Is there another way to treat our menopause, asks Caroline Gaskin, natural-health practitioner and homeopath
Menopause started for me in my late forties. Panicky thoughts of change went through my head. Would I be less vital, less vibrant, less desired, less fun? What did it mean to let go? And what would I gain?
I said I’d be glad when the whole “having periods” and “having sex” thing was over and I could just knit instead. But I liked sex. Would I still want it? Would my partner still want me?
Looking back, my first ever signs of perimenopause came at 42, when my energy went off kilter. I felt out of balance and a bit “speedy”. My homeopath gave me a combination remedy called Narayani Female Balance BR16 50m. It really sorted me out.
Then, at 46, I suddenly started feeling exhausted in the afternoons. It didn’t make sense – particularly since I’d just been on a lovely yoga retreat and spent a week relaxing with my best friend in Spain.
A homeopathic analysis showed I was deficient in an essential amino acid called methionine, and blood tests revealed that my thyroid levels were low (the thyroid helps us metabolise proteins). With my partner away and my kids at university, I’d fallen into the habit of eating fast and eating vegan.
So I learnt to nourish myself better. I started to eat eggs and fish again and plan more balanced meals, taking care to combine foods such as beans and root vegetables or lentils and rice if I ate vegan. I ate more slowly. I added superfoods, essential fatty acids and seaweed to my diet, and I took up restorative yoga.
I saw my homeopath and he advised magnesium spray oil. It changed my world – I went from snappy, irritable and nauseous to feeling balanced and calmer in only a few days.
It was a combination of things that worked for me – and still does. I’m a big fan of cranial osteopathy and craniosacral therapy: they just really chill me out. Now, at 58, I’m on the other side and really loving life – but if you’re right in the thick of it, you need to know there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Realistically, I had most of the 34 symptoms we now associate with menopause. Each time, I took the natural route, and I want to share my tips with you.
Why go natural?
- Many women just don’t feel comfortable with HRT, and that’s OK – we are all different.
- Some women find they are sensitive to HRT. For others, it is contraindicated.
- Sometimes there are issues, such as sleep, anxiety and confidence, that aren’t addressed by HRT and bio-identicals.
- Natural options can be used safely alongside other health choices.
My top natural-health tips
- Herbs, whether Chinese, ayurvedic or European, are material substances, and by that I mean if you take enough, they will have an effect. So the number one rule is that the correct dosage is key. Herbs can interact with mainstream medication – for instance, gingko biloba, for memory, shouldn’t be taken with aspirin. So check with a practitioner first.
- While we’re talking about mainstream medication, it’s worth knowing that essential vitamins and minerals are often depleted by pharmaceuticals. Many women who are taking antidepressants will benefit from a bifidus probiotic to help absorb B vitamins that are displaced by their medication.
- CBD oil is a material substance (see above), but I love it for anxiety and sleep issues. Start with a low strength and a low dose and build up if needed. I’ve seen so many people dive in and take loads, then have a bad experience. Take it slowly.
- Pure essential oils are wonderful. Geranium and rose oils are relaxing and soothing, but essential oils are extremely potent, so please seek guidance in how to use them. Often women are more sensitive at menopause, so be kind to yourself.
- Homeopathy, flower essences, craniosacral therapy, cranial osteopathy and healing are all energy medicine, and are fine alongside whatever other health choices you are making.
- Correctional therapies such as osteopathy, chiropractic, Bowen Technique, physiotherapy and some types of massage are great for physical aches and pains. I see yoga and Pilates as both energy medicine and correctional – they are great choices for physical and mental fitness.
- Reflexology and lymphatic drainage can help target very specific issues such as fluid retention.
- Superfoods and dietary additions can really help. Some of my personal favourites include blue-green algae, which I take for stamina; essential fatty acids, to help my hormones do their work; and sour cherry juice, which helps make melatonin, for sleep, and serotonin, our feelgood brain chemical.
- In terms of finding a practitioner, there are registers and reviews online that make it easier. Make sure to consult a fully qualified, registered and insured practitioner who can help you make a plan for your menopause.
Caroline Gaskin MCPH is a natural-health practitioner and one of the UK’s leading homeopaths. She’s a hormonal health expert, speaker and health writer. You can find her at www.carolinegaskin.co.uk