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Menopause

Overview

Menopause is part of the natural progression of aging in women. Technically, it is defined as the point where menstruation stops completely, but the term ‘menopause’ is commonly used to refer to the entire perimenopausal stage of a woman’s life.  Over the course of a few years, a woman’s body gradually reduces its production of estrogen, resulting in hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and memory loss.  Surgical menopause may result as the consequence of a complete hysterectomy that includes the removal of both ovaries.

 

The ‘average’ age of onset of menopause is about 51, but there’s a wide variation in actual age of onset and completion of menopause.  The process generally takes about four years, and is considered complete when a woman has not menstruated in a full year.

 

Because estrogen provides protection to a woman’s body, living without its effects does put a woman more at risk for some serious medical conditions, including osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.  Many doctors recommend hormone replacement therapy to counteract the effects of the lack of estrogen production, but there are a wide variety of treatments available to alleviate the symptoms of menopause and the medical conditions associated with it.

 

What Menopause  Does:

Every woman is different, and that applies to the symptoms that each woman experiences as well.  There is some evidence that the symptoms that accompany menopause vary from culture to culture as well as from person to person.  Researchers speculate that these differences may be caused by cultural differences in diet, lifestyle and attitudes toward aging.  In general, however, women may experience symptoms that affect the bones, skin, reproductive and sexual organs, circulatory system and moods. 

 

Symptoms of  Menopause:

During the perimenopausal stage – the years between the onset of menstruation and its complete cessation, a woman may experience any of the following symptoms.

 

  • Menstrual bleeding slows, the menstrual cycle becomes irregular and stops permanently

  • Periods when the face and chest become flushed, and the body feels overheated (hot flashes)

  • Night sweats

  • Changes to the vaginal walls, which may result in dryness, lack of lubrication, itching and bleeding after intercourse

  • Cold hands and feet due to poor circulation and low levels of hormone in the system

  • Changes to the urinary system that may include incontinence, frequent urination, and burning during urination

  • Insomnia and trouble sleeping in a regular pattern, beyond that caused  by night sweats

  • Mood changes including irritability, depression and heightened tension

  • Loss of elasticity in the skin

  • Weight gain

 

Depleted estrogen levels may contribute to many other conditions, including:

 

  • Osteoporosis

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Macular degeneration

  • Alzheimer’s disease

  • Glaucoma

  • Colon cancer

 

What Causes Menopause:

The various symptoms of menopause are brought on by the gradual decrease of estrogen in the body.  While this usually happens as part of a gradual, natural process, there are some things that can bring on sudden menopause.  These include, as stated before, surgical removal of the ovaries, as well as the following:

 

  • Smoking may hasten the onset of menopause. There have been studies that show that women who smoke begin menopause earlier than women who don’t.

  • Radiation or chemotherapy may artificially induce menopause.

  • Premature ovarian failure may cause early onset of menopause.

  • Hypothyroidism may contribute to early onset of menopause.

  • Any condition that reduces hormone production by the adrenal glands

 

Treatments for Menopause:

Obviously, the goal of treatment in menopause is not to prevent the condition, but rather to alleviate and control the symptoms associated with the gradual reduction and cessation of estrogen production, and to lessen the possibility of long-term conditions that are associated with menopause.  To that end, health care practitioners recommend treatment strategies that are preventive, as well as those that treat the conditions symptomatically as they occur.

 

  • Hormone Replacement Therapy

One of the more controversial but frequently prescribed treatments to alleviate symptoms and effects of menopause is replacement of the hormones lost.  The specific hormones used include estrogen (derived from synthetic and animal sources), progesterone, testosterone and selective estrogen receptor modulators. Some research suggests that HRT may increase a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer and other conditions.  Women going through menopause should discuss all the pros and cons of hormone replacement therapy and other more natural treatments with their health care provider.

 

  • Preventive Therapies

Health care providers often recommend the following diet, nutrition and lifestyle changes to help alleviate and prevent the symptoms of menopause.

    • Quit smoking. On average, smokers start menopause 1-2 years earlier than non-smokers. Quitting smoking also reduces the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis

    • Take calcium supplements can help protect against bone loss from osteoporosis.

    • Regular exercise helps reduce the incidence of hot flashes, mood swings and slows the rate of bone loss. It also is important in controlling weight, which is another contributor to the overall severity of menopause symptoms

    • Control cholesterol levels with a low-fat diet.

    • Avoid caffeine. There are several studies that suggest the consumption of caffeine may increase the loss of bone and the incidence of heart disease in post-menopausal women.

 

  • Symptomatic Treatment

    • Soy foods and flax seed both contain isoflavones and phytoestrogens called lignans that may help reduce the severity of menopausal symptoms and post menopausal conditions.

    • The National Institutes of Health recommend that post-menopausal women should have a daily calcium intake of 1000-1500 mgs.  A calcium supplement, particularly calcium citrate which is more easily absorbed by the body, can help ensure an adequate calcium intake to prevent bone loss.

    • Vitamin D is essential to help the body absorb calcium.  According to the National Institutes of Health, most women can meet their daily requirement of vitamin D with moderate exposure to the sun and a daily supplement that includes vitamin D.

    • Magnesium and boron are two minerals that the body requires to help absorb calcium and make use of it to build bones.  Boron, magnesium and calcium form a ‘chain’ – the body needs magnesium to properly use calcium, and boron to properly use magnesium.  All three minerals should be taken together along with Vitamin D to ensure that the body can use the calcium it needs to prevent bone loss to osteoporosis.

    • Omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants have both been shown to help the body deal with oxidative stress and reduce the incidence of heart disease and osteoporosis, both of which are greater in post-menopausal women.

  • Hormone Replacement Alternatives

    • Black cohosh has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years to reduce the symptoms of menopause and is generally regarded as a safe, natural alternative to estrogen replacement therapy when hormones can’t be used.  It has been clinically established to help relieve hot flashes, mood swings and irritability and depression in women going through menopause.

    • Red clover may help relieve the symptoms of menopause and reduce bone loss in menopausal women.

    • We also recommend Female Rejuvenator to help restore your natural hormonal balance.

 

 

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