During menopause, many women experience hot flushes, mood swings, impaired sleep, sensitive mucous membranes, aching joints, and several other problems. However, most of these symptoms occur as a result of our lifestyle not being properly adjusted to our evolutionary heritage. For that reason, simple dietary adjustments and supplements with essential nutrients can often reduce the annoying symptoms.
The first unpleasant symptoms often occur 5-10 years before the actual menopause because of an impairment of the ovarian quality. After menopause, the ovaries are no longer able to produce estrogen and progesterone. Still, small amounts of progesterone and other estrogens are produced by the adrenal glands, the liver, and the fat cells, and have different functions through life in both women and men. It is even quite normal to gain a few kilos as a way of compensating for the reduced estrogen levels, and it is still important to have a proper balance between the different estrogens and progesterone.
Inspired by cultures without hot flushes
A WHO study reveals that hot flushes are virtually unknown by Indian women and only occur in 17 per cent of Japanese women. Interestingly, more recent studies have shown that the occurrence of hot flushes among Japanese women increases in step with the introduction of modern diets or emigration to the United States where diets contain less fish, less soy, more meat, alcohol, sugar, and dairy products. These factors combined with other lifestyle changes are thought to play a vital role. Because of these differences, it makes sense to find inspiration in cultures where hot flushes are non-existent or less prevalent.
Percentage of women who experience hot flushes during menopause
The study was conducted by WHO (World Health Organization)
Sufficient magnesium for the estrogen balance and the nervous system
Magnesium supports around 300 enzymatic processes in the body and plays a particularly important role in maintaining the proper balance between estrogen (estradiol, estriol, and estrone) and progesterone, even during menopause. Estrogen, progesterone, and the stress hormone cortisol all belong to a group of steroid hormones that affect one another. This means that high levels of stress can easily affect the hormonal balance in a negative direction, especially if magnesium is lacking.
Before the industrialization, we humans got 500 mg of magnesium per day on average (many got even more) from our diets. Today, we get less than 250 mg, and our intake of the nutrient is below the RDA level (Recommended Daily Allowance), which is currently 375 mg. Not only is magnesium an important mineral for our hormone balance and nervous system, it is also important for our bones, blood pressure, digestion, sleep pattern, and many other functions.
Caution: Never take calcium supplements without magnesium
Many menopausal women take calcium supplements for their bones. Most calcium preparations also contain vitamin D that ensures proper calcium absorption from the intestine. However, we also need magnesium that functions like a doorman by allowing calcium to enter the bone cells. If there is too little magnesium, there is a risk that calcium enters the other cells in the soft tissues. This may cause cells to malfunction, leading to muscle cramps, fatigue, heart rhythm disturbances, and cardiac arrest in worst case. It is therefore important NEVER to take calcium supplements without taking magnesium at the same time. On the other hand, there is no problem with taking a magnesium supplement without taking calcium.
Magnesium supplements must be absorbed to benefit the hormone balance and bones
Magnesium preparations differ widely in quality, with some products being well absorbed in the body, while others have poor absorption. Magnesium carbonate, magnesium hydroxide, and magnesium acetate are all magnesium compounds with good absorption.
There is an unofficial yet rather convenient way to test the absorption of a magnesium preparation, simply by dropping a tablet into glass of water to see if it dissolves within a few minutes. If several hours pass by before the magnesium tablet dissolves in the water, it is not likely that the tablet will dissolve in the stomach acid and get absorbed in the blood.
Magnesium, inflammation, and menopause
A study of 3,713 menopausal women (aged 59-79 years) showed an inverse relation between their magnesium intake and their levels of various biological markers of inflammation. Put differently, magnesium may help reduce inflammation, a problem that many women experience after menopause. A similar effect is seen with fish oil.
Fish oil eliminates many problems linked to menopause
Fish oil can reduce joint pains and other types of inflammation by regulating some hormone-like substances known as prostaglandins. Also, fish oil protects the heart and blood vessels by reducing levels of triglycerides. Finally, fish oil has the potential to counteract hot flushes, mood swings, dry and thin skin, dry mucous membranes, and dry eyes, which are problems many women experience during menopause. The positive effects are mainly linked to the omega-3 fatty acid EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
Topical treatment of vaginal dryness
Dry mucous membranes in the vagina can be lubricated with argan oil, almond oil, or coconut oil
Be aware of triggering factors such as alcohol and coffee
As mentioned earlier, a healthy diet plays a significant role in the prevention of hot flushes, and it is important to pay attention to any triggering factors. Be particularly careful with alcohol that burdens the liver and the hormone balance. Many people who drink alcohol are likely to wake up in the middle of the night, bathed in sweat. Also, be careful with spicy food, coffee, tea, cola, and other caffeinated beverages.
Mirror image and a new self-perception
After menopause, the skin gets thinner and more wrinkled as a result of the reduced estrogen levels. Supplementing with Q10, fish oil, vitamin C, selenium, and zinc may delay both the interior and exterior signs of ageing. Stick with preparations that can document their bio-availability.
A simple overview of effective tips for menopause
- Eat a healthy, coarse, and green diet to stabilize your blood sugar levels
- Eat plant estrogen from legumes, kale, nuts, seeds, kernels, and other natural sources
- Engage in exercise forms that strain the bones
- Attempt to achieve/maintain your ideal weight and a healthy waste line. An adequate amount of body fat is determining for the hormonal balance
- Limit your intake of caffeinated beverages - especially coffee
- Avoid alcohol or limit your intake to the current recommendations issued by the health authorities
- Get enough magnesium, calcium, and vitamin D for the estrogen balance and bones
- Fish oil helps against aching joints and hot flushes, just like it benefits your skin and your mood
- Supplementing with Q10 and selenium has a general anti-ageing effect
- Choose supplements that can document proper bio-availability and utilization in the body
- Treat vaginal dryness with lubricants such as argan oil, almond oil, and coconut oil
- Avoid stress, as women are very vulnerable during menopause
Did you know that menopause (which is not a pause) is Latin. Meno = month, and pausa = termination.
Chako, S.A. et al. Relations of dietary magnesium intake to biomarkers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction in an ethnically diverse cohort of postmenopausal women. Diabetes Care, 2009
Ann C Skulas-Ray et al. Dose-response effects of omega-3 fatty acids on triglycerides, inflammation, and endothelial function in healthy persons with moderate hypertriglyceridemia. American Journal of clinical Nutrition 2011
Fredi Kronenberg: A Review of Physiology and Biosociocultural Perspective on Methods of Assessment. The Journal of Nutrition 2010
Horne, Ruth Ames et al: Vascular events in healthy older women receiving calcium supplementation: randomized controlled trial. BMJ 2008