generosity cannot exist without Boundaries”, Brene Brown 
Watch this clip to learn more on healthy boundaries from Brene Brown, world renowned social researcher. 

Is it time for you to review your boundaries? Check in with yourself:  Do you need to say “no” to something you keep saying yes to? Have you allowed yourself enough time to allow for the basics of self-care? Have you been putting everyone else needs before your own? Have you been doing things out of a sense of obligation rather than a sense of genuine care?
If you need help to define and implement some new boundaries, this article from Psychology today could be helpful.

Have you been noticing an increasing amount of hair loss, or maybe a balding patch on your scalp that wasn’t obvious before?  Maybe the people sharing your bathroom have been complaining about the clumps of hair in the drain?

When you type “types of hair loss” in the google search bar, you will see there are at least 8 different categories listed! That’s a lot of possibilities for the thinning pony tail.

Hair begins its journey as keratin cells (a type of protein) just below the surface of the skin, in the hair follicles.  Here in the follicles, the keratin cells which become hair are given nourishment by blood supply to help it grow. As new keratin cells are produced in the follicles, the dead keratin cells are pushed through the surface of the skin and result in the hair you can see. Yep, your hair is dead protein!

There are 3 growing phases in the hair life cycle. These include active hair growth (2 to 7 years); transitional growth (2 to 3 weeks); and the resting phase which lasts about 3 months. At the end of the resting phase, the hair falls out and a new hair replaces it, starting the cycle again.

It’s said to be normal to lose about 100 hairs per day. So a few stray hairs on your shoulder or on the floor are no cause for alarm. Also, longer hair tends to collect more easily than short hair, so it can appear more visually dramatic than it really is.

Though hair loss is not life threatening, it can lead to emotional stress, and may be a sign of other underlying issues in the body. 

Hair Loss
How do you know if you are losing too much hair?

These signs may warrant a mention to your health care provider:

  • Your hair is becoming obviously thinner in a short space of time.
  • There are visible balding patches on your scalp or body.
  • There is soreness, redness or scarring on your scalp.
  • You are having to roll large clumps of hair out of your hands every time you run your hands through or wash your hair.
  • Your hair is breaking easily and very brittle, leaving behind short strands with broken tips.
What are the possible causes of hair loss?  

Alopecia is the technical term for hair loss and can occur for many and varied reasons. Some may include:

  • Old age…hair growth slows as we get older.
  • Emotional stress or trauma.
  • Hormonal imbalances or changes. This can occur for men and women.
  • Thyroid disease – thyroid hormones are thought to play a role in hair follicle health.
  • Long periods of dieting. 
  • Nutritional deficiencies- for example iron, zinc, vitamin D, niacin, protein, selenium, biotin, silica and iodine deficiency are known to contribute to hair loss.
  • Autoimmune diseases such as lupus, lichen planus, alopecia areata, hashimotos – conditions where the immune system becomes confused and attacks the body’s own healthy cells.
  • Psychological disorders in which a person pulls out their own hair.
  • Scarring or inflammatory conditions of the scalp such as eczema, psoriasis, folliculitis.
  • Some medications- for example chemotherapy drugs, acne medications, immune suppressants, and others. Check with your pharmacist if unsure. 
  • Excessive styling.
What should you do if you suspect you are losing too much hair?

If you suspect your hair loss is more than what is considered normal, you should talk to your health practitioner and hairdresser.

The health of your hair and scalp can tell the practitioner a lot about what is going on in your body and what should be checked out. Depending on the outcomes of a wholistic assessment, there are many options for treatment including, dietary changes and lifestyle management. Sometimes a little extra assistance may be needed from the inside out, depending on the root causes of your hair loss. There are many natural options available, but it should NOT be a one-size-fits-all approach.

If you’re keen to do a little hair pampering session at home, take a look at these Low tox home remedies for healthy hair.

Some herbal remedies for healthy hair include:

  • Rosemary tea
  • Gotu kola
  • Gingko biloba
  • Horsetail herb
  • Bladderwrack
  • Nettle leaf


Sometimes, things just don’t go to plan and it always seems to be at the most inconvenient time.  None of us are immune to change, but it is inevitable. Some would even say that change is the one certainty in life. When it comes to your health and changes that occur it’s important to reflect on what you CAN do to direct the outcome and your experience of it.

Every day, I help people with changes to their health and fitness that are no longer acceptable to them. These are just a few of the things I hear in my clinic when someone first comes to see me.

  • “I don’t know how I got to this state, and I don’t know how to fix it.”
  • “I do all the right things, eat well, don’t drink, and yet I have this {health} problem.”
  • “Why me?”
  • “I know why I am this way, I don’t know why I didn’t take action sooner.”
  • “This thing happened to me, and it’s changed everything, I just want to go back to the way things were.”

