Menopause marks the beginning of the end of the monthly menstrual cycle, and is defined as a stage in a women’s life where her ovaries stop producing hormones and she doesn’t have a period for 12 months. The stage before menopause is called peri-menopause, and this is a period when the hormones fluctuate and decline naturally. Peri-menopausal changes occurs between the ages of 40-51. What happens during this period is that the ovaries start to shrink, and the levels of estrogen and progesterone fluctuate and decrease. These changes contribute significantly to a sense of physical, mental, and emotional imbalance that may characterize a woman’s experience of peri-menopause and menopause.
Symptoms of peri-menopause and menopause may vary greatly from one woman to another and symptoms may last for several months or years, or persist. The most common symptoms are hot flashes, night sweats, and sleep disturbances. The decrease in estrogen can also cause urinary and vaginal symptoms with vaginal dryness and thinning, painful intercourse, and urinary tract infections. Other signs and symptoms include menstrual irregularities, weight gain, skin changes, fatigue, decreased libido, decrease in arousal and orgasmic response, mood swings, joint pains, depression, anxiety, changes in memory and cognition, hair loss, heart palpitations, nausea, headaches, and the beginning stages of osteoporosis and heart disease.
There is much that can be done to help women address and adjust to the changes in her body. Naturopathic medicine and Chinese medicine have much to offer to help not only provide relief of symptoms associated with menopause but enhance well-being and quality of life. Herbal medicine and acupuncture can effectively address the symptoms associated with menopause by balancing the body’s hormones naturally. Often times, women who have symptoms of hot flashes and night sweats have a kidney yin deficiency. Some may have more severe symptoms because there body’s are burned out from chronic stress. Diagnosing what imbalances are present with Chinese medicine and supporting that imbalance through herbs, acupuncture, and diet can help a women adjust to the hormonal changes in her body.
We begin by finding out what the underlying hormone imbalance is. We review your symptoms, medical history, make a Chinese medical diagnosis as well as determine the energetic imbalance, and do a laboratory exam. A review of your personal risk profile for heart disease, stroke, breast cancer, osteoporosis, colorectal cancer, and other conditions. All of this will help provide us information to give an individualized treatment plan. Treatment includes recommendations on how diet and lifestyle, vitamins, herbal medicine, acupuncture, stress management, exercise and hormone replacement therapy can address the changes that occur as a result of menopause as well as focus on prevention and enhancing quality of life. Each plan is individualized based on each woman’s risk factors, needs, and preferences for treatment.
Does every woman need hormone replacement therapy?
Every woman’s experience of menopause is different. For some, simple changes in the diet or the use of herbal medicine is adequate to provide relief of symptoms. A series of acupuncture treatments is recommended to help address the symptoms and underlying imbalance. However, some may want and need hormone replacement therapy or a combination of the above treatments.
Hormone therapy can help reduce symptoms of menopause. However, there are side effects, and the side effects are really dependent on the form of hormone taken and the route it is taken. What the Women’s Health initiative study, one of the largest studies done in 1991 involving 16608 healthy postmenopausal women showed us is that hormones can decrease menopause symptoms, however, synthetic hormones like premarin and medroxy progesterone increase the risk of breast cancer, stroke, heart attack and blood clots. Bioidentical hormones are hormones that have the same structure as our own hormones and derived from plants. They tend to be better tolerated than synthetic hormones. Care is taken to weigh the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy.
Which therapy is best for each women will depend on each women’s needs, risk factors, and response to treatment. A woman does not need to suffer from hormonal changes. Not only can relief from menopausal symptoms be achieved, she can feel vital, age gracefully, and improve her quality of life.
Schedule an appointment today and get a comprehensive medical review and learn about the treatments that can help you feel better! Get relief for menopausal symptoms. Learn what you can do to strengthen your bones and prevent osteoporosis. Decrease your risk for heart disease.