Naturopathic Management for Menopause
Menopause is defined as the cessation of your periods, which is caused by the body’s decreased production of sex hormones; estrogen and progesterone. This event could happen naturally by age or could be a result of surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus.
Most women will experience the beginning of peri-menopause and menopause generally in their late 40’s. Typical estrogen production will start decreasing around age 50.
There are three phases of menopause: 1) the climacteric phase in which the periods become irregular; 2) actual menopause which is the last menstrual cycle, diagnosed only in retrospect; and 3) post-menopause which begins one year after the cessation of the menses. As estrogen decreases, symptoms associated with menopause may occur. Both the onset of menopause and side effects vary. For some, could be a gradual decline in the frequency and duration of menses, where others could be an abrupt cessation.
Women could experience one, some or none of the below symptoms as well as experiences that are not on this list.
- Changes in the menses: heavier or lighter, more or less frequent
- Emotional/mood changes: more or less labile, mood may be unpredictable, may be more or less optimistic
- Body changes: more or less vaginal discharge, vaginal lining may become drier, skin may become drier, “hot flashes”, headaches, fatigue, weight changes, bone density changes
- Infections: may be more disposed to vaginal or urinary tract infections
- Bone mass: the decrease in circulating estrogen limits the body’s ability to remodel bones. This can result in a decrease of bone mass.
- Blood lipid levels: potential increase of both total cholesterol and LDL. These problems could be well managed with balanced nutrition and appropriate nutritional supplements.
- Low energy levels and hot flashes.
Factors such as prior health history and fitness levels may affect menopausal symptoms and changes. Naturopathic medicine can offer you different type of modalities to help you cope with your health and nutritional concerns.
Naturopathic Medicine Therapies
Nutrition: Managing menopause using dietary means points to emphasis on plant-based food for potential benefits of phytoestrogens, soluble fiber, and other components, which may help to add to the regulation of blood cholesterol. A special diet to prevent osteoporosis is probably the single most important factor in the management of menopause. A diet that is high in complex carbohydrates and low in fat, protein, and sugar is generally recommended. In addition, a naturopathic doctor can make specific diet recommendations tailored to a woman’s health issues and personal needs.
Nutritional Supplements: The need for certain minerals, vitamins, or glandular supplementation may be indicated for some menopausal women. Use of these supplements will be determined from the overall evaluation of physical, emotional, and mental health. Your doctor should take a close look at mineral supplementation such as calcium, magnesium, manganese, and other trace minerals.
Botanicals: There are very specific plant extracts that have the ability to restore normal hormonal balance. Women who have hot flashes or mood changes find that they feel dramatic improvements within 1-2 weeks with the use of plant extracts. A comprehensive plan using other naturopathic approaches is usually incorporated with the use of the herbal medicines.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a gentle, natural, non-evasive and effective way to deal with the symptoms of menopause. It balances hormones, reducing hot flushes, insomnia and irritability and improves a better sleep.
Homeopathy: Homeopathic medicine is one of the most successful drugless therapies in the treatment of menopausal symptoms. If one has mental/emotional problems including depression, irritability, mood swings, anxiety, or anger, homeopathy can offer dramatic relief and stability with no side effects. Homeopathic medicines are made from plant, animal, and mineral substances and are completely drug free.
Hydrotherapy: Being one of the oldest traditions in Naturopathic Medicine, hydrotherapy treatments improve circulation, reduce blood pressure, and improve sleep and digestion. Naturopathic doctors may also use hydrotherapy treatments to treat women with any chronic disease that becomes worse during the menopausal years.
Physical Medicine and Exercise: In joint and muscle problems in particular, the use of naturopathic manipulation and physical therapy may be important. Weight-bearing exercise is one of the most important components in the prevention of osteoporosis. These recommendations are made on an individual basis. In addition, an exercise program may be part of the treatment program. Naturopathic Doctors also offer support for how to carry this out within a busy lifestyle.
Counseling: The menopausal period can often be filled with many changes and self-discovery in one’s life. Naturopathic physicians can provide referrals to counseling services to assist in this process.
Naturopathic Medicine as a Complement to Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): There are medical situations where a naturopathic doctor recommends a complementary approach to menopause management. In cases where a woman’s ovaries have been removed or damaged surgically, a naturopathic physician would not hesitate to recommend HRT. In these cases, naturopathic therapies are aimed at reducing the risks of hormone therapy while enhancing overall health and reducing the risks of osteoporosis and heart disease. Naturopathic Doctors can also advise women about safer forms of estrogen and overall hormonal balance of estrogen and progesterone.
It is important to know your options. Consult with a Licensed Naturopathic Doctor regarding your questions and concerns about menopause. Take control of your health, embrace it positively and support your body with a good, unique and successful health plan.
Dr. Carolina Padilla has a family practice in Manchester CT at Collaborative Natural Health Partners. She is an in-network provider for most insurance companies and is accepting new patients. For more information visit: CTNaturalHealth.com or call 860-533-0179.