WITH an increase in life expectancy, the average woman lives at least a third of her life after her periods have stopped.
In theory, this might sound liberating. No more period pains every month. Though meno-pause is not an illness, but a natural stage of life, it can be horrendous for women who are not prepared for both the physical and emotional changes that are associated with it.
Menopause is a normal physiological process that marks the end of a woman's reproductive life. The average age of menopause in the U K is between 50 and 52 with 95percent of women experiencing this between the ages of 45 and 55. As menopause approaches, the ovaries begin to fail.
Though only about 400 menstrual periods take place in a woman's lifetime, the supply of eggs is exhausted by mid life, causing menopause.
Dr Chomba Chuma, managing director, Vitabiotics SA, says: "The cessation in the production of eggs by the ovaries causes a sudden decrease in the production of the female sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, which in turn causes the discontinuation of menstruation. It is this oestrogen withdrawal that causes many women to suffer."
Chuma recommends a low-fat, high-fibre diet found in fresh fruit and vegetables, exercise and good supplements for women entering the menopause stage.
"Medical companies have developed nutritional supplements for menopause, which also help in relieving symptoms. Due to the risks associated with hormone replacement therapy, more and more women are making informed decisions about their treatment options and are choosing natural ways to treat their menopausal symptoms," Chuma says.
Phytoestrogens, found in soya and whole grains, can reduce the frequency of hot flushes and night sweats and may play a role in preventing osteoporosis and heart disease. There is also evidence that vitamin E, found in vegetable oils and whole grain products, can also reduce hot flushes and may prevent heart disease, Chuma says.
Certain vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, chromium and zinc are particularly important.
"Women need to take supplements that contain vitamin C to help promote collagen production and that also provides magnesium, zinc and vitamin D to help maintain strong bones," Chuma says.