At the point where you realise that you are no longer content with the way things are, it’s time to start to question what can be done. For some people this takes a matter of minutes, for others months or even years. There is no right or wrong.

Pro-Active Versus Re-Active

At any point in time, you can choose to be pro-active or re-active. If you choose to be re-active, consciously or not, you might find yourself, worried, anxious, frightened, fearful, teary, depressed or angry. Re-active choices mean that on some level you blame circumstances, people and just the general tides of life for the outcomes you experience. As though, someone else is “calling the shots.”

For many, being pro-active takes more effort and practice than being re-active. But, everyone has the ability to strengthen this skill. Being pro-active means consciously choosing to change the things you can, ahead of time, towards the outcome you’d prefer. Some examples of being proactive would be:

  • Stretching and warming up before exercise and after, to prevent injuries and enhance the experience.
  • Scheduling time for self-care to avoid missing out or burning out.
  • Talking to your boss about some of the things that aren’t working for you in the office, and presenting some possible solutions.
  • Choosing to eat some eggs and veges for breakfast or a green smoothie, rather than a bowl of crunchy nut cornflakes every day.

It’s important to find the balance between planning ahead, being proactive and allowing for a little bit of adventure and dynamism. We don’t get to choose or control all the outcomes, but we can definitely have a say! You have permission to live your best life, and do what it takes to reach for your goals. If you need a little help, please reach out.

“The moment you accept responsibility for everything in your life, is the moment you gain the power to change anything in your life.”

Hal Elrod

https://psychcentral.com/blog/what-self-care-is-and-what-it-isnt-2/

An underactive thyroid can make you feel tired, gain weight, have brain fog, hair loss, low mood and other hormonal issues. In fact, the symptoms can be so wide and varied, sometimes it’s tricky to know if it’s a thyroid gland problem or just a random collection of annoyances. So, what on earth does it mean when you’re told, “your thyroid is “borderline”, but we’ll keep an eye on it.”?

Gosh it’s frustrating to hear this when you’ve gone to the doctor because you don’t feel quite yourself. You know something isn’t right, but all the tests are “normal”.  You might start to wonder if it’s all “just in your head”. I know I did.

What do you do with this lack of information and support? Do you just, wait and see what happens? Do you google for help? What will you search for on the internet? If you walk into the health food store looking for a way to help yourself, how do you decide where to start? Those walls of vitamins can be overwhelming when you don’t have a nutrition or herbal medicine degree.

Having an underactive thyroid can be overwhelming when it feels like your health is on a downward spiral of fatigue, hair loss, brain fog and weight gain with no easy way out. But, if you understand what your body is trying to tell you, which questions to ask, and where to get support, you can claim back your energy and confidence.

First of all you need to understand what the thyroid gland does and how it fits in with the rest of your hormone systems.

The basics of thyroid gland function and testing

In a nutshell, a general screening check up on the thyroid gland usually measures just one thing, TSH. If a significantly abnormal TSH is detected, then free T4 might be measured as well.

If TSH and T4 fall within the statistically generated reference range, then there are often no suggestions given for treatment or medication even if you don’t feel right.

When TSH is too high – it means the thyroid is slow.

If TSH is too low- it means the thyroid is running too fast.

But, what if it’s “borderline”?

The diagram below provides a helpful summary of the possibilities that need to be considered.

There is much more to the story than just little old TSH and T4. There are other checks and measures that can be taken to define what is happening in the body and define a more wholistic or comprehensive treatment plan.

The first step involves teaming up with a practitioner well versed in thyroid hormones and wholistic, functional medicine. I happen to be a little bit passionate about this, because I’ve been down this road myself.

Next, it’s important to investigate and uncover the drivers or root causes of the imbalances.

With this information at hand, an individually tailored treatment plan can be created to remove obstacles to healing, nourish the body correctly and boost it in the direction of optimal hormone balance. The end goal….to enjoy a healthy active life again.

If you’d like some assistance to understand your thyroid and hormonal system better, reach out. You can book an FREE discovery call to see if we’re a good fit to work together, or book a New Patient appointment to get started right away. https://thebarefootnaturopath.com.au/book-now/

Being female and getting to your mid to late forties means you may be starting to wonder what menopause is going to be like for you. Will you suffer with the dreaded hot flushes, mood swings and weight gain or will you cruise through change of life gracefully? The answer to this question will be different for each woman. Genetics, stress levels, medical conditions, surgeries, toxic exposures and other hormonal issues throughout the fertile years could have an impact. The important thing to remember is that menopause will be much easier if you take care of your body and adrenal glands in particular, during your thirties and forties.

Menopause….handling the heat
What does Menopause Mean?

