The Natural Approach To Balancing Your Hormones Begins With Phytotherapy
The most effective relief for perimenopause and menopause symptoms is to ensure your body has the raw materials it needs to make, regulate and use all three hormones, not just estrogen, which has often been the focus of the conventional approach.
Not only do we know that progesterone and testosterone also play critical roles in hormonal imbalance, but we also understand that balance is more than having enough of a certain hormone. True hormonal balance creates optimal levels of all sex hormones, with clear pathways for their use throughout the body, and the ability to manage hormone fluctuations to eliminate symptoms.
Weve learned the use of phytotherapy for menopause or herbal solutions can resolve even severe symptoms for most women. Certain herbs known as phytocrines share important features with our own hormones which allow them to provide symptom relief, as well as to bolster your bodys own ability to make and use hormones:
- Phytocrines can act like the bodys own hormones. By binding to our hormone receptors, they allow cells to get the information they need to function.
- Phytocrines can imitate hormone functions. One example is the phytoestrogens found in red clover which closely resemble human estrogen and can help normalize estrogen activity in our bodies.
- Phytocrines encourage hormone production. Plants can gently stimulate the bodys tissues to make more natural hormones.
How Will Menopause Affect Me
Menopause affects every woman differently. Most women get some hot flushes and/or night sweats but are able to manage these without treatment. Around 20 per cent of women have symptoms which are troublesome and/or prolonged and these women may consider treatment. The experience of menopause and symptoms differ in women from different ethnic groups, for example, for some Asian women, body and joint aches and pains are the most troublesome symptom.
Factors that may affect your experience of menopause
- Your age at menopause. Younger women who were not expecting to go through menopause may have more difficulty than women at the average age.
- What you are expecting of menopause. Women who expect to have troublesome menopausal symptoms are more likely to experience troublesome symptoms when they go through menopause. So, a positive and informed approach to menopause may help.
- Many women are relieved that they no longer have menstrual periods and are no longer fertile.
Hormone Levels Fluctuate Leading To Menopause
As you approach menopause, the production of female hormones by the ovaries starts to slow down. Hormone levels tend to fluctuate, and you may notice changes in your menstrual cycle such as:
- period cycles may become longer, shorter or totally irregular
- bleeding may become lighter
- bleeding may become unpredictable and heavy .
Eventually, your hormone levels will fall to a point where your ovaries stop releasing eggs, your periods stop and menopause is reached.Although fertility after the age of 45 is low, you still need to use contraception to prevent pregnancy. Its recommended to continue contraception until you have had one year without a natural period if youre over 50 years old, or two years without a natural period if youre under 50.
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When To Seek Help
Its common and normal to experience irregular periods when youre perimenopausal.
- suddenly experience very heavy periods or periods with blood clots
- have periods lasting longer than usual
- spot or bleed after sex
- spot or bleed after your period
- have periods close together
Osteoporosis and heart disease are long-term health risks associated with menopause. Thats because estrogen plays a significant role in protecting your bones and your heart. Without estrogen, youre at an increased risk for both diseases.
Youre also at an increased risk of urinary tract infections because menopause can cause your urethra to become dry, irritated, or inflamed. Vaginal infections can also occur more frequently because your vagina has become dryer and thinner.
Report menopausal symptoms when visiting the doctor. Get assessed by your physician if you continue to have menopausal symptoms that are unbearable or last more than five years after your last menstrual period.
Although menopause can cause uncomfortable symptoms for some women, this natural process has possible upsides, too. There are several potential benefits of menopause to consider:
You will still need to protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases.
Are You Headed For Menopause
You won’t know exactly when your menopause will hit. All you can do is pay attention to how you’re feeling and notice changes. Keep in mind that symptoms vary greatly from woman to woman. Some women have no symptoms at all.
The Search For Reliable Information
The problem for me was that I couldnt find anything that helped me to decide on what might help. I thought HRT wasnt an option for me because of the migraines and looking for alternatives was fraught with marketing claim and counter claim, hearsay and opinion.
I scoured bookshop shelves for information that was sensible, informed and accessible. There were books on womens health that included it as a section usually a short and not very detailed section. One had a bibliography, there were rarely any references. In magazines and on web forums there were people enthusing about wild yams, black cohosh and red clover. In health food shops I felt like I was a marketing persons dream slightly desperate, willing to try anything and unable to discriminate.
Cochrane is a source of reliable, evidence-based information
Menopause Symptoms: Sex Problems
Menopause symptoms can affect sexuality. Along with menopause, women experience lower levels of the hormone estrogen. One of the effects of lowered estrogen levels is a decrease in blood supply to the vagina, which causes vaginal dryness. This can result in painful or uncomfortable intercourse. Water-soluble lubricants can help overcome this problem. If lubricants are not effective, contact your doctor. Vaginal creams and suppositories can be prescribed to ease vaginal dryness.
