Managing Peri/Menopause With Natural MedicineBY HELENA AMOS, M.AC. L.AC., EURO. PHYSICIAN

Managing Peri/Menopause With Natural Medicine

BY HELENA AMOS, M.AC. L.AC., EURO. PHYSICIAN

Every woman goes through “the change” — that inevitable phase of life known as menopause, and the time immediately prior, perimenopause. And for every woman, the experience of this biological rite of passage is as unique as the individual. This stage is characterized by wildly varying symptoms, so getting relief, or treatment for more serious concerns, can be frustrating, and also very personal to each woman. Turning to natural medicine is an attractive alternative for many.

Symptoms Profile for Menopause

The reproductive cycle of women is complex and evolves over most of their lives. However, typically at the age of 30, ovaries start to produce less estrogen and progesterone, the hormones that regulate menstruation, and a woman’s fertility declines. Lower sexual hormones cause dry skin, breast tenderness, brittle bones, irritability, vaginal dryness, and more. Estrogen/Progesterone decline also affects the hypothalamus, which regulates body temperature, thereby causing hot flashes and night sweats, two of the most common symptoms. It’s important to note that other factors can impact estrogen production, such as kidney disease, anorexia, ovarian failure, and pituitary gland dysfunction.

For the majority of women, natural menopause starts between the ages of 45 and 50 when your periods may start becoming irregular. Menopause also can start earlier, if a woman has undergone any type of ovarian or fibroids (abnormal growths in or on a uterus) removal surgeries. Perimenopause is a period of time before menopause occurs. It can last for several months to several years. It typically starts in a woman’s mid-forties, and that is when many menopausal symptoms start.

As mentioned, the symptoms associated with perimenopause and menopause are experienced differently by each woman, and they include a wide range of physical, cognitive and emotional characteristics. These include:

• Hot flashes and night sweats

• Sleeplessness/insomnia

• Vaginal dryness and painful sex

• Itchy skin

• Joint, muscle aches and pains

• Anxiety and depression

• Weight gain

• Headaches

• Bone density loss

• Loss of libido

• Frequent urinary infections

• Cognitive, memory decline and difficulty concentrating

Managing Estrogen Imbalance & Symptoms

When turning to a natural medicine approach for managing peri- and menopausal symptons, the solutions are rooted in addressing the estrogen imbalance — through diet, lifestyle changes, and nutritional/herbal supplements.

Balanced Diet

Eating a balanced diet can help regulate and improve estrogen, eliminating estrone, or “bad estrogen” — which can cause cysts, fibroids, breast tenderness, endometriosis, and PMS. A healthy diet is one that includes organic foods and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussel sprouts and cabbage. Avoid bad oils (canola, corn, soybean, vegetable, safflower, and  partially hydrogenated), processed foods, and hormonally-treated meats and dairy. Limit the consumption of alcohol and caffeinated drinks. And try to drink clean water, and filtered where possible. Be aware of estrogen-disrupting toxins found in agricultural chemicals and pesticides that can make their way into the water supply.

Eliminate sweets, substituting instead with limited quantities of low glycemic fruits like berries. By reducing the amount of visceral fat in the body by watching calorie-intake and eliminating high-glycemic foods, you avoid insulin spikes that force the body to store fat. Estrone, the “bad estrogen”, is stored in fat cells, and it’s been postulated as a source of cancer-causing properties. Do not eat sugar, including drinking alcohol, before bedtime to avoid triggering hot flashes.

Lifestyle Changes

Stress is another component of hormonal imbalance, high blood sugar, and insulin resistance, as well as the source of many other ills, so managing stress goes a long way to managing menopausal symptoms. On a day-to-day basis, regular moderate exercise is critical, and can be paired enjoyably with warm baths infused with frankincense and lavender. If symptoms are more chronic and pervasive, hypnotherapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, biofeedback, and other breath work can help to calm the intensity of hot flashes, reduce depression and anxiety, address cognitive and concentration issues, and improve overall quality of life. In combination, healthy lifestyle habits also contribute to better quality sleep, which is commonly disrupted by menopausal symptoms.

