I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Nicola Swanson, a Medical Herbalist and Naturopath based in Taranaki.
During our conversation, we delved into various topics such as food, supplements, and herbs that can help ease the perimenopause journey. We also discussed how to identify if the symptoms you’re experiencing are actually perimenopause, and what to do if your at-home interventions aren’t enough.
Nicola shared a wealth of tips and tools to alleviate menopausal symptoms and maintain our health in post-menopause. Her insights were inspiring and made me realize the somewhat negative effect coffee was having on my body, which I had been conveniently ignoring. Thankfully, Nicola came to the rescue with some great replacements I can use during my coffee “pause”.
Nicola is a strong advocate for women to be the best, most empowered versions of themselves, in body, mind, and spirit. Her enthusiasm for our potential wellbeing during this time of life is infectious.
So tune in to our conversation as we cover a wide range of topics related to perimenopause; from sex and urogenital issues, to the role of easily accessible food and herbs in nourishing our changing body.
About Nicola Swanson
“I have been a practicing Naturopath and Medical Herbalist since 2006.
I run a clinic called Earth Sourced, but I also work with clients around the world through Skype consultations. It is a real joy for me to be able to work with my clients and be a part of their growth and development. Seeing people resolving their health complaints, feeling joyous and proud of their self-development is a magical experience I never tire of.
For 10 years I also worked part time for a naturopathic college. I became a Programme Leader and Senior Tutor and my working day involved teaching, as well as writing, developing and leading new diploma qualifications. It was a privilege to be a part of developing the talents, empathy and knowledge of the coming generations of naturopaths and nutritionists.
Now I am focused on further developing my Earth Sourced clinic and local and online courses, as well as speaking at expos and for different community groups.”
Full Episode Transcript
So welcome to the podcast Nicholas Swanson. So glad to have you here. Tell us, tell us about yourself, what you do, who you’d help.
[00:00:33] Nicola: So I’m my background is a medical globalist in naturopath. I’ve been in clinical practice since 2006. I’m also a number of other things because I love to learn, you know, Theta healer.
I do a lot of you know, massage and all sorts of stuff too. I like to keep things interesting. And I’m also an editor for the Avena Journal for the New Zealand Association of Medical Herbalist. So, You know, I like to keep a bit of variety there. My passion is well to be honest, I work with all sorts of different disorders and, you know, ages and lifestyles, et cetera.
But I do have a real passion for the empowerment of women, whether that’s through supporting them into incredible physical health or whether it’s learning how to love themselves, how to prioritize their self-care. Just helping in that whole Stage of life and the changes that occur over time and what we can how we can flourish as women and then teach other women below us, you know, in this very difficult culture that we live in, how we can be the best versions of ourselves.
[00:01:32] Meegan: Yeah. Beautiful. So glad you’re here to talk all things. Perimenopause, menopause, postmenopause what it like for you as a. As a medical herbalist, as a naturopath, what are the main symptoms that women sort of show up with through that perimenopausal time that you notice?
[00:01:53] Nicola: Yeah, well, I guess when we are thinking in terms of that perimenopausal time, what we’re gonna be noticing is some really big hormonal shifts.
So you often, the first thing that we start to notice is how our cycles will change. You know, maybe we notice that they’re becoming erratic. Maybe they are becoming heavier. Maybe they’re even coming, becoming longer in the menstrual bleed. You know, so we, we’ll see things like a lot of spotting and stopping and starting in the cycle, which can be
You know, having carry panty liters everywhere we go you know, all that sort
of stuff. And then of course too, we start to get some more like a warming sensation that comes into the body, you know, so, and that can become even more intense and lead to things like the night sweats et cetera. And interestingly, actually, I was looking at a study where they had had run in for nine years and I found that 83% of women have some sort of form of, of heat increase.
So it’s obviously something that’s a real issue, but what they found was those that did low exercise and smoke cigarettes, but also had something called high follicle stimulating hormone and low estradial levels, were more at risk of this. So it just shows you how even just exercise can be super helpful.
We also see with these beautiful women as they’re going through this change a lot of what we call uro- genital changes. So the usual things like, you know, suddenly your vagina is feeling drier, it’s harder to get aroused or, or you might notice there’s some thinning of the vagina or these painful sex that’s occurring.
And actually that’s very easily fixed. So I look forward to telling you more about that later.
[00:03:32] Meegan: And ok let’s. Bookmark that, right?
[00:03:34] Nicola: Yeah. Let’s say cuz that’s such a common one and there’s also a lot of urinary, urinary and genital infections, particularly bacterial ones that start to happen too.
So this is where you’re gonna notice things like bacterial vaginitis suddenly turn up. Maybe we are getting urinary tract infections. You know, all of these really painful Irritating kind of infections that are so commonly treated with antibiotics but can be treated amazingly with natural medicine too.
And then we also start to see a lot of sort of other strange symptoms. You know, stuff that’s about our brain function. Like maybe there’s mood dysfunction, maybe we are noticing more mind and brain fog. Yeah, that cognitive function is really declining in terms of memory and concentration, and we might also start seeing some things too, like, you know, heart palpitations, maybe suddenly insomnias turned up.
We are losing hair in our heads, but we’re getting it on our faces and all sorts of strange places. And we might even notice things like a loss of muscle mass and strength. And also bone density might become an issue too. And of course our, our, our favorite one, the urinary leakage, you know, this, the that’s all going on too.
And not to mention tiredness, you know, so there’s a lot that’s happening for a lot of women. And of course, this is not to say that all women have symptoms or all these symptoms, but there’s often a picture. And I like to think of it as. Well, where’s your nurture point of your body? Where do you have a weakness?
You know, and maybe that’s genetic. Maybe that’s something that’s passed through the family line well, that’s probably where in the body your symptoms of menopause might rock up. So it sort of helps us to think about Why that’s occurring and maybe there’s some emotional links to those areas too.
