In America today there are about 40 million women undergoing this powerful cyclic change, and the number is growing as the “baby boomers” enter this transition of life. Many woman fear this powerful cyclic change, for we have been conditioned to think and believe that this is the end of our womanhood, the beginning of a rapid decline into aging and the loss of our attractiveness, vitality and sexuality.
There are so many myths about menopause. First and foremost menopause is not a disease but simply the entrance into a wondrous new phase of life that carries its own special beauty. From a spiritual vantage point the metamorphosis energy of menopause prepares us women for a powerful inner journey of physical, emotional and spiritual change. Our nurturing and love may now be directed more inwardly, into a deeper self- expression of our own inner selves. While some woman may be grateful for the experience that has brought her wisdom, we may still find it difficult to adjust and to accept the physical changes in our bodies.
Unfortunately this cycle of life is rarely honored in the rational linear world of western society. Most of my women patients who come to the clinic are poorly informed. They experience confusion about what kind of hormones they should receive, and few understand menopause doesn’t have to be years of “volcanic hot flashes”, emotional outbursts, and memory lapses.
So what is Menopause?
Menopause indicates the cessation of menstruation. The actual age of menopause varies considerably from woman to woman; the norm is 45 to 55. Menopausal changes occur not only in the ovaries, but also in the adrenal, thyroid, pancreas, pineal, and pituitary glands and elevated insulin levels that can trigger hot flashes.
Menopausal symptoms vary from person to person from mild to severe. Some of the distressing symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, irregular menstrual bleeding, irritability, fatigue, poor concentration, mood swings, depression, memory loss, vaginal dryness, headaches, increased urination, back pain and weight gain, loss of libido, headache, heart palpitation, foggy thinking, and bloating.
The extent of symptoms has a lot to do with a woman’s basic health before menopause. Common triggers that increase hot flashes are spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol, fatty foods or sugar, diet pills, stress, anxiety, overwork, anger, and feeling out of control. In addition environmental toxins, endocrine disruptors, and unhealthy life style contribute to hormonal imbalances.
Dance of the hormones
While it seems that low estrogen levels play a role in causing hot flashes, estrogen may not be the only hormone to blame. Low levels of progesterone, testosterone, stress hormones and cortisol, as well as follicle stimulating hormones (FSH) and luteinizing hormones (LH) are thought to cause hot flashes.
Alternative Treatment Option to HRT (hormone replacement therapy)
While HRT can ease menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and fatigue. The benefits vs. potential risks of cancer and side effects need to be weighed carefully.There are numerous alternative options now available, including various forms of estrogen or progesterone alone or in combination, available as pills, creams, patches or gels.
– Bio-identical hormones. These hormones are extracted from soybeans or wild yam and then chemically altered in the laboratory to make an exact replica of your body’s own. They are available from formulary pharmacies.
– Oriental Medicine. From an Oriental Medicine viewpoint, menopausal symptoms are not caused by the onset of menopause but by the unbalanced state prior to this natural transition. Therefore we address the root and symptoms of the unbalance. Acupuncture and Herbal formulasare very powerful, safe and very effective in alleviating hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. They can reverse osteoporosis, keep estrogen- and progesterone-sensitive tissues in the vagina and bladder from weakening and drying out, and maintain a healthy, vigorous heart and circulatory system.
Management of Menopausal symptoms
A helpful way to deal with hot flashes is to learn what triggers them. You can try to minimize their occurrence by relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation or yoga. Since triggers can be physical or emotional, maintain a healthy lifestyle, eat a balanced diet, and nurture yourself any way you can.
- Reduce your stress factors. Stress promotes biochemical imbalance by overtaxing the adrenals, which then steal progesterone to make more adrenal hormones.
- Keep active daily; move, dance, walk, stretch, bounce, pump iron, inquire. The essence of vitality is change, keep on changing. Take up belly dancing. Break rules and taboos, my favorite saying is “what people think of me is not of my concern”.
- Find support in a circle of women who are walking a similar path.
Foods: Soy and flaxseed are particularly rich sources of phytohormones. Other sources include cashews, apples, almonds, turmeric, fennel, carrots, oats, plums, olives, potatoes, tea, sunflower seeds, alfalfa, clover and wild yam. Eat fresh organic vegetables, fruits, and whole grain products. Drink mineral rich herbal infusions (nettle, oat straw, red clover tea, or comfrey tea). Try yogurt instead of ice cream for stronger bones and fewer vaginal infections.
Vitamins: Boron 2-2mg daily, Calcium 1200-1500mg daily, Folic acid 800mcg daily, Magnesium 1500mg daily, Vitamin D 100IU daily, Vitamin K 100mcg daily.
Dear menopausal woman, as you delve within your own intuitive and mature wisdom you will find your natural place. Take care and nourish your body. Release and make peace with all past relationships and beliefs that no longer serve you. Be the love that you are, the wise one that recognizes the sacredness of life, and the interconnectedness among nature, people and all things.