Managing Menopause Naturally

Menopause is a normal biological process in a woman’s life, marking the natural transition between fertility and age-related non-fertility. Menopausal symptoms, in particular hot flushes and night sweats, can vary in their duration and severity and typically begin for women in their late 40’s to early 50’s, often leaving them hot and flustered.

Menopause, hot flushes and night sweats
Hot flushes and night sweats are caused by changing levels of hormones in the body, particularly declining oestrogen levels during the peri-menopause, menopause and the post-menopausal phases.
Peri-menopause is the period of time, usually 4-10 years, before the onset of menopause that tends to affect women in their early 40’s.

Menopause is defined as the cessation of menstruation for at least one year and usually occurs anywhere from around 45-55 years of age.

Post-menopause follows the menopausal phase where the ovaries stop producing oestrogen and while the adrenal glands and the conversion of androgens within fat cells produce small amounts of oestrogen.

As a woman approaches peri-menopause, declining oestrogen levels have a direct effect on the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that’s responsible for temperature control. Low levels of oestrogen trick the hypothalamus into believing the body is overheating. This triggers a cascade of biochemical processes to try and cool the body down by dilating blood vessels, resulting in hot flushes and night sweats.

Hot flushes and night sweats are the number one complaint for women experiencing menopause and are characterised by sudden, intense feelings of heat in the face, neck and arms.

Excessive sweating
The frequency, duration and severity of hot flushes and night sweats varies greatly between women. Some women experience mild hot flushes and night sweats every now and then, while other women experience severe hot flushes and nights sweats all day and all night. Avoiding well-known triggers such as caffeine, alcohol, stress and excessive heat, can help to prevent hot flushes.

Top 5 herbs for hot flushes and night sweats
1. Sage has been used for thousands of years and is traditionally used to relieve excessive sweating, night sweats and hot flushes associated with menopause.
2. Pueraria (Kudzu), provides isoflavones (phytoestrogens), helpful in managingheat and dryness, improve libido throughout menopause and may help preserve bone health in postmenopausal women
4. Chaste tree, also known as Vitex, helps support normal healthy hormone balance, helps relieve hot flushes and maintains healthy moods.
5. Dong Quai may help relieve hot flushes and sleep disturbance in pre- and post-menopausal women.
These herbs have traditionally been used to help relieve a wide variety of menopausal symptoms, especially hot flushes, excessive perspiration, night sweats, sleeplessness, dryness, nervous tension, headaches, and joint and muscle pain.

Oestrogen Metabolism in Men and Women

Our exposure to oestrogen begins in foetal development and too much oestrogen, or the wrong ratios of oestrogen, can lead to hormonal imbalances in both men and women. Supporting phase I and phase II liver detoxification processes can help support healthy metabolic pathways of oestrogen in the liver.
Oestrogen is a steroidal hormone produced from the building blocks of cholesterol and testosterone.
Oestrogen accelerates and stimulates cell growth in all oestrogen sensitive tissues and, while the majority of oestrogen is produced in the ovaries/testes, fat cells, adrenal glands, the liver and breast tissue can also produce oestrogen.

Symptoms of estrogen dominance:
Women:
• PMS
• Weight gain
• Fibrocystic breasts
• Fibroids
• Endometriosis
• Abnormal menstruation
• Fatigue
• Reduced sex drive
• Depression
• Anxiety
• Breast tenderness
• Mood swings
• Brain fog
• Insomnia

Men:
• Enlarged breasts
• Sexual dysfunction
• Infertility
• Low libido
• Increased Fat around the abdomen
• Loss of muscle strength
• Overly emotional

Xeno-oestrogens found in the environment
Xeno-oestrogens, also known as ‘endocrine disrupters’, are profound hormonal disruptors that mimic the activity of oestrogen in the body. Xeno-oestrogens can be found in our environment in pesticides, herbicides, drugs, fuels, perfumes, cosmetics, and plastics e.g. dioxins, phthalates andPCBs.

Controlling oestrogen
Healthy oestrogen levels are controlled and finely balanced by positive and negative feedback loops between the brain and the ovaries/testes. Excess oestrogen occurs when either too much oestrogen is produced, excess oestrogen is not cleared effectively from the body, or through exposure to xeno-oestrogens.