On a personal level, I’ve just started going through perimenopause and I’ve started noticing some bacterial infections coming up. But when I deepened into the emotional aspect, the links that were holding that in place, you know, for me, it was a lot of stuff about Past experiences sexually, how I felt in those situations, being, feeling like I was being taken advantage of sexually. It was about things like my feelings about relationships and what a new template of a emotional relationship could be. It was about rewiring my beliefs about my vagina and all these things.
So there was a massive emotional link to it, and when I sorted it, They’ve disappeared, you know? So this is really exciting things to look into too, that a naturopath who’s interested and passionate and this mind body stuff can look into for you.
[00:06:05] Meegan: Mm-hmm. It is. I, I have found like going through menopause myself
if we can just sort of separate out Yes, these, these physical symptoms and that’s what we do hear quite a bit about, but there’s a real opportunity here to kind of, I mean, it’s being written about as an upgrade. Mm-hmm. You know, in terms of the potential for the next chapter of our life. And when you’re talking about that mind body connection, are there experiences, traumas, you know, our life inherited whatever that are just kind of.
Raising up a little bit and saying, Hey, maybe you wanna have a look here. If we hold open to the, you know, the fullness of our experience, unless it can be a really, really fruitful time. Mm. But I so in agreement to what you said for sure, but I also find for a lot of women, and I dunno if you experienced this as well, when the first sort of showing up and saying, You know what, what the
hell is happening?
I’ve tried all those things that used to work for me. Mm-hmm. Changing my diet, doing more, exercise, all of that stuff. And none of this shit is working. Mm-hmm. And you know, those, all those symptoms you talked about, I had quite a few of those. And I’ll add to that. I had an increase of migraines through that time as well, which makes sense
with all the inflammatory stuff.
Yeah. So where do, where do you start with women?
[00:07:29] Nicola: I think I, I like to work holistically, so I guess that’s why when I’m working with someone and I’m going and I’m seeing a pattern of a repeated issue in it or a repeated area of the body that’s coming up to for attention that I like to sort of talk to them about what are some of the beliefs or the feelings that we might be, all the traumas that we could be holding in those areas.
And so I think it’s good to look at their emotional side of things if we wanna have permanent breakthroughs that are gonna help them in this amazing transition to their next stage of life. You know, as a, a non fertile woman. But I also think it’s about, Actually working with a specialist who can help you to figure out, well, okay, I know that there are certain ways of eating that are gonna help someone who’s going through perimenopause, but what are the ways of eating I need to have, because we’re all different, you know?
So, you know, I’m, I’m a big one about, you know, there’s no templates with me in terms of this is a disorder and this is how we treat it. It’s about what that person is presenting to me. What’s their constitutional type? You know, all sorts of aspects. Which I know can feel a bit overwhelming maybe for the people that are out there and going, I don’t
even know where to start.
I’m just trying to get through each day. You know,
so maybe that’s part of the recommendation is to find your healthcare team. Take some of the load off yourself and just to help yourself to have some support. You’ve been an amazing support, no doubt for so many people in your life and your family and your world.
Allow yourself to receive that. Allow yourself to nurture and Nourish yourself.
[00:08:58] Meegan: As you were talking, I was reminded of my mom who’s been, you know, she’s gone on to the other side about eight years ago now, but from that perimenopausal time and, and like me, I think she went through menopause pretty early.
She was always reading. It wasn’t so much internet then, but you know, if she was, it was happening now. She’d be Googling all the time. She had a cupboard full of bloody supplements and it was like this. But it became like a sort of a health anxiety in a way. Yeah, because you, there’s so much information out there and you could go this way, you could go to intermittent faster, you could go to low carbs, you could go.
For sure. But when you, like you said, when you find that person who, who gets you, who you can trust, you can start simply actually, and it, and it just reduces all of that noise.
[00:09:52] Nicola: Mm-hmm. I totally agree because I see a lot of people coming into clinic, very overwhelmed, who had done the doctor Google and have tried, like they say everything, but you know, when we often go through it, it might be that they’re using supplements which have a good idea. But when you look at them, the quality’s poor. The dosages are incorrect. You know, the, they’re not at a therapeutic dosage range. It might be that actually for that person it doesn’t work, you know? So that’s why I use a lot of things like quantum reflex analysis to go, okay, so you’ve got a.
Bacterial vaginitis infection. Okay. So which specific probiotic for bacterial vaginitis is gonna be best for you? What’s the dosages you need? Know what’s on the bottle? You know, those sorts of things. So I get it. It’s, it’s, that’s, I think where the trust is so important, and that’s the stuff I’m so into the most when I’m building a relationship with a client.
Because if they can trust you, then they’ll open themselves up so much more. They share so much more, and we can really get into those. Deep, deep places where the reasons of why this is happening are occurring. Mm-hmm.
[00:10:55] Meegan: But I do see a lot of women Suffering through those symptoms. And I think I did mainly cuz I was so quite young and I didn’t really know what was going on. Mm. But also, even when women know they’re in perimenopause, they’re just kind of suffering with it and struggling through and trying to do things.
As they always used to do them. Mm-hmm. How easy is it, I mean, really broad question, but how easy is it to get wins on the board when you have dialed in with someone like yourself, a practitioner, to actually turn things around.
[00:11:28] Nicola: Well, it depends on the sort, you’re right, this is a very wide question, but when I’m thinking of the, the, the clients that I’ve worked with over the last year with these sorts of symptoms that we’re describing which can be very difficult cause there’s such a disparate group of symptoms, which could be attributed so many conditions.
So that’s where testing’s important, you know blood testing, et cetera, or Dutch testing. Looking at the last. Years worth say, of clients with these conditions. You, it’s actually really possible and actually surprisingly, within a short period of time. Like for instance, you know, when I’m dealing with someone with painful sex maybe dryness, we can sort that out in a month.
I’ve only had one client that we couldn’t sort that out in, in a month. You know, when I’m looking at things like hot flushes, Sometimes that can be quite immediate, you know, within one to two weeks. For others it might be a reduction, but the complete resolution might be two to three months.
So you can actually get results quite quickly. And in fact, I had one of my and lovely friends who’s done many of my. Detox programs that I run twice a year. She said to me recently at the last one, I’m, you know, I’m going through perimenopause and so I wanna redo the program because I’m always surprised every single time how much of an impact good diet has on has on my hormonal symptoms.
It’s just incredible, you know, so that’s in two to four weeks. So it just shows you how quickly these things can change.
[00:12:53] Meegan: Yeah. Beautiful. That’s really hopeful actually to hear. Yeah. So now now’s probably a good time to talk about the When you work with women with vaginal dryness, painful sex, and you’re talking about some other issues there, can you sort of share a little bit more about this?
Cause this is not talked about. I mean, we women, we can talk more openly about the hot flushes and the fatigue, but you know, anything around sex and the genital region, it’s like, you know mm-hmm.
[00:13:22] Nicola: Not talk about. Yeah, exactly. Let’s talk about getting that vagina juicy again. Okay. Yeah. One of the best things that I’ve found is vitamin E gotta be really good quality and very high dosage.
And you just take that internally. You can take it as a capsule, but you can also piece the the capsule that it’s in and Use it as like a vaginal aid when you’re having sex and things too. But to be honest, even just taking it internally, we’ll get that lubrication there extremely quickly. It’s amazing.
Yeah. And another one which I’m actually gonna be teaching people how to make at my upcoming perimenopause workshop, is using wild fennel seeds and making vaginal suppositories and they’re amazing. They’re really, really effective as well too. So there you go, that wild fennel, which you’ve always hated, which is growing on the side of the road or wherever else, creating that aniseed seed stink bomb, has so many benefits for us Woman.
[00:14:20] Meegan: Oh, beautiful. Did not know about
[00:14:23] Nicola: either of those. Yeah, I know. Like why do, why does not all women know about Vitamin E? Amazing. So, yeah, I think you may
[00:14:31] Meegan: have heard of it as a. Oh no, I don’t know. It’s very vague there, but, so you take it as a capture, we take it internally, but you can also use it within the
[00:14:39] Nicola: vagina as well.
Exactly. And it’s also brilliant for reduction of hot flashes. So if that’s another symptom you’re getting, this could be a really nice all rounder and it re resolves them pretty quickly too. Usually one to two months for that one.
[00:14:51] Meegan: And so it’s pretty generically okay for people to take, Vitamin E
[00:14:55] Nicola: a, again, I would be looking at the quality and also the, the the dosages.
So there’s some really good ones out there. There’s one that I get through by that’s called unique e and that is really, really good. Oh,
[00:15:09] Meegan: fantastic. I’ll get you to send us a link for that and I can add it underneath podcast so people can
access it No for it. Mm-hmm.
[00:15:16] Nicola: Yeah.
[00:15:16] Meegan: So what do you reckon are some of the common misconceptions about
[00:15:22] Nicola: Well, we’re going into the fun stuff right away. Okay. So I would say that probably two actually, that everybody’s gonna get symptoms when they go through menopause or perimenopause, and it’s just not true. It’s a bit like menstruation, you know? We seem to have this idea that actually having symptoms when you menstruate is, is just what it is.
It’s just normal. Everybody has it. It’s not true. There are so many cultures, particularly traditional cultures, where they don’t have PMS they don’t have symptoms with menstruation, they don’t have symptoms with going into menopause. So I think that speaks a lot to the kinds of issues that we have in our westernized diet and also the stress that we’re under.
You know, when you’ve got these people that are living much more with the seasons, with the land, you know, and having a healthy diet, it’s gonna be really having a huge impact on the body. So I, I think that’s just something to be mindful of. And also I think the other misconception that. Really bugs me is that when you go into the stage that you’ve completely lost your worth and your value as a woman.
And I think this is very much because we live in a culture that celebrates youth and women that look like these preteens, you know, in terms of the model picture that we see in all the magazines and the social medias and whatnot. But there’s also this cultural conditioning that women only have value when their fertile.
Which again is a load of rubbish. You know, if we think pre patriarchal times when we worshiped say goddess worship, which was what most cultures worshiped at the beginning of human settlements, shall we say. You know, we really see how, you know, women are even more powerful in their menopausal years, that they’ve got this opportunity to.
Learn to prioritize time for themselves and their needs and their wants. They’re able to become much wiser, more intuitive female who can be of so much greater service to themselves and the people around them and sharing this wisdom and this knowledge. So I think, you know, we’ve really gotta step away from this picture of this, that, this, this, these advertising companies and this patriarchal culture has created because it’s just so invalidating to a woman and all their
[00:17:32] Meegan: Oh look. And as a postmenopausal woman, I find it bloody offensive. Hmm. It really is. It really is. And I think. Personally, I’ve kind of got it easy in a way because I’m not working in the commercial world, so I’m kind of driving my own. This is how I wanna show up in the world, so I’m not sort of surrounded by all of that perspective.
Mm. But it is really is. Pisses me off as well. Yeah, because there’s Oh, but there’s so much to unwind around that. But one thing I I picked up on when you were talking was your intuitive capacity. Mm-hmm. I noticed for myself has really gone up, and I could say that’s because of what I’ve been doing, blah, blah, blah.
But it really coincided with going through menopause. And I, I don’t know about what you think about it, but I reckon it’s got quite a lot to do with. Not having that, that fluctuation of hormones over the monthly cycle. It’s fairly even right now. So that, that’s one level. Mm-hmm. That’s changed there.
