Changes of the menstrual cycle may occur when nearing the perimenopausal phase, these changes for some women may include light bleeding. Perimenopause occurs around the menopause stage and many women will find that this is often the same time that their mother began (often around the age of 45 to 55) to experience changes in the menstrual cycle. Menopause is defined as 12 months of amenorrhea (absence of a period). Menopause is not a condition/ disease but rather a shift in hormonal status (change of life).
HORMONES IN MENOPAUSE
The symptoms of menopause are seen when there is a drop in estrogen production in the ovaries due to the reproductive system failing to produce an egg (oocyte). The adrenal glands will compensate for this drop in Oestrogen and produce small amounts to sustain the decline in this hormone. Oestrogen contributes to the female menstrual cycle by building endometrial tissue, sustaining bone density and the nervous system, maintaining the quality of the skin, sustaining libido and for the regulation of the female reproductive system. The levels of the female hormone progesterone also decrease.
In Chinese Medicine this drop in Oestrogen may cause a Kidney Yin deficiency and this accounts for many of the nervous system symptoms as well as low adrenal function and sexual desire changes. Low Kidney energy can also result in an increase in Liver fire (Yang) resulting in hot flushes, heat symptoms and irritability.
HORMONAL TESTING IN MENOPAUSE
Medical doctors often measure hormones (via a salivary test or blood levels to test for levels of FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone), oestrogen, progesterone and DHEA) as a diagnostic tool for female menopause. Elevated FSH levels generally reflect declining oestrogen levels, however please remember that these hormones can fluctuate throughout the month giving misleading results.
SYMPTOMS OF MENOPAUSE
The severity and length of symptoms in menopause vary greatly from person to person, however some common symptoms of menopause are:
- hot flushes and excessive perspiration
- changes in the menstrual cycle
- irritability, mood changes and nervousness
- headaches, muscle and joint pain
- sleep changes, insomnia and fatigue
- skin and vaginal dryness
- urinary frequency and sexual disinterest
- breast pain or tenderness
DIET TIPS FOR MENOPAUSE
- Ensure adequate hydration, especially if you are experiencing heat symptoms such as hot sweats
- Increase isoflavone foods in the diet such as soy foods, tofu, soy milk, red clover tea, tempeh, soy flour and Maca powder
NATURAL REMEDIES FOR MENOPAUSE
- Herbal medicine has become a popular alternative treatment for many women experiencing menopausal symptoms. Some herbs which may help to balance the hormones are Black Cohosh, Red Clover, Dong Quai, Kudzu, Withania, Anemarrhena, Asparagus, Horny Goat Weed, Vitex, Maca and Soya extracts are all herbs which provide kidney support and some are phytoestrogenic in effect which have the potential to mimic estrogen activity in the body, thereby reducing symptoms of menopause
- DHEA is a precursor to the manufacturing of sex hormones in females and also has a positive effect on the memory and promotes feelings of wellbeing
- Vitamin E may help to decrease the length and severity of hot flushes as well as reducing skin and vaginal dryness
- Improving liver function may help to reduce heat symptoms. Herbs such as Dandelion, St Marys Thistle, Bupleurum, Chicory and Burdock may assist in ensuring adequate liver function
- Nutritionally B Vitamins and Magnesium nourish the kidneys as well as addressing weak, exhausted adrenals and their role in producing small amounts of oestrogen to sustain the reproductive system
LIFESTYLE FACTORS FOR MENOPAUSE
- Exercise may help to improve general health, increase endorphins, promote liver function and burn off excess heat.
- Acupuncture to improve circulation and reduce energetic blockages of Qi which may affect reproductive health.
- Manage stress
- Address underlying Kidney insufficiencies, especially if there is a history of adrenal weakness, anxiety or stress
- Improve liver function to reduce heat symptoms, herbal supplementation may help to relieve excess liver burdening
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