Menopause is a time of hormonal transition, as the ovaries gradually stop functioning and cyclically producing reproductive or sex hormones. Peri-menopause signifies the start of this transition phase, and can last several years prior to actual menopause. 

Signs you could be going through perimenopause include:

  • Highly variable hormone fluctuations
  • Cycles becoming, shorter, longer or totally irregular
  • Bleeding becoming lighter, unpredictable or heavy. 

Menopause is defined once a woman has ceased having a period for at least 12 months. Most women will reach menopause between the ages of 45 and 55 and still have over a third of their lives to live beyond that, so it’s important to manage this transition in the least stressful way possible. The impact of menopause symptoms on a woman’s quality of life can vary greatly and may include:

  • Hot flushes & night sweats
  • Bloating and or weight gain
  • Crawling and itchy skin
  • Headaches or migraines 
  • Sore breasts
  • Fatigue
  • Urinary problems
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Mood swings/anxiety/depression
  • Low libido
  • Brain fog or memory problems
The Far-Reaching Impacts of Menopause

Aside from these symptoms once a woman has been through menopause, she is more susceptible to stress on other organs and systems including the heart, bones, thyroid, and nervous system. Once menopause occurs and the ovaries have ceased function, the female body now relies on the adrenal glands for the production of sex hormones to assist health, stamina and vitality throughout the rest of life. The adrenal glands are also responsible for stress hormone production which is why it’s so important to manage the stress response earlier in life, to make the transition into menopause smoother. 

What must be remembered is that menopause is a normal process of life. This transition is part of natural ageing and as with most health conditions, prevention is better than cure. To help make the transition through menopause smoother, put practices into place early in life to ensure optimal hormonal, nervous system and cardiovascular health. 

Natural Menopause Treatment

The key goal for any treatment for menopause should be to improve or relieve symptoms, enhance life experiences and promote healthy ageing and longevity.

If you are experiencing peri-menopause, or mild to moderate symptoms of menopause, the good news is, most of the time synthetic hormone replacement therapy is not necessary. There are herbal, nutritional and lifestyle supports that can help reduce unwanted symptoms. Pairing some useful natural therapies with the right diet and exercise is a great way to ease menopausal symptoms. 

Food as Medicine

There is some evidence for the benefits of phytoestrogens in the reduction of hot flashes. These are plant based “oestrogens” which occur naturally in soy, legumes, flaxseeds, red clover, alfalfa, maca and other foods.

On the flip side, there has also been some concern in the past questioning whether soy based supplements are a risk for people with breast cancer or a history of breast cancer. There is data that goes both ways. It seems we don’t have all the answers yet.

The rule of thumb guide here is, if you don’t have a personal or family history of breast cancer, but do have an increased risk of osteoperosis, and are suffering with hot flashes, phytoestrogen foods may be of benefit to you, taken in moderation.

If you have a low thyroid function or hypothyroidism, high amounts of soy based foods are discouraged as they can in theory slow thyroid hormone production. You may instead benefit from whole soy foods in fermented form such as tempeh, miso, tofu. Combine them with a plant source of iodine such as kombu, kelp, dulse or wakame to reduce the the impact on thyroid function. Dr Mark Hyman has written a great summary on the safe use of soy in the diet.

Other dietary recommendations for hot flash prevention include following the Mediterranean diet and avoiding chilli, wine, sugar and processed foods.

Herbal Helpers for Menopause

Wild Yam can relieve menopausal symptoms when taken orally. Women report feeling less agitated, reduced hot flashes intensity and reduced aches and pains when taking wild yam. The benefits from topical wild yam creams are questionable, but some women still swear by it. Wild yam may assist with hormone balance, inflammation, and abdominal spasms or cramping.

Chaste Tree also known as Vitex, can support progesterone balance indirectly. Progesterone and estrogen both decline during perimenopause and menopause. Chaste Tree extract can be particularly useful when there are breast pain, heavy period bleeds, insomnia and PMS like symptoms present.

Rehmannia is traditionally a cooling herb. This herb proves helpful when hot flashes persist day and night, alongside constipation, a history of heavy bleeding and joint aches and pains.

Sage is a plant you may be familiar with from your herb garden. This little beauty is great for putting a stop to excessive sweating. It can be taken as a tea or used in herbal preparations from your naturopath/herbalist.

Other natural therapies that may be of benefit during menopause include hypnotherapy ( up to 50% reduction rate in hot flashes); aromatherapy, acupuncture, reflexology.

While there is no one size fits all approach, it is likely that an integrative approach will be the most valuable for a smooth transition through peri-menopause and menopause. A collaborative relationship with your doctor and a qualified Naturopath is a great place to start and ensure you have the right mix of therapies for you now and to reduce other menopause associated health risks in the future.