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A Natural Approach To The Menopause

When women start the menopause they may not be sure how to handle the symptoms. Should they try HRT? Or stick to herbs and vitamins? Top gynaecologist Miss Tania Adib explains what really works.

For many women, the onset of the menopause looms like a shadow of impending doom. Not only is there the impact of physical symptoms such as night sweats and hot flushes, mood swings, weight gain and vaginal atrophy, there is often emotional and psychological fallout, which can affect relationships and self-esteem. The menopause marks a new life stage and that can be very unnerving.

A holistic menopause

While there are universal medical aspects to it, each woman’s experience and response to the menopause is as individual as they are. It’s this understanding that Tania Adib, Twenty-five Harley Street Consultant Gynaecologist brings to gynaecology. Miss Adib looks at more than a single ‘solve it’ treatment such as HRT, though that may be in the mix. “Physical and emotional wellbeing depends on many things and there are so many alternatives that can really help with symptoms and most importantly, long-term health,” she says.

Women today are seeking an approach to their health that is empowering and proactive, where the gynaecologist listens as much as dispenses wisdom. Miss Adib considers a woman’s symptoms in the context of possible treatment, diet, exercise, stress levels and medical history. It feeds into tailored recommendations for lifestyle modifications that are do-able – and can bring results that go well beyond the management of the menopause.

Eat your way to a balanced body

A study at the University of Westminster showed that British women suffer a higher percentage of menopausal symptoms than those from countries like China, Japan and India. “We know a good diet is a cornerstone of optimum health,” says Miss Adib, “so I’d recommend avoiding sugary foods and reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption, all of which can make hot flushes and sweating much worse. Introducing more oily fish, lots of fresh vegetables and fruit, and plenty of hydration will help ease symptoms, too.”  In particular, she highlights foods containing high levels of Phytoestrogens – weak plant oestrogens – to lessen symptoms. “This includes tofu, soya, red clover, alfalfa, flaxseed and dandelion. All these foods have a higher consumption in the East and offer added health benefits such as a lower rate of breast cancer and lower cholesterol.”

Exercise with impact

Of course, everyone knows the health and mental benefits of exercise – that’s not news. But Miss Adib points out the new needs of someone going through the menopause. “As women get older, without the benefit of oestrogen, bone density levels fall. It’s especially important therefore to do weight bearing exercise such as dancing and running, to keep the bones strong and supple.” At any time of life, but particularly at times of stress and change, keeping active – for a good 30 minutes, three times a week – will boost levels of the stress-busting ‘feel good’ hormones endorphin.

Supplementing for health

A 360º look at managing the menopause may flag the value of a health supplement. Says Miss Adib, “Low levels of vitamin D have been linked with a higher risk of breast cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis. It has also been linked with inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.” Anecdotal evidence suggests, too, that herbs can provide relief from hot flushes, night sweats and mood changes. Those known to be effective include sage for the memory, agnus castus for balancing hormones, and Omega 3, which can help with dry skin, eyes and nails, fatigue, depression aching joints and forgetfulness.

Be mindful

It’s hot word at the moment, but mindfulness has been around for thousands of years – and with good reason. In the maelstrom of change that accompanies the menopause, finding a way to let go of negative thoughts and anxiety is invaluable and allows space for new health-enhancing mindsets. “Simply focusing on your breathing for five minutes can have a positive effect on how you feel,” says Miss Adib. ‘”It needn’t be pure meditation, which some struggle with. Yoga, a walk in the park calmly noticing your surroundings – both work on multiple levels to improve wellbeing, give you a sense of objectivity and help reduce unpleasant symptoms.”