Menopause represents a major transition period in the lives of most women. That is why it is called the "change of life." Women experience a decreased production of sex hormones by the ovaries, and many times there are symptoms representative of estrogen deficiency and withdrawal. Men may also experience some "change of life," but usually this is fairly mild compared to what women experience.
Most women enter menopause between the ages of 45 and 50, but it may occur anywhere between 40 and 55. Those whose ovaries are surgically removed before they have entered menopause will almost immediately experience menopausal symptoms and often are placed on estrogen alone or hormone replacement therapy (HRT), using estrogen and progesterone to simulate their natural cycle. While estrogen therapy or HRT
is helpful to most women, there are potential risks and side effects, so many women eventually want to shift to a more natural program and go off synthetic hormones. The discussion here is therefore oriented toward a natural program of diet, nutritional supplements and herbs to minimize menopausal symptoms and enhance vitality.
The symptoms of menopause include a change in the frequency or volume of blood flow of the periods (or actual cessation of menstrual periods), irritability, hot flashes and night sweats, emotional swings, headaches, depression, insomnia, loss of sex drive, and weight changes. More internal metabolic shifts, such as the bone loss of calcium, may also occur.
There are many factors that influence the intensity of symptoms and probably even the time they appear. A poor diet, emotional stress, and lack of exercise may lead to an increase in symptoms, particularly when these lifestyle habits have been going on for years. Women who become aware of these relationships prior to menopause and change their habits to help build themselves up with diet and supplements, and deal with their stressful issues will most assuredly have an easier time. Not all women have a difficult menopause; some may not even experience symptoms at all.
A good diet along with supportive nutritional supplements and stress management may help to delay the onset of menopause and reduce symptoms when it does occur. Of other positive lifestyle habits, regular exercise is the most important. It strengthens the bones and improves calcium metabolism. It may also help mobilize some stored estrogen from the fatty tissues, which may make for an easier transition. Outdoor exercise, such as walking, bicycling, swimming, golf, or tennis, will add sunlight and thus aid the body's vitamin D production, and so improve calcium utilization.
During menopause, it is wise for women to get adequate sleep and even take naps
if they feel tired. Menopause can often be a time of lowered energy. Stress reduction
and dealing with the concerns and worries about aging are important. Embracing maturity and wisdom adds a positive attitude and supports this process. Drinking plenty of water helps keep the body vital and young, with the internal processes functioning best.
A diet that contains vital and wholesome foods will support a stronger life force and the ability to better handle changes. As I have emphasized throughout this book, a vital diet is one that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes; with fish, poultry, eggs, milk products, and cold-pressed oils used in moderation; and sugar, refined flour products, other refined processed foods, cured meats, fried foods, and chemicals avoided.
(Excerpted from Staying Healthy with Nutrition ISBN: 1587611791)
|Elson M. Haas, MD is founder & Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (since 1984), an Integrated Health Care Facility in San Rafael, CA and author of many books on Health and Nutrition, including ...more