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Menopause

 

Menopause usually occurs between the ages of 38 and 58 years, and for some women it is a difficult and emotional time. It is important to remember that menopause is a natural process - the body is merely entering a non-reproductive time of life.

 

Symptoms

In some women the onset of menopause is signalled by symptoms such as:

  • Hot flushes and fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Increased nervousness, anxiety, or irritability
  • Increased need to urinate
  • Nausea, constipation, diarrhea, cold hands and feet, weight gain
  • Palpitations
  • Swollen ankles
  • Headaches
  • Painful intercourse (due to changes to the vaginal wall)
  • Loss of sexual drive

The changes in biochemistry after menopause also lead to an increased risk of developing osteoporosis and heart disease.

 

Causes

At menopause, a woman stops ovulating, and her ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone.

In addition to its role in reproduction, estrogen is required to stimulate receptors in the vagina, bladder, breasts, skin, bones, arteries, heart, liver and brain, and to promote normal function of these organs.

For example, estrogen is required to keep the skin and vaginal tract moisturised and supple, to keep calcium in the bones, to maintain a balanced body temperature, and to keep the blood vessels unclogged. Cholesterol levels can increase after menopause. Menopause symptoms may also follow a hysterectomy, or be due to an underlying hormonal disorder.

 

Natural Therapies

  • Dong Quai and Black Cohosh help to relieve menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes
  • Phytoestrogens (plant hormones) found in soy products may help to reduce menopausal symptoms and protect the body from symptoms of estrogen deficiency
  • Calcium is essential to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis; make sure you choose a calcium supplement which also contains vitamin D, magnesium and manganese for maximum absorption

 

Lifestyle Factors

Ensure your diet contains enough calcium by including low-fat dairy products, broccoli, cauliflower, salmon, tofu, and leafy green vegetables. At the same time, avoid high protein foods such as red meats and most cereal grains which increase calcium excretion and bone loss. Excessive amounts of alcohol and caffeine should also be avoided for this reason.

Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that are similar in structure to human estrogens. Eating a diet rich in phytoestrogens can help to reduce menopausal symptoms. Soy and linseeds (also known as flax seeds) are probably the easiest food sources of phytoestrogens to incorporate into your diet.

Regular exercise is important to reduce the likelihood of developing osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercise is best, however if your bones and joints are weak, swimming may be more appropriate for you - ask your health care professional.

After menopause, the risk of developing heart disease is higher. Always maintain a well-balanced low-fat diet, with lots of nuts, seeds and fish. Regular check-ups with your health care professional will help you to keep an eye on your blood pressure and cholesterol.

 

Remedy

Take a phytoestrogen supplement made from soy to ease your transition through menopause.

Calcium storage in the bones takes place over the course of your whole life - its never too early to start regular weight bearing exercise and calcium supplementation.

 

Important Notes

If you are experiencing symptoms of menopause and you are under 40 years old, consult your health care professional.

If you experience vaginal bleeding after you have finished the menopause, seek medical advice.

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