Did you know that hormone replacement is not the only way to treat menopause symptoms?
Menopause, a condition that affects all women in our society, is the end of menstruation, and the changes that occur in a woman's life as a result of reduced production of the hormone estrogen.
Women usually go through menopause between the ages of 45 and 55. At that time a reduction in estrogen levels causes many of the symptoms associated with menopause. In addition there is an increase in male hormones present in the blood.
At menopause 70% of women experience hot flashes and night sweats, which vary in frequency. The flashes usually last between two and five years. Other physical symptoms such as vaginal dryness, skin dryness, joint pain, backache, digestive disturbances and increased blood pressure can occur.
At this time woman may also feel mental and emotional imbalances resulting in sleep disturbances, poor memory and concentration, tearfulness, anxiety, depression, and loss of sexual interest. Osteoporosis, or brittle bones, is another major concern for women at that age. This comes from hormonal and metabolic changes which cause the body to lose calcium.
Hormone replacement therapy is the standard treatment for severe cases of menopause. Beta-blocker drugs are also given if hormone replacement therapy is unsuitable.
There is a risk, however, in this kind of therapy. Although no increased risk of breast cancer has been found, estrogen can stimulate tumor growth in some patients. Other adverse side effects of estrogen include: fluid retention, increase in blood pressure, gall stones, glucose intolerance, and headaches.
Some women report feeling better emotionally on estrogen therapy, but according to research this probably is a placebo effect. Headaches, nervousness and depression are more a reflection of the emotional stress occurring during this difficult stage of life than a change in hormonal levels.
It is wise to try natural therapies before taking estrogen therapy, as the condition is not life-threatening. Studies suggest vitamin E supplements can be helpful in reducing symptoms such as hot flashes and backache. Emotional symptoms can often be quieted with vitamin B complex (plus brewer's yeast, wheat germ and whole grains), bioflavonoids, lecithin, calcium and vitamin E.
Acupuncture can also be beneficial, as are many different Chinese herb formulas containing herbs such as ginseng root and root of beech silver top. Certain homeopathic remedies are also used to treat menopause such as graphites, sepia and sulphur, among others. If estrogen therapy is being considered, the patient must share in the decision with full awareness of potential risks and benefits.
One reason natural therapies can be very helpful in treating menopausal symptoms is because treatments are unique for each woman. A skilled provider can help you navigate care options that would best suit your individual and unique needs.
Joseph is a licensed acupuncturist, classic homeopath, and registered massage therapist. He practices at Healing Horizons Integrated Health Solutions located at 2139 N. 12th St. #7. For more information, call 970-256-8449.