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Understanding Menopause & Menopause Symptoms

Understanding Menopause & Menopause Symptoms

Understanding Menopause Symptoms, Management, and Effective Coping Strategies

Menopause, often accompanied by symptoms like hot flashes and mood changes, is the natural end of menstrual periods. Occurring mostly between ages 45 and 55, it signals a shift in hormone levels and body functions. This article breaks down what to expect during menopause and offers practical strategies for managing its symptoms effectively.

Key Takeaways

  • Menopause is the end of menstrual cycles, typically occurring between 45-55 years, with symptoms varying widely in intensity and duration, requiring a blend of history, symptoms, and tests for diagnosis.
  • Menopausal transition ushers in a multitude of physical and emotional changes such as hot flashes, mood swings, and menstrual irregularity, which can be managed through lifestyle adjustments, hormone therapy, and non-hormonal treatments.
  • Post-menopausal women face health risks like cardiovascular diseases and osteoporosis, and maintaining well-being includes diet, exercise, sexual health considerations, and exploring traditional treatments like TCM and individualized hormone therapy plans.

Decoding Menopause and Its Onset

Menopause, defined as the permanent cessation of menstrual cycles, signals the end of a woman’s reproductive phase. It’s diagnosed after 12 months without a menstrual period, typically occurring between the ages of 45 and 55. In the United States, the average age for a woman to reach menopause is 51. However, various factors, including lifestyle, smoking, and race/ethnicity, can influence both the timing and duration of perimenopause.

There are different instances of menopause, including:

  • Early menopause, occurring before age 45, affecting approximately 5% of women
  • Premature menopause, occurring before the age of 40, affecting approximately 1% of women
  • Primary ovarian insufficiency, a condition where there is a temporary or permanent cessation of menstrual periods before age 40, which differs from premature menopause as the end of menstruation is permanent

Although rare, menopause can occasionally commence as early as someone’s 20s or 30s. Understanding menopause and its onset is crucial for managing the symptoms effectively and taking timely action.

The Menopausal Transition: Signs to Watch For

During the menopausal transition, women may endure various symptoms such as:

  • Intermittent dizziness
  • Cardiac palpitations
  • Fluctuations in skin temperature

These symptoms can be quite different in intensity and longevity across individuals.

To ascertain if a woman is going through the menopausal transition, medical professionals consider her age and symptom history alongside blood tests that assess FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) and E2 (Estradiol) levels. We will now take a closer look at some of these particular symptoms.

Understanding Irregular Menstrual Cycles

Perimenopause signals the onset of irregular menstrual cycles, often marked by changes in both timing and flow. As women approach menopause, they may encounter a range of menstrual cycle patterns, including:

  • Shortening or lengthening of cycles
  • Variability in cycle length, with some cycles diverging by more than a week
  • Extended periods of amenorrhea (absence of menstruation)

Understanding these changes can help women better manage their bodies during perimenopause. It’s important to remember that these irregularities are a normal part of the transition and don’t necessarily indicate a problem. However, if the changes become bothersome or are accompanied by heavy bleeding, it’s always wise to consult a healthcare professional.

Emotional Fluctuations During Menopause

Emotional changes during menopause aren’t just “all in your head.” Mood swings can include a range of emotional states such as:

  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • a decreased sense of well-being

These emotional symptoms may parallel those of non-menopausal women of the same age, suggesting that these effects might not be exclusive to the menopausal transition.

Managing these mood changes can involve a variety of strategies, including:

  • Relaxation techniques
  • Pursuing a healthy lifestyle
  • Engaging in self-nurturing activities
  • Consultation with healthcare professionals

All of these can contribute to emotional well-being during menopause.

Remember, it’s okay to seek help when you need it, and you’re not alone in this journey.

Physical Changes Beyond Hot Flashes

While hot flashes may be the most talked-about symptom of menopause, there are other physical changes that women may experience. Some women may notice an increase in facial hair or thinning of scalp hair due to hormonal changes. While these changes can be a source of stress for some, it’s important to remember that they’re a normal part of the menopausal transition.

Pelvic floor exercises are also excellent for menopausal women, as they strengthen or relax important muscle groups. These exercises can help manage symptoms of urinary incontinence, which we’ll delve into more in the following sections.

Hormonal Shifts and Health Implications

During menopause, hormonal fluctuations are not solely responsible for hot flashes and mood swings. These shifts also carry broader health implications for women, increasing the likelihood of developing cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, and issues with urinary incontinence.

It’s important to consider various treatment strategies that address these specific health concerns associated with menopausal changes.

Estrogen Therapy: Weighing the Pros and Cons

Estrogen therapy, considered the most effective treatment for severe hot flashes and genitourinary syndrome of menopause, can be extended if needed. However, it’s not without its potential side effects.

Women who have undergone a hysterectomy may require only estrogen therapy without progestin, minimizing potential side effects. Transdermal routes and lower doses of estrogen therapy may also lower the risk of venous thromboembolism and stroke. However, estrogen therapy can be contraindicated for women with histories of certain cancers, as it may promote the growth of these cancers. Understanding the role of female hormones estrogen in these situations is crucial for determining the best course of treatment.

Non-Hormonal Options for Symptom Relief

There are alternative methods beyond hormone therapy to alleviate the discomfort of menopausal symptoms. Making dietary changes is an important factor in controlling these symptoms. It’s essential for women going through menopause to consume calcium and vitamin-rich dairy products to preserve bone density. Including healthy fats, like those from omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish and seeds, can benefit overall well-being after menopause.

Acupuncture may offer relief for a variety of issues that arise with menopause, including trouble sleeping, emotional fluctuations, and anxiety. Research has demonstrated that this traditional practice could diminish both how often and how intensely hot flashes occur during the transition into menopause.

Lifestyle Adjustments for Menopause Management

Taking care of your body through diet, exercise, and proper sleep hygiene is an essential part of navigating menopause. Here are some tips to help reduce menopause symptoms.

  • Incorporate high-fiber whole grains into your diet
  • Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables
  • Reduce the intake of processed foods, excess sugars, alcohol, caffeine, and high salt

By following these tips, you can support your body during this transitional phase.

Regular exercise and specific activities such as Kegel exercises can also help improve pelvic floor strength and manage symptoms of urinary incontinence. Let’s delve further into these lifestyle adjustments.

Diet and Nutrition: Eating for Hormonal Balance

Vitamin D and calcium are essential for bone health during menopause. Here are some benefits of these nutrients:

  • Vitamin D facilitates the absorption of calcium for strong bones.
  • Calcium and vitamin D supplements are beneficial for preventing fractures.
  • They enhance bone health in menopausal women.

A balanced diet can help manage menopausal symptoms. Some key foods to include in your diet are:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids, from sources such as fatty fish, flaxseed, and chia seeds, which are linked with improved health outcomes for postmenopausal women.
  • Whole grains, which may be associated with reduced menopausal symptoms and a decreased risk of heart disease.
  • Phytoestrogens found in foods like beans, flaxseed, and soybeans, which can have a positive impact on bone health and may lower cardiovascular risk in postmenopausal women.

By incorporating these foods into your diet, you can support your overall health during menopause.

Exercise and Menopause: Strengthening Body and Mind

Regular physical activity reduces the severity of menopausal symptoms, prevents weight gain by counteracting the loss of muscle mass and abdominal fat gain, and supports overall health during surgical menopause. Engaging in aerobic activities like walking, swimming, and dancing can be fun and suitable for joint health, while yoga offers adaptability to individual needs, and strength training helps maintain core strength and potentially reduce hot flashes.

To effectively manage menopause symptoms, aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week is recommended. Here are some tips to help you incorporate exercise into your routine:

  • Start with light exercises and increase intensity and duration gradually to build endurance and strength.
  • Participate in enjoyable exercise routines like gardening or dancing to make it more fun and sustainable.
  • Engage in group exercise classes that promote social interaction to improve mood and sustain motivation.

By following these tips, you can effectively manage menopause symptoms through regular exercise.

Alongside regular exercise, quality protein intake is essential for mitigating muscle mass and bone strength reduction during menopause.

Tackling Vaginal and Sexual Health Post-Menopause

Post-menopause, maintaining vaginal and sexual health is just as important as managing other symptoms. Here are some tips to help:

  • Use water-based lubricants to ease vaginal dryness and discomfort during sexual intercourse.
  • Regularly use vaginal moisturizers to keep the vaginal tissues hydrated.
  • Maintain regular sexual stimulation to promote blood flow and vaginal health, potentially mitigating menopausal symptoms.

Hormonal treatments, such as local treatments with vaginal estrogen preparations, effectively relieve symptoms of vulvovaginal atrophy (VVA). In cases where estrogens are contraindicated, alternative hormonal treatment options such as selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) and intravaginal dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) can be considered.

Open communication about sexual needs and setting realistic expectations are essential for maintaining emotional intimacy and sexual satisfaction.

The Role of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in Menopause

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers a holistic approach to managing menopausal symptoms. TCM is a key therapy for managing menopausal syndrome in China, taking a holistic perspective on health and employing techniques such as:

  • acupuncture
  • herbal medicine
  • dietary therapy
  • exercise
  • meditation

These techniques aim to restore balance to the body’s energies, known as Qi, and alleviate menopausal symptoms by harmonizing the Yin and Yang within the body. The TCM approach is deeply rooted in the belief that menopause is a natural transition rather than a medical problem, and thus it focuses on gentle, non-invasive remedies that align with the body’s changing energies.

One TCM herbal formula traditionally used to treat menopause symptoms is Yin Huo Tang (YHT), which includes a combination of Rehmannia glutinosa, Morinda officinalis, Ophiopogon japonicus, Poria cocos, and Schisandra chinensis. YHT has demonstrated efficacy in alleviating menopausal symptoms such as depressive behaviors, aggression, and sleep disturbances in animal studies. This is partially attributed to its balance-restoring properties on serum estrogen levels and the health of reproductive organs.

Acupuncture, in particular, is a well-known TCM practice that involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points on the body to correct imbalances in Qi. It is often used to reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes, improve sleep patterns, and enhance mood stability during menopause.

Dietary therapy in TCM focuses on nourishing the body with foods that support Yin and control Yang, as the balance between these two forces is believed to be disrupted during menopause. Foods such as black sesame seeds, yams, and goji berries are commonly recommended for their purported benefits in nourishing Yin.

Regular TCM-based exercise, such as Tai Chi and Qigong, is also emphasized for its ability to improve flexibility, maintain joint health, and reduce stress, all of which can be beneficial for women experiencing the physical and emotional changes of menopause.

Lastly, meditation and mindfulness practices are encouraged to help women cultivate a sense of inner peace and resilience, assisting in the management of the emotional fluctuations that can accompany menopause.

By integrating these practices into daily life, TCM provides a comprehensive framework for supporting women through the menopausal transition, aiming to improve overall quality of life and well-being.

Insights from the North American Menopause Society

The North American Menopause Society advocates for an individualized treatment plan when considering hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms. This means the treatment plan should be tailored to each woman’s unique health history, symptoms, and personal preferences.
Shared decision-making is recommended, along with regular reevaluations to determine the benefit-risk profile of hormone therapy for each woman. This approach ensures that women are involved in all stages of their treatment planning process, which can lead to more satisfactory outcomes. However, due to safety concerns, compounded bioidentical hormone therapy is not recommended.

Navigating Surgical Menopause

Surgical menopause, often a result of medical interventions like a hysterectomy, requires careful consideration of treatment options and potential health complications. When a hysterectomy includes ovary removal, it leads to an immediate induction of menopause because of the abrupt halt in hormones produced by the ovaries.

Prior to undergoing an oophorectomy, it is crucial for women to explore all available treatment options with their healthcare provider due to potential health complications that may arise if this surgery occurs before natural menopause. Understanding the implications of surgical menopause can help women make informed decisions about their health.

Summary

In conclusion, managing menopause involves understanding its onset, recognizing the symptoms, and exploring various treatment options, including hormonal and non-hormonal therapies. Lifestyle adjustments and holistic approaches like TCM can also play a significant role in easing the transition. Remember, menopause is a natural part of a woman’s life journey, and with the right information and support, you can navigate it confidently.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens when a woman hits menopause?

During menopause, a woman might undergo certain changes including an increase in weight gain and alterations to how her body uses energy and functions physically. These shifts can bring about symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness, as well as the cessation of monthly periods – all resulting from reduced levels of estrogen and progesterone.

How do I know if I’m in menopause?

If you notice alterations in your customary menstrual cycle, including periods that are either significantly lighter or heavier than usual, irregular timing between cycles, or if your periods stop altogether, it may be an indication of menopause.

A diagnosis of menopause is confirmed after a full year has passed without experiencing a menstrual period.

What are the 3 stages of menopause?

Menopause encompasses three distinct phases: perimenopause, menopause itself, and postmenopause. Each stage signifies a reduction in hormone production accompanied by the degeneration of ovarian function.

What is menopause, and when does it typically occur?

The cessation of a woman’s menstrual cycles, known as menopause, happens between the ages of 45 and 55. It is officially diagnosed once a woman has gone for 12 months without experiencing a menstrual period.

What are some common symptoms of menopause?

Hot flashes, mood fluctuations, and periodic dizziness are among the typical indications of menopause experienced by women. These symptoms can differ in both strength and how long they last.

Seeking advice from a healthcare provider is crucial for tailored support.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation or learn more about our services.

Lokahi Acupuncture
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Women's Health - Lokahi Acupuncture

How Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine Supports Women’s Health Through Life’s Stages

Women’s health encompasses many stages, and each stage poses its set of unique situations and symptoms.

From puberty to menopause, women go through a multitude of changes that can be challenging to manage. However, Traditional Chinese Medicine, such as acupuncture and herbal medicine, offers a holistic approach to support women’s health throughout these stages.

In this article, we explore how acupuncture, herbal medicine, and lifestyle awareness can help women manage their health better as they transition through various stages.

We’ll also delve into how Traditional Chinese Medicine views the life cycles for women and how it can provide a holistic solution to women’s health problems.

Puberty:

Every woman’s journey through their reproductive phase begins with puberty, which usually starts between the ages of eight and thirteen.

For many girls, puberty can be a confusing and challenging time, as their bodies start to change, and their hormones go into overdrive. Some of the physical symptoms that may arise at this stage include acne, mood swings, irregular periods, and menstrual cramps.

Acupuncture can help balance the hormones, alleviate menstrual cramps or headaches, increase circulation, and reduce stress levels associated with puberty.

Pregnancy:

Pregnancy is a period of change of the utmost importance.

Yes, it is a beautiful and exciting time for most women, but it also comes with several health concerns. These range from morning sickness and back pain in the early stages to postpartum depression later on.

Acupuncture can help manage some symptoms related to pregnancy, such as nausea, back pain, anxiety, and insomnia. Moreover, it could prepare the body for labor and delivery.

Menopause:

Menopause marks the end of the reproductive phase and the beginning of a new phase of a woman’s life.

Women may experience different symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, mucosal dryness, mood swings, osteoporosis, and so on.

Acupuncture has shown to reduce hot flashes, decrease sweating frequency, and stabilize mood and emotions. Herbal medicine may also help to alleviate symptoms and prevent bone loss.

Traditional Chinese Medicine:

Traditional Chinese Medicine views the life cycles of women in eight-year cycles, and each phase comes with its set of symptoms.

Each cycle is related to a specific organ system and its corresponding emotions. For example, the kidney system, which includes the bladder and reproductive organs, is the primary organ system during the reproductive years. Each of these organs has a specific role they play in women’s physical, mental, or spiritual health.

During each cycle, acupuncture and herbal medicine can help support the body and mind. For instance, promoting circulation and removing blockages is critical during puberty, nourishing the blood and the reproductive organs during fertility years, and stabilizing Qi and Yin to prevent osteoporosis during menopause.

Herbal Medicine:

In countries such as China, herbal medicine that is supportive is often cooked into food like soups and congees. Small, consistent doses of herbs can be incorporated into a woman’s diet to promote hormonal balance and overall health. Herbal medicine aims to restore balance and harmony to the body, making it an excellent addition to other therapies such as acupuncture and lifestyle awareness.

As women transition through different stages of life, it is essential to support their overall health and well-being.

Acupuncture, herbal medicine, and lifestyle awareness can provide a holistic approach to manage the different physical, mental, or emotional symptoms that arise at each stage. Traditional Chinese Medicine views women’s lives in eight-year cycles and offers specific treatments that align with each cycle. Incorporating herbal medicine into the diet can help balance hormones while providing other health benefits.

Focusing on prevention and early intervention, rather than waiting for issues to arise, is key to supporting women’s health through life’s stages.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation or learn more about our services.

Lokahi Acupuncture
408.279.9001
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