The time before the total cessation of menses when periods are irregular is termed the "climacteric" or perimenopause
Menopause is the time in a women's life after her menstrual cycle has stopped. The time before the total cessation of menses when periods are irregular is termed the "climacteric" or perimenopause. Menopause is also termed "the Change of Life" or sometimes, by many in Ireland just referred to as “The Change”.
IntroMenopause may be natural (between 40 and 52 years old), premature (under 40) or induced (by surgical removal or irradiation of the ovaries; or radium implantation in the uterus). During the climacteric there is gradually decreasing ovarian function and often physical, hormonal, and mental/emotional imbalances arise at this time. The average age of menopause is 50-51 years old.
Symptoms and degrees of symptoms vary greatly. The woman may be asymptomatic (no symptoms) except for menses cessation or she may suffer severe symptoms for several years. Symptoms include: hot flushes with sweating, osteoporosis, high cholesterol/triglycerides, nervousness and irritability, depression and insomnia, urinary frequency and burning.
Basically what’s happening is that the ovaries largely reduce the amount of estrogen and progesterone that they normally produce. The sudden reduction of these powerful hormones causes the body to go into withdrawal creating all the above mentioned symptoms and a whole list of other symptoms that occur less commonly. The adrenal glands produce a small amount of estrogen which can pick up the shortfall. However if you’ve had a stressful life or are under a lot of stress at present this will affect the function of your adrenal glands and hence your overall situation. This can be one reason why some women pass through without any major change and others are considerably affected.
Menopause is not fatal or dangerous, although it can be extremely uncomfortable and socially embarrassing (hot flashes in particular). Conventional treatment is usually hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Unopposed estrogen therapy is now linked with cancer of the uterus, ovaries, and breasts, so most up-to-date physicians now give progesterone in opposition. This may cause a return of the woman's periods. The side effects of HRT can also include: osteoporosis, blood clots, high blood pressure, vaginal bleeding, rash, acne and weight gain.
It is important however that a woman be reassured that menopause is not a disease that needs to be treated, but a normal and healthy time of change in her body.
So what is the natural approach to reducing symptoms developed during the menopause?
Herbal medicinesHerbal medicines work great for treating all menopausal symptoms. Black cohosh is highly effective in relieving menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, profuse perspiration, depressive mood, prolapse, headaches and ringing of the ears; enduring effects noted by 6-8 weeks, but continued use without monitoring is not recommended longer than 6 months. Black cohosh can work great on its own or can be added to a formula with other beneficial herbs such as: Wild Yam which contains phytoprogesterones (progesterone-like natural plant chemicals) pregnenolone and diosgenin; can reduce nausea and abdominal pain. Glycyrrhiza which contains phytoestrogens (estrogen-like natural plant chemicals) and steroidal estrogenic saponins, is capable of balancing female hormones. This herb also has a nourishing effect on the adrenal glands.
Dong Qui is a hormonal tonic with analgesic(painkilling) and uterine-relaxing properties. Salvia is a herb that eliminates night sweats, cold sweats and hot flushes, regulates hormonal change, eases irritated nerves, reduces depression, relieves dizziness, trembling and emotional swings, eliminates headaches, strengthens the liver, aids digestion and decreases gas, relieves menstrual cramps and water retention. Another great herb to add to a menopausal formula is Chaste tree.
There are also effective herbs for the less common symptoms such as skin problems, vaginal dryness and loss of elasticity, osteoporosis and cardiovascular support.
DietIf one is experiencing hot flushes they should avoid hot sauces, spicy foods, hot drinks, especially coffee and reduce alcohol consumption. Reduce sugar intake.
Phytoestrogens from foods can help. All the fresh culinary herbs are best sources of these such as sage, coriander, basil, rosemary and parsley. Avoid soy products except tempeh, nato, miso and traditional soy sauce. A good quality cod liver oil supplement is beneficial for this stage in life.