Another effect of hormonal changes is a change in libido, or sex drive. This may improve or worsen, but it is important to remember that other factors besides menopause can affect libido. Stress, sleep disturbances, medications, and anxiety can all affect sex drive. Your doctor can help you find ways to manage the changes in your sex drive if they occur.
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Or You Might Find That Youre Not As Interested In Sex And Be Totally Fine With That
A lot of my patients who are many years past menopause report that their lives have changed in that way: The emphasis on and impact of sexual intercourse arent what they were before, says Pizarro. When talking through potential treatment options, many of his patients decide its not a big enough deal for them to pursue a medical solution to lowered libido. Its just not something that concerns them. Their life has transitioned to a point where theyre more focused on spending time with their partner or traveling, he explains.
Whats The Difference Between Perimenopause And Menopause
Perimenopause refers to the period of time right before menopause begins.
During perimenopause, your body is beginning the transition into menopause. That means that hormone production from your ovaries is beginning to decline. You may begin to experience some symptoms commonly associated with menopause, like hot flashes. Your menstrual cycle may become irregular, but it wont cease during the perimenopause stage.
Once you completely stop having a menstrual cycle for 12 consecutive months, youve entered menopause.
Can Menopause Affect My Sex Drive
Yes, menopause can affect your sex drive but it doesnt mean your sex life is over.
Dealing with the physical and emotional symptoms of menopause can make you feel less sexual desire. The symptoms can also affect your sleep and lower your energy which might make you not so into sex. Vaginal dryness and decreased sensation can also feel like a turn-off. Its also normal to feel a range of emotions, including anxiety, sadness, or loss while going through menopause.
If you lose interest in sex during this time, itll probably come back when your symptoms stop.
A pretty common symptom that can affect your sexual desire is vaginal dryness, which can make sex uncomfortable or even painful.
For symptoms that affect your sex life, trying one or more of these things can help:
Use water- or silicone-based lube when you have sex. You can buy lube at most drugstores or online.
Give your yourself more time to feel aroused. Moisture from being aroused protects sensitive tissues.
Have sex and/or masturbate more often. This increases blood flow to your vagina, which helps keep your vaginal tissue healthy.
Some people may actually find that they want to have sex MORE after menopause, because they dont have to worry about getting pregnant. This may give you a sense of freedom to enjoy a renewed and exciting sex life.
Menopause is a natural biological process. And while it marks the end of your ability to get pregnant, it definitely doesnt have to be the end of your sexuality.
How To Manage Surgical Menopause
If appropriate, your doctor will prescribe HRT to not only control surgical menopause symptoms, but to replenish the hormones your body is now lacking. The following lifestyle changes should further ease the effects of surgical menopause:
- Drop any bad habits which might trigger hot flashes. Avoid consuming spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol. Limit your exposure to very high temperatures and reduce stress as much as possible.
- Keep cooling items close at hand. Carry a bottle of ice cold water or a portable fan to provide instant relief. Stay hydrated at all times. Dress in layers so its easy to remove clothing whenever needed.
- Maintain a cool, comfortable, and quiet sleeping area in order to get a good nights rest every night.
- Start exercising regularly, practicing meditation or yoga, and writing in a journal. Consider joining a local support group for women who have undergone surgical menopause or natural menopause. Reach out to family, friends, and colleagues or see a counselor to share experiences and relieve stress.
- Begin using a water-based lubricant before sexual intercourse to eliminate the discomfort caused by vaginal dryness.
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What Treatments Are Available
If you havent completely gone through menopause and your cramps indicate that your periods are tapering off, you can treat them as you would period cramps. Your doctor might recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen .
Warmth can also help soothe your discomfort. Try putting a heating pad or hot water bottle on your abdomen. You can also try exercise if you are not in too much pain. Walking and other physical activities help relieve discomfort as well as ease stress, which tends to make cramps worse.
When your cramps are caused by endometriosis or uterine fibroids, your doctor might recommend a medicine to relieve symptoms. Surgery can also be an option to remove the fibroid or endometrial tissue thats causing you pain.
How cancer is treated depends on its location and stage. Doctors often use surgery to remove the tumor and chemotherapy or radiation to kill cancer cells. Sometimes, doctors also use hormone medicines to slow the growth of cancer cells.
What Is Premature Menopause
Menopause, when it occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, is considered “natural” and is a normal part of aging. But, some women can experience menopause early, either as a result of a surgical intervention or damage to the ovaries . Menopause that occurs before the age of 45, regardless of the cause, is called early menopause. Menopause that occurs at 40 or younger is considered premature menopause.
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What Are The Hormonal Changes During Menopause
The traditional changes we think of as “menopause” happen when the ovaries no longer produce high levels of hormones. The ovaries are the reproductive glands that store eggs and release them into the fallopian tubes. They also produce the female hormones estrogen and progesterone as well as testosterone. Together, estrogen and progesterone control menstruation. Estrogen also influences how the body uses calcium and maintains cholesterol levels in the blood.
