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Learning File: MENOPAUSE

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Every woman will experience menopause in her own unique way. For some women, menopause will be a gradual phase that is hardly noticed. For others it can be marked with severe symptoms that make going about your daily life close to unbearable.

Menopause literally means the last monthly period of a woman’s life. However, it is confirmed when a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months. The gradual decrease in the ovaries production of oestrogen during this time is simply the body’s natural evolution from the fertile child-bearing years to a whole new stage of life.

For most women, menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 to 55 years and for UK woman the average age is 51 years. It’s clear that not all natural menopause therapies are the same – but just how do you sort out the wheat from the chaff when there are so many alternatives out there?

 

ISOFLAVONES

Isoflavones are phytoestrogens with a chemical structure similar to natural human oestrogen. When oestrogen levels start to decline, a woman can feel very unlike her normal self.

Asian, Mediterranean and Latin American communities consume on average 30-50mg of isoflavones each day while it is estimated that women from Western countries, such as the UK, consume only a few milligrams of isoflavones daily. Studies now indicate a role for diet in reducing menopausal symptoms, and lower levels of osteoporosis, particularly an Asian diet abundant in Isoflavones.

Incidence of Hot Flushes vs Isoflavone intake

Women from countries with diets rich in isoflavones, such as Asia, experience fewer hot flushes during menopause and have lower levels of osteoporosis.

More than 1,000 isoflavones have been identified in plants. Of these, four specific isoflavones have been shown to possess significant individual and specific biological activity. These are

  1. Genistein
  2. Daidzein
  3. Formonentin
  4. Biochanin A

 

Red Clover Isoflavones have a wealth of published studies proving its efficacy at alleviating menopausal symptoms. Unlike Soya, Red Clover contains the four standardised Isoflavones: genistein, daidzein, formononetin and biochanin A. The standardised forms also have well established safety data.

A new SAFE 4-point quality code has been developed to help choose the right supplement.

  • Standardised levels of active ingredient

Look for on-pack labelling stating ‘standardised extract’ as a sign of a high quality product. Standardisation takes place during production to ensure that every pack contains the same amount of active ingredient.

  • Absence of drug interactions and contaminants

Many red clover supplements available contain the natural contaminant coumarin – a substance found naturally in the red clover plant that may interfere with other drugs or with blood clotting. It’s always advisable to tell your doctor about any natural supplements that you are taking as well as being aware yourself that drug interactions can occur.

  • Found to be an effective and safe product

As with all natural products, look out for published product-specific information on how effective or safe they are, as well as established safety data,

  • Effective levels of active ingredient

It has been shown in research that at least 40mg of isoflavones are needed daily to effectively reduce hot flushes. The label on soy or red clover menopause supplements should clearly state the amount of isoflavones it contains.

 

Hormone Fluctuations

 CALCIUM

For most post-menopausal women, the visible symptoms of menopause such as hot flushes and night sweats will ease. However, there are the invisible effects of menopause which remain.

Up until menopause, as well as regulating the reproductive cycle, oestrogen has also assisted the body in maintaining a healthy heart and strong bones. However, after menopause, lower oestrogen levels decrease the ability to absorb calcium and heart health is more difficult to maintain.

Many women are also unaware that decreasing oestrogen levels can have a less obvious but more harmful effect on your body, such as an increased risk of osteoporosis (bone loss) and high cholesterol. Therefore safeguarding your diet to protect your bones and heart health is vital.
Calcium has proven benefits for both of these areas of health.

With fewer women consuming dairy products for the fear of the calories they contain, they are putting themselves at extra risk of fractures and other bone related ailments. A good way to overcome this is to take a Calcium supplement to ensure you are getting your daily requirement and protecting your bones.

 

VITAMIN D

Along with Calcium, Vitamin D has a plethora of benefits, one of the reasons why the NHS has issued extensive guidance for specific age groups. The vitamin plays several important roles in the body, including regulating the balance of nutrients needed for strong, healthy bones.

An estimated 70-80% of the UK population have Vitamin D deficiency.

According to the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) – a group of experts that advises the government about all aspects of nutrition – some evidence suggests that vitamin D may be important in preventing other diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease and multiple sclerosis, although it points out further research is needed before any definite conclusions can be drawn.

Published. Farrah Malik. (c) Naturally Good Health _Learning File: Menopause_Spring 2013. Target Publishing.

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