What is menopause?
Menopause means "cessation of menstruation" or when a woman has no menstrual periods for more than a year, indicating that she is no longer fertile. It occurs in most women around the age of 50, unless loss of the ovaries due to illness or injury causes it to occur earlier.
In some women it occurs as early as age 40. Menopause before age 40 is considered premature menopause and occurs in about 1% of all women. The term "menopause" is commonly used to describe the period of time leading up to "actual" menopause.
The symptoms associated with menopause are caused by decreased levels of estrogen and other hormones. Each woman is born with a limited number of egg cells in the ovaries. As the number of egg cells nears depletion, the amount of estrogen and other hormones produced by the ovaries diminishes.
There are many natural methods available today and we will take a look at some of them. But first, what is menopause and what are the symptoms?
What are the symptoms of menopause?
Some women experience no symptoms, other than irregular periods for several months preceding actual menopause.
Most women experience hot flashes and/or night sweats.
Many women have bladder control problems.
Other symptoms may include fatigue, headache, depression, irritability, heart palpitations, joint and muscle pain.
Some women have decreased sex drive, are less easily aroused or less sensitive.
Some experience discomfort during sex, sometimes due to vaginal dryness or to a thinning of vaginal tissue.
Others enjoy sex more, once pregnancy concerns have passed.
One of the most commonly known are the hot flashes.
These are nothing but regular rise in the body temperature. It starts during the perimenopausal years and sometimes last for two years or more. Its intensity can vary from one woman to the other. During a hot flash a woman may go through increased palpitations. This in turn causes her to sweat. At night she literally wakes up "breaking into sweat". Night sweats can even cause a woman to change her nightclothes or even bed sheets.
The other very common menopausal symptoms are dryness of the vagina, and thinning of the skin around vagina and urethra. This symptom is particularly distressing as it leads to painful intercourse, vaginal and urinary tract infections. A reduction in sexual urge and desire is also not uncommon.
Menopause means a change in the hormone levels in your body. This can have an impact on hair too. Hair loss on the scalp, growth of small stubs of hair on the chin or cheeks are common symptoms which many women go through.
With the loosening of the pelvic muscles, women run a risk of the uterus, bladder, urethra or even rectum descending into the vaginal area.
Menopause has an effect on the heart too. Many cardiac problems, including dizziness, palpitations, irregularity of heart beat are common symptoms.
It is also presumed that menopausal women are at risk of some psychological problems too. But researchers have found that these women do not suffer any more than non-menopausal women when it comes to depression, stress, anxiety or anger. In fact, psychologists are of the opinion that change in estrogen levels, aging process, change in life's roles, etc contribute to an increased level of mental problems for the menopausal woman.
Women are unique, thus menopause and its symptoms are unique among women.
What is perimenopause?
Before "the change" occurs, you will go through a phase called "Peri-Menopause." During this time it is normal to have very heavy menstrual cycles, mood swings and depression. The herb, "Liferoot," is a good treatment that helps eliminate hot flashes and alleviates those heavy periods. If you are experiencing depression, try taking Gingko or St. John's Wort to help improve your mood, stress and anxiety.
While menopause can happen to women anytime after 40 years of age, it usually occurs in healthy women when she is around 51 years of age. Women who smoke and are underweight experience menopause earlier than women who are overweight. Usually women follow the same age as their mother, when it comes to menopause.
Premature menopause can occur to women before they reach 40, which could be due to smoking, exposure to radiation, consumption of chemotherapeutic drugs which reduces blood supply to ovaries. Surgical menopause happens when one or both ovaries are removed or the pelvic region has undergone some radiation. Also see PMS symptoms
Hot Flashes or Flushes
One of the wisest things to do to cope with hot flashes is wear clothes in layers - so that you can take them off one by one, as soon as they start. Some foods are conducive to trigger hot flashes like, spicy foods, alcohol, hot beverages like tea, coffee and cocoa. As soon as you experience hot flashes coming in, drink a glass of cold water or fruit juice. A reduction of stress levels can help reduce the onset of hot flashes too. Try and use cotton wherever possible, like lingerie, clothing and bed sheets. Cotton lets your skin breathe. Keep an ice pack or a thermos of chilled water within easy reach, when you go to bed, in case you need it to manage night sweats.
If possible keep a record of the hot flashes episodes so that your doctor can find out a pattern in its occurrences, if any and locate the reasons which trigger it.
Relief for Hot Flashes
Almost eighty percent of menopausal women experience hot flashes (referred to in the United Kingdom as hot flushes) due to hormonal changes. Hot flashes are one of the most common menopausal symptoms.
Hot flashes can be relatively mild a sudden flush of heat usually around your face and neck. Or, they can be extreme with heavy sweating, heart palpitations and with your face turning bright red. They can wake you up throughout the night causing you to be fatigued during the day. Some women wake up at night so soaked in sweat that they must change their sleeping attire. Hot flashes also put a strain on the body as the body first heats up and then must cool down.
Many doctors believe that once your body adapts to the lack of estrogen and the hormonal changes the hot flashes will disappear. This is true but it may take five to ten years for your body to adapt. If you are not willing to wait that long, try some of the following natural remedies.