As menopause nears, the ovaries no longer release eggs into the fallopian tubes, and youll have your last menstrual cycle.
What Can I Do To Help With Lack Of Sex Drive
Lack of libido or sex drive can be due to many factors but in women with endometriosis it can relate to pain during intercourse or an induced menopause causing lack of the male hormone testosterone which plays an important role in the sex drive. Vaginal estrogen treatment can help vaginal dryness and pain and can be used along with lubricants during sex. An HRT called Tibolone can also be helpful as it has some androgen in it along with estrogen and progesterone and may help with women with a reduced sex drive. In some cases, your doctor may suggest using a small amount of testosterone gel alongside your continuous combined HRT to increase libido. This may take several months to take effect.
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Perimenopause Happens Over Time
You can begin perimenopause without even knowing it. As your ovaries make less estrogen and progesterone, your period may become lighteror heavierthan usual or briefer and more frequent. This change in your bodys cycle is often the first sign that youve entered perimenopause.
Because youre still ovulating, you can become pregnant during perimenopause even if you miss your period for a month or more. If youre not trying to become pregnant, its important to use birth control until one full year after your last period. Talk to your doctor about the type of birth control thats best for you.
Are There Any Risks Related To Hormone Therapy
Like most prescribed medications, there are risks for hormone therapy. Some known health risks include:
- Endometrial cancer .
- Gallstones and gallbladder issues.
Going on hormone therapy is an individualized decision. Discuss all past medical conditions and your family history with your healthcare provider to understand the risks versus benefits of hormone therapy for you.
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Itisdefinitely True That Sex After Menopause Can Be Painful At Least For Some Time
The most prominent change I hear about from my patients is that sometimes sex can become painful after menopause, board-certified ob/gyn Antonio Pizarro, M.D., tells SELF. Most of the time, this is related to a loss of estrogen. That can cause what’s known as vaginal atrophy or genitourinary syndrome of menopause, in which the vaginal tissue becomes thinner and more delicate, Dr. Pizarro explains. Issues like pain, vaginal dryness, and urinary problems can crop up as a result of vaginal atrophy. Around half of postmenopausal people experience these symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Doctors mainly treat vaginal atrophy with some form of estrogen supplementation, but there can be drawbacks. Pizarro notes that theres a small risk the amped up estrogen can contribute to uterine cancer unless a woman pairs it with the synthetic hormone progestin. But combining the two may then increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer, according to The American Cancer Society, which has a comprehensive breakdown of the benefits and drawbacks of using hormones to deal with menopause symptoms.
Menopause Treatment: Natural Remedies
Are natural remedies are good for menopause? Many women try alternative treatments for menopausal symptoms. Certain botanicals, or herbal supplements, are advertised to treat hot flashes and other menopause symptoms. However, the US FDA does not regulate herbal supplements, so they may not always be safe.
Herbal Supplements That Have Been Suggested to Ease Menopause Symptoms
- Vitamin E
- Wild yam
If you decide to try these remedies, or other herbal products, be sure to discuss this with your doctor. Some botanical or herbal supplements can interact with prescription drugs.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Menopause
You may be transitioning into menopause if you begin experiencing some or all of the following symptoms:
- Hot flashes .
- Night sweats and/or cold flashes.
These symptoms can be a sign that the ovaries are producing less estrogen, or a sign of increased fluctuation in hormone levels. Not all women get all of these symptoms. However, women affected with new symptoms of racing heart, urinary changes, headaches, or other new medical problems should see a doctor to make sure there is no other cause for these symptoms.
What Can My Health Professional Do To Help With These Symptoms
HRT is very effective at reducing menopause symptoms so starting HRT is the first thing your medical professional will offer to do. Its not clear from research when is the best time to start HRT for women with induced menopause. There can be a concern about the hormones keeping some areas of endometriosis active so sometimes it is not started for 3 to 6 months after induced menopause. However, if started immediately it can prevent bone loss and reduce menopause symptoms. This will be discussed with you.
The best HRT for women under the age of natural menopause with endometriosis contains at least two hormones, estrogen and progesterone, and is given continuously with no breaks. This can be given as tablets, patches or gel and sometimes alongside a hormone containing coil depending on what you would like and your situation. This combined HRT should be given for at least the first few years after removal of the ovaries but may be changed to oestrogen-only HRT later as it may have a better safety profile for women over the age of natural menopause. Ideally HRT should be continued until at least the age of 51 for all women in induced menopause.
For women with vaginal symptoms, vaginal estrogen tablets or cream are very effective and are safe to use alone or in combination with standard HRT in women with endometriosis. If your health professional is struggling to manage your situation they can refer you to a menopause specialist in your area to help you.
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