Menopause means one year with no menstrual period. Perimenopause is the 10 to 15 years before menopause and everything after the periods have stopped for one year is post-menopause. The average age for menopause is 52 years. At menopause the ovaries have stopped producing eggs and there is no possibility of pregnancy. Smoking, medication, surgery (oophorectomy), radiation and autoimmune disease that affects the ovaries can trigger premature menopause. Menopause is not a disease but rather a natural milestone in every woman’s life.
On average, 70 to 80 percent of women will experience mild to moderate symptoms, while 10 to 15 percent will suffer with severe symptoms and may require hospitalization. The most obvious symptom is the cessation of menses. Other symptoms include anxiety, hot flashes and night sweats, problems with sleep, vaginal itching (with or without discharge), brain fog, memory problems, mood swings, irritability, depression, migraine headaches, new environmental allergies and food sensitivities, weight gain, urinary incontinence (aggravated by coughing, sneezing or laughing), and recurring urinary tract or vaginal infections. Increased risk of heart disease and bone loss are also associated with menopause in susceptible women (See Osteoporosis and Heart Disease for more information on how to prevent and treat these serious conditions).
Menopause is a natural phase in a woman’s life. When our ovaries stop producing estrogen, our adrenal glands are supposed to kick in and provide us with the estrogen we need. Our fat cells also produce estrogen and so does the uterus. Then our liver processes and packages those hormones, and the thyroid hormones play a role. What makes the difference between a woman who has no symptoms at menopause and a woman who suffers with a multitude of the symptoms mentioned above? Women with exhausted adrenals, low levels of thyroid hormones and a congested liver will have terrible menopause symptoms compared to women with a healthy liver, healthy adrenals, and adequate thyroid hormones (See Adrenal Exhaustion and Thyroid for more information). Low levels of thyroid hormones cause extreme hot flashes and night sweats, vaginal dryness and flooding, and irregular periods. Exhausted adrenals promote insomnia, whereby you go to bed and fall asleep just fine, but wake up three hours later and are unable to return to sleep.
Most women have been taught they are estrogen deficient, yet we are over loaded with toxic environmental estrogens that contribute to our hormonal problems and increase our risk of breast and ovarian cancer at menopause.
HRT Concerns: Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) would have hit its demographic sweet spot with the largest number of baby boomers turning 50 in 2009 and expected sales would have been in the billions. HRT was originally developed to halt the symptoms of menopause, but doctors also prescribed HRT to prevent cardiovascular disease and bone loss, keep teenage girls from growing too tall, relieve depression, reduce urinary incontinence, stop colon cancer and Alzheimer’s disease and to keep us young forever. It became the panacea for all sorts of women’s conditions and was touted as the “fountain of youth” even though the safety of HRT was still being heavily debated. No randomized, controlled clinical trials were ever conducted to verify that HRT should be used for all these conditions; and its safety in healthy women was never proven.
Then in July 2002, the Women’s Health Initiative study, a clinical trial designed to determine if HRT was beneficial to healthy women, was halted five years and two months into the study due to serious safety concerns. This study, which was supposed to last eight years, involved 16,608 healthy, post-menopausal women (meaning their periods had stopped for 12 months), who were at low risk for heart disease. The women received 0.625 mg of equine (horse) estrogen (Premarin) along with 2.5 mg of synthetic progestins. Premarin (made by Wyeth-Ayerst) contains estradiol plus at least two or more horse estrogens, such as equilin and equilenin.
The study concluded that the combination of estrogen and progestins posed a significant health risk to women and that any benefits from HRT were not worth the side effects. The study found a 41 percent increase in the risk of stroke, a 29 percent increase in the risk of heart attack, a doubled risk of blood clots, a 22 percent increase in cardiovascular disease and a 26 percent increase in the risk of invasive breast cancer.
Later in 2003, scientists reported that women who took the combination of estrogen and progestins also developed such dense breast tissue that it was extremely difficult to detect breast cancer on a mammogram. Those women also had higher rates of adult-onset asthma. Worse yet, women taking these hormones were found to have double the risk of developing dementia. But the estrogen-only arm of the WHI study was still allowed to continue until 2004, when they halted it due to increased risk of stroke, dementia and mild brain damage. Hopefully, women will pay attention to these results and avoid HRT.
Less than 10 percent of all menopausal women will need some type of hormones for extreme, uncontrollable hot flashes and night sweats; the rest can use natural herbs, vitamins, minerals and lifestyle changes.
Include MULTIsmart to support optimal nutritional status
Eat a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage and kale). You should have at least two half-cup servings per day. Cruciferous vegetables contain indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane, important nutrients for maintaining balanced hormones in our liver while reducing our risk of breast cancer. Add flax seeds, fennel, chickpeas, and lentils to your diet for their hormone-balancing action.
Walk briskly and swing your arms. Walking briskly every day for 30 minutes cuts hot flashes by 50 percent while improving your heart and bone health at the same time. If you are having trouble sleeping, take 100 mg of SMILE 5-HTP three times a day (breakfast, dinner and before bed) to improve your mood and aid restful sleep.
For urinary incontinence, do Kegel exercises daily to strengthen your pelvic floor (urination) muscles. Also ask your doctor for a prescription for vaginal estriol 0.1 mg per day for three to six months. Research has shown this simple prescription can eliminate urinary incontinence in most women. Do not use estradiol. Estriol is much safer because it does not thicken the uterine lining nor does it affect breast tissue negatively.
If experiencing anxiety, muscle pain, or mood swings, SMILE 5-HTP can be included
Reduce the stress in your life. Have a massage at least once a month. Start looking after yourself. Do one thing you love to do at least once a day. Tell your loved ones you “need” extra love, attention and help. It is OK to ask.
Address any underlying thyroid and adrenal imbalance or gut dysbiosis like Candida albicans and be sure to cleanse and support the function of the liver and colon.
Ask your doctor for a dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) scan to check your bone density. DEXA is the gold standard for determining osteoporosis.
Enjoy sexual intercourse twice a week to prevent vaginal atrophy and to maintain high levels of immune function. To enhance libido, include SEXsmart
Look at menopause as a beginning rather than an end. Try things that you have always wanted to do but had no time for when you were raising young children and building your career.
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