Like my intuition is way better and actually my emotional stability is like,
it’s even now.
Because it’s not being, you know, once you’re through perimenopause and you’re kind of more steady in menopause, you’re not having those ups and downs. Mm-hmm.
[00:18:57] Nicola: Well, I think, I think I understand that, and I do absolutely know hormones have a huge impact on our emotional wellbeing, but I think it’s also just. I’ve noticed with a lot of the women around me that there’s a, a change that can happen if we choose to allow it where we are less hard on ourselves and we are learning to be much more grateful for the bodies that we have at this time.
And Feeling much more comfortable in our own bodies and less worried about the external world and what it thinks. And I kind of feel like the intuition steps and because we are honoring ourselves more and we are listening to our instincts more and we are. Because we’re practicing that more, that increases the intuitive flow as well too.
We are being more mindful of what, say an emotions popped in. Okay. And what have you come to share with me? What’s the instinct behind that? Okay, so let’s take action and honor that, that rebuilds confidence and self-esteem and trust and self, you know, so there’s a, there’s a whole layering that’s happening at this time.
[00:20:11] Meegan: Mm, yeah. Beautiful. Yeah, I liked hearing that. As you were, as you were talking, I was like, yeah, that’s, that is so beautiful. And that’s certainly been my experience and. When I was right in the depths of perimenopause, what you said just then would’ve felt like a million miles away. Mm. You really would’ve because I was having to navigate so much on the, on the physical level, but also psychological, because, you know, you go through that piece where I’d walk into a room and I’d know exactly what I came in for, and the next second gone like, I’m completely gone.
It’s. Yeah. And that, that, I mean, that’s resolved now. So it wasn’t, it’s not like a decline thing.
[00:20:55] Nicola: Yeah. It’s a shift that’s happening. Yeah.
And yet for a lot of women that brain fog continues into the menopause. years see, you know, so I think it’s not just a hormonal thing, it’s a slowing down. Aspect, but again, this is where our herbs can be so beneficial.
I mean, obviously there’s only amazing GenCos and things that are out there in the world which are very good for stimulating, you know, microcirculation to the brain and therefore helping its function. But, you know, even Rosemary, there’s a reason it’s called the Plant of Remembrance. You know, it’s, it’s a brilliant herb for helping with.
All cognitive function and also emotional balance. So you know, if you’re someone who’s okay with the taste of Rosemary, start making some beautiful rosemary teas. You know, that’s the co. Or you may be using some rosemary essential oils maybe in your oil mix for your body. Who knows? But yeah, there’s lots of ways we can support our brains.
Lots of walnuts. It’s walnuts, which not like brains. Exactly. It’s a wonderful plant signature.
[00:21:57] Meegan: Yeah. So is that part of your, part of your approach, because you’re a medical herbalist obviously, but you’re also about incorporating in into what you eat, food that is really gonna nourish what needs to be nourished?
[00:22:11] Nicola: Absolutely. Yeah, so, so naturopaths we have pretty much about three years worth of nutritional training. So, you know, we’ve got a real ability there to find the ways of eating that are best for them. But there’s also just generally some, some key guidelines that we need to think about when we are going into menopause.
And I could spend an hour just talking about this, so I’m just thinking how to summarize this. Okay. So if we are thinking about, okay, so we are going into menopause, we need to prevent certain disease states, you know, like certain types of cancers. Alzheimer’s is obviously a real risk in now could, excuse me, cardiovascular disease.
There’s a whole bunch of things in there that we need to do. And again, those brain nourishing foods, you know, the the walnuts, the turmeric, the seafood, the coconut oils are gonna be so helpful. But it’s also about, also about just what we don’t eat. You know, are we avoiding those refined carbohydrates?
That’s gonna be helpful for the diabetes, for the cardiovascular risk. Also for things like, you know genital urinary infections. But then we also need to think a little bit too about, you know, bone density. Okay. So, you know, we’ve got this marketing hype around dairy foods as being a great source of calcium, and yet the Yale University.
G did a study where they looked at 34 sorry, it was a literature review. Looked at 34 different published studies in 16 countries and found that the ones that had the highest rates of osteoporosis. So, you know, weak bones had the most milk consumption. So even though it’s high in dairy, it’s very high in phosphorous, which actually antagonizes calcium absorption.
So again, this is where we need to look at our foods, you know, so you’ll fish with bones, anchovies, sardines, mackerels canned salmon, these sorts of things are great. Looking at, actually one of the best plant sources is, is sesame seeds. And if you can get that as a tahini paste, maybe we are using that as a butter spread.
Maybe we’re throwing it in our hummus, maybe we’re making delicious dressings that could go through it. You know, those are the sorts of foods that we need to be looking at. And of course, things like magnesium is important too. And also things like vitamin D, so, Yeah, if we can be looking at those kinds of nutritional profiles and what foods are rich in, that would be really helpful.
We also need to look at what’s happening with our digestion, cuz our digest fire dramatically declines our hydro chloric acid production in the stomach. After 50 years of age, so you can understand why bone density gets worse too, because suddenly we are not able to break down those foods and get those nutrients and then the bones can be nourished.
You see what I’m saying here? So, you know, just going back to those old school apple of vinegar, water or some lemon juice in before a meal, you know, we’re in a dressing. Beautifully helpful. We need to look at liver. Dysfunction because the liver is, is, is really involved with hormonal balance, you know, in terms of the production of something called sexual mind binding globulin, which helps regulate the amount of free estrogen we have and also the detoxification cycles that it goes through in terms of balancing estrogens as well too.
So when you’re looking at your liver, you are really thinking about where am I getting my fiber from? Am I making sure I’m having lots of the Alliacea family. So that’s all your garlic and your onions and your leaks and things. It’s about looking at the brassicas because we want those those dim kind of compounds to come out.
