Menopause is characterized by a period of transition where there are many physical, psychological, and hormonal changes. It is ultimately defined as the conclusion of a female’s reproductive phase of life. Though the onset usually occurs anywhere between the ages of 40 and 60, menopause can also be provoked much earlier due to things such as ovarian surgery or certain types of illness. The main characteristic of menopause is the loss of function of the ovaries, which results in decreased quantities of hormones available in the body. Menopause is a process that may take several years, or even a decade to go into completion.
The physical process of menopause is denoted by two phases, peri-menopause and menopause. Peri-menopause is denoted as the time in which the symptoms of menopause begin and hormone levels change. This phase may last for several years. During peri-menopause, though the menstrual cycles are becoming increasingly irregular, a woman is still ovulation. When a woman’s period stops for twelve consecutive months, this is denoted as menopause. A menopausal woman’s ovaries do not release eggs which results in a decreased amount of estrogen and progesterone.
Symptoms of Menopause
A woman may experience heavy bleeding during peri-menopause. These periods may be closer together, many months apart, prolonged periods of more than ten days. They may also experience periods of fewer days with lighter bleeding, or spotting between periods.
Hot flushes can occur due to sudden drops in estrogen level. The feeling of warmth starts in the chest, then radiates upwards to the head. This may cause perspiration, followed by chills caused by the evaporation of the perspiration. The hot flushes may also cause blotch red areas to appear on the chest, neck, and arms. The face may also have a flush appearance.
Fluctuation in hormone level during peri-menopausal fluctuation will cause ovulation to occur less frequently. Though a woman can still become pregnant during peri-menopause, the chances are slim.
The vaginal lining will lose its elasticity due to the drop in estrogen levels. Burning and itching are a consequence of this. Some women will experience pain and discomfort during sexual intercourse.
Women will have the urge to urinate frequently.
Hot Flushes and night sweats will make sleeping very difficult
Woman may experience a 5-10 lb weight gain, with a weight distribution usually going to the hips, thighs, and, to the abdominal area.
HAIR LOSS AND WRINKLED SKIN
These will develop at faster rate.
In females, the body produces a small amount of the male sex hormone testosterone. Since the body’s estrogen levels will decline, there is an increase of a chance to grow hair on the upper lip, chest, chin, and stomach.
Some characteristics of menopause include stress, fatigue, anxiety, irritability, and the inability to concentrate and remember minor things. These could all be a result of disturbed sleep.
Health Issues during Menopause
The choice of care due to menopausal symptoms should be taken into consideration. After menopause, it is important to take charge of bone, health, and breast protection since there are diseases that women are more prone to after menopause. An approach that incorporates exercise, nutrition, and mind-body approach will help during these years.
The standard allopathic care to ease menopause symptoms is hormone therapy. Estrogen therapy can help women with hot flushes and vaginal drying. Patients are usually given the lowest possible dose, after which treatment may be slowly taken off after the initial 3-5 years of menopause, which is the period when most of symptoms and bone loss will occur. There are currently 10 million women that are on some form of hormone therapy.
The danger in most forms of hormone therapy is that hormones are not naturally produced by the body. Most of the hormone therapies are also not derived from natural plant sources such as yams or soy products. A study funded by the National Institute of Health and conducted by the Women’s Health Initiative found that more than 16,000 were more prone to heart attack, breast cancer, and stroke after taking an estrogen and progesterone treatment. In other clinical studies, use of synthetic hormones was correlated with a 33 percent increased risk of breast cancer. Hormone replacement therapy is also linked with upper body obesity. Finally, hormone replacement is linked with insulin resistance, which is commonly associated with higher blood pressure, disproportionate insulin levels, and high blood sugar levels.
Nutrition and Supplements
Natural supplements can replace the synthetic hormone treatments that have harmful side effects. Oats, cashews, flaxseed, and apples have natural sources of estrogen enhancement. Women who incorporate estrogen food into their diet can also feel instant relief from hot flashes. Intake of magnesium, which is found in soy products, whole grain, and beans, can also curb hot flashes.
Multivitamins that have adequate B Vitamins and Vitamin C, as well as more magnesium than calcium will enhance adrenal functioning and decrease emotional disturbances. Vitamin E will promote the production of the brain hormones FSH and LH, which can help hot flashes as well as reduce vaginal dryness and thinning.
Fatty acids are also important since they can act like natural hormone supplements and help allivate the symptoms of aging as well as aid cancer prevention. Essential fatty acids can also prevent vaginal region dryness. Omega-6 fatty acids can be obtained from pumpkin, sesame, safflower, and flaxseed oils. Omega 3 fatty acids can be obtained by consuming fish, fish oil capsules, and flaxseed oil. If someone is on a low fat diet, it is important to incorporate these fatty acids somehow, even if it is by taking them in a supplement form.
Mind body therapy
Mind body therapy can help induce the relaxation response that can help decrease the symptoms and give a sense of self-control. Interventions in this type of therapy include such things as breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, journal writing, and art.
30 minutes of aerobic, weight-bearing, 5 to 6 days per week has been proven to decrease the risk of such disease as heart disease, osteoporosis, and obesity. It also helps improve mood and can get the person more effective sleep. Research also how shown that exercise can decrease the occurrence of hot flashes. Beneficial exercises include running, biking, swimming, and dancing.
This is another therapy that engages both the mind and the body. Inhalation of peppermint or basil oil is a recommended treatment for hot flashes. Skin application of fennel, clary sage, and Cyprus in a lotion or body oil two to three times a day is recommended by aromotherapists. Make sure to consult with a professional in aromatherapy before considering the treatment. It should also be noted that only 3 percent of the aromatherapy oil should be used.
Ayurveda, loosely translates to “the science of life” and has a 4000 year following in India. Ayurvedia emphasizes striking a balance in a person’s health. An Ayurvedic practitioner takes a look at the person’s physical and psychological health. Based on the findings of these factors, the practitioner will then design an exercise and diet regimen. This form of therapy uses phytoprogesterones and phytoestrogens to alleviate symptoms.
Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring estrogen like compounds. It should be noted that Asian women have less symptoms when during menopause. This may be due to a diet heavy on phytoestrogens. These could be found in soybeans, flaxseed, whole grains, and some fruits and vegetables. Phytoestrogens have been shown to decrease hot flashes. In one study, taking between 30 and 60 grams of phytoestrogens a day decreased symptoms, while 90 gram affects bone loss.
It should be noted that excessive use of phytoestrogens may increase risk of breast and uterine cancer.
There are several herbal treatments that can ease symptoms of menopause. Vitex, an herb chaste berry, can alter the progesterone level in the body and decrease the menopausal symptoms such as: vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and mood swings. Chaste berry can be obtained in capsules, teas, and in dry or liquid extracts. The herb, which has affected on the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, may take a long time to have a noticeable effect. It may even take one or two complete cycles of treatment before anything becomes apparent, and then six months of treatments for sustained treatment.
Homeopathic remedies have been proven in treating a menopausal symptom known as flooding, a condition when menstrual bleeding stops for a brief period, and then recurs liberally. Sabina, a homeopathic treatment, can be used to treat painful, bloody discharge and can also be used to cut down the feelings of irritability. Secale helps reduce the persistent and heavy bleeding of almost black colored blood.
Homeopathic remedies have been also useful in decreasing vaginal dryness. Sepia is useful when the vagina is dry and itchy. Natmur is a remedy administered when vaginal dryness interferes with sexual intercourse. The herbal treatment known as bryonia is a good treatment for when headache and vaginal dryness occurs. Nitric acid is an effective treatment during severe cases of vaginal dryness.
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