Menopause and peri-menopause are natural occurring processes which take place when the secretion of estrogen and progesterone in our body diminishes. As a result, menstrual cycles become irregular and eventually stop. Menopause becomes “official” when a woman has not had a cycle for one year. Symptoms of menopause can vary from woman to woman. However, typical symptoms include: hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, changes to skin and hair, sleep and mood. Symptoms vary from woman to woman as does the length and severity of symptoms. There are many women who are looking for an integrative approach to managing peri-menopause and menopause and there are a number of options available.
A study conducted at Henry Ford Hospital and published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (volume 28, number 4) compared the use of acupuncture vs. Effexor for the management of hot flashes for patients undergoing treatment of breast cancer. In this study, 50 patients were assigned either to receive acupuncture 2 times a week for 2 weeks followed up by once a week for 4 weeks or take Effexor. Both groups experienced significant decreases in hot flashes, depressive symptoms and other menopausal quality of life symptoms indicating that acupuncture is at least as effective as Effexor; with none of the side effects commonly associated with this medication.
Most remarkably, the duration of reduced symptoms lasted much longer with acupuncture (2 months) vs. Effexor in which most symptoms returned within 2 weeks after the medication was discontinued.
Black Cohosh (Remifemin), a perennial plant, is often used very successfully in the management of menopause symptoms. There have been a number of clinical studies that indicate that Black Cohosh, may be as effective as HRT in reducing hot flashes, night sweats, related occasional sleeplessness, irritability, and mood swings associated with menopause. This includes a study by R. Osmers in 2005 (published in . Obstet Gynecol. 1074–83.) Which followed 304 women over a 12 week period who experienced statistically significant improvement in menopausal symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, “The British Herbal Compendium recommends 40-200 milligrams of dried Black Cohosh root daily in divided doses, although traditional doses have been as high as one gram three times daily.”
Pycnogenol , the active ingredient of the bark from a pine bark tree, has been used with great success in the treatment of symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine (2013, volume 58 pp 39-46) using 60 mg of Pycnogenol for 12 weeks significantly reduced menopausal symptoms for peri-menopausal women. Pycnogenol is often administered as an individual supplement or part of a larger group of supplements called OPC’s.
Flaxseed contains many healthy components and is found in everything from crackers, breads and cereals as well as shampoos and bath products. Of the healthy components, flax seed is best known for containing essential fatty acids, lingans and fiber. lignans are plant compounds that are similar in structure to estrogen and may help manage menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. Recommended dose: 2 tablespoons of ground flax daily – can be mixed in yogurt, cereal or smoothie.
One common symptom of menopause is vaginal dryness and dry skin. Vaginal dryness can result from a thinning of the vaginal wall due to a lack of estrogen. Coconut oil, when inserted vaginally, can provide relief and management of symptoms as a result of vaginal dryness.
Incorporating meditation into a daily practice can be very effective in reducing menopausal symptoms. Meditation is good for the mind and body. Calming the mind can help manage symptoms of stress and anxiety. Studies have shown that as little as 10 minutes a day of meditation has widespread benefit in health and wellness.
In summary, it is never any one thing that promises us a cure – it is a combination of support – supplements, diet, exercise, meditation and well being that is sure to help support us during the magic of midlife!