There is a natural reduction in the production of hormones as women get older such as progesterone and in particular oestrogen. It is thought that the reduction of oestrogen causes the physical and psychological symptoms of menopause that many women experience. Menopause is defined as the absence of menstrual periods for 12 months. It is the permanent end of menstruation and fertility, therefore, marking the time in a woman’s life when the function of the ovaries change and they no longer produce eggs.
For many women, it becomes a time of changing identity. Some find it a difficult time but there are those who find it an opportunity for new-found creativity and new beginnings. While other women find it a time when they find a new and often, a more confident voice.
Menopause does not happen overnight, rather it’s a gradual process. This transitional process is called peri-menopausal. Generally, there are common experiences that every woman has but it can be experienced differently. Most symptoms take place in a 4-8 year time frame during perimenopause. This is the stage that women are really talking about, when talking about going through the menopause or ‘the change’.
Once post-menopausal, hormone fluctuations stabilise and for most women, they have very few or no symptoms of menopause. In very rare cases, some women experience occasional symptoms such as hot flushes into their 60s, even into their 70s.
The average age of menopause is between 50 and 52 years old, but for most it happens between the ages of 48 and 55 years. Remember, we are all different!
However, menopause may occur as early as the 30s or as late as the 60s. Early menopause, for example women who are in their 30’s or less, is often caused by premature ovarian failure, hereditary or because of medical treatment such as surgery such as a hysterectomy or chemotherapy.
Signs and Symptoms
There are many signs and symptoms. Here are a few of them:
- Most Common – Hot Flushes, Night Sweats, Mood Swings, Vagina Dryness, loss of Libido, Irregular Periods
- Pains – Breast Pain, Joint Pain, Headaches, Itchy Skin, Muscle Tension, Gum Problem, Tingling Extremities, Digestive Problems, Electric Shocks, Burning Tongue
- Changes – Hair loss, Sleep disorders, fatigues, Depression, Anxiety, Bloating, Incontinence, Weight Gain, Difficult Concentrating, Changes in Odor, Irritability, Irregular Heartbeat, Brittle Nails, Memory Lapses, Difficulty concentrating
- Others – Osteoporosis
Many women are caught off-guard by the first signs of menopause due to still having periods. Some women (very fortunately!) sail through menopause with either no to very few symptoms. Yet, for the majority of women this is not true. In fact, most women experience a wide variety of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe. Some symptoms are scarcely noticeable while others are intense. Some of the symptoms can sometimes be overlooked as direct association with the menopause.
Treatment and Management
1. Preparation for the Menopause
During the menopausal years, the body goes under pressure as it works hard to rebalance itself. While the body is technically designed to undergo the process, we all have extra pressure from modern living, hence the importance of regular exercise and good nutrition from a balanced diet (supplements if required).
Life continues on regardless of our physical stance. There is a lot going on psychologically already, that’s life after all! From busy careers, financial struggles, generally business, taking care of others, unresolved emotional issues, relationship issues, family and friends, or all of the above and something else in between! So it can be hard, maybe even a shock to notice and/ or acknowledge the visible signs of change. Mental attitude towards this time of life and the physical changes experienced, has a huge impact on how we experience as well as cope with this stage in life. Often, it is a time when a woman confronts the fact that she is indeed getting older. It can bring up emotional issues, sometimes regrets, unresolved life issues, even things haven’t been thought of before as issues. The menopause frequently brings these things into sharp focus and for some it is in the form of uncontrollable emotions, forcing the person to deal with them, but that is a choice we all have at any time in life.
2. Nutrients and Supplements
A good healthy diet is vital to help support women through this process. The symptoms often inform what is required, for example Vitamin D and Calcium, Proteins, Iron, Vitamin B12, Vitamin A, Zinc and Vitamin C are all important.
3. HRT Awareness
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) may be something that you have thought about or even have started taking. Firstly, before taking any such medication it’s important to speak with your doctor and/or your local pharmacist. Their advice and information is vital in relation to the pros and cons of it for you. Please be aware, that even if you are on HRT you may still experience symptoms but not necessarily the intensity. Also you can still go down the herbal medicine route to help you even if you are on HRT.
4. Herbal Medicines
There are many herbs that can help you through the menopause. The prescription you receive is totally tailored to you and the experiences you have. Also practical advice and emotional support is given.
The management plans vary greatly from person to person but here are a few examples:
Hot Flushes – Herbs given: Sage as well as removing triggers such as stress – which herbs like Withania and Skull cap, would be prescribed. Removing external heat sources like hot baths and overheated rooms (when possible) really help as well as removing internal heat sources from diets such as spicy foods, caffeine or alcohol.
Night Sweats – Herbs given: Again Sage and even Passion flower which helps with insomnia as anyone who has experienced this can testify that it disrupts sleep and possibly can add to depression, memory lapses and anxiety. Ensuring that a good bedtime routine is in place is really important, as well as having proper ventilation and covers that are not too heavy. It’s always important to find the best way to go forward without upsetting your partner!
Dryness, in particular vaginal – Herbs given: Black cohosh, Wild yam, flaxseed supplement. This is uncomfortable and can cause a lot of stress. Herbs are given for internal use as well as creams and ointments for external use. Rebalancing is very important in these cases so a lot of the management aims towards this.
How long is the Average Treatment?
It is difficult to determine how long it will take any individual to start seeing results, it usually depends on the following:
- How you react to herbs
- Your compliance to taking the herbs and making the recommended changes
- How long you have had the condition
- The severity of the condition
What you need to do?
Please be prepared that it takes time for the herbs to work. Herbal medicine does not work like pharmaceutical drugs. They often require some time, especially as they tend to work gently and subtly. This is not a quick fix.
Please be willing to work with me, take the medication as prescribed and make the changes which are attainable as well as practical.
How I will help you
Make a treatment plan by creating short term and long terms goals
Identify areas in your life that may be negatively impacting your health.
Give you practical and attainable changes, with lots of support along the way.
Emotional Support along this journey, helping you to help keep on track.