UK's Zita West, a pioneering midwife and nutritionist seems to have devised a programme to cope with the challenges of menopause.
Her menopause programme aims to tackle symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain or insomnia, using everything from nutritional consultations and alternative therapies, such as acupuncture or hypnotherapy, to gynaecological referrals.
"It's about looking after yourself," says West. "Having regular health check-ups, improving your diet to include foods that contain phytoestrogens [compounds similar to the hormone oestrogen, levels of which drop in menopausal women] and doing regular weight-bearing exercise for bone density."
Ruth Carr, 58, a PA from London, was suffering badly from hot flushes, weight gain and bloating. She was on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and hated it. The menopause programme, she says "changed my life".
She was advised to make simple lifestyle changes: 30 minutes on a mini trampoline each morning, no caffeine or fizzy drinks, no carbohydrates in the late evenings, regular pelvic scans, mammograms and health checks. "I learnt that I have to look after myself," she says. In five months, she has dropped both a dress size and the HRT. She has no bloating and experiences very few hot flushes.
"All clients vary," says West. "Some choose to take a completely natural approach, others try a more integrated strategy, combining medical treatments with nutritional and complementary therapies."
"I was suffering from Peter Pan syndrome," says Sonia Cadman, 40. "With all the Botox and creams and youthful clothes it's easy to carry on feeling thirtyish for ever." Unable to become pregnant at 39, she saw a fertility specialist for tests. "Within 10 minutes of my first visit, the doctor had told me I'd gone through the menopause so was incapable of conceiving and that my only hope was a donor egg."
She turned to Zita West and entered "gung ho" into a tailored programme of acupuncture, reflexology, regular exercise, healthy eating and dietary supplements including bee pollen. She practised visualisation (picturing her ovaries producing eggs, and the child she would have) and explored Chinese medicine. She also had her fallopian tubes "cleaned" by a gynaecologist.
FIVE STEPS TO A POSITIVE MENOPAUSE
• Diet: eat a healthy diet rich in foods containing phytoestrogens, such as soy, flaxseeds, lentils, kidney beans and pulses.
• Weight-bearing exercise: brisk walking can maintain bone density and guard against weight gain.
• Health checks: after 50 you will be offered a mammogram every three years on the NHS. Zita West also recommends seeing a gynaecologist for regular pelvic check-ups (not available on the NHS) and a well-woman check-up. "Be aware that you are at an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure around menopause and after," she says.
• Alternative therapies: such as acupuncture or hypnotherapy. Though scientific evidence is sketchy, West believes alternative therapies can provide some women with relief from menopausal symptoms.
• Pamper yourself: "The menopause can be emotionally draining, and you need to feel good about yourself," says West. "Spend a bit of time and money on some pampering and make sure you keep stress to a minimum."
Zita West started off as a humble midwife 20 years ago. But thanks to her vision, inspiration and concerns, she has since emerged as one of Europe's leading experts on
how couples can improve their fertility and the prospects for a healthy pregnancy through natural means.
In her bestseller Natural Pregnancy, she suggests a whole range of complimentary therapies, from acupuncture to yoga for common problems together with tips on everything from how to boost immunity to minimizing morning sickness.