The menopause is treated by many GPs as a medical condition rather than a natural part of women’s life cycle. As with pregnancy, menopausal symptoms become medicalised and women start to feel as though it’s something they’ve got to battle through rather than accepting it as a new stage in their lives.
However, that’s not to say the menopause isn’t a real challenge for many women. Hot sweats in the office, or in bed at night preventing a decent night’s sleep, are uncomfortable, debilitating and quite often, embarrassing. It’s normal that women want something to help them minimise these kinds of symptoms.
“Due to new legislation surrounding herbs it can be extremely difficult to bring combination products to market.”
Other symptoms include weight gain, an increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease, mood swings, vaginal dryness and a loss of libido.
The menopause can happen at any time in a woman’s life, generally between the ages of 45 and 55. Some women can experience it in their early thirties, or even in their sixties.
Until 2002 women suffering from one or more menopausal symptoms would most likely have been prescribed Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) by their GP. However, research by the Women’s Health Initiative found that HRT raised the risk of heart disease, stroke and breast cancer.
New research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute this year found that women who start HRT as they begin to go through the menopause have a higher risk of breast cancer than women who start taking the drugs later.
This kind of research has led to a big decrease in the number of women taking HRT, and it has also helped to boost the market for natural remedies for menopausal symptoms.
“It appears that women are more open to exploring alternatives to HRT,” says Alice Bradshaw, education manager at Solgar. “Over the last 10 years or so, queries have been periodically raised as to the safety of HRT and, at the same time, there seems to be heightened awareness of the fact that there are natural alternatives,” she adds.
Wellbeing for women
Herbs have traditionally been used in many cultures to ease menopausal symptoms.
“By far the most calls we get are about hot sweats,” says Shona Wilkinson, head nutritionist at the Nutri Centre. “This seems to be a real concern for women and can be very distressing.”
One of the key herbs for menopausal health is black cohosh, a phytoestrogen which helps to maintain normal hormone levels.
“This is the herb of choice for hot flushes and night sweats and there have been a number of good clinical trials that show its effectiveness,” explains natural health expert Marilyn Glenville.
“Black cohosh doesn’t increase oestrogen levels and has no effect on the cells in the vagina or womb. This is important because it’s where the HRT risks are, which can increase the risk of cancer.
“You can be assured that black cohosh offers relief from menopause symptoms without oestrogen-like effects,” adds Glenville, who recently reformulated her range of products by the Natural Health Practice.
There have been concerns about the safety of the herb following reports of liver failure in a small number of users. This has led to products containing black cohosh to require warning labels advising of this fact.
Higher Nature recently launched a licensed black cohosh product as part of its new herbal range. Says Karen Wilson, product director at Higher Nature: “The knowledge that this wonderful traditional herbal remedy has been assessed for safety and must meet stringent and consistent quality standards will be reassuring for menopausal women everywhere.”
Other key herbs for support during the menopause include sage, which is known to help reduce hot sweats. Wilkinson says: “Sage is thought to be really helpful for hot sweats and we particularly like Menosan by A Vogel.”
An individual approach
Although we know that specific herbs are beneficial for menopausal symptoms, we also know that women react differently to each one.
Glenville has experience of this: “Many years ago in the clinic, I would just use one herb at a time and the interesting thing was that two women with identical symptoms given the same herb could have completely different responses. One woman would find the herb very effective and the other would report that it had no effect on her symptoms at all.
“I have found that giving a combination of herbs helps the majority of women in the shortest possible time.”
Glenville explains that due to new legislation surrounding herbs it can be extremely difficult to bring combination products to market, which is why she has launched a food supplement called Meno Herbal Support, a combination of organic fermented soya, red clover, sage, dandelion, alfalfa and lignans from flaxseed.
Nature’s Aid’s best performers in terms of supplements for the menopause include Menacare Support – a supplement which combines the herbs sage and Siberian ginseng along with soya isoflavones, vitamin K2, vitamin D3, vitamin E and magnesium.
Back in balance
Many of the herbs already mentioned are phytoestrogens. This means they have the ability to naturally mimic oestrogen, helping to balance hormones that have become disrupted due to the menopause.
