Menopausal symptoms are related to a dramatic decline of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. These symptoms include:
- Hot flashes, usually worst during the first 1-2 years
- Night sweats
- Skin flushing
- Low libido
- Mood swings
- Urine leakage
- Vaginal dryness
- Joint aches and pains
- Palpitations (pounding/racing heart)
- Conjugated estrogen hormones such as Premarin are fraught with problems, including increased risk of breast cancer, heart attacks, stroke, and blood clots. Because these risks are so significant, doctors recommend treatment for no more than five years. (And by the way, risk of clot formation increases dramatically with cigarette smoke, which is true of women on estrogenic birth control pills as well.)
- Sometimes synthetic progesterone (progestin) may be prescribed along with synthetic estrogens in order to decrease the risk of endometrial cancer.
- Antidepressants may be used instead to control the effects of hormonal depletion.
There are a number of naturopathic tricks to decrease symptoms — but as usual, let’s start with the cause. And no, it’s not quite as simple as pure hormonal decline.
Cause of Menopausal Symptoms:
It might surprise you to learn that menopausal symptoms are largely a western phenomenon – they’re far less common in less industrialized parts of the world. There are several reasons for this.
First, our society is chronically stressed out, which often leads to adrenal fatigue (for more information about what this means physiologically, click here). Your adrenal glands produce several hormones. One of them is called DHEA, which is a precursor to other steroid hormones (such as estrogen and testosterone). Women whose adrenal glands are functioning normally can compensate better for the ovaries when they stop producing hormones. Those in adrenal fatigue, on the other hand, will have a rougher time of it.
Adrenal fatigue can also be exacerbated by poor dietary choices – there’s a clear connection between sugar cravings and low adrenal function, and menopausal symptoms worsen with high sugar diets.
Second, the industrialized world is full of chemicals. In order to explain why that matters in this case, let me digress for a second:
There are primary and secondary organs of waste elimination. If the primary organs of elimination, like the liver, get overwhelmed (by massive amounts of chemicals for instance), then the excess waste will try to escape via secondary routes – and this leads to symptoms. One of the secondary routes of elimination for a woman is her period, which (from a philosophical standpoint) has a lot to do with why so many women in the US experience PMS. Once you’re in menopause, those toxins can’t escape via that secondary route anymore – so the higher your toxin load is beforehand, the more symptoms you’ll experience in menopause.
So, what do we do?
- Clean up your diet. Specifically in this case, it’s important to avoid foods that overtax your adrenals, which include caffeine and sugar, and increase foods that encourage liver detoxification and waste elimination, including fiber, fruits and veggies.
- Exercise: sedentary women have significantly more hot flashes than those that are more active. From the perspective of naturopathic theory, this makes sense – exercise increases circulation, which increases the rate of detoxification.
- Support your adrenals: and while we’re at it, we’ll make sure your thyroid is functioning optimally, since these two are linked. If your adrenals are very low going into menopause, supporting them once you’re in “crisis mode” might not be enough, but we’ll support them anyway so they can compensate later on.
- Eliminate waste: we’ll want to make sure your organs of elimination are doing what they ought to – this includes your liver and bowels especially.
- Treat the symptoms: Once we’ve taken care of the cause, then we can pull out our naturopathic bag of tricks – including phytoestrogens, botanicals, hormone-balancing oils, supplements, natural sleep aids, wicking pajamas, moisture wicking sleepwear, cooling bedding like cooling mattress pads, cooling sheets, cooling pillows and homeopathy. From there we can graduate to bioidentical hormones if you’re really miserable – which, by the way, do not have anywhere close to the side effect and risk factor profiles of their synthetic counterparts. Read more.....