By naturopath Margaret Jasinska
Menopause symptoms can range from mild and slightly annoying to overwhelming and debilitating. A lot of women don’t want to take hormone replacement therapy, or they’re not able to due to past health history. Fortunately there are several safe and effective options for managing the most common symptoms.
Hot flushes and night sweats are usually the worst symptoms because they can significantly disrupt sleep. Long term sleep deprivation inevitably leads to exhaustion, with a significant increase in the risk of depression or anxiety. Vaginal dryness is another common menopause symptom that greatly reduces quality of life for some women.
There are a range of treatment options available to women for dealing with menopause symptoms, ranging from prescription hormones, natural bio-identical hormones (which require a doctor’s prescription), herbal remedies and lifestyle changes. Most women are able to find a treatment that works for them. Some women wish to avoid the use of hormones because of concerns about their safety, while other women are not able to use hormones because of previous illness, such as breast cancer.
The healthier you are throughout your life, the less likely you are to have problems with menopause. Women who are a healthy weight, eat well and exercise regularly usually experience fewer symptoms of menopause. While women menstruate, most of their hormones are produced in their ovaries, adrenal glands and body fat. After menopause it is the adrenal glands and body fat that produce sex hormones, albeit in much smaller quantities.
The healthier your adrenal glands are throughout your life, the easier your menopause will probably be. That is why women who have experienced intensely stressful situations or women who lived with chronic stress experience much worse menopause symptoms. Stress depletes your adrenal glands, but so do stimulants. Stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine and sugar overstimulate the adrenal glands and in time can lead to adrenal gland exhaustion. Therefore women who consume a lot of stimulants over their lifetime usually run out of hormones sooner and have a difficult menopause.
Hot flushes are not always due to oestrogen deficiency. There are a few other possible causes. Women who carry excess abdominal weight and women who have a fatty liver are much more likely to get hot flushes than slim women with a healthy liver. Women who regularly drink alcohol are also more prone to hot flushes and night sweats than women who don’t.
High blood pressure can cause or aggravate hot flushes. Bringing the blood pressure back down to normal can completely eliminate hot flushes for many women. If diet and lifestyle changes are not effective at lowering blood pressure, the prescription drug called clonidine (brand name Catapres) is usually very effective at eliminating or reducing hot flushes in women with high blood pressure.
Stress and anxiety can also generate hot flushes. Therefore nutritional support of the nervous system can address hot flushes in some women. Magnesium, meditation, deep breathing exercises and yoga can all help stress and anxiety. Regular exercise is a vital part of any healthy lifestyle and research has shown that regular aerobic exercise is one of the best remedies for hot flushes.