Phytoestrogens can be extremely beneficial for women struggling with mood swings. This is because oestrogen and serotonin are closely linked, and as oestrogen levels decline so does serotonin, which may lead to low moods.
Debbie Paddington from Higher Nature confirms that phytoestrogens may have a vital part to play during the menopause: “Phytoestrogens, such as soya, black cohosh, Mexican yam, Siberian ginseng, hops and sage all contain phytoestrogens. These can be taken orally or applied in creams to help maintain normal hormone levels.”
Bradshaw agrees about the prime importance of phytoestrogens for menopause: “Red clover is a source of phytoestrogenic isoflavones and is supportive to female hormonal balance. Dong quai has a long history of use in Chinese medicine and is also a source of phytoestrogenic components,” she adds.
Bradshaw says that Solgar’s most popular supple ment for managing the common menopausal symptoms is the PM Phytogen Complex tablets, which contain Pueraria mirifica (thai kudzu) as the main active ingredient in the formulation.
“Pueraria mirifica (PM) contains several phytoestrogens including genestein and diadzein, but it is the only known source of one particular phytonutrient called miroestrol,” explains Bradshaw.
“Miroestrol is similar to oestriol, a weak oestrogen found in the female body, which plays a protective role in health. It is thought that the action of miroestrol is the key reason for the beneficial properties of PM. In clinical trials women taking PM experienced significant relief from their symptoms.” she adds.
Other key nutrients include Vitamin E and magnesium, which have been shown to help reduce hot flushes and alleviate pain in the muscles and joints, as well as help with palpitations and mood swings.
Essential fatty acids are also intricately involved in hormone regulation. Because of this key fact they should be considered as part of a supplement programme for women, according to Bradshaw.
Paddington agrees, saying: “Essential fatty acids, especially the Omega 3, 6, 7 and 9 oils, are required for hormone production and general skin health.”
Other nutrients recommended by Paddington include the B vitamins for hormone and energy production, vitamin C for the vascular system, magnesium for adrenal function and vitamin E for tissue integrity and health.
Menopause product listings
Leading nutritionist Patrick Holford has formulated a new and innovative addition to his supplement range. Female Balance® is a unique combination of nutrients designed to provide women with additional support for hormone health during the monthly flux in hormone levels. Female Balance® contains B vitamins, zinc and magnesium, which contribute to the production of hormones, with the innovative ingredients indole-3-carbinol and isoflavones. These potent antioxidant compounds work in synergy making Female Balance® a useful choice for women wishing to support healthy hormones. RRP £22.00 for 90 tablets. Available at www.biocare.co.uk
Heath & Heather Organic Camomile
At Heath & Heather we have been creating excellent infusions since 1920, selecting only the finest natural ingredients free from artificial colours and flavours. We work in association with the National Institute of Medical Herbalists ensuring that our infusions deliver the very best to support a healthy lifestyle. Delicate Organic Camomile has been carefully selected to produce a soothing drink to help you relax and unwind at any time of day. As an alternative, try using a cup of warm camomile as a final rinse traditionally applied to condition and highlight fair hair.
One the most challenging stages of a woman’s life is the menopause, levels of female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone begin to fall during this time. This can cause unpleasant symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, irritability, mood swings and depression. MenoVital® is one of the most comprehensive Menopause products on the market. It consists of: 16 essential ingredients including: Soy Isoflavones, Flaxseed, Siberian Ginseng extract and Starflower to help the body maintain overall health and well being during the mid life change.
MenoVital retails at £11.49 for 60 tablets. Contact HealthAid Ltd for information or visit www.healthaid.co.uk
Terranova Female Support Complex
Tel: 0845 0725 825 • Fax: 0845 0725 826
E-mail: [email protected]
Terranova Female Support Complex is a powerfully active and intensely synergistic formulation for maintaining hormone balance in the menopause (as well as during menstruating years). Female Support Complex features the hormonal tonic dong quai; isoflavone-rich plants including soy sprouts, fenugreek, kudzu and alfalfa; rhodiola and avena for maintaining healthy nerves; and turmeric, dandelion, watercress, kale and sea buckthorn berry for maintaining liver health and supporting healthy detoxification. Most of the botanicals are fresh freeze dried, which is superior to other drying methods in terms of enzyme content, activity, solubility, stability and protection of the plant’s original composition.
Early adulthood is the ideal time for women to lay the foundations for health in their later years. The menopause presents its own challenges, but as the flushes and fatigue begin to fade, women start to think about bone, breast and heart health again.
We have developed a formulation with legislation in mind containing 50mg Soya Isoflavones, 500mg Sage and 200mg Siberian Ginseng which may help to assist with hot flushes, fatigue and mental ‘fog’ that tends to accompany the menopause. Also included is 20mcg Vitamin K2, 400iu Vitamin D3, 200iu of Vitamin E and 100mg Magnesium that all work together to help provide the benefits for long-term health.
Lady Comfort™ are new capsules based on a traditional Swedish formula of natural active ingredients combining cranberries, evening primrose oil and caraway seed oil, to help you maintain a healthy bladder and moist mucous membranes. It can help prevent painful urinary tract infections and discomfort. Lady Comfort™ also helps eliminate bacteria and thereby helps to maintain a healthy urinary tract system, easing away irritating symptoms.
Shatavari for women
Grown throughout India, Shatavari is a member of the asparagus family and is used to balance the menstrual cycle. Literally translated from Hindi, Shatavari means ‘she who has 100 husbands’ since it is renowned for naturally supporting women’s energy levels. As a cooling and soothing herb, shatavari helps to clear some of the uncomfortable menopausal hot flushes and night sweats. Pukka’s Shatavari for women is 100% organic.
Shatavari is also one of the herbs in Pukka’s delicious organic Harmonise tea. Along with delicate rose, hibiscus and sweet vanilla, shatavari supports the rejuvenation and nourishment of women’s health.
Tel: 01273 570987 • Fax: 01273 691226
E-mail: [email protected]
Womega® – specially formulated for women to help maintain a healthy heart. Womega is a unique combination of 5 ingredients especially formulated for women before and after the menopause, because the body loses some of its natural protection this time of life. It contains Omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil which are known to have a positive effect on maintaining a healthy heart and blood vessels, MenaQ7 – a natural form of Vitamin K2 that may help to maintain healthy blood vessels, Vitamin D, Cocoa extract which is rich in polyphenols (antioxidants) and a Spirulina algae extract. Womega has a unique chocolate smell and causes no fishy aftertaste! 30 caps £9.99
VM Prime For Women
Solgar Vitamins, Beggars Lane, Aldbury, Tring, Herts, HP23 5PT
Tel: 01442 890355 • Fax: 04442 890366
Good nutrition is important throughout all stages of your life. Reaching the menopause does not mean that a woman should stop taking care of herself. In fact with the onset of the menopause, women need to consider not only the management of hot flushes and other symptoms, but more importantly the maintenance of bone and cardiovascular health. Solgar VM Prime? For Women, is an advanced multi nutrient formula that is tailored to help address the specific needs of menopausal and post-menopausal women.
Vitabiotics Menopace Plus
Vitabiotics Ltd, 1 Apsley Way, London, NW2 7HF.
Tel: 0208 955 2662
Menopace® Plus is a specially formulated food supplement for women during the menopause who are looking for even greater support. Menopace® Plus provides a unique formula in a handy dual pack combining the original multinutrient tablets with a unique active botanical tablets. Menopace® Plus contains the additional benefits of an ‘active botanical’ tablet to be taken alongside the multinutrient tablet. This has been specially formulated for women who are looking for extra nutritional support during this time of change. Each tablet contains an additional 100mg of soya isoflavone extract, 250mg sage extract, 50mg green tea extract and 50mg flax lignans. Menopace® Plus with extra soy isoflavones is the most comprehensive formula available for the menopause.
Yes organic lubricants
Experience instant relief from menopausal vaginal dryness with Yes water-based, which has the dual function of outstanding lubrication and deep remoisturisation. Astonishingly realistic in feel, di screet and effective, Yes represents the purest poss ible solution for all women who want to treat their bodies with respect and restore natural-feeling lubri cation. Now available in convenient prefilled appl icators. Fully certified organic, the Yes range is being heralded by menopause experts and health profe sionals as a breakthrough approach to dryness. Inviting you to “Change your world from the inside” these innovative plant-based products deliver desired relief. When intimate discomfort is the problem, Yes is the solution.