Menopause is not a disease but rather a natural process, which is a normal part of a woman’s life. It develops and passes naturally. It usually doesn’t require medical attention or treatment and should progress – and go away! – without any significant trouble for most healthy women.
A woman becomes fertile in puberty, when the ovaries produce hormones, egg cells ripen and menstruation starts. The gradual decrease of these sex hormones determine that the fertile period is coming to an end and a new phase is starting, in which she can spend her time and efforts focusing on other things than reproduction.
This change in a woman’s hormonal balance can be considered part of a transformation, where the woman’s body and energy change. Trusting your body’s natural process is important to face the problems this process often entails.
In the Netherlands, an estimated 1,5 million women are menopausal and nine out of ten women suffer from a range of issues as a result. Hot flashes, dry mucous membranes, bladder problems, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, mood swings, memory loss, weight gain, migraine, joint pain, sleep deprivation, hair loss, painful or sensitive breasts and a lower libido can all make this stage in life particularly unpleasant.
If you are dealing with any of these issues and feel you cannot handle them, if you are experiencing depression and are contemplating medication, if your relationship suffers from your mood swings or low sex drive or if you are dealing with sleep deprivation and exhaustion, don’t worry- you are not alone! We are here to help and it is sensible to seek support throughout your transformation.
The three stages of menopause
- Perimenopause: the timespan between the few days before the last period until up to a year after
- Menopause: the actual moment of your last period
- Postmenopause: the timespan starting up to a year after your last menstruation.
Unnatural or early menopause
An unnatural menopause is the result of medical treatment causing the hormonal production of the ovaries to decrease or cease altogether. This might occur after a medical procedure involving removal of the ovaries or blood circulation is (unintentionally) obstructed. Chemotherapy or other radiation in the ovarian area can also cause unnatural menopause. Removal of the uterus stops menstruation but will not cause menopause as long as the ovaries are still functioning.
Hormone replacement therapy
To battle symptoms linked to a decreasing estrogen level, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been developed. This involves the administration of estrogens and/or progesterones.
Nowadays however there are several products available that also include androgens. These hormones can be administered in the form of pills, patches, injections, implants or gels. Some vaginal creams are available- those, however, only contain estrogens.
HRT as a method is not undisputed. The first ever estrogen to be mass-marketed in the US, Premarin (Pregnant Mares Urine) was a synthetic hormone consisting 1/3 of different types of human estrogens and 2/3 synthetically composed urine of pregnant mares. In other words: a synthetic product that wasn’t quite fit for the female metabolism. Whilst Premarin was marketed as the one hit wonder that would not only ease your menopausal issues but also protect you from Alzheimers, research also showed that it increased the chance of breast cancer, thrombosis and cholecystitis.
After a few years, Premarin was pulled from the market, while similar synthetically prepared products remain available to this day. The result? Millions of women feeling anxious about HRT.
Meanwhile, science has discovered natural hormones. The hormone currently being marketed for replacement therapy is a naturally bioidentical hormone, meaning it is biochemically identical to the estrogen the female human body produces. This hormone is extracted from plants (yes, really; some plants produce the same hormones as we do!). Your GP or hormone specialist (endocrinologist) can tell you more about this type of therapy and prescribe a treatment tailored to your needs. A blood test can help your doctor determine how much estriol, estradiol estrone, testosterone and progesterone you need.
Natural treatment during menopause
Let’s talk. An open conversation can help us determine whether there are any personal factors obstructing your menopausal transformation. Supplements can help guide you through this process, as they help the body and mind adjust to the changes your body is going through.
- 100mg of hops a day, for example. Hops contain hopeïne which mimics the effects of estrogen and works really well with your body’s cell receptors. Its effects are relaxing, fighting hot flashes and protecting against osteoporosis. Careful though: don’t use hops when suffering from depression.
- Other fyto-estrogens include isoflavones, ligans and coumestans. These substances are found in nearly all vegetables, fruits and grains.
- Wild yam, a plant often used in skin creams, can positively influence the natural process of menopause.
- Red clover and Roseroot are natural substances that help soothe your senses
- Monk’s pepper (Vitex Agnus Castus) affects the pituitary part of your brain and works best in the early stages of menopause and during ovulation. It also helps soothe PMS symptoms.
- Black bugbane (cimicifuga racemosa) decreases night sweats, hot flashes and mood swings.
- The importance of nutrition and physical activity cannot be stressed enough. Some women react heavily to the use of coffee, tea, spicy food, sugar, lactose, soda pop/fizzy drinks, alcohol and white flour. Onion and garlic do affect menopause positively.
- Physical activity keeps you young, fit and optimizes your (hormonal) metabolism.
Asian women suffer much less menopausal symptoms. Supposedly, a traditional Asian diet consisting of smaller portions with more fish and less sugar, red meat or diary helps decrease these issues. Soy products, such as tofu, tempeh and miso make up a large part of this diet, positively affecting the menopausal symptoms.
We can do more than you’d think when supporting you in your transition. If you have any questions to see what we can do to help you make this process as easy and natural as possible for you, please come see us!