“Melatonin is only produced in the dark, so dim the lights at least one hour before bed”
The hormone melatonin helps to control our sleep/ wake cycle, so it’s no surprise that smaller volumes are linked to poor sleep and mild depression. “Melatonin is also an antioxidant, and having low levels can affect the brain, skin, heart, eyes and immune system,” says nutritionist Nina Omotoso. It is only available on prescription in the UK, but there are natural alternatives that may help. “Supplements of tart cherry or asphalia (a mix of wheat and barley grasses) could help to rebalance your system,” she continues.
Increasing your levels of the amino acid tryptophan helps to kick-start melatonin production in the body. It’s found in sunflower seeds, spirulina, salmon and eggs, so try including these in the last meal of the day. “Melatonin is only produced in the dark,” Nina Omotoso adds, “so switch off your phone, TV and laptop, and dim the lights at least one hour before bedtime.” Try Cherry Active (£12.95 for 30 capsules, revital.co.uk).
Ghrelin is the hormone that tells the brain when you’re hungry, and leptin passes on the message that you’re full. When the two don’t work in harmony, it’s easy to over-eat. A good night’s sleep is key to keeping this balance. In one clinical trial, where the sleep of volunteers was restricted, leptin levels decreased and the desire for carbohydrates and sugary foods increased by a massive 45 per cent.
Eating soup before a meal may also help to reduce the number of calories you consume overall. “This is because soup stops cells in the stomach from producing ghrelin, which turns off your appetite,” explains Dr Glenville. Also try taking a zinc supplement, such as Boots Zinc (£6.99 for 180 tablets, boots.com) – a study discovered that it increases levels of leptin. Other research found that a combination of fish oils and chromium helped to curb any cravings. Try NHP Omega 3 Support (£29.77 for 60 capsules, naturalhealthpractice.com) or Lamberts GTF Chromium (£10.99 for 100 tablets, naturalhealthpractice.com).
Testosterone dominance often happens when levels of female hormones drop. “This isn’t just confined to the menopause, but also happens cyclically for some women,” pharmacist Shabir Daya says. “Symptoms can include acne, depression, weight gain and thinning hair.”
Diindolylmethane (DIM) is a compound that is formed in your body during the digestion of foods that contain the nutrient indole-3-carbinol, which is found in cruciferous vegetables. It is thought that DIM may help to promote a healthy balance of oestrogen and testosterone, so increase your intake of vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts.
“Studies indicate that drinking two cups of spearmint tea a day may help to reduce male hormones, including testosterone,” Shabir Daya adds. Try Pukka Three Mint Tea (£2.99 for 20, pukkaherbs.com), or you could make fresh mint tea if you grow your own herbs.
Around the time of the menopause, it’s natural for oestrogen levels to fall and for you to experience hot flushes, mood swings and joint ache. “The trick is to use herbs to help levels fall gradually over time, preventing oestrogen crashes and allowing you to acclimatise to the changes,” explains Monica Wilde, director of Napiers the Herbalists. She suggests sipping cooled sage tea made with an infusion of fresh leaves to calm hot flushes, or taking a supplement, such as Dried Sage Leaf (£5.75 for 100g, napiers.net). Many women also use agnus castus, black cohosh or red clover to help balance hormones during the menopause.
Regular exercise is a must, so head out for a walk in the countryside. “Even a brisk walk, five times a week, will help to manage menopausal symptoms. Resistance training [with hand weights or resistance bands] is great for maintaining bone density and reducing your chances of osteoporosis,” Monica Wilde adds. Try Napiers the Herbalist Midlife Mix: Black Cohosh and Sage (£12 for 100ml, napiers.net).
“Head out for a walk in the countryside. Even a brisk walk, five times a week, will help to manage menopausal symptoms”