So that helps with liver detoxification too. And in fact, a lot of the mushrooms especially things like shataki mushrooms and whatnot which you can, you know, Get the tried ones, chop them up, finally throw them in your broths and all your, you know, mushroom sauce or whatever. All of those are brilliant for liver function as well.
And something that people often forget is the importance of amino acids. Liver detox. So proteins are important, you know, so whether that’s proteins from animal poultry, seafood, or whether it’s proteins from things like tofu, which has a complete amino acid profile. It’s a, a really good source of protein.
So a lot of women in these, in these years. If we can find ways to get that in our diet, it’s gonna be super helpful. But I would always say get the organic form, because that’s not gonna be G M O, which means more allergy and inflammation response and more nutritional benefits. And there’s so many good ways to get tofu in your diet.
Like, I hated tofu.
I’m such a foodie. I hate to go out there and buy recipes where I can make it work. You know what I mean?
So, you know, for instance, when I’m doing my spring detox program with people, there’s a couple of really yummy ones. Like I’ve got this great it’s like a peanut saute with rice ripers.
Yeah. And I’ve got a gorgeous Vietnamese one where. It’s a mixture of like things like cashew nuts and coriander and, and tofu, and then you fry them and, and they’ll these gorgeous little delicious, you know, parcels that you get to eat. So, you know, there are ways to make it happen. And it’s all about the seasons.
It’s all about the spices, isn’t it? You know, even if you just chuck a bit of garam masala paste and make a nice stir fry, that’s gonna be a tasty tofu. It’s, yeah. Gotta flavor it up.
[00:27:05] Meegan: Oh, look, I love a good tofu. I introduced it to my teenager on the, oh, but I love it, like fried. And then you put a saute and then, you know, you add the vegetables and stuff.
And my teenager’s like me, and then they tried and they’re like, oh, actually it’s quite
[00:27:18] Nicola: good.
That’s right. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. And we look to it things like. Flax seed. They did this great study where they were looking at how women put 25 grams of flax seeded into their diet in the, in two lots of toast.
So they obviously were making their own breads, and it was just incredible to see within a I think it was within, it was a 12 week trial from memory, and they found that, you know, the, the hot flushing went, you know they started to get better lubrication, you know, so just even doing something like flaxseed could change it as long as you’re getting the right kind of dosage, you know, so, And again, that’s a, a phytoestrogenic food, so, you know, it’s a good one to build into your diet.
We’ll save with flaxseed is it’s better when it’s freshly ground. And also it’s all about the storage. Okay. So, flexed oxidizes very quickly once it’s ground, and especially if it’s not kept in the fridge. So you wanna, you know, use your coffee grinder and just have it in the fridge and use that over sort of a few days to a week.
Yep. Oh, so good.
[00:28:18] Meegan: Yeah. So you’re buying seeds and then grind it down. Yeah. Fantastic. So you’ve shared with us a lot about food to, you know, bring into our diet, which is so, so helpful. Yeah. For somebody that’s at the moment, they’re going it alone for,
for now. Yeah. We can
do that with the food. Are there any supplements you recommend or is it like, no, that needs to be done with a specialist.
[00:28:44] Nicola: No, there’s definitely, you know, there’s a whole world of supplements out there. You just have to walk into the chemist warehouse and see, and so then it’s like trying to choose what’s the right one for you. And because you’re not gonna be working with a specialist who’s gonna be.
You know, looking for those, what are the symptoms? Therefore, what’s the best herb or herbs in a combination, you’re gonna have to probably do a little bit of trial and error. But yes, there’s definitely lots of things that we can do in terms of so we are thinking now of sort of herbs to help with the hormones.
Is that what you’re wanting to get? Direction you’re asking about?
[00:29:13] Meegan: I’m I’m asking that more of a herbs or vitamins, minerals. I’m open. Yeah, I’m an open book.
[00:29:20] Nicola: Let’s do it. So probably one of my favorites would be a wonderful plant called Black cohosh. This helps to reduce lutenizing hormone, which means that the, the hot flushes are gonna disappear quite quickly.
It’s also really good for vaginal atrophy, which is. This basically where you have vaginas became more thin and it’s sort of shrinking a bit and things. That’s where the painful sex, et cetera comes from. And sometimes bleeding with sexual intercourse as well. It’s also promotes lubrication and it helps to balance the pH the vagina, which is brilliant because then you don’t get those genital urinary infections cuz they are.
They can only exist in a, a, a certain kind of pH range. And it’s also good for bone density and there’s been some great studies done where they found it had even better benefits when it was taken with St. John’s Wort which is a wonderful antidepressant, anxie, oolitic curve which is so important when we are also going through this change.
You know, when we think about how as our ovarian egg production declines we are gonna start having to get our hormones. From different areas including the adrenal glands and the fat cells. Okay? So if we were stressed and anxious, if we’re overwhelmed and overworking, if we are in rushing woman’s syndrome our poor adrenal glands are not gonna be able to cooperate and help us as much as they should.
Will this hormonal change of life? So, yes, supporting stress is gonna be super duper important, but there’s other herbs that are really good for it too. You know, things, some people find wild yam works really great. Hops also is another one that can be really helpful. It’s also very good for anxiety and insomnia, hops cuz it’s gently sedating.
You know, if we are thinking about how to, if we are getting a lot of the, severe sweats, you know, like we are dripping with sweats. Yeah, sage can be really good. And there’s, for those at home that wanna use the sage they’ve got sitting there there’s a really nice little treatment that I got as a student and still recommend.
So you basically wanna squeeze half a lemon into a handful of ripped up sage leaves, and then cover it with boiling water. Steep it overnight and then drink it the next morning. Strange. And that’s really good. It’s got a beautiful anti hydrotic effect as what we call it. So drying up of those hot sweets and flushes.
