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Menopause - The Natural Approach
The menopause or the change of life is considered by some to be a disease. In reality, it is a phase of life that marks the end of a womans reproductive years. It usually occurs between the ages of forty-five and fifty-five years of age and is completed when the womans body has released all the eggs (ova) present in her ovaries resulting in the cessation of menstruation.
The time is characterised by menstrual irregularity, a variety of menopausal symptoms that may vary greatly from woman to woman, and the diminished secretion of oestrogen. Women who have not has a period for one year are considered to be post-menopausal.
As a result of decreased oestrogen levels, post menopausal women run a higher risk of osteoporosis and heart disease. Menopausal symptoms are more common in women living in the West than in other parts of the world. Mental attitude towards the menopause is very important and has been noted that in more traditional cultres where older women are more respected and values for their wisdom, the attitude to the menopause is more positive and far less symptoms are experienced.
A broad range of menopausal symptoms include;
Irregular menstruation, vaginal iching or dryness, hot flushes and night seats, palpitations, depression, headaches, irritability, sleepnessless, fatigue, weight gain, increased urination frequency,
Some of these symptoms can be attributed to declining production of oestrogen:
Irregular menstruation - there are different patterns of menstruation that may be experienced during the menopause. Some women find that periods become less frequent with progressively longer intervals until they finally cease. In the case where periods become irregular, sometimes very heavy or light with an unpredicable interval between them, women are advised to visit their doctor to make sure there are no abnormalities in the lining of the uterus.
Hot flushes/night sweats - as many as 75% of menopausal women experience hot flushes; they vary in intensity and frequency and may recur over months or even years. This refers to the dilation or relaxation of the tiny blood vessels near the skin, leading to a rise in skin temperature and flushing of the skin. Increased heart
Vaginal dryness or burning - noticed particularly during sexual
Normally, menopause occurs between the ages of 44-55. However,
This sudden change in state results in an early menopause, often with little suppport or understanding for the woman concerned. Body systems become erratic as hormone message are reduced. HRT may be recommended by a doctor to compensate for this.
Partial hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) is less likely to cause severe after-effects.
Supplement advice for a Healthy Menopause
Vitamin E (200-600iu per day) has long been established for helping many menopausal problems especially hot flushes, night
Many women find that taking extra evening primrose oil (1500-
Diet and Hormone Health
Many foods contain phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) and there is evidence that increasing these foods can be beneficial. Japanese women who consume substantial amounts of soya-based foods have a relatively low incidence of hot flushes and menopausal problems.
Examples of foods containing phytoestrogens include soya, linseed, fennel, celery, parsley, nuts and seeds.
Herbal advice for the Menopause
The hypothalamus and pituitary, which are both situated in the brain, gland produce hormones called follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). These stimulate the ovaries to produce hormones such as progesterone and oestrogen.
Agnus castus, vitex agnus castus is a herb traditionally taken during the menopause and its benefits are attributed to its action on the pituitary gland. Although agnus castus does not contain hormones, its action stimulates the production of hormones that regulate a womens cycle. Agnus castus has been used effectively
Dong quai, angelica sinensis, has traditionally been used
Sage, salvia officinalis, is a popular herb with phytoestrogenic and antihydrotic (antiperspiration) activites and is often taken by women who experience night sweats.
Black cohosh, Cimifuga racemosa has an oestrogen like effect on the body that may help women with hot flushes. Women taking oestrogen based medication should avoid black cohosh.
At the time of the menopause, many women become concerned about osteoporosis. The hormone oestrogen helps to prevent calcium loss from the bones and therefore keeps them strong. However, during the menopause , oestrogen levels fall resulting in the accelerated loss of minerals from the bone causing them to become brittle.
There are a number of supplements and lifestyle factors to consider, which may help to slow the onset of osteoporosis.
Firstly, it is important to ensure adequate intake of protein (through diet) together with the antioxidant nutrients (vitamins C, E, beta-carotene, selenium, zinc, manganese and copper
Secondly, the necessary nutrients for aiding the absorption of calcium along with calcium itself, need to be incorporated into the diet. Therefore intake of calcium would
Excessive amounts of animal protein, salt, smoking, caffeine and sugary soft drinks are likely to lead to increased calcium loss, which means that it may be beneficial for those at high-risk of osteoporosis such as menopausal women to avoid such dietary/lifestyle choices.
It is a good idea to take exercise on a regular basis, especially
The National Osteoporosis Society recommends daily calcium intakes of:
Teenagers - 1000mg
Calcium rich foods include dairy products, small fish including
In conclusion: the menopause is a time in a womans life which needs special dietary and supplemental attention in order to ensure the