For this post I consulted with Alice Coningham, who has many strings to her bow and I spoke with her about how she assists peri-menopausal women using Traditional Chinese Acupuncture, Nutrition and Hypnotherapy in her practice as a holistic therapist.
I was excited to talk to Alice about diet, as this is one of my passions, despite being pretty bonkers over the years I have tried every diet out there and I’m very warmed by the realisation that we should be choosing what we put in our bodies not for its calorific content but for its nutritional content. What’s more, now I’m approaching menopause there special foods that can really help me out and less excitingly things I need to give up or just save for the odd occasion, like coffee!:(
Alice understands nutrition and appreciates the connection between what we put into our body and the direct impact on how we experience our body. She says that the foods we eat can assist in regulating our body temperature, our energy levels and vitality, even our mood stability and the pain levels we experience can be effected by food. So for example Alice might recommend cooling foods to balance hot flushes and caution against heating foods like ginger and spices which can be aggravating and increase symptoms. She advocates an alkaline plant based diet as it is so plentiful in vitamins and minerals, and she suggests reducing or eliminating dairy, coffee and sugar because they are inflammatory and stressors to our body. Foods that are stressful to the body can deplete the adrenal glands which are in charge of the fight or flight response and govern just how stressed out we are. These stressful foods can also create heat in the body, and make insomnia and anxiety much worse.
My favourite go to for all the best food ideas – www.onegreenplanet.org says cooling foods are dark leafy greens, peppers, berries, sea vegetables, bananas, avocadoes, coconut, melons, romaine lettuce and mushrooms. I could happily move to a dessert island and take this food box with me.
If you can stand the thought of needles then Acupuncture might be useful for bringing those break loose hormones back into balance or regulating the nervous system. This could help with insomnia and mood swings as Acupuncture balances the energy in the body. Alice explained to me how in Chinese medicine it is thought that uncomfortable symptoms are a result of imbalanced energy.
Hypnotherapy can be particularly helpful in changing the negative beliefs held in the subconscious mind and creating more positive self-affirming ones. Alice says that she has seen that perimenopause can be a really challenging time for her clients often raising questions around self-worth, sense of purpose and a need for a new sense of creativity. Getting to grips with those energy draining thought patterns and creating an uplifting, loving inner dialogue is our road to finding our power here. This is not the first time it’s been suggested that peri-menopause is the very best time for self-reflection. I suppose it’s true that unhappiness is the fuel for change, and if you are anything like me it really does have to get stormy before I’m ready to re-evaluate.
Alice recommends Shatavari powder taken every day to regulate hormones. This herb is an adaptogen so will balance whichever hormones are out of balance. Ashwaganda powder are great for balancing hormones, energy levels and stress levels. Magnesium supplements or Magnesium rich foods such as Cacao can be useful if one is experiencing mood swings, painful periods, aches and pains, muscle cramps and insomnia.
Carol Hannington is a naturopath and uses western herbal medicine and nutritional therapy, to help her perimenopausal clients. She uses the traditional eastern medicine technique of tongue diagnosis and iridology (observing the eye) during a first consultation and then takes a medical and personal history. Her treatment will include a combination of herbal remedies and lifestyle changes.
Dietary changes form a big part of the road to happiness and health, and Carol insists that clearing up the diet is the foundation to good health. That means eliminating all processed foods and eating a diet rich in fresh whole foods. She also speaks out against the destructive effects of alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fast release carbohydrates. She is all about healthy fats and recommends including cold pressed oils such as olive, coconut, hemp and flax and avoiding all trans-fats such as rapeseed and sunflower. She believes poor dietary habits can lead to severe hormonal and menopausal issues.
Combating stress is Carol’s second approach as she feels poor adrenal health can so often be a deeper reason for perimenopausal symptoms getting the upper hand. If the adrenals are exhausted then adaptogenic herbs such as Siberian Ginseng and the Ayurvedic herb Ashwagandha are recommended. Carol explains that naturopathy will also look at the health of your liver, as it is the liver that metabolises oestrogen so making sure the liver is healthy is key to hormone changes being as balanced as they can be.
Milk Thistle and Turmeric are both liver tonics and can assist with detoxification and protection from toxins and help the liver get back on track. Gut health is also important as it is so central to health and wellbeing. Scientific studies are now demonstrating the link between the gut and mental health and a compromised gut can trigger depression, exhaustion and low mood. So action can be taken by cleaning up the diet and adding healthy bacteria cultures such as kefir, sauerkraut and probiotic supplements.
Cath Broderick, Chair of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Women’s Network, said:
“We know that many women suffer from menopausal symptoms in silence – this should never be the case. Women should have access to clear guidance and information about the menopause and how best to manage symptoms. This guideline is the first step in improving the care and services available to women, as well as encouraging them to talk openly to healthcare professionals, their employers, friends and families about the menopause”.
Support & Resources:
https://www.managemymenopause.co.uk/ Take a questionnaire and receive manage my menopause advice that is tailored to you in immediate response to the questionnaire
Alice Coningham is a holistic therapist practising Traditional Chinese Acupuncture, Nutritional Advice, Precision Reflexology, Holistic Massage and Hypnotherapy. She qualified from The School of Complementary Health in Exeter in 2002 with an ITEC Diploma in Nutrition and an AOR Diploma in Precision Reflexology. She studied Traditional Chinese Medicine at Salford University and was rewarded with a BSc. Hons in Traditional Chinese Medicine in 2008. She has practised at Neal’s Yard Remedies Therapy Rooms in Covent Garden, London and in Clifton, Bristol. I also worked in a deprived area of Bristol working closely with doctors to offer treatments to those who would otherwise not have access to holistic therapies. I qualified in hypnotherapy at The Regression Academy, Bristol before moving to central Glastonbury in 2012 where she now has her practice.
Carol Hannington is a Naturopath and Aromatherapist has over 20 years’ experience in the natural health industry. She studied holistic clinical aromatherapy at Regents University, London over 20 years ago and then continued studies in medical herbalism and nutrition in both the UK and Australia, finally culminating in training in naturopathy in Brisbane, Australia. She has run a mobile massage business, a health and wellness consultancy both online and in health food stores, she has managed a complementary medicine clinic and worked as a naturopath. She is a member of ANTA ( Australian Natural Therapists Association), GNC (General Naturopathic Council) and the NNA (Naturopathic Nutrition Association).