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21
It has been estimated that
by the year 2015 nearly 50%
of women in the U.S. will be
menopausal. While this may
seem surprising, it shows the
need for more awareness and
honor for women entering
menopause. Cultural expecta-
tions and personal discomfort
can create negative feelings and
associations.
Although menopause is often
treated as a disease, it is a natu-
ral and necessary change in ev-
ery woman's life. The transition
of menopause is the beginning
of a new phase of life with fewer
family obligations, greater free-
dom and new opportunities.
AbOUT MENOPAUSE
The term menopause specifi-
cally refers to one year since a
woman's last menstrual period,
with or without symptoms. The
average age is 51 years old, but
changes can begin to occur as
early as 40 years old. During
perimenopause, the time leading
up to menopause, erratic hor-
mone levels may cause irregular
cycles and hot flashes. The pat-
tern and intensity of symptoms
can vary greatly.
Other symptoms women may
experience during menopause
include: skin changes, vaginal
dryness, fatigue, decreased li-
bido, mood swings, and sleep
disturbance. Most menopausal
symptoms occur within the first
4 years and improve over time.
Bone is sensitive to estrogen,
and the changes during meno-
pause lead to a decline in min-
eral density and an increased
risk of fracture. Other osteopo-
rosis risk factors include: short
and slender stature, fair-skinned,
blonde, blue-eyed, family his-
tory of osteoporosis, history of
amenorrhea (lack of menstrual
period), inadequate calcium and
vitamin D intake or poor diet,
sedentary lifestyle, and smok-
ing. In addition to looking at
a woman's history, there are
certain lab tests which can help
reveal an increased risk or a cur-
rent problem.
Though the concerns of car-
diovascular disease are often
focused on men, it is the leading
cause of death in women. High
blood pressure, high cholesterol,
family history of heart disease,
smoking, obesity, and sedentary
lifestyle are associated with an
increased risk of cardiovascular
disease. There are many options
for women to help support opti-
mal cardiovascular functioning
and lower their risk for develop-
ing heart disease.
There are some things that
women can do naturally which
can help manage symptoms and
prevent conditions associated
with menopause. Homeopathy,
nutritional support, exercise,
acupuncture, meditation prac-
tices, herbal medicine, natural
hormones and other therapies
can help stabilize, support and
nourish the body during a time
of change.
The goal in a naturopathic
treatment approach is to man-
age symptoms and prevent dis-
eases such as heart disease and
osteoporosis. An individualized
approach works best to deter-
mine each woman's symptoms
and predisposition to diseases.
This kind of approach requires
a more comprehensive health
history, laboratory analysis, and
physical exam. A healthcare pro-
vider who understands the full
spectrum of options from the
most natural to the most conven-
tional, is the ideal person to help
with a treatment plan.
With all of the books and
internet information on natural
therapies, some women choose
to self-prescribe supplements. A
woman who self-treats may be
managing symptoms such as
hot flashes and mood swings,
but may not address the long-
term health concerns and will
miss having her health moni-
tored over time. Additionally,
certain symptoms that are asso-
ciated with menopause may ac-
tually be signs of another illness
such as thyroid disease or clini-
cal depression.
NUTRITION
Eating a whole foods diet high
in fiber, antioxidants and essen-
tial fatty acids (EFA's) helps low-
er the risk of heart disease and
cancer. Flaxseeds (whole ground
uncooked) help reduce choles-
terol and can improve meno-
pause symptoms. EFA's found
in fish, nuts and seeds can help
lower the risk of cardiovascular
disease and increase calcium
absorption.
Mineral-rich foods that are
high in calcium and magnesium
support healthy bones: soy, dark
leafy greens, nuts and seeds,
fish, dairy, and calcium-fortified
foods. Limit or avoid caffeine
and alcohol since they can ex-
acerbate symptoms, lead to
nutritional deficiencies and in-
crease risk for heart and bone
disease. Excess animal protein,
carbonated beverages and sod-
ium in the diet can also put one
at risk for osteoporosis.
Soy may help reduce symp-
toms such as hot flashes and
vaginal dryness as well as re-
duce cholesterol and LDL. In
addition, a high-soy diet ap-
Menopause:
A Natural Approach for A Natural Transition
By Dr. Trevor Holly Cates
(Continued on page 22)