Naturopathy for Menopause

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Menopause is a natural stage in women’s lives when menstruation ceases and they are no longer able to have children. Each experience of menopause, including the range and severity of symptoms, can vary quite dramatically from woman to woman – so it’s important to understand that a one-size-fits-all approach may not work. It can be of greater benefit to discuss tailor made options with your GP, naturopath or herbalist, in order to address any symptoms that you are experiencing.

  1. Why does it happen? 

A woman’s ovaries produce oestrogen and progesterone (hormones, which help regulate menstruation and ovulation) and hold a finite number of eggs. Menopause occurs when the ovaries stop producing sufficient hormones and no longer release an egg every month.

  1. When does it happen?

Menopause usually occurs naturally in women between the ages of 40 and 55, the average age in western cultures being 51. However, some women may become menopausal before they reach 40, a condition known as premature menopause. The actual age in which a woman enters menopause is strongly linked to genetics, but can occasionally be brought on by other factors, including smoking, ethnicity, ovarian surgery, and various treatments for illness or disease.

  1. What are the symptoms? 

Most women will experience some menopausal symptoms. However, the symptoms experienced amongst different women vary greatly due to factors such as lifestyle, ethnicity, genetics and general health and wellbeing. Some common symptoms include:

  • Hot flushes – Approximately 80 per cent of women report hot flushes, warm or hot sensations over their body that are caused by a decrease in the production of oestrogen. Some women even describe episodes of intense and embarrassing sweating. Hot flushes may last just a few months however, for many women, they can continue for 10 years or more.
  • Vaginal changes – dryness, irritation, recurrent UTIs, bleeding or pain during intercourse, and/or itching due to hormonal changes in the body.
  • Night sweats or chills – classified as extreme hot or cold flushes while sleeping as a result of decreased supply of oestrogen.
  • Changes in mood – irritability, stress, anxiety, depression or mood swings caused by a sudden drop of oestrogen.
  • Changes in libido – lowered sex drive caused by hormonal imbalance, vaginal changes and/or mood changes.
  • Fatigue – due to a drop in oestrogen, which helps regulate energy levels.

Some women may also experience other symptoms including headaches, insomnia, urinary changes, hair loss (or thinning), weight gain and various digestive problems.

  1. What is perimenopause?

Think of perimenopause as a transition into menopause, which usually starts in a woman’s forties and, on average, lasts for four years>. During perimenopause, a woman’s ovaries start gradually producing less progesterone, testosterone and oestrogen, which may result in menstrual changes, such as heavy, erratic periods. Some women also report symptoms similar to those experienced during menopause, including hot flushes, mood changes, vaginal changes, low libido and weight gain.

Like menopause, no two women will experience perimenopause in the same way – for some it may begin at an earlier age, present with various symptoms (or none at all) and can last up to 10 years. Beginning a health protocol during perimenopause can ease symptoms and may result in a less problematic menopause.

  1. How can you keep healthy during perimenopause and menopause?

Keeping a healthy lifestyle can help you manage the symptoms of menopause. For instance, regular exercise may help reduce hot flushes and night sweats – in fact, one study has shown that women who exercise less than three times per week are 28 per cent more likely to experience severe menopause symptoms when compared to their more active counterparts. Reducing stress levels, smoking cessation, maintaining a healthy diet and the use of dietary supplements may also help.

  1. What’s next?

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

HRT is commonly used to treat symptoms of the menopause, such as hot flushes and night sweats. It can be a very effective option for some women, however studies have shown that HRT used over a long period of time may carry certain risks, including increased risk of breast cancer, stroke and blood clots. The pros and cons of HRT should be discussed with your GP, in line with your family and medical history.

Naturopathic options

There are many useful treatments for menopause, which lie in the field of herbal medicine and simple nutrition.

At Health & Wellness Australia, our Naturopaths can dispense individualised herbal formulas, which may provide relief from the individual symptoms associated with Menopause, such as hormone imbalance, hot flushes and anxiety. These herbs can include:

  • Black Cohosh
  • Rehmannia
  • Tribulus
  • Vitex
  • Dong Quai
  • Wild Yam
  • Red Clover
  • Peony
  • Bupleurum
  • Sage
  • Zizyphus
  • St John’s Wort

Essential vitamins and minerals – such as vitamins D3 and K2, magnesium and essential fatty acids – and a healthy diet may also help.

[1] The Royal Women’s Hospital. About Menopause. https://www.thewomens.org.au/health-information/menopause-information/menopause-an-overview/

[2] Science Daily. Genes and timing of menopause. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120123094751.htm
[3] NCBI. The Timing of the Age at Which Natural Menopause Occurs. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3285482/

[4] NPS MEDICINEWISE. Managing hot flushes in Menopause. http://www.nps.org.au/publications/consumer/medicinewise-living/2014/managing-hot-flushes
[5] Harvard Medical School. Menopause-related hot flashes and night sweats can last for years. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/menopause-related-hot-flashes-night-sweats-can-last-years-201502237745

[6] Heather Rose. Perimenopause: How to Create A Healthy Physical & Emotional Life During the Change. http://bit.ly/1RhIXS1

[7] CNN. Exercise during menopause could reduce hot flashes, study says. http://edition.cnn.com/2016/01/27/health/menopause-hot-flashes-exercise/

[8] MedicinePlus. Hormone therapy. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007111.htm

 

This message is brought to you by Health and Wellness Australia and is intended to provide general information only. For more information contact Health & Wellness Australia or speak to your GP.

 

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