Phase I and phase II liver detoxification
One of the most important functions of the liver is to break down and remove excess hormones from your body.
Any impedance of the detoxification process can cause estrogen dominance. Just think of the guy with “man-boobs” who abuses alcohol. His liver function is impaired, and estrogen is excessive. The biology behind this example can be explained with the liver’s two-step detoxification process, which filters hormones and toxins in the bloodstream. In phase I, the liver converts substances into toxic free radicals before they are converted to a water-soluble form in phase II. If phase II isn’t operating sufficiently, the toxic free radicals build up. Both phases must be in balance so proper elimination of waste can occur.

Health hazards of excess oestrogen
High levels of circulating oestrogens or unhealthy oestrogen ratios can increase the risk of cellular proliferation, (cell proliferation is increased in tumours) so it’s important that oestrogens are broken down efficiently and effectively for elimination.
Certain herbs and nutrients, including Broccoli sprouts, Rosemary, St Mary’s thistle, quercetin and glutathione can all help to support phase I and phase II liver detoxification processes for healthy metabolism of oestrogen in the liver.
Talk to the Naturopaths and Natural Health Consultants at Go Vita Tanunda for professional advice.

Amazing Zinc – Essential for the whole family

Zinc is an essential trace element, second only to iron in the body, that plays an important role in many enzymatic, structural and regulatory functions at a cellular level.
In a national random survey of Australian adults, daily intakes of zinc were minimal, with 67% of men and 85% of women falling below the recommended daily allowance (RDA).
Amazinc
Although zinc is found in all body tissues and fluid, high concentrations are found in skeletal muscles, bones, skin, the brain, eyes (particularly the macula), liver, spleen, pancreas, kidney and prostate. Zinc is required for over 300 enzyme reactions within the body including carbohydrate metabolism, protein and DNA synthesis, protein digestion, bone metabolism and supporting antioxidant pathways, while also playing an important role in growth and development, the immune response, neurological function and reproduction.
Zinc deficiency
A mild zinc deficiency is common and can have an impact on health in a relatively short period of time. Primary deficiency tends to occur when there is inadequate dietary intake or when zinc absorption is inhibited. A zinc deficiency is common in adolescents, the elderly, vegetarians, pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Food sources of zinc
Food sources of zinc include meat, liver, eggs, seafood (especially oysters and shellfish), nuts, legumes, wholegrains, miso, tofu, brewer’s yeast, mushrooms, green beans and pumpkin seeds.
Zinc absorption
Phytates in the diet can inhibit zinc absorption. Phytates, found in foods such as wholegrains, nuts, legumes and beans, bind with zinc making it unavailable for absorption. The impact of phytates on zinc absorption can be minimised by soaking, heating, sprouting and fermenting these foods. The health of the digestive system and the amount of protein in the diet also contributes to the efficiency of zinc absorption.

Some of the amazing benefits of zinc:
• Assists in the maintenance of healthy skin, promotes wound healing and may assist in the relief of the symptoms of minor skin disorders, such as mild acne.
• Essential for the formation of connective tissue, teeth, bones, nails, hair and skin
• Required for enzymes and proteins involved in skin renewal
• Potent antioxidant that helps protect against free radical damage
• Supports the healthy functioning of the immune system
• May assist in the management of mild upper respiratory tract infections
• Helps to provide relief from the symptoms of colds, as well as reduce the severity of colds
• May help maintain a normal healthy appetite and normal taste sensation
• Aids in the healthy metabolism of carbohydrates and the digestion of proteins
• Plays a role in maintaining male reproductive and prostate health

Maintaining memory during ageing

Ageing is a natural part of life, and as just as your body ages, so does your brain. Maintaining memory during ageing is an important factor in being able to maintain a healthy, independent lifestyle.
Your nervous system
Your brain is like a ‘master control panel’, controlling all your conscious and unconscious bodily functions through your central and peripheral nervous systems. The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord, while the peripheral nervous system consists of the nerves that lead out of the spinal cord and into the rest of the body. Neurons or nerve cells carry signals or nerve cell impulses rapidly around the body to control these activities.
Energy for your brain
The brain is one of the most ‘energy hungry’ organs in your body and is energised by glucose and oxygen, delivered by blood cells through your circulatory system. Unlike muscles, your brain cannot store glucose as glycogen, so it needs a constant supply of glucose to work effectively. Brain cells also need an uninterrupted flow of oxygen to allow the brain to function properly.
The ageing brain
The weight of your brain decreases with age due to the loss of neurons in the brain and spinal cord. Nerve cell impulses begin to slow, leading to decreased cellular communication and circulation may be compromised, decreasing the amount of glucose and oxygen delivered to the brain.

