Menopause – typically occurs between the ages of 49 and 55 years, and is usually defined by medical professionals as having occurred when a woman has not had vaginal bleeding for a year. This happens because the ovarian production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone decrease significantly and eventually cease. Menopause can also be diagnosed by doing blood tests of hormone levels. Basically, it is Mother Nature telling you in no uncertain terms that your child bearing years are now officially over, and a new stage of life begins!
Leading up to this, periods typically become irregular with longer breaks between them, and when they do arrive can be heavier, bring more discomfort and last a day or two longer than usual. Alternatively, periods can be very light and/or shorter in duration.
Whilst it is a perfectly natural bodily transformation like puberty – unfortunately it can also bring with it a raft of unwanted and unpleasant side effects. These range from temperature swings, joint stiffness, low mood, a loss of libido and vaginal dryness to back and muscle tension, nervousness, disrupted sleep, brain fog, and weight changes. Some women sail through this transition with relatively little in the way of challenging symptoms – while others have a harder time with this significant process of change happening in their body.
For centuries now women have sought support at this time of life by looking to Mother Nature for guidance:
Maca is farmed at very high altitudes in the high Andes regions of Peru and Bolivia. The South American Inca farmers first utilised this root vegetable to feed their animals and noted that it very quickly resulted in a boost to their livestock production. This is thought to be because Maca has been shown to support sperm health and maintaining the balance of female hormones. Now Maca is widely recognized as an herbal remedy that offers support for hormonal balance and is commonly referred to as Peruvian ginseng. The Maca root is a potent superfood containing carbohydrates, dietary fibre, fats, essential minerals such as selenium, calcium, magnesium and iron, amino acids, and fatty acids (including the linolenic, palmitic, and oleic types). Vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12 and vitamin C and E are all important nutrients and are all found in Maca.
Maca may help support the transition through Menopause by helping to balance the body’s fluctuating chemistry and by supporting the adrenal glands. It is a powerful adaptogenic plant. The endocrine (hormone producing) system that is our adrenal, reproductive, pituitary and thyroid glands are all connected, and the adaptogenic compounds present in Maca can support these important organs as they adjust to life without a monthly hormonal cycle.
Researchers observed that a Maca root supplement supported many common symptoms of menopause, such as temperature swings, sleep disruptions, and low mood.¹ A similar study found women who took Maca root found it helped smooth the transition through menopause.²
Results of laboratory studies done by Chacon³ in the 1950’s concluded that the action of Maca relies on plant sterols that support hormonal balance.
Here are a few tips to help you navigate through the “change in life”:
Eat nutrient dense, high fibre, chemical free natural unprocessed foods. Lots of fresh vegetables (the cruciferous dark green veggies) and fruit and plenty of healthy Omega 3 fats like flaxseeds, fish like salmon and sardines. Include healthy fats and cold pressed oils like organic cold pressed coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds and minimize other sources of fat. Do your best to reduce your consumption of sugar, red meat, alcohol and caffeine and highly processed and takeaway foods with chemical preservatives, GMO ingredients and other synthetic ingredients.
Try to include probiotic foods in your diet like Sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir and natural yoghurt. Lots of fresh water and herbal teas helps to keep the body hydrated. Choose to minimize caffeine like black tea and coffee which stresses your adrenal glands and be honest about the amount of alcohol you are consuming and look to reduce this to help support your liver.
Do what you can to find constructive ways to manage the stress in your life. Gentle exercise like Yoga, walks in nature and meditation, spending quality time with family and friends to talk things out, and finding time to be actively involved in something you enjoy doing for yourself each week as a hobby.
Regular exercise is important to help manage your changing metabolism, and to keep bone mass and muscle strength up.
Prioritize sleep by aiming for 7 – 9 hours of nourishing sleep each night. Engage in restorative routines to wind down each evening by putting down the TV remote, tablet and mobile phone, take a warm bath or shower, enjoy a hot calming drink and settle into bed at the same time each evening wherever possible.
And if you are being troubled by the not so fun side effects- it may be worth trying Maca. Look for a certified organic product and start with a small dose and gradually build up to see how it feels for you. You are looking for gelatinized Maca too, which means it has been heated to neutralize the enzymes found in all raw brassica vegetables that can interfere with thyroid function.