Menopause marks a normal part of aging when you are no longer fertile. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can still sap your energy, disrupt your sleep and trigger feelings of sadness and loss. Hormonal changes, such as a reduction in the excretion of progesterone and estrogen, trigger the physical changes you experience.
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Effects of Menopause
According to Medical News Today, you will experience irregular periods and lower fertility rates. Most women will also experience one or several of the following symptoms of menopause: vaginal dryness, urinary problems, disturbed sleep, night sweats, hot flashes, moodiness, difficulty with focus and concentration, increased fat buildup around the waist, hair loss and reduced breast size.
According to an April 16, 2008, article in "Nursing Times," a recent U.S. nurse research team found that it wasn’t the hot flashes and night sweats that were the most troublesome to women but rather the sleep disturbances and deprivation, forgetfulness and irritability. Following the most recent research on the side effects of hormone replacement therapy and the increased risk of breast cancer, you may be considering alternative methods of managing your menopausal symptoms without hormones. The management choices you make will depend upon the symptoms you are trying to control.
Controlling Hot Flashes
If you are trying to find relief from your hot flashes and night sweats, Project Aware recommends that you avoid spicy foods, hot drinks, caffeine, alcohol, white sugar, stress, hot weather, hot showers, hot tubs or intense exercise.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends you try soy products or other sources of phytoestrogens to relieve hot flashes. They point out that there is no clinical proof as of early 2010 that soy relieves the symptoms, and the long-term risks aren’t known.
According to a study in 2007 by the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, the use of acupuncture to treat hot flashes wasn’t effective. However, there are also many case studies that refute this information. Because acupuncture is relatively without side effects, it is a treatment that you can try to relieve symptoms in your individual case.
Black Cohosh is another popular herbal supplement to treat hot flashes, night sweats and mood changes. However, according to recent news from Great Britain, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency thinks all products that carry black cohosh should carry a warning of liver injury, a rare complication. If you are taking black cohosh and experience nausea, right-side stomach pain, flu-like symptoms, dark urine or yellowing of the skin or eyes you should seek the care of your primary care physician immediately.
Mood swings during menopause are usually triggered by hormones and are different from depression. Research published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in February 2009 presented the first evidence that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation is effective in the treatment of menopause-related mental health problems, including psychological distress and mild depression.
Recommendations from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services include getting exercise and plenty of rest, and eating a healthy balanced diet.
Muscle Loss and Osteoporosis
Once estrogen levels drop during menopause, women can begin to lose more bone, leading to osteoporosis. You must not get too thin, continue to take calcium, phosphorus and vitamin K supplementation, get sunlight for Vitamin D and do weight-bearing activities each day to guard against bone loss.
Research presented in July 2008 at the Society for Experimental Biology’s annual meeting showed that participating in slower exercises can improve muscle mass and reduce muscle deterioration that first starts between the ages of 45 and 55. The work needed to increase muscle mass creates stress on the bones, which decreases bone loss.
Improve Sleep Disturbances
The Cleveland Clinic recommends that if you are having trouble with disturbed sleep, you should maintain a regular bedtime schedule, exercise regularly but not right before going to bed, avoid caffeine, avoid taking naps during the day, and speak with your physician about potential medications you can use to help you sleep.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one of the best ways to control sleep disturbances is to be physically active. Avoid exercise within two hours of bedtime and avoid caffeine or alcohol after noon. Drink warm milk or herbal tea without caffeine before bed and keep the bedroom dark, quiet and cool. Avoid using the bedroom for activities other than sleeping or sex.
If your menopausal symptoms are interfering with your daily activities, it is time to seek the care of your gynecologist. You don’t have to use hormone replacement but may benefit from other medications or treatment protocols to ease symptoms and improve the quality of your daily life.