Vitamin E helps to regulate our bodys temperature. It also has a stabilizing effect on estrogen levels. Try 400 IU (mg.) of vitamin E twice a day. If that doesn't work you may have to increase your dosage to 400 IU three times a day. Vitamin E works very well in reducing hot flashes. It might not get rid of them entirely but it will significantly reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes.
Exercise will help hot flashes.
A study showed that sedentary women were twice as likely to have hot flashes as women who exercised. Stress has been known to contribute to hot flashes. Exercise improves your sleep and helps you to cope with stress. Best of all exercise helps to regulate your hormones.
Evening primrose oil will also help to reduce your hot flashes. Many herbs are effective in minimizing hot flashes. Black cohosh, dong quai, chasteberry, and red clover can be found in various combinations at health food stores. These herbs will help you with many menopausal symptoms.
Topical progesterone cream made from wild yam and rubbed onto the skin has been shown to give relief from hot flashes.
About 1 to 3 grams of Vitamin C and bioflavonoids per day have proven helpful.
For many years, hormone replacement therapy was the treatment of choice for menopause and its symptoms. Concerns over long term health risks have many doctors and their patients considering alternatives, particularly when decreasing levels of estrogen are bothersome at an early age.
The herb black cohosh is one of the most commonly suggested remedies for hot flashes and night sweats, but a number of other herbs, vitamins and plant components may be helpful as well.
Lifestyle and dietary changes have helped many women deal with menopause and its symptoms. Proper nutrition is a must in eliminating hot flashes. Studies have shown that hypoglycemia is prevalent in women who experience hot flashes. Eliminate all sugar, alcohol and refined carbohydrates from your diet. Start a healtlhy diet plan.
Most bothersome symptoms can be minimized and reduced with some natural products and healthy diet changes. Try them before resorting to drugs.
Menopause and Weight Gain
Talking to most women over 50 you will quickly find that menopause and weight gain are linked in their experience.
It is very common to put on weight at this time and while some of this may be due to lifestyle changes, that does not explain why suddenly we develop a tendency to put on weight at different parts of the body, especially the abdomen, while any weight gained when we were younger tended to be centered on the hips.
The truth is that hormonal changes do have a part to play in this, although the process is not completely understood.
At menopause a woman stops ovulating, her monthly menstruation periods end, and her body produces much lower levels of the female hormone estrogen which is responsible for the ovulation process. Low estrogen has been shown to cause weight gain in animals and it almost certainly is the reason why our bodies change shape. While women of childbearing age store fat in the lower body, after the menopause they store it on the abdomen instead, like men. This leads to a greater risk of heart disease.
At the same time, both men and women tend to find muscle turning to fat as they grow older, and the metabolism slows down. This means that if you do not adjust your eating habits you will probably find that your weight increases. A person of 60 just does not need as many calories as a person of 40.
Hormone therapy with estrogen is sometimes prescribed to control menopausal symptoms. Many women will be surprised to hear that studies have shown that hormone therapy does not cause weight gain. Some women experience bloating and water retention in the early stages of hormone therapy but this is usually temporary and they have not gained any fat. Hormone therapy can reduce the risk of heart disease by preventing the changes in storage of body fat around the abdomen and lowering cholesterol. However, hormone therapy has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer in some studies.
If you find that you are gaining weight around the menopause, there are several things you can do.
Maintain your muscle strength and mass. Use weights for arm muscles and walking or cycling for legs.
Accept the changes to the shape of your body. If you are not overweight, but simply have a thicker waist and slimmer legs, that is fine.
Eat a healthy, low fat diet with plenty of fiber, avoiding sugar.
Take regular exercise. As people get older their physical activity levels naturally drop. Work often becomes less physically demanding, there are no kids to run around after, we take less active holidays and do things more slowly. 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day will help to balance out the effect of this.
When you have not had your menstrual periods for more than a year, you are considered to be post-menopausal.
To be able to cope better with menopause, try and find a support group to discuss and share your problems with other women. The problems will not disappear, but you will find someone to share your problems with. Depression is another possible outcome of menopause. Old memories, the empty-nest syndrome, death of a spouse - are all trigger points of mental ill health. If you suffer from depression over a long period of time, consulting a doctor helps. The doctor can then put you on to a therapist or medication to help you tide over the crises.
What is Andropause?
Oftentimes referred to as male menopause, the term Andropause can be extremely misleading. It is most often used to describe a decrease in the production of the hormones dehydroepiandrosterone and testosterone, as well as the consequences of that decrease, namely the decrease of Leydig cells (cells that secrete testosterone and are closely related to nerves).
The term is also misleading in that it is used to depict the equivalent of menopause in males. The complete shutting down of the reproductive system only occurs in females. There is also an ongoing controversy as to whether Andropause should be considered a normal state of transition like menopause or a disorder.
Andropause as a state typically entails the following physiological aspects:
depression, fatigue, hot flushes, impaired memory, inability to concentrate, loss of libido and potency, nervousness, and sweating.