As an anti-aging medical doctor, among the biggest issues related to women’s health is menopause. If asked to provide a simple definition with this medical condition I’d readily say: it means moving at least one year without a menstrual period. But menopause may also refer to the changes a woman experiences as she reaches the end of her reproductive years.
This time and the period leading up to menopause may also bring symptoms that could be unpredictable and difficult to take care of. Over 75% of women report some symptoms due to menopause, and 20 to 25% of these girls ultimately seek medical therapy to help them cope. Often the first question a lady asks her physician is all about hormone replacement therapy, or HRT.
This standard treatment has seen its own share of controversy recently. I will discuss a few of the problems surrounding HRT and other solutions in order that you, with your physician, can decide what treatments are right for you. During menopause and in the years leading up to it, a woman’s body stops producing certain hormones in precisely the exact same way it once did.
Hormone replacement therapy is used to counteract the consequences of this shift in estrogen and testosterone levels. Replenishing these hormones often relieves symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia and vaginal dryness which make menopause so tumultuous for many women.
When findings from the Women’s Health Initiative, a large scale study covering menopause, were published in 2002, the thinking on HRT changed radically. The highly reputable study found that long-term use of HRT raises risk of breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke and blood clots.
Follow-up studies, however, have suggested that HRT may be suitable for short-term usage for certain women. One such study published in the Journal of Women’s Health (January/February 2006) found that the risk of heart disease might not be as acute as the Women’s Health Initiative suggested. Today, the decision to use hormones in some form (a low-dose or estrogen-only edition, by way of instance ) is made on an individual basis by a woman and her doctor.
There are alternatives to HRT, and more natural remedies are being researched everyday. Black cohosh, by way of instance, may decrease sweating and hot flashes. Other herbs being used include red clover, dong quai, kava, and evening primrose. There are numerous remedies for vaginal dryness besides hormone treatment. Lubricants can help the problem when increasing sensation.
Vaginal creams containing estrogen may not take the same dangers as HRT since they’re applied only to the particular place. Alternatives include an estrogen ring that’s inserted into the vagina. Researchers are working hard on creating alternatives to hormone treatment.
Another field of research revolves around bioidenticals, or hormones manufactured by scientists from organic compounds. The appropriate doses of bioidenticals have never been well-established, however, and lots of these products haven’t yet been FDA-approved. To explore this option, make certain to find a highly qualified doctor with extensive experience in treating patients with bioidenticals. You know that the food you eat can make a big difference in your health and how you feel on a daily basis.
Good to know
Before and during menopause, this is particularly correct. Eat whole foods instead of processed snacks. You will lower your sodium intake, which leads to belly bloat; raise minerals and vitamins, which combat disease; and enhance your energy level because of fiber, protein and healthy fats.
Some foods may make symptoms worse. Spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol are all known to lead to hot flashes. Soy foods are often discussed in connection with menopause. Some studies suggest that soy protein from tofu, soybeans, soy milk or tempeh, can reduce hot flashes. Other studies contradict these findings, and a few even suggest that soy might be harmful for women with a high risk of estrogen-related breast, ovarian or uterine cancer. Your doctor can help you weigh the pros and cons of the alternatives and assess your risk.
If you’re experiencing menopause, I hope that this information has provided some new options to think about with your doctor. If you haven’t yet started this shift, try to approach menopause with a healthy perspective. Behaviors in place today, like regular exercise, stress reduction and maintaining a healthy weight can allow you to cope when menopause begins.