At this time of year, we are just seeing the end of a beautiful plant called red clover. Which is very isoflavone rich. It’s brilliant for menopausal symptoms, the ones we’ve described, but it also reduces your cholesterol levels and it helps prevent osteoporosis. So it’s a nice little rounder as well too for the risks of menopause, I guess you might say.
Actually that one. So, you know, if you wanna go out and start picking some bread clover, you know, I often notice that when you, in lots of places where there’s paddocks they’re just starting to sort of die off now. Chaste Tree is another plant that a lot of people use, not only for menopause, but also for.
P m s of course. And menstrual dysfunction p coughs, you know, things like that. But yeah, they’ve started using it more and more for menopause because they’re finding it helps with the not just the irregular cycles and the anxiety, but also the hot flushes. So these are the kind of main herbs that I would think of considering.
And of course in terms of supplements, oh, and I mentioned the Rosemary earlier, which is not only a cognitive herb, it’s for me memory and, and concentration and brain fog. But it’s also brilliant for mood. And it’s a liver as well too. So you know, Again, we are getting back to the cause we’re helping it there.
And I would say too, probably the other probiotic you’d might wanna consider is looking for something. If you’re getting a lot of genital urinary infections, obviously you wanna be working with herbs for UTIs and, and so on. And being a bit cautious too. Remember these are antimicrobial herbs. They’re not as, not all as selective as we’d like.
So they’re a little bit like an antibiotic too. You don’t wanna be on these all the time. But these are brilliant formulations for basically probiotics that can help with the BV and the ucis. And you wanna look for ones that are very acidophilus rich in the strains. Cause that’s the key one there.
So yeah, that would probably be the main sorts of things that I would think of. I mean, obviously there’s, there’s a lot of others. Like if you wanna look at things like B vitamins, that’s gonna be helpful for, you know, exhaustion, for mood health, you know, for liver detoxification. But yeah, that’s probably the key ones to get people started on and looking at, perhaps looking at their diet, you know, so beautiful.
Feeling good long term, and not being reliant on having to always take a supplement or a herb, you know?
[00:33:53] Meegan: Oh, exactly, exactly. What what role does stress have in terms of the symptoms where experience or might experience during Perian? Menopausal?
[00:34:04] Nicola: Mm, yeah, it’s a really interesting one. Sleep. It’s, it’s such a, We often don’t realize how much of an impact it has on our health until we stop it.
Right. You know, it’s often stopped during too when we’ve stressed and overwhelmed and don’t feel like we have the time to prioritize that, do we? It’s like that self-care stuff that always goes
out the window and it’d be the thing that would be most needed at
time. But yeah, what we know with, in terms of exercises, it actually helps to again, increase.
That sex hormone binding globulum which is gonna help with hormonal balance and reducing all the symptoms that come with it, but also re does things like it reduces stress as long as you’re not doing high impact. You know, cardio exercise I’d normally recommend for women in this stage. You’d be better off doing things like kind of like weights with short bursts of cardio just to give your body a little bit of a pickup, but not so that it’s slamming your cortisol and that, cuz that cortisol was very involved, of course, in the whole picture too.
So we wanna make sure we are not stressing ourselves out on, on all levels. You know, when we are thinking about also I recommend a lot of Pilates or yoga term cause we wanna build muscle strength. We wanna support the joints and keep them really flexible and lubricated.
So we are not getting any other joint diseases going on too. But it also increases wellbeing, it helps with bone density. It’s all about weight stabilization and loss, which is absolutely important also at the stage of life. It helps to drop cholesterol, it drops your blood pressure, it improves all cardiovascular function and circulation.
It’s gonna increase your energy levels you know, hot flushes gone, you know, so it has such an important series of. Requirements and ways it’s gonna help us through the cycle of life.
[00:35:45] Meegan: Beautiful. Thank you. So a woman who’s now realizing she’s listening to this and she’s realizing I’m a bit more tired than usual, my sleep’s interrupted, my period’s not as regular as it used to be.
What advice would you give her?
[00:36:02] Nicola: I would say, There’s, there’s kind of a list I made after I was thinking about all the different foods that we need for this health, and so I’m just gonna read this out. This is the one that kind of combines the everything that keep coming up over and over again.
This would be helpful, I reckon. So if you were to add these to your diet, some tofu. Okay. Some people even use the particular types of tofu, you know, to make things like chocolate mousses and, you know, like doesnt listen, just have to be savory. Find a way that you can get it in your diet. Go for the organic one.
Nuts and seeds. Eating more fruit and fe at least five. Portion sizes, you know, fist size a day, legumes. So that’s your chickpeas, that’s your beans, that’s your lentils. Really important. Having lots of the brassica vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, et cetera. The l aca ones we talked about earlier, but onions, the garlic, mushrooms seafood if, if you can justify it.
Very helpful. And then making sure you’re getting good amounts of proteins too. Maybe we talked about that’s needed for the liver detox so generally what we are looking, oh, and lend seeds. So generally what we’re looking at here is very much about a health, whole food diet, moving away from processed, moving away from refined and just supporting your body with those basic building blocks are gonna give you.
All you need to work on all aspects of what could be causing your menopause and if you were to choose to avoid caffeine, to avoid things like poor quality, fats and carbohydrates, and. Also manage your portion sizes because our metabolisms have dropped by about 10% every decade after 50. So we wanna just drop the food portions back a little bit and maybe try, like for me, intermittent fasting in the morning, it is brilliant.
It means I’m only having two meals a day, occasionally an afternoon snack. But it really helps me to stay like that balanced weight, you know? So, and for others it’s about weight loss. It’s brilliant for that. So, you know, drop the breakfast, stop eating after dinner and it’ll make a big difference. But the caffeine one’s really interesting because so many people talk about that.
