Menopause – Symptoms, Age, How long it lasts, Symptoms, Treatment
Get all the basics about menopause in one handy guide. What are the causes, short-term and long-term symptoms, and a natural approach to regulating your hormones? Find out more at (click to links):
- Hot Flashes and Pro’s and Con’s of Bioidentical and Synthetic hormone replacement therapy: Dean shares her advice and medical knowledge about hot flashes. What are they? Why do they occur? How do you stop them? Plus, the pro’s and con’s with bioidentical and Synthetic Hormone Replacement therapy
- Perimenopause: All the basics about perimenopause in one handy guide. What are the causes, symptoms, and natural supplements you can take if you have perimenopause? When does it occur and how long will it last?
- Hormone Imbalance: Get all the basics about hormones. What are they? How hormones get out of balance? An overview of estrogen and progesterone and what happens when your hormones are out of balance.
Source: All excerpts from this blog except where noted are condensed and edited from – Dean, C. (2005). Hormone balance: A woman’s guide to restoring health and vitality. Avon, MA: Adams Media.
In Dr. Carolyn Dean’s book Hormone Balance, Dean suggests that we have many more choices than to take Hormone Replacement Therapy(HRT) or whether to tough it out. In this blog post, Dr. Dean offers the many ways you can take care of your hormones, such as diet; exercise; herbal, vitamin, and mineral supplements; and bioidentical HRT. Dr. Dean believes that with the right information and support, you can make your menopausal years happy and healthy.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is defined as one year without periods. It is the time in a woman’s life when the function of the ovaries ceases. Menopause is a retrospective diagnosis, you look back and notice that you haven’t marked any red slashes in your calendar for twelve months.
When does menopause start?
The process of menopause does not occur overnight, but is a gradual process. The transitions called perimenopausal is a different experience for each woman. When it occurs also varies. Most books on menopause say the average age is fifty-one. However, the range can be from age forty to sixty. While many women want to have a test to verify they are in menopause, Dr. Dean cautions that there is no reliable lab test to predict when a woman will experience menopause.
What aggravates menopause?
While we cannot escape hormonal changes caused by our reproductive system, there are other situations that cause hormonal changes such as: xenoestrogens in our air, food, and water, adrenal depletion, hypothyroidism, overgrowth of Candida albicans, and the overuse of drugs.
Menopause symptoms and pre menopause symptoms
One of the difficulties with menopause is knowing the difference between symptoms of menopause and symptoms of aging. Regardless of whether the symptoms are due to aging or menopause, there are many commonsense and natural solutions that you can use before turning to medication. While there are natural solutions, drug use in seniors is the predominate cure with an average use of between eight and ten different prescription medications each year.
The main symptoms of menopause are hot flashes, weight gain, vaginal dryness, incontinence, bladder infections, mood swings, loss of energy, and skin and hair changes. Longer-range concerns include osteoporosis, and heart and vascular disease.
Those extra pounds that appear as we get older—the ones that stick to you no matter how much you diet—may, in fact, be the body’s way of getting more hormones. It’s a survival mechanism that is locked in our genes. Natural estrogen hormones are created using cholesterol stored in our fat cells.
Sex can be painful during menopause due to vaginal dryness. Washing the urogenital area with too much soap dries the skin out even more, so that when you go to the bathroom, urine burns, and when you wipe, it hurts. The mucus cells that line the vagina are directly stimulated by estrogen, making them fat and lubricated. As estrogen levels diminish, that layer of lubricating cells is replaced with ones that are flat and dry as paper. A healthy vaginal lining is not just for lubrication, but is also a protective layer. When that’s gone, the dryness can lead to minor abrasions from the trauma of intercourse or even from a harsh washing or wiping of the genitals. These tiny tears can be invaded by bacteria and yeast causing an irritating infection.
Estrogen is what the vagina wants, but many women are leery of using any estrogen products. However, studies do show that it is the safest way to keep the vaginal tissues alive and not produce elevated blood levels of estrogen and is without side effects. Dr. Dean uses estriol vaginal cream, an amount the size of the tip of my little finger twice a week, and it does the trick. Estriol cream is only available on prescription; the dosage is usually 0.5mg/gram, one gram per day for seven days when starting treatment, then one gram per week on an continuous basis. You will usually notice the difference within two weeks.
Another irritating symptom of a dry vagina is more frequent trips to the bathroom. It’s also blamed on previous pregnancies resulting in a falling pelvic floor. Try Kegel exercises as a way to strengthen the muscles around the urethra and vagina. For a dry vagina, Dr. Dean uses a natural pH soap, such as castile, in the vaginal area, wears cotton underwear, and does not wear tight pants.
Up to 50 percent of chronic vaginal infections are due to yeast. The diagnosis can often be made by observing a white, cheesy discharge with a “yeasty” odor. Women are more susceptible if they are on the birth control, estrogen replacement therapy, hormone replacement therapy, or have a diet high in sugar and processed foods, or drink alcohol.
Treatment for simple yeast vaginitis can often be accomplished with a simple douche. In some cases this may be enough to provide symptomatic relief. If vaginitis persists, it must be treated on a broader scale with diet, acidophilus by mouth, acidophilus mixed with yogurt to make a paste that can be used vaginally; and sometimes oral antifungal medications.
The lower lining of the urethra at the end of the bladder can also be affected by lack of estrogen. Cells in this region produce mucus but only grow and produce under the direction of estrogen. An irritated urethra is subject to bacterial infections that can travel into the bladder. A minor bladder infection might not just produce frequent urination but be a constant drain on the immune system as well.
Losing hair on the head and gaining it on the chin doesn’t seem to be a fair tradeoff. Hair loss occurring at menopause is often due to overproduction of dihydrotestosterone that affects the hair follicle. This produces male-pattern baldness in women. Stress makes the process worse. As the stress hormones are revved up in the adrenal glands, that action also triggers the production of more male hormones. A diet high in refined carbohydrates and excess body fat only makes things worse by further stimulating male hormone production.
Post menopause : Heart and Bones
During this time, many of