Debate: Are seaweed and sprouting beans the answer for the menopause?

YES

LESLIE KENTON

NOBODY prepares you for the menopause. Nobody tells you that if you are going to have hot flushes or emotional instability they are likely to be far worse before you stop menstruating than after. Nor does anybody explain that waking at three in the morning filled with sadness or anger is likely to be not some aberration of nature, but a messenger announcing the menopause is near.

Because few doctors are trained in nutrition or understand the use of plant substances and natural hormones there are few alternatives for women. Most are immediately put on drug-based HRT.

Yet the experience of HRT varies widely from one woman to another. More commonly a woman will feel better for a few months, then report unpleasant side-effects: migraine, depression, weight gain. No wonder a recent Swedish survey showed that 48 per cent of women who go on HRT stop taking the drug within 12 months.

Unlike changes in diet and lifestyle, at best HRT is a stopgap which offers little in the way of strengthening and rebalancing a woman's body. Take hot flushes. Plant-based treatments from wild yam or angelica gradually eliminate them - but few doctors even know this. Similarly, sprouting alfalfa will help detoxify the body of excess oestrogens, horsetail tea is rich in bone-strengthening silicon and sea plants like kelp and wakame help build up calcium levels.

I object strongly to the propaganda that accompanies the sale of HRT. This practice makes virtually every woman a "patient", not only where it may not be necessary but even when it can be dangerous. It diminishes a woman's personal power and takes away control.

If only more women and their doctors knew that hot flushes, dry vaginas and early ageing can often be addressed more safely and successfully - and less expensively - by alterations in diet. Ideally women should stop eating highly processed convenience foods with junk fats and choose traditional herbal remedies instead: things like wild yam (from which many of the drugs sold for HRT were first derived), chastetree, motherwort and black cohosh.

In other cultures, the transformation in a woman's life between the ages of 35 and 60 is considered a journey towards a new freedom. It's a time of celebration where a woman's creativity until then bound to her biology is set free. The passage we make at menopause - like giving birth - is a profound one which can lead us to discover the real treasures of life.

Each woman is biochemically and spiritually unique. So is the inner journey she must make if she is to succeed in her quest for wholeness. This is not a package holiday where you pay your money, take your anti-diarrhoea pills and know exactly what to expect.

Leslie Kenton's new book, '10 Steps To A Natural Menopause', is published by Vermilion, pounds 6.99.

NO

MARCELLE

D'ARGY SMITH

LESLIE KENTON'S menopause was a breeze. A natural, drug-free, non-HRT breeze. Sure, there were hot flushes, night sweats, blood trickling down her skirt in the boardroom. But she gloried in every natural, female moment. Loved the whole bloody thing. It's always good to know when someone's pleased with the way they've handled a tricky passage in life, isn't it? Mind you - I've handled mine pretty well. But more of that later.

Ms Kenton is an alternative health guru. A Cancerian. Dresses in white and floaty, summer and winter. She's a natural beauty. Great genes. She had an office near mine when she worked on Harpers & Queen. I used to stare as she sailed past and muse on her blonde good looks, billowing white shirt and four different children by four different men. But though she was writing "ground-breaking" health and beauty stuff, I thought her eccentric.

I might have found her irresistibly bohemian if she wasn't so deadpan serious. Her gung-ho appetite for men and kids was so at odds with the way she approached health and food. There she seemed to deny herself all the enormous pleasures of life. She became the strictest Mother Superior. Flagellation stuff. We will eat alfalfa sprouts, kelp, hiziki (don't ask), drink miso, horsetail tea. Natural. Uncooked. We will detox. This is the Way, the Truth, the Life.

Of course, I couldn't read her stuff. It sure as hell wasn't My Way. I'm up for hugely enjoying myself. Recreational sex. Steak tartar, bangers and mash, red wine at the Ivy restaurant. Friends who smoke and drink black coffee. The reason I gave up Silk Cut was simple: they cost pounds 4 for 20. The muscle I want to exercise is my brain.

Oh yes - my menopause. It never happened. A few years ago I went abroad with my mother, who's 5ft 1in. Her passport said 5ft 5in. "You shrink as you get older," she said. So back in London I ran to see John Studd who pioneered HRT in this country. HRT, among other things, helps prevent osteoporosis. (It's contra-indicated if there's breast cancer in the family.) Studd believes women shouldn't have to suffer pain or discomfort from anything gynaecological. He's my man. Since then I've had hormone implants. I haven't gained weight, probably because I'm an erratic eater, and my bra size is increasing. The last two lovers were the best sex ever. The kind of sex you promise yourself. (No, we didn't discuss our star signs.) Mostly I'm healthy and in an amazingly good mood. Is that normal in your menopausal fifties?

I admit I've escaped the natural woman thrills of blood cascading down my legs, satisfying night sweats and hot flushes. Call me a weak-willed, drug- dependent fool. Tell me I'm no Real Woman. Do natural, by all means. I wouldn't dream of telling anyone to live the way I do. But I'm just saying HRT seems to have worked for me. And I don't think, knowing myself and my body as I do, that an infusion of sage (to alleviate hot flushes) or motherwort (to moisturise the vagina) would have produced the same effect. I could be wrong. Sagittarians aren't infallible. We just tend to be smart about some things.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

    £26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

    QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

    £35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

    Property Finance Partner

    Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

    Agile Tester

    £28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried