Add as bookmark

The Menopause: Metamorphosis Begins in the Womb

by Dr DF Smallbone(more info)

listed in women's health, originally published in issue 27 - April 1998

The cessation of monthly periods, in women, is a natural event and, as such, should occur naturally, without fuss or problem at the appointed time. This will be especially true if the body and mind of that women is well prepared.

Any abnormalities existing around this time will influence the smoothness or otherwise of that change. We must also remember that the menopause is not just a single, one-off event but takes place over several years. This important event sets the seal for the health of the woman for the second half of her life.

Like most things in life, the menopause is not a simple change; it is the most incredible series of interlinked events, culminating in an organism that will work with a very different set of biological pathways – a true metamorphosis. I am sure the caterpillar, if it had the same senses would feel very much the same in its transition to a butterfly as does a mature woman in her menopausal transition from child-bearing to respected elder status.

Adult Health Begins Even Prior to Birth

One of the most wondrous realisations of our age is the discovery of how much of our adult life behaviour, emotionally, mentally and biochemically, is formatted even whilst a foetus in the uterus. This means the carrying mother has a great responsibility for her child's future abilities. This responsibility is not all with the mother, for the "state of health" of the male sperm plays a major role in the health of the as yet uncreated baby.

Conditions including malnutrition and drug habits (including smoking) in both the father and mother, prior to fertilisation, may influence the development, growth and future health of the off-spring.[1]

Therefore, parents ought to appreciate that health, good nutrition and non-abuse with chemicals are important not only for the infant's early life, but may set the stage for their child's proper development as a mature adult, even into the menopause.

There is a growing body of evidence showing that our genetic inheritance contributes greatly to our biochemistry and how we are equipped to deal with life crises, including the menopause.[2]

If we are parents intending to conceive, then it behooves us to do the best we can to optimise the future health of our child. As adults, however, it is vital to realise that there are always natural health options which can mitigate past unhealthful practices. It is obvious that we can't alter the genes of our parents, what they ate during their pregnancy, or what they fed us during our infancy.

It has long been known that the first few years (up to about the age of seven or so) of life are very important and formative years. It is during those years that we learn to adapt our minds and bodies to the processes of living – the so-called formative years. As a result of this, much of what we are to become during our adult life is governed by these years. Our ways of thinking, social beliefs, behaviour patterns and even much of our biochemical responses are produced by the processes we pass through in these years and the environment we find ourselves in.

Therefore, yet another factor that influences the process of the menopause is the early start we have in life – proper nourishment, affection and mental training.

Childhood and Adolescence Affects Bone Density

The second half of childhood and into adolescence also has its role to play. This is a particularly important time for growth and proper sexual development. It is now known that such things as bone density in later life, especially in women, is to a large extent governed by the quality and density of the bone laid down in the immediate pre-adolescent years.[3] This pubertal bone density is known as "peak bone mass" and is a determinant in later-life risk of bone fracture.

The Critical Role of Nutrition

Dietary intake in the years leading up to puberty is especially important as this will be the bedrock of future health, particularly with regard to bone.

Proper nutrition during the teenage years and early adult life is important as are fully functioning ovulatory cycles during this time, for it has been shown that anovulatory cycles can play a major part in bone loss in later life.[4]

Maintenance of a proper diet and healthy life-style during the reproductive years is one of the major keys to a healthy and happy post-menopausal life. One of the simplest and most readable books outlining best practices for this is: Hormonal Health by Dr. Michael Colgan published by Apple Publishing, Vancouver, Canada in 1996 (ISBN 0-9695272-7-6). Although this is written in the American idiom, it is very readable and very well researched and indexed.

Preparation for Life Changes

Preparation beforehand helps enormously to ensure a healthy post-menopausal life. We all wish for a happy physical and mental transition from the rigours of potential family life to the relative tranquillity of only having responsibility for oneself. This adaptation may take a number of years and considerable thought, hence the earlier the better.[5] Lifestyle and diet play a major role in this as does emotional self-awareness and acceptance.

Women can prepare, mentally, emotionally and physically for the menopause, even starting in the early thirties.

So, in summary, can we prepare for such a dramatic occurrence as the menopause by adapting a lifestyle and nutritional strategy?

Programme for Living

1. Have a proper, balanced daily nutritionally sound diet – or understand where it fails. (This means cutting out all "fad" diets and not allowing eating disorders, various, to take over our lives.)

2. Live a lifestyle that adds no extra burdens and stresses to our status – or understand the measures we need to take to minimise those stresses.

3. Ensure that we include regular daily physical activity that is both helpful for our general stress levels and maintains a good physical and mental state.

4. Not allow noxious materials and toxins to be part of our regular daily intake. (Don't take drugs, use tobacco – first- or second-hand – or drink excessive amounts of alcohol, and, just as importantly, eliminate all unnecessary chemicals from our food chain.)

5. Supplement any of the above features that we know are lacking with genuine body-friendly components. (It is not enough to supplement our food with chemical look-alikes. Supplementation should be with food-like materials that our body can readily use and reject if appropriate.)

