What is menopause?

Here are two creative definitions I have heard:

Menopause is a pause while you reconsider men.

Menopause is just puberty’s evil older sister.

While both of these definitions may resonate with you (and are albeit funny), the term menopause is actually just one day in a women’s life. It is the exact day a women’s menstrual cycle has stopped for 12 consecutive months. The symptoms and cycle irregularities leading up to menopause is called perimenopause and everything after menopause is described as postmenopausal.

The average age a women goes through menopause in the United States is 51 years old. However, women typically experience the symptoms associated with menopause anywhere from 48-55 years old. Perimenopausal symptoms start when the ovaries begin to produce less hormones, primarily estrogen. It is important to note that this is a normal milestone in a women’s life, and it does not need to negatively impact your quality of life. On a positive note, once a woman reaches menopause there are no more monthly cycles and/or PMS symptoms. Hooray! And don’t worry, we will not let you suffer alone; there are several therapies you can start now to help manage the unwanted symptoms associated with perimenopause.

 What are the symptoms?

Progesterone and estrogen are two of the most commonly tested female hormones during menopause. In integrative or functional medicine, we often test hormones every 3-6 months. Hormones can be tested through blood work, saliva, or urine. As previously stated, the symptoms associated with menopause are related to the decrease production of female hormones including estrogen and progesterone. Symptoms are more pronounced the faster your hormones drop.

The symptoms associated with estrogen shifts include hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, pain with intercourse, more frequent urinary tract infections, and mood changes. The symptoms associated with progesterone shifts include interrupted sleep, bloating, irritability, anxiety, memory changes/forgetfulness, and low mood.

Why am I affected more than some of my friends?

The severity of symptoms varies from women to women depending on a number of variables including how drastic the hormones shift, genetics, diet, exercise regimen, and lifestyle. For example, women suffering from estrogen dominance prior to going through menopause may experience more intense symptoms because the estrogen drop is much more pronounced. Scientist and genetic specialist have linked roughly 14 genes to hot flashes. A diet rich in phytoestrogens (soy, flax) may alter menopausal symptoms. As a culture, there are several endocrine (hormone) disruptors in our daily routine including parabens, phalates, non-organic meats and dairy; all of which can affect menopausal symptoms.

How can I naturally combat these symptoms?

As a Functional Medicine practitioner, I am continuously helping manage the negative symptoms associated with menopause. Just because your body and hormones are changing does not mean your quality of life needs to suffer.

Here are a few integrative and holistic tips to combat these symptoms:

  1. Take a good active or methylated B-complex. B vitamins help with energy, balancing stress, and reducing symptoms associated with menopause. I love Dr. Taz’s Natural Boost vitamin! Find one you like and be consistent.
  2. Start evening primrose oil. This is a fatty acid rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) that has been shown to help with menopausal symptoms.
  3. Add organic ground flaxseed to your smoothies. This is a natural phytoestrogen that can help with the negative side effects of menopause (especially hot flashes and night sweats).
  4. Take magnesium glycinate at night to help improve sleep quality
  5. If you are still having hot flashes or sleep trouble, try adding in black cohosh
  6. And don’t forget to exercise regularly

Finally, if these tips do not help with your menopausal symptoms, there is a great team of Integrative Practitioners that would love to help you feel your best. Schedule an appointment with a physician or nurse practitioner to help determine if you are a good candidate for bioidentical (or plant-based) hormone replacement therapy. At CentreSpring MD, we also offer acupuncture and Ayurveda therapy, both of which can greatly improve your menopausal symptoms.

If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to reach out, Remember you do not need to suffer alone!

Kristin Corbin Oja, recently having completed her doctorate of nursing practice, is a board-certified family nurse practitioner, registered nurse, personal trainer, group fitness instructor and doctorate student.

Email appointments@centrespringmd.com to schedule a visit with Kristin Corbin Oja.

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Categories: Health Tips