It’s like one day
it is love. I love it. Todo to lose
- And you know, of course we hear about all these benefits of it, you know, in terms of antioxidants or whatnot. But to be honest, the key thing you need to remember with caffeine is, It works for the stress system, so it’s gonna cause a cortisol peak.
It’s putting you into fight and flight again. We’ve already talked about how important the adrenal glands are in terms of hormone production at this time. We don’t wanna be stressing them out. Yeah. So and also we see a lot more hot flushes. Happening as well and poor liver detoxification when we are having caffeine and I al I also call it the energy robber cuz initially gives us, if we are lucky and we’re not stressed out and extremely exhausted, it’ll give us a spike of energy.
The problem is though, that you get the drop and so what’s happening is you’ve basically dis regulated your blood glucose, so you’re getting these pecks and troughs through the day instead of a nice, stable energy through the day. And so then what are we doing? We are looking for refined carbohydrates where it’s my sugar pick up in the mid, mid-afternoon.
I need another coffee to get me through the day. You know, all of these sorts of things that don’t help your hormonal system as well. So yeah, look at the caffeine
[00:39:20] Meegan: but I don’t wanna, But do you Love it. Do you think, so do you confession, do you think quantity plays into that? Like if I’m having three cups of espresso a day, that’s gonna be worse than if I have one cup of plunger in the morning and that’s it.
[00:39:39] Nicola: Yeah. Got you, got you. Gotcha. Got you. All very important to look at those sorts of things. Certainly, you know, like for instance, an instant coffee is gonna have a less impact than a pla that doesn’t even count. plunger is gonna have less of an impact than say, a latte from the barista as well. Yeah.
Yes. So, so that’s important. And I think you need to look at the person’s levels of stress and anxiety. I know for myself, if I have even one coffee every day I am gonna get. Anxious. I’m gonna feel racing heart yeah. I’m gonna have a drop of energy later on in the day and I’m gonna have disrupted sleep even though I’ve had that coffee in the morning.
Yeah. So that’s a bit bitching
cycle, isn’t it? Isn’t
it? No. Yeah. I love it. So every now and again, I have one and I enjoy it, but I just one, you know, and I’ll have it with some food, that sort of stuff. Yeah. And I thought that’s a good. And they also seem ever have coffee before nine 30 because your cortisol is already super high.
First thing in the morning. Cortisol is what wakes us up. So if you are going in and having a coffee before then, before nine 30, you’re like supersizing your cortisol. So if you wanna put weight on your tummy, that’s the way to do it.
[00:40:49] Meegan: And then you paid for it later, right? Yeah, exactly. So what about so for people like me who I do like a cup of coffee in the morning and it’s plunger and then that’s it.
Mm-hmm. But I do notice, so I try and have breaks with it. So I try and then come off it and not have any, and then I’ll edge back in, you know?
[00:41:10] Nicola: Yeah.
[00:41:10] Meegan: And then, but I noticed the more I have it, the more I get the sort of very slight body. I wouldn’t call it anxiety, but it’s a little bit edgy. Yeah. And so like hearing you say that, I’m like, oh, damnit, you, you know, I’ve already know this in myself, so what’s a good thing to replace?
Replace the beloved coffee cuz some of it’s just about ritual, it’s about starting the day. I wanna nourish myself. What can we replace it with?
[00:41:38] Nicola: That’s a great question. Well, I mean, I, if you are a real coffee addict, often what I’ll talk to people about is switching to decaf. But you wanna find like a good water soaked one, not cabinet chemical extracted.
And we are very lucky cuz we have that wonderful escape cafe in town who make a beautiful ro really well roasted decaff so you can get your beans and your grind from them. The other thing that I really enjoy is there’s this cool company called Misty Day who, and it’s run by this beautiful New Zealand woman called Rachel.
She’s all about functional mushroom blends, and she’s got this gorgeous one that I sell to clients called True. Shroom potion, and it does not taste like mushrooms at all. It’s got a cacao and peppermint base. So it’s like a delicious little drink with these gorgeous functional mushrooms who are all about raising your energy in a really gentle and nourishing and sustain.
Staining away. So they’re real, they’re Jing essence builders. And it also, I find it really helpful at night. You know, sometimes you’re just like looking for that sweet treat and you could just about climb the walls to have one. Yeah.
[00:42:44] Meegan: Looking through the cupboards. Yeah,
[00:42:46] Nicola: that’s what I’ll go and have a shroom potion as well too, with maybe a little bit of honey and a milk option.
You know, whatever milk you wanna use. I find that yummy. So I think Oh, nice. Some really good turmeric lattes out there now too. And of course turmeric has got so many benefits for us when we’re going through this change of life. Life as well. It’s an anti-inflammatory, it’s a little bit detoxifying in, you know, it has a lot of help all of us.
And it can be really tasty, you know, and there’s some neat recipes out there if you wanna make your own too, if you don’t wanna buy the ones from the supermarket. So yeah, maybe a, maybe a nice, alright, c latte.
[00:43:22] Meegan: All right. Thank you so much. I’m gonna start with the, the mushroom shroom potion. Yeah.
Yeah. But I, I do find with the coffee I need to kind of slowly or end decamp probably, but slowly come off it. Otherwise I get a bit of a headache for a day and. For a couple of days,
sounds like I drink lots of coffee. I don’t. I think it’s just that post-menopause or menopause. It’s like I’m more sensitive to its and effects, which is even a better reason to give it a break.
[00:43:49] Nicola: I think we become more sensitive in a lot of different areas, don’t we? You know, like most people when they do my detox programs, they’ll have one three days of headaches and migraines when, if they’re coffee drinkers, which is shocking. But I think we also become even more sensitive to things like alcohols, you know, all sorts of things and foods.
