By Dr. Marie Steinmetz
Alexandria Times, March 17, 2011
Menopause is a natural process that all women go through. A one size fits all approach to menopause does not work. But we know these tips help most patients:
Exercise / Track Your Weight: Consistent exercise and weighing yourself can combat weight gain; three to five pounds a year can add up to 15 to 25 pounds in five years. Exercise can decrease hot flashes, promote good sleep, improve thinking and fight depression. Yoga and tai chi can also help to stabilize your nervous system. Breathing exercises can decrease the intensity of hot flashes.
Whole Food Diet: Switch to a whole food diet with plenty of fresh and cooked vegetables and legumes like soybean. Stop all the artificial colors and sweeteners. Eat whole, unprocessed foods. High glycemic foods (those that dump sugar quickly into your blood stream) lead to excessive insulin and cortisol which makes the estrogen and progesterone imbalance worse.
Sleep: As you age, your body needs good sleep. Try to get to bed by 10 p.m. and give yourself enough time to rest.
Reduce Stress: By learning to say no, you will be helping yourself and your health.
Troubleshooting undesirable Symptoms:
Heavy Bleeding: For those who find the bleeding too heavy or too frequent, there are treatment options. First see your doctor to be sure there is no problem. Some patients opt for birth control pills and find relief, but herbal options, such as Shepard’s Purse and Chaste Tree Berry, are effective.
Hot Flashes: Managing hot flashes can be as simple as dressing in layers, or for others there are many safe natural methods including homeopathy, Chinese herbs, acupuncture and Western herbs.
Mood Swings / Depression: In lieu of antidepressants, 5-hydroxytryptophan supplementation works by increasing serotonin without the side effects. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods. Studies vary on the effect of isoflavones like soy and ground flax seeds but one or two servings a day are healthy additions to your diet anyway.
Brain Fog: Supplements to support the memory and concentration and provide blood, nutrients and oxygen to may include EPA and DHA found in fish oils and phosphatidylserine, a major component of the brain.
Insomnia: First, cut out the alcohol; it will cause women to wake up in the middle of the night. Second, get plenty of exercise — physically fatigue yourself. Third, aromatherapy may help. Start simple like lavender oil on your pillow and chamomile tea. Fourth, enjoy a serotonin boosting nighttime snack like turkey or nonfat cottage cheese. Last, take a hot Epsom salt bath an hour before bed.
Vaginal Dryness: Try to stay sexually active as regular intercourse increases blood flow to vaginal tissues. Use a vaginal moisturizer two or three times per week or Replens to keep the pH of the vagina balanced. Sometimes a local estrogen cream will be helpful. If these approaches to managing your “change” don’t work, you might consider seeking expert medical advice on bioidentical hormone supplementation, a method that closely follows your hormonal shifts and attempts to restore your natural balance.