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Menopause Is A Natural Part Of A Woman's Lifecycle

By Carol Witham, CES

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At some point in time all women will go through peri-menopause and menopause and become post-menopausal. At this same time, many women will experience bone loss that will give them conditions known as osteopenia or osteoporosis. In part, genetics dictates how well our bodies manage these conditions or how severe they will become without some form of intervention. Family support and support of friends during this time can be important for emotional well-being.

As a background, during childbearing years our bodies produce the two major female sex hormones of estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen is the primary hormone involved in conception, ovulation and pregnancy. It also plays a role in raising high-density lipoproteins (HDL) in the blood, also known as the good cholesterol and lowering low-density lipoproteins (LDL), also known as the bad cholesterol. Progesterone helps to regulate your menstrual cycle and prepare your body for conception.

Drug companies and the medical field have, until recently, led you to believe that the only way to manage the symptoms of menopause and post-menopause is through consuming more estrogen or some combination of estrogen and small amounts of progesterone. There are conflicting reports concerning the value of taking Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Some studies suggest that HRT reduces the risk of heart attack, helps maintain bone mass, quell hot flashes, reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease, urinary incontinence, depression and mood swings and replenish thinning vaginal tissue. However, new studies have shown that taking HRT can increase chances for breast and ovarian cancer. The decline in hormones, particularly right after menopause, can increase your incidence of osteoporosis, a "Catch 22". So, what do you do?

What you do truly depends upon the severity of your symptoms. It is a good idea to speak with your physician and design a program that will work best for you. Hot flashes and night sweats can be a serious problem because they may not allow you to have proper rest. Changes in appearance can be troublesome to some women because fat will often settle just above your waist, on your hips, thighs and abdomen. Thinning hair, wrinkles and other changes in your skin and loss of fullness in your breasts can occur. Sexual desire is unchanged in some women while others suffer a loss of libido.

There are natural hormone supplements available over the counter that work for some women, others may have very severe symptoms and require some other form of HRT or ERT (estrogen replacement therapy). Hormones can be in the form of pills, skin patches, vaginal creams, tablets or rings.

There is another alternative. Regular (daily) exercise, strength training and aerobic exercise combined with a balanced diet and some supplementation (i.e. calcium and magnesium), relaxation techniques such as yoga or T'ai Chi can be quite effective in dealing with menopause/post-menopause and osteoporosis. Certainly, it is well worth trying to naturally regulate your body if possible before trying other types of therapy. If you already have bone loss, osteopenia or osteoporosis, you may need to take "Fosamax" in order to rebuild the bone and combine that therapy with supervised strength training exercise.

Other lifestyle changes are to quit smoking, reduce alcohol consumption, avoid caffeine, spicy foods, hot drinks and soups. Eat a nutritious low fat and high fiber diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Eat foods high in phytoestrogen such as chickpeas, lentils and other types of beans, and soy products.

There are some nonprescription herbs and supplements available that help some people against hot flashes like Black Cohosh, Chaste tree berry, Dong quai, and wild yam cream. The Food and Drug Administration do not guarantee these products for quality, purity or safety. If you have a reliable natural foods store near you, you can ask the owner their recommendations about high quality products.

Other non-hormonal prescription medicines that have been used for treatment are Venlafaxine (Effexor) and Gabapentin (Neurontin) two of the newer antidepressants.*

Most of my clientele is women. The women I work with understand the need to continue to exercise and remain strong and consequently independent. Presently, I have a number of clients dealing with post-menopausal osteoporosis issues. They tell me how much better they feel from the strength training. They are aware of how much straighter they stand and in general have much more body awareness.

Please remember, menopause is a normal stage of life. It is nothing to dread. It is simply another stage and in some ways provides us with a lot more freedom. Embrace each stage of your life and learn from the changes that are occurring.

*Mayo Clinic Women's Healthsource Special Report on Menopause and Hormone Therapy.

Sources for information: Harvard Medical Women's Health Letter Dr. Andrew Weil's Self Healing, Mayo Clinic Women's Healthsource Newsletter, Health Magazine, www.WebMD.com

Christine Northrup, Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom; The Wisdom of Menopause; Your Diet, Your Health

The Yale Guide to Women's Reproductive Health: from Menarch to Menopause

Hormones: The Women's Answer Book by Lois Jovanovic

Where's the Toast? Woman's Guide to Managing Menopause Naturally by Yvonne Lewis

Carol Witham: Advanced Health & Fitness Specialist. Carol is a personal trainer and a certified T'ai Chi instructor. She is also a Level III Essentrics Apprentice Instructor, as well as a Reiki Master with eight years of training experience and 16-years of T'ai Chi experience. She operates two personal training studios called Optimum Performance on the coast of Maine, where in addition to personal training, she offers group strength classes, classes for seniors, T'ai Chi & Chi Kung, and cycle classes.

 

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