So maybe that also ties in with our intuitive sensitivity that we were talking about at the very beginning as well.
[00:44:10] Meegan: Hey, oh, your body’s like going, no. No. No, she’s not happy for that. Yeah. So, Nicola, what is, is there anything I’ve missed that you are like, I really want people to know about this,
[00:44:25] Nicola: really see anything we’ve missed?
If you’re thinking about how to comfortably support yourself in becoming a even more, Gorgeous embodied emotionally balanced version of yourself who’s really to let go. A lot of these patriarchal cultural constructs that we are constantly bludgeoned with every day from many different sources. There’s a book that I love and have recommended to so many women the wonderful Glennon Doyle who has Who’s a beautiful, she’s like a poet as a writer, and this book’s called Untamed.
You can get it out of the library as well too. But it’s actually one of those books that I know I’m gonna keep rereading over time. And it’s, and it’s very much about looking at, you know, the roles that we are told we have to have as women, as mothers. You know, how we need to be a good girl and sacrifice our needs for everybody else.
You know about the subconscious beliefs that we may be holding, that we don’t even realized that we do. And it’s only when she very gently and poetically brings these thoughts up that you start to really look at these areas of your life and how you haven’t allowed yourself to live your best life because you’ve been so busy caring for so many others.
That was what one of my key takeaways were. So yeah, I love her book and she also does an amazing podcast with her partner and her sister called We Can Do Hard Things and they have pretty amazing speakers on there, so I definitely would recommend her. Beautiful.
[00:45:59] Meegan: There was something that you were saying in there.
Oh, it’s gone. Damn it. Okay, I’ll let it go. I don’t know what it was. And so if, if that’s menopause in action, isn’t it?
[00:46:10] Nicola: Yeah. It’ll come back to you in the middle of the night. You’d be like, come look, where are you when I need you? Now I’m sleeping. Hopefully
[00:46:18] Meegan: I’m a good sleeper. Now, I didn’t go through a stage where I would wake up at like two or four.
I’d be often, it would be four. I’d be awake till the morning. I’d be strung it, and that cycle is. Fucking hideous because you can’t rely on your health like the next day. That, that was a big challenge for me. And you know, our lives are probably set up in this very linear way where it’s like work clients, work, clients, school, all the rest of it.
And then perimenopause shows up and it’s like, well, no. You can’t do that anymore. Yeah. Because there’s all of this change that’s happening.
[00:46:56] Nicola: And I need you to rest tomorrow because you are tired. So how do we whittle back the clinic day? How do we ask for help and receive it? You know, all those sorts of things too, isn’t it?
But yeah, sleep is a shocker and it’s something that a lot of people are struggling with. Yeah. Well, and because
[00:47:14] Meegan: I think we are so culturally, we are quite sleep deprived and we don’t maybe value the benefits of sleep enough. We come into perimenopause with almost a sleep deficit. Mm-hmm. And then you’ve got change of energy levels and then it’s all, you know, and we resist resting.
Where resist resting
[00:47:35] Nicola: and I think, I think we, we tend to do a lot or expect a lot of ourselves through the day. Mm-hmm. And I think this is where probably Megan, some of you know the skills that I’ve learned from you at courses many years ago, you know, the things like the, the meditation, the mindfulness practice, the.
Breathing techniques, you know, these things that we can very gently insert for a few minutes here and there through the day. So again, we’ve got that sustained emotional balance and energy so that when it comes time for sleep, we are not suddenly going. Okay, now body go to sleep, brain turn
off and expecting it to work when it’s been going.
Like a hamster and a cage for the whole day.
[00:48:16] Meegan: Yeah, completely, completely. So Nicola, if somebody wanted to get in touch with you and potentially think about working with you, how do they do that?
So you could do a few things. I’m on Facebook. I’ve got a business page called Earth Sourced Naturopath Path. You can also find me on Instagram at Nicola Swanson one, and then my website is earth sourced dot co.nz and you can just send me an email through there. Contact me through those ways. That would be the best way. And we can chat about finding, you know, what’s the best way to support and assist you. And you can have a look at my website at all the different things that I do to find the right kind of consultation or treatment that you are needing at this time too.
Beautiful. Thank you. And tell us about the event that you’ve got coming up. Cause that was sounding really great.
[00:49:06] Nicola: Thank you. So coming up very soon in May, I’m just gonna look up the date while we talk. I’ve got a four hour workshop that I’m running so that is on May the 20th at 12 to four o’clock are being run out at Pihana Farm, which is out Urenui at this amazing farm.
Where we are gonna spend the day or the afternoon. Basically delving into menopause, looking at lots of different treatments and things that we can make. So it’s a, it’s a very interactive practical workshop. We’re also gonna talk a lot more about nutrients and foods that we can be eating.
We’re gonna be tasting some of those in this delicious meal that Maria’s gonna make up for us, which is also part of the price. From memory it’s 110. And it’s called embracing Peri Menopause and Menopause using herbs and nutrition. But to be honest, if you just can’t find that or Facebook land the event, just, you know, send a message to me at Earth Source naturopath and I’ll direct you in the right way.
But yeah, we are, it’s gonna be an intimate gathering of about 10 women. Well, we can just really get into how to support them into, you know, creating a, I like to call it meno heaven.
[00:50:15] Meegan: meno heaven Gorgeous. Oh, that sounds beautiful. Thank you, well, thank you so much for joining me today on the podcast, Nicola.
I am off to Secure the mushroom drink and the decaf beans and just for me, just one small change not making it, you know, I’m not overhauling my whole life. A small change is gonna be really helpful.
[00:50:38] Nicola: Oh, brilliant. And thank you so much for inviting me to come on here and speak today. I really appreciate it.
[00:50:43] Meegan: My absolute pleasure. Bye for now. Bye honey.