Menopause: How to Stay Well in Transition
There are a number of physical and psychological changes that women experience around the time of menopause. You are considered to be in menopause when menstrual bleeding has been completely absent for 12 months. The onset of natural menopause can vary between the ages 40 to 58 where 51 is the average age of menopause in North America. Once in menopause, the function of your ovaries which primarily produce the hormones estrogen, progesterone and androgen ceases. However, also at this time, many women begin to suffer from menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, depression, insomnia and vaginal dryness. The good news is that there are many natural and holistic ways to manage menopausal symptoms, many of which have been used for centuries around the world. Lifestyle, dietary changes, and herbs are a mainstay for the treatment of menopausal discomforts.
Stretch to Reduce Stress with Yoga
It is never too late to take up yoga practice as part of your exercise routine. However, if you are a newcomer to yoga, you will have to find a class for beginners. Regular yoga practice has been proven to improve joint mobility, promote good sleep quality and calm stress. Chronic stress patterns are associated with a worsening of menopausal symptoms. An important aspect of yoga is the holding of special poses or asanas. However, the breathing and meditation in yoga can promote a sense of calm. If you are not sure whether yoga is right for you, consult your health care practitioner.
Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol
Both caffeine and alcohol stimulate and irritate your nervous system. It would be best to avoid or at least reduce the consumption of these beverages if you are prone to night sweats and hot flashes. Caffeine is a common trigger for hot flashes and it can also negatively affect your mood as you come down from your high. Caffeine is not just in coffee; you can find it in tea, chocolate, and in some medications. If you are a consistent coffee drinker, try weaning yourself off of coffee by slowly cutting back. Instead of coffee, increase your water and electrolyte intake and try herbal tea. Your favorite alcohol beverage can also be wreaking havoc on your menopause symptoms. Alcohol dilates your blood vessels and increases your body temperature, both of which can increase night sweats which is basically a hot flash at night while you sleep. Unfortunately, alcohol can also reduce the length and quality of your sleep when consumed on a regular basis. Reserve alcohol for that special occasion and focus on reducing your intake.
Dong Quai – The Female Ginseng
Dong quai is a popular female herb used in Chinese medicine for the treatment of irregular menstruation, hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Known as the female ginseng, it is usually used in combination with 3 or more herbs. Dong quai is a hormone balancer and scientists believe it may contain mild estrogen-like qualities and work to stabilize your blood vessels, reducing hot flashes and decreasing vaginal dryness. It also contains the B vitamin, folate. As a stand-alone treatment, folate has been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes.
Rehmannia to Balance Stress
Rehmannia is a perennial herb that is used in Chinese medicine to support a healthy stress response. Your adrenal glands are 2 tiny units of cells which sit on top of each kidney. These tiny glands produce stress hormones such as cortisol and norepinephrine when your body is under stress. In circulation, these hormones increase your pulse rate and blood pressure which can trigger the onset of a hot flash. Rehmannia can help your body in times of prolonged stress by nourishing the adrenal glands and reducing any exaggerated stress responses; it has the potential to reduce the frequency and intensity of your menopausal symptoms. It is seen as a well-tolerated herb in human scientific studies.
Menopause is a time of transition and it is also a time when natural medicine and simple lifestyle shifts can shine, providing you with relief from the common discomforts that come with this inevitable climacteric stage in life.