Healthspan September 08, 2017

The symptoms of the menopause can be tough to deal with at any time of the year, but the summer can be the worst. Dr Sarah Brewer, having worked as a GP and hospital doctor and now specialising in nutritional medicine, has some great advice for making it through a stuffy summer season. 

During the cold winter months, a hot flush can be welcome. At the height of summer, however, the last thing you want is an additional, self-generated heat wave. While oestrogen replacement therapy will control hot flushes, our surveys show that only one in two (49%) of our menopausal female customers have asked their doctor for help.

Managing the heat

Most women find their own way to cope with the summer heat, but for those who are approaching their first menopausal summer, the following tips will help to minimise your symptoms:

  • Holiday near the sea or in the mountains to take advantage of cooling breezes
  • Keep alcohol intake to a minimum – alcohol triggers dilation of blood vessels and flushing
  • Avoid excess caffeine and overly spicy foods
  • Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration • Keep a fan by the side of your bed to keep you cool at night
  • Avoid excess stress as this drains your adrenal glands so they produce less of an oestrogen hormone called oestrone (which helps to minimise hot flushes)
  • If you smoke, do your utmost to stop - smoking reduces oestrogen levels further so that on average smokers experience the menopause two years earlier than non-smokers
  • Take regular exercise – research shows that 3 hours of brisk walking, stretching, muscle-strengthening and relaxation exercise per week can reduce even severe menopausal symptoms.

Diet

Certain fruit and vegetables provide an additional oestrogen boost in the form of plant hormone-like substances (isoflavones, flavonoids and lignans). Aim to eat more beans (especially chickpeas, lentils, alfalfa, mung beans, soy beans and soy products), dark green leafy vegetables (e.g. broccoli, spinach and cabbage) and exotic members of the cruciferous family (e.g. Chinese leaves and Kohlrabi). Other good sources of plant oestrogens include sweet potatoes and seeds (especially flaxseed, pumpkin, sesame and sprouted seeds).

The HRT alternatives

Soy isoflavones are plant oestrogens that help to reduce hot flushes and night sweats. They may also help to reduce body weight and improve glucose tolerance.

Black cohosh is a traditional herbal medicine used to reduce menopausal symptoms. It is especially helpful for improving menopause-related sleep disturbances. Black cohosh is often used together with soy isoflavones.

Evening primrose oil is a good source of GLA, an essential fatty acid that provides building blocks for making sex hormones. It helps to improve dryness, itching and maintains the hydration and softness of skin.

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Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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