Nutritional/Herbal Supplements

Health food stores and herbalists sell a large number of products to help with hot flashes and other peri/menopausal symptoms. The assortment can be overwhelming to navigate, so here are some preliminary recommendations:

• DIM (diindolylmethane) supplements: DIM compound, which occurs naturally in the cruciferous vegetables mentioned earlier, but can be supplemented for its estrogen-adjusting, anti-inflammatory, and cancer-fighting properties. DIM plus a comprehensive liver detox helps to reduce the risk of breast cancer, fibroids, ovarian cysts, excessive weight, breast tenderness, and temple headaches.

• Black cohosh: Generally, this herb has been used for centuries to reduce menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes.

• Dong Quai: A traditional Chinese herb that is used together with black cohosh to reduce menopausal symptoms. It is also good for clearing endometriosis and building up vaginal cells.

• Wild yam: A good source of natural DHEA, which is an energy source for the adrenals, and also for improving levels of “good estrogen”, progesterone, and testosterone.

• Maca: Also known as Peruvian ginseng, this root is another source for hormonal imbalances infertility treatment, and to treat fatigue and anemia.

• Evening primrose oil, essential Omega-6: Both are excellent anti-inflammatories, and effective supplements to reduce hot flashes..

• Red clover, flaxseed and hops: This trio is able to slow down and ease up the menopausal process.

• Vitamin E: This nutritional supplement acts as an antioxidant in the body, but at 800-1200 units a day, it is also extremely potent for fertility, as well as for relieving PMS, cramps and menopausal symptoms.

Because every woman’s experience with peri-/menopausal symptoms is unique, and there may be other health factors and conditions at play, such as GI tract issues, toxicity, allergies, etc., there is no one-size-fits all approach to the use of herbs, nutritional and homeopathic supplements. It is important to work with a knowledgeable holistic practitioner and/or herbalist to create your own personal treatment protocol.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

TCM should be a not-so-secret weapon for managing peri-/menopause naturally. This approach includes herbal formulas, diet, meditative exercise (Tai Chi), and acupressure and acupuncture — an ancient technique to balance yin and yang, opposing forces in the body, and to open the rivers of energy through 12 major bio meridians connected to various organs and systems. There are certain acupuncture descriptions of formulas designed specifically to dissolve almost any menopausal symptoms. It is a very elegant and powerful science that modern research has supported concerning the positive health benefits it can provide.

Furthermore, by taking the pulses or checking meridians on an EAV machine — an electrodermal screening device —  I can see all the blockages of energy flow in the body, almost like repairing short circuits of electricity in a house. The goal is to restore energy flow throughout the upper, middle and lower parts of the body, which allows all organs to receive more blood and innervation. For example:

  • By restoring flow of energy in the pelvic area using conceptional vessel points, I help the ovaries and uterus.
  • By restoring energy flow through the Liver Meridian, I help to detox bad estrogen, and minimize insulin resistance, fatty liver, cholesterol and temple headaches.
  • By restoring the Kidney Meridian, the adrenal gland is supported, and sensations of anxiety, apprehension, and hot flashes are reduced.
  • By restoring the function of the Spleen Meridian, I help with water retention, PMS,  foggy heavy head, indigestion (for which I would also add the Stomach Meridian), and rumination and worries.

As an acupuncturist and natural medicine practitioner, I encourage women to use the gifts of nature and natural holistic modalities as much as possible. They are associated with a high rate of success. About 85-90% of women get relief from hormone related symptoms and can actually enjoy this stage of their life!

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If you’re interested in exploring acupuncture & TCM and other natural approaches for your issues related to perimenopause, menopause, or other women’s reproductive health concerns, schedule a consultation with us to develop a treatment plan. Contact our office: 301-881-2898 or email doctorhelena@gmail.com.

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