Curos Health provides menopause treatment to thousands of women in Florida, New York and Texas.
What is Menopause?
The term “Menopause” refers to time in a female’s life when she stops having her period. Generally, menopause occurs naturally and most often is after the age of 45. Menopause, or the natural end to a woman’s period happens because a woman’s ovaries will naturally stop producing key hormones of estrogen and progesterone.
A diagnosis of menopause is confirmed after a woman has not had a period for one year (12 months). That said, the changes and symptoms associated with menopause can begin many years prior to a woman
Symptoms of Menopause?
• Periods Begin to Change: shorter or longer, lighter or heavier, with more or less time in between
• Night Sweats
• Unwanted Weight Gain
• Hot Flashes
• Sleeping Trouble
• Vaginal Dryness and Discomfort During Intimacy
• Mood Instability or Swings
• Brain Fog, Difficulty Focusing
• Changes In Body Hair, Loss of Hair on Head and Growth of Hair on Face
Some symptoms related to Menopause require treatment or can be made less severe with treatment. You should speak to your doctor about treatment, they may suggest you seek an expert in such therapies as Hormone Replacement. Treatment options if you are at risk for heart disease, osteoporosis, or breast cancer may vary.
What is the difference between perimenopause and menopause?
As mentioned, menopause refers the time in a woman’s life when she is no longer fertile and ceases to have her period for a time greater than 12 months. The time prior to menopause, which can last several years, is called “perimenopause” and the time after menopause occurs is called “postmenopause”.
For many reasons perimenopause can be a very challenging point in a womans life. Biologically the symptoms are result of a woman’s ovaries producing less of naturally occurring hormones estrogen and progesterone. While the physical effects of a woman’s periods are often the most discussed, the reality is that a woman may also experience such difficult realties as emotional distress related to a changing body and inability to produce children. There are many additional physical changes which a woman may experience which will be discussed below.
Eventually, all women will experience menopause. Typically, it occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 with the average being 51. Interestingly, women who have a history of smoking will experience menopause before those that do not.
The time before menopause, again referred to as perimenopause often will occur months if not years before a woman’s periods stop completely. Perimenopause occurs because a woman’s ovaries are producing less of the natural hormones called estrogen progesterone. This is why a very common treatment for the symptoms of menopause is Hormone Replacement Therapy. You may also hear it called ‘bioidentical hormone replacement therapy’. While this treatment is not right for all women (especially those who have or are at higher risk for cancer) – it is often a sought-out course of treatment because like the name implies, the treatment replaces or ‘balances’ the hormones estrogen and progesterone which have decreased naturally. There are also treatment options which support hormone production without the actual use of bioidentical hormones.
The Symptoms of Perimenopause and Menopause
The changes which occur to a woman’s menstrual cycles are the precursor to menopause, referred to as perimenopause. While these changes are expected, a woman should always consult a healthcare provider as they begin to experience them and throughout the entire journey as there is a large body of research and many resources to help ensure the process is not more trying than it needs to be.
There are many symptoms associated with menopause such as hot flashes. Hot flashes consist of a sudden sensation of heat in the body that can also include a woman flushing in the face and neck as well as red blotches on the chest and arms and of course sweating. All symptoms are a sign of underlying change in the body, so what are the underlying physiological changes that lead to hot flashes?
As you may have guessed, hot flashes are the result of the natural decreasing estrogen production.
These two hormones, estrogen and progesterone are remarkable in their ability to be the catalyst for human life. It’s no surprise that changes in them can also have a significant impact on woman’s intimate life and general sex organ health. During menopause, a vast number of woman report vaginal dryness, making intimacy uncomfortable or unenjoyable. Also a condition called ‘urinary incontinence’ can lead to urine leaking when sneezing, coughing, laughing or physical exertion. This is result of the bladder muscles weaken.
Beyond the physical discomfort of intimacy, many women report that their sex drive is also impaired. A woman can still become pregnant during perimenopause and should take all appropriate measures related to contraception and protection from sexually transmitted diseases.
As if this were not enough, these two hormones also are instrumental in supporting a woman’s emotional wellbeing. Often mood changes are reported symptom of menopause which can include anxiety or irritability.
Menopause may impact a woman’s ability to get a good night’s rest. This could be because of symptoms like hot flashes but also can be due to hormonal changes.
There are physical changes which can occur as result of menopause such as their increased risk for heart disease and osteoporosis. A decline in the natural occurring hormone estrogen can lead a woman to a loss of bone density, and ultimately a condition caused osteoporosis.
The loss of estrogen can be a critical element of cardiovascular conditions including heart disease. Estrogen loss can exacerbate other naturally occurring phenomenon of aging such as weight gain, elevated blood pressure and diabetes.
What are the causes of menopause?
Menopause is the result of a natural process in which a woman’s ovaries stop releasing eggs and making the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
Menopause can be induced due to some surgical procedures as well.
How is menopause diagnosed?
Generally, women will notice the symptoms of menopause without having a formal diagnosis. The changes to menstrual cycles and hot flashes are common first signs.
Blood tests are not required for a diagnosis, yet a healthcare provider can use both blood and urine samples to determine levels of hormone production. Such hormones which may be tested for are estradiol, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and luteinizing hormone (LH). There is a very significant impact on these hormones as well as estrogen and progesterone. Menopause leads to the ovaries becoming less responsive to FSH and LH hormones, the woman’s body will try to compensate by creating more of these hormones.
This is often what is thought of as ‘hormone imbalance’ and what the treatment of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is used to mitigate.
What Are the Treatments for Menopause?
First, it’s important to note that menopause is a biologically normal process that every aging woman will go through. Menopause cannot be prevented. While not all that go through menopause experience symptoms strong enough to warrant medical intervention, many women do report that intervention therapies can improve their quality of life and support reduction of the symptoms related to menopause. Due to the increased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis, many medical professionals do agree that there is benefit in treating the underlying causes of menopause, which are very commonly hormone imbalance.
Treatment by licensed physicians is recommended as they will frequently use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with estrogen and, sometimes, progesterone to lessen the effects ad support the treatment of the general symptoms of menopause. For some candidates, HRT is not best and trained practitioners can use other pharmaceutical and naturopathic approaches to ease the discomfort that can be associated with the symptoms of menopause.
Menopause symptoms should not stand in the way of you living a wonderful life. While they can be quite disheartening – there are a number of treatment options which may be able to help you. There are many delivery mechanisms for these treatments including pills, creams, patches and pellets. Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) may be a great option for you.
Therapy for Osteoporosis and Bone Loss Related to Menopause
Due to the fact that these hormonal changes can lead to bone loss n the first two years after menopause, many providers in the healthcare space will order a ‘bone density’ test. This is a specific type of x-ray scan called dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry scan (DEXA). One of the benefits of working with a clinician who specializes in integrative medicine is their depth of knowledge about topics such as supplementation (dietary supplements), nutrition and exercise (beyond just pharmaceuticals).
A few of the commonly used therapies for menopause induced (or otherwise induced) osteoporosis include:
• Calcium + vitamin D
• Parathyroid hormone
There are many other things you can do to support healthy bones as you age and the best bet is to speak directly with a licensed practitioner who can guide you. However, some of lifestyle changes could include:
• Eating a healthy diet. Low-fat and low-cholesterol consumption where most of your nutrition comes from whole fruits and vegetables and low-fat meats.
• Ensure you are getting enough calcium and vitamin D. In many cases supplements will help you easily achieve this. However, like with all supplements make sure you are taking high-quality, doctor recommended brands. Cheap store-bought brands will not have the same bio-availability or clinical efficacy to support your needs.
• Avoid drinking alcohol and caffeine and do not smoke.
• Get exercise, in particular resistance workouts such as weight lifting (even light weights) as well as ample cardio.
Therapy for Missed or Irregular Periods
Often women will experience missed or irregular periods during the perimenopause or the menopausal changes that occur. Sometimes this can include heavy bleeding or periods which do not occur on their regular cycle (perhaps closer together). A qualified practitioner can use such tools as the following to support a woman with these symptoms:
• Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
• Birth control pills in low dose
Therapy for Sleeping Disorders
Sleep is a critical element to so many of our body’s natural functions. The sleep disorders often associated with menopausal changes (frequently related to hormone imbalance) can have a detrimental effect on how a woman feels during these natural shifts. Here are a few ways in which a woman can naturally support healthy sleep habits:
• Workout and be active.
• Keep a routine sleep schedule.
• Unwind before bed, put away screens and find peace and quiet before you attempt to sleep.
• Avoid alcohol and eating large meals before bed.
• Limit any consumption of caffeine to the morning time.
• While you want to stay hydrated, don’t over drink fluids prior to bed.
Treatment for Vaginal Dryness and Discomfort
• Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
• High-quality water based lubricants
Therapy For Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
There are a number of prescribed medications which can be supportive of reducing the symptoms of menopause related to hot flashes and night sweats:
• Hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
• Clonidine, a pharmaceutical often prescribed for blood pressure management.
• Gabapentin, a pharmaceutical which is often prescribed to reduce seizures but has shown to reduce these symptoms as well.
There are also dietary, environmental and lifestyle changes which can support a woman experiencing hot flashes:
• Try to avoid overheating by taking advantage of cold rooms and light clothing.
• The breeze from a fan can help the sensation of hot flashes feel less intense.
• Enjoy chilled beverages or cold smoothies.
• Always avoid alcohol, smoking and even caffeine.
What is menopausal hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Sometimes you will hear it called ‘menopausal hormone therapy’ however most of us know it as simply hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The term MHT is used because there may be a series of treatments used in conjunction to maximize the results. All care is on a case-by-case basis and your healthcare practitioner will best be able to determine a course of care that is right for you.
HRT is generally considered to be the go-to treatment for menopause because of the high level of efficacy associated with the treatment. If you are suffering from any of the symptoms related to menopause it’s advisable you seek professional help. Many qualified and licensed practitioners will offer free consultations to help answer your basic questions and get you on a path toward treatment.
HRT for menopause can be offered in the form of vaginal tablet, vaginal cream, oral pill, pellets or implants, shots or even skin patches – whatever your preference may be there is a treatment approach out there for you. Excitingly these treatments are no longer cost prohibitive. They can be very affordable to almost any budget.
Naturopathic Therapy for Menopause Symptoms
Naturopathic medicine has many wonderful adjunct tools for supporting the western approach to care. With a qualified integrative care provider, you will often not just be told ‘take two and call me in the morning.’
The naturopathic approach exists to support the efficiency of the underlying biology which is leading the causation of the symptoms. It is highly advisable that people should really see a qualified healthcare provider when taking supplements, making dietary changes or attempting to use herbs and other remedies.
Unfortunately, the combination of a tremendous amount of misinformation on the internet and the rapid rate at which research is progressing in this field of study means you need a support system to accurately navigate the waters.
There are a few therapies which your care provider may discuss with you, if they are not, seek out a qualified professional who also will consider these as part of your treatment plan:
• Phytoestrogens (fahy-toh-ES-truh-juhns) are found in many vegetables, soy, legumes herbs and even grains. They are ‘estrogen-like’ compounds that are naturally occurring. They may support the relief of menopausal symptoms.
• High quality ginseng can support many symptoms related to menopause including emotional wellbeing and sleep disorders.
• Black cohosh is an easy to find non-pharmaceutical that some women report being supportive to reduce hot flashes. Generally, it is considered a safe natural therapy.
• Red clover is another naturopathic therapy which many women have found helpful in reducing the symptoms of hot flashes.