Menopause

Menopause

Menopause is a period of biological transition which occurs in women between the ages of 45 and 55.

This transitional time encompasses the progressive loss of ovarian function and a variety of endocrine, somatic and psychological changes and marks the end of menstrual bleeding.

Preceding menopause, the pattern of menstrual cycles is variable, but the interval between menses usually becomes longer.

Hormonal changes

The ovaries which have been releasing oestrogen and progesterone slow down their production of these hormones and eventually stop releasing them. During this slow down, the periods may become irregular and when the hormones stop being released, the periods will also stop. On the other hand, bleeding may be heavy and prolonged due to the hormonal imbalance.

Once a woman reaches menopause the adrenal glands and fat cells become the primary sources for estrogen production. The adrenals produce an androgen which is converted to estrogen in peripheral tissues such as the skin, adipose and muscles. Because adipose (fat) tissues are a primary location for this conversion, relatively lean women tend to experience menopause earlier than heavier women.

Most of the difficulties women tend to encounter as they go through the menopause years appear to be because of the different amounts of hormones available in their bodies.

However, this is complicated by other aspects including emotional issues, a history of poor eating habits or lack of exercise.

Problems Experienced During Menopause

Women’s experiences during menopause vary greatly.

Some have no problems at all, while others will often experience quite uncomfortable symptoms and be severely troubled by them.

The most common symptoms are hot flushes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, vaginal dryness, poor bladder control and depression. Others are weight changes, headaches and lack of energy.

In the long term, the lack of oestrogen can cause two main problems:

  1. It reduces the body’s ability to absorb calcium from food and so may contribute to the development of osteoporosis.
  2. It can leave the woman open to heart disease as oestrogen is believed to have a protective effect against the disease.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

HRT is a treatment for menopausal symptoms and entails the introduction of synthetic hormones into the bloodstream to replace the oestrogen supplies that are waning naturally as part of the menopausal process.

HRT only postpones menopausal symptoms and they will reassert themselves whenever HRT is stopped. It can be argued that the adjustments that are occurring during the menopause are taking place at the natural time for the woman concerned and postponing them with HRT could upset the delicate hormonal balance and rhythm completely by overriding the body’s natural process.

Both Oestrogen and Progestogens used in HRT have huge side-effects including:

  • Increased risk of certain cancers
  • Abnormal or excessive uterine bleeding
  • Fluid retention
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Dizziness or depression
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Nervousness, insomnia, somnolence, fatigue and more.

HRT has an effect on the whole circulatory system – blood circulation, veins and arteries. It can therefore increase the risks of raised blood pressure, migraine, stroke and thrombosis. It also increases the levels of oestrogen, the building hormone and hence the risks of breast tissue changes, fibroids and endometriosis. Then there is the “domino” effect on other vital organs e.g. the liver which helps remove excess hormones added into the body from HRT. Its function can be affected increasing the possibility of liver damage.

The longer HRT is taken, the greater the side effects.

Natural Treatment for Menopause

Natural methods of treatment include remedies which may address one or more of the symptoms experienced during the menopause. Individuals therefore may find themselves taking more than one remedy in an effort to address the combination of symptoms. The choice of remedies will therefore depend on which symptoms are the most debilitating.

Today’s menopausal woman would more than likely have been exposed to the synthetic hormones of contraceptive pills. If she now chooses HRT as well, it means that she would have been introducing synthetic hormones into her body for more than two thirds of her life, risking long term side effects.

However, since todays’ woman is increasingly aware of what is available to her, she can choose the form of treatment to best suit her circumstances. She can use alternative natural methods of treating these symptoms with the knowledge that these natural products are relatively safe and free of disastrous side effects.

The choices are numerous and varied and it simply means that women only have to match the natural alternatives to suit their symptoms. They thus can choose a single treatment or a combination.

By doing this menopausal women can go forward confidently and really enjoy the next phase of their lives.

Nutrition for Menopause

A varied, unrefined whole-food diet based on grains, fresh fruit and vegetables may help ease the transition, and as such it is often worth looking paying more attention to eating habits.

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