Nutrition and Environmental Factors

Many forms of lone minerals, such as calcium, when taken in large quantities in a simple chemical format can wreak havoc in the intestine and prevent proper absorption not only of that same material but also other minerals. For instance large intakes of calcium, in simple inorganic format, can block proper absorption of calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc and selenium. Therefore the format of the supplement is very important. (Table 1)

There is obviously a significant difference between the nutrition of 200 years ago and that of today. We assume that present day food contains all the nutrients we need. This just is not so! The foods we eat are different;[6] the methods of growing, harvesting, storing and preparing are very different. This latter often contributes, to the diminished nutrient values of our food.[7]

There is a fascinating study published in the Lancet[8] demonstrating that, as far as the skeleton is concerned at least, "in the ancient femora there was no bone density loss, pre-menopausally, in striking contrast to modern-day women" and that post-menopausally there was a significantly much lower bone density in modern women than their counterparts of 200 years ago.

There are obviously many factors involved here but a quite major one has to be dietary differences. Others to be considered are changes in manual work, environmental pollution problems and number of pregnancies.

A further important factor during this age is to ensure a healthy hormone status and deal with any imbalances that occur not by surgery and strong drugs but by simple and natural means.[9]

We finally reach the time of the menopause itself. If we have been lucky and successful in carrying out the above precautions effectively, we should have a problem-free transition related to the menopause.

If we have not been so lucky then all is not lost! Corrections can be made and these will help to minimise symptoms. There should be little or no reason for major interventive medicine.

Self-Responsibility Not in Vogue

This is only a brief survey of the help that is available for prevention of menopausal problems, most of which is already in the public domain. The main byword to remember is self-responsibility – words that have been discouraged by the National Ill-Health Service.


1. See Natural Childbirth Society literature.
2. Human Nutrition & Dietetics 8th .ed. by R.Passmore & M.A.Eastwood published by Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh in 1986 pp341-2 & 346-51 (ISBN 0-443-02467-7). Biochemistry 3rd .ed. by Lubert Stryer published by W.H.Freeman & Co., New York in 1988 pp91-114 (ISBN 0-7167-1920-7).
3. J.C.Prior, Y.Vigna, N.Alojado, Progesterone and the prevention of osteoporosis, The Canadian Journal of Ob/Gyn & Womens Health Care vol.3, no.4,1991;178-184.
4. J.C.Prior, Y.M.Vigna, M.T.Schechter, A.F.Burgess, Spinal bone loss and ovulatory disturbances, The New England Journal of Medicine vol.323, no.18, November 1, 1990:1221-1227.
5. H.Regtop, Nutrition, leukotrienes and inflammatory disorders, 1984-5 Yearbook of Nutritional Medicine (ed. J.Bland), New Canaan CT:Keats Pub.,1985; 63.
6. See Government published tables comparing food nutrient contents pre-1940, 1960s and 1980s (McCance and Widdowson).
7. Human Nutrition & Dietetics 8th .ed. by R.Passmore & M.A.Eastwood published by Churchill Livingstne, Edinburgh in 1986 pp231-35 (ISBN 0-443-02467-7). Nitrates by Nigel Dudley published by Green Print, London in 1990 (ISBN 1-85425-012-4). Food Irradiation – The Facts by T.Webb & Dr T.Lang published by Thorson's Publishing Group, Wellingborough in 1987 (ISBN 0-7225-1442-5).
8. B.Lees,T.Molleson,T.R.Arnett, J.C.Stevenson, Differences in proximal femur bone density over two hundred years, The Lancet vol.341, March 13,1993;673-5.
9. Hormonal Health by Dr.Michael Colgan published by Apple Publishing,Vancouver, Canada in 1996 (ISBN 0-9695272-7-6)

Menopause: Natural vs Drug Approaches

by Sandra Goodman PhD

The Menopause is not an oestrogen-deficiency disease, but rather a life stage which marks the end of a woman's fertility. With regard to childbirth, women and their partners have demanded and obtained a more caring and holistic environment into which their children are born. Likewise, with regard to the Menopause, women and men have become acutely aware of the serious health risks potentially associated with long-term hormonal therapy (HRT), and are embracing a more multi-faceted health and lifestyle regime to prepare for a problem-free Menopause.

There are many well-established and safe therapeutic treatments for the menopausal symptoms which some women experience. These therapies include nutrition and dietary therapy, herbal medicine, homoeopathic remedies and flower essences, aromatherapy, reflexology and therapies based upon Chinese medicine – acupuncture, Shiatsu.Of prime importance to a woman's health and happiness around the Menopause years is her spiritual well-being and self-acceptance. This is much easier said than done, as many of us have gone through a multitude of difficult and possibly traumatic events during our lives. Our ability to transcend these past conflicts and claim our power as Respected Elders will play a powerful role in helping us through the transition.A respectable body of published research now points to the profound effects of nutrition, exercise and lifestyle throughout infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood upon significant health parameters encountered during the Menopause. Maternal nutrition of the foetus, nutrition during childhood, adolescence and adulthood and exercise from childhood all affect bone density and hence osteoporosis in the Menopausal years.If you are now a young woman, don't wait until your forties to prepare for your Menopause. It is never too early to prepare. Start Now!


  1. No Article Comments available

Post Your Comments:

About Dr DF Smallbone

Dr David Smallbone M.B., CH.B., L.R.C.P., M.R.C.S., M.F.Hom., F.C.O.H. Senior Medical Advisor and Senior Lecturer in Medical Sciences to the College of Natural Nutrition.

  • Flower essences online

    Fine quality flower essences international ranges to help promote vitality and emotional well-being.

top of the page