4 herbs and nutrients to help maintain memory during ageing:
1. Ginkgo biloba – helps maintain blood flow to the brain, so assists in the maintenance of cognitive function, memory, focus and concentration for study and during ageing, providing antioxidant and free radical scavenging activity.
2. Brahmi – is a brain and nervine tonic of Ayurvedic medicine, traditionally used to improve memory, concentration and learning, supporting cognitive function and memory during ageing. Brahmi contains an active ingredient known as bacoside A, which assists in the release of nitric oxide, allowing the relaxation of blood vessels to enable smooth blood flow throughout the body. This offers a positive effect on learning and memory recall. Brahmi also improves stress adaptation, so is beneficial during periods of stress.
3. Alpha Lipoic acid(ALA) – is a potent water and fat soluble antioxidant and free radical scavenger that’s able to cross the blood-brain barrier. ALA helps maintain nerve health, assists glucose metabolism and is involved in the uptake of glucose into cells.
4. Lecithin – or phosphatidylserine, is the major phospholipid in the brain and is important for cellular communication, which helps improve the transfer of signals between brain cells.

4 Foods to help maintain a healthy brain
1. Blueberries. help protect the brain from oxidative stress and may help to reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
2. Wild salmon. rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are essential for brain function, Omega-3s also contain anti-inflammatory substances.
3. Nuts and seeds. are good sources of vitamin E – higher levels of vitamin E correspond with less cognitive decline as you get older.
4. Avocados improve blood supply and oxygenation to your brain, they contain high quantities of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids which help keep your brain cell membranes flexible.
Avocado oil has been shown to help lower blood pressure, and as hypertension is a risk factor for the decline in cognitive abilities, a lower blood pressure should promote brain health.

Taking control of work stress

Your heart is racing, sweat beads on your forehead and you are overwhelmed by a sudden urge to flee. Just another day at the office, right?

Workplace stress is at epidemic levels in Australia with almost three in four workers struggling to manage the pressure of unreasonable workloads, job insecurity, and low morale. But the good news is there are steps you can take to recognise the early signs of stress and boost your coping capacity.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, large numbers of workers are clocked on for more than 50 hours a week, leaving Australia near the bottom of the work/life balance ladder compared with other countries.

Among the many causes is the impact of technology blurring the boundaries between work and downtime, with employees expected to be contactable at all hours. In some sectors, technological advances create job insecurity as computers and machinery take tasks from workers. Casualisation of the workforce and the growing gig economy (where workers are freelance contractors or hired on demand) has also removed much of the stability enjoyed by previous generations.

At a biological level, stress is related to allostasis, when the nervous system, immune system, and hormones are activated to help the body adapt to challenges.

Hormones including adrenalin and cortisol trigger the fight-or-flight response that helps us react quickly to manage stressful situations.
When this happens efficiently and infrequently, the body can cope. But in circumstances where these systems are overstimulated and cannot perform properly, the result is allostatic load, which can lead to disease.

When worries, challenges, and anxieties show no sign of abating, chronic stress can result. Signs of stress include aches and pains, insomnia, indigestion, diarrhea, irritability, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, low self-esteem and feeling out of control, moody and tearful. If left unchecked chronic stress can lead to depression, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, and even heart disease. And while stress might leave you reaching for alcohol, caffeine, and sugary foods, these can, in fact, escalate symptoms. Instead, regular exercise and a balanced diet supplemented by specific vitamins and minerals can help ease symptoms of stress and set you on the path to make longer-term changes.

Magnesium assists muscle and nerve function, with foods such as kale, spinach, yoghurt, almonds, avocado, bananas and even good quality dark chocolate rich in this essential mineral. Soaking in an Epsom salt bath is another way to absorb the stress-relieving benefits of magnesium.

B-complex vitamins found in many animal proteins protect the immune and nervous systems while promoting mental clarity.

Herbs including St John’s wort, valerian root, licorice,Withania, Rhodiola and Lavender have traditionally been used in teas, tonics and supplements for their calming and immune boosting properties.

Hormonal support can also be helpful, with the amino acid tyrosine – found in protein-rich foods – working as a precursor to hormones that regulate the body’s stress response.

Sipping green tea is a soothing way to increase levels of theanine, another amino acid used to treat high blood pressure and anxiety.
While dietary changes and supplements won’t make work less stressful, they can help build your physical and mental reserves so you can take steps towards reclaiming a manageable work/life balance.

Are your stress levels out of control? What are your options? Talk to the experts at Go Vita Tanunda for practical advice on how to manage stress naturally.

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