What Is Menopause?
Menopause is a normal condition that all women experience as they age. The term menopause is commonly used to describe any of the changes a woman experiences either just before or after she stops menstruating, marking the end of her reproductive period.
What Is The Cause of Menopause?
A woman is born with a finite number of eggs, which are stored in the ovaries. The ovaries also produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which regulate menstruation and ovulation. Menopause occurs when the ovaries no longer produce an egg every month and menstruation stops.
Menopause, when it occurs after the age of 40, is considered “natural” and is a normal part of aging. However, some women can experience menopause early, either because of a surgical intervention, such as hysterectomy, or damage to the ovaries from chemotherapy. Menopause that occurs before the age of 40, regardless of the cause, is called premature menopause.
What Are the Symptoms of Menopause?
Most women going through menopause will experience hot flashes, a sudden feeling of warmth that spreads over the upper body that is often accompanied by blushing and some sweating. The severity of hot flashes varies from mild in most women to severe in others.
Other common symptoms include:
- Irregular or skipped periods
- Mood swings
- Racing heart
- Joint and muscle aches and pains
- Changes in libido (sex drive)
- Vaginal dryness
- Bladder control problems
Not all women get all of these symptoms.
Survey that was recently conducted for, “Women in Menopause”
Two surveys of herbal and alternative medicine use during menopause were recently published. Here are the interesting findings of the surveys:
- In a telephone survey of 886 women, 22.1% used an alternative therapy to manage menopausal symptoms.
- In this survey, 9.1% used stress management techniques, 13.1% used over-the-counter herbs or supplements, 0.9% used chiropractic, 2.6% used massage therapy, 7.4% took dietary soy, 0.6% used acupuncture, and 2.0% saw a naturopathic doctor or homeopath, and 1.2% saw a herbalist.
- Women were generally satisfied with alternative therapies.
- Among the women who used alternative therapies, 89-100% found them to be somewhat or very helpful. Although women reported that certain herbs and supplements were helpful, it has been shown that in research studies on menopause, even a placebo cause’s great improvement.
- Women with sleep disturbances used relaxation techniques and soy.
- Sleep disturbances were associated with a four-fold increase in the use of bodywork, a three-fold increase in the use of stress management, and more than double the use of dietary soy products.
- In a survey of women attending a San Francisco health conference, only 29% use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) alone.
- In this survey, 29% used HRT alone, 16% used a combination of HRT with dietary supplements, 32% used dietary supplements alone, and 13% used no product or a different product.
- Women attending a health conference in San Francisco may be more likely to used dietary supplements than the rest of the population.
- Soy was the most common dietary supplement used for menopausal symptoms.
The most common dietary supplements were:
- Soy (29%)
- Ginkgo Biloba (16%)
- Black Cohosh (10%)
Supplements, however, were not as effective at reducing hot flashes: 63% of women using HRT alone reported relief of hot flashes compared to 30% of women using dietary supplements alone. The group using a combination of HRT and dietary supplements noticed an enhanced improvement in vaginal dryness, libido, and mood compared to the women using HRT alone.
Women using dietary supplements alone had the highest perceived quality of life. Women using a combination of HRT and dietary supplements had highest overall feeling of control over menopausal symptoms.
Women using dietary supplements alone tended to be dissatisfied with the menopause counseling they received from their primary care provider.
From this finding, we cannot conclude that women used dietary supplements alone because they were dissatisfied with the counseling they received (this question was not asked). Satisfaction with menopausal counseling was significantly greater in women receiving HRT alone and combination therapy compared to women using supplements alone.
Herbs that help menopause:
- Alfalfa Leaf
- American Ginseng
- Black Cohosh
- Chaste Berry
- Evening Primrose
- False Unicorn Root
- Horny Goat Weed
- Korean Ginseng
- Maca Root
- Red Raspberry