Menopause isn’t a disease. It’s a normal part of the human female life cycle. Menopause marks the formal end of a woman’s ability to bear a child. The menstrual cycle ceases. This is because of a sharp decline in the production of the primary female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone. While these two hormones are still present even long after menopause, blood levels are far lower. This sharp drop in hormones can cause troubling and uncomfortable symptoms for many women:
- Dry skin and hair
- Hot flashes
- Mood swings
The intensity of these symptoms can vary greatly from woman to woman. They can last only a matter of months or for many years. Some women hardly notice any difference and are happy that menstruation has stopped. Others experience very severe symptoms that affect their relationships and other aspects of their lives. Menopause can also be caused by certain diseases and surgery. Surgical removal of the ovaries will result in sudden menopausal symptoms that tend to be severe. Replacement of estrogen is usually necessary, at least until the time of normal menopause. However, that type of menopause is beyond the scope of this article, which will discuss only the type of menopause that occurs naturally.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Also called HRT, this involves using hormones to replace the ones no longer being produced in formerly higher amounts by the body. Again, this process is a very normal part of the female aging cycle. Men, too, can experience a drop in the primary male hormone, testosterone. It generally occurs around the age of 40 and is called andropause. You may have heard about Low T. That’s another popular term for the same thing. Andropause is a normal part of the male aging cycle, too. Men with Low T may experience:
- Muscle loss
- Hair loss
- Reduced sex drive
- Weaker bones
It may sound like a simple fix to just replace the missing hormones. However, these hormones have risks:
- Blood clots that may break away and travel to the lungs
- Increased risk of breast and uterine cancer
- Higher risk of diabetes and dementia
Smokers are generally at a much higher risk of blood clots than nonsmokers, but some degree of risk is present for everyone. It’s a matter of balancing the benefits against the risks. If symptoms are mild to moderate, it’s probably wiser to forego HRT, and take a look at some alternatives.
Alternatives to HRT
This refers to plant-derived substances intended to relieve menopausal symptoms. Soy products like tofu are very high in a substance known as phytoestrogen. This substance somewhat mimics the action of estrogen in the body. However, it uses a different cellular pathway and is far less powerful. Japanese women consume large amounts of soy, but breast cancer rates there are typically relatively low. Phytoestrogens are most effective at relieving hot flashes. Other herbs that may be beneficial include:
- St. John’s Wort
- Licorice root
These remedies have received mixed reviews. However, not every remedy will work the same for everyone. You will have to try them and see which works best for you.
Adequate intake of vitamins D, C and E, calcium, B vitamins and Omega 3 oils are crucial for overall support of the body’s systems. This helps reduce the stress your body is undergoing due to menopausal symptoms and may even directly work to partially relieve some of them. B vitamins are involved in cellular energy processes and the formation of new cells. Vitamin E is an antioxidant. It helps to protect cells from damage. Vitamin D and calcium work together to maintain stronger bones. Vitamin D may also have a protective effect against certain types of breast cancer. Omega 3 oils help to lubricate joints and also may relieve vaginal dryness.
Acupuncture and Chiropractic
TCM, or traditional Chinese medicine, employs herbs and acupuncture to treat various body symptoms. Acupuncture involves placing thin needles into certain points on the body. It may be effective for hot flashes and possibly other menopausal symptoms, too. The mode of action of acupuncture isn’t entirely understood by Western medicine standards. However, it’s thought to be involved in the brain’s release of endorphins, which are like natural opiates produced by the body.
Chiropractic is another way to possibly naturally relieve some menopausal symptoms. If you’re in the Birmingham area and would like to know more about alternatives to standard HRT treatment, our professional staff is here to assist you. Just call us at 205-352-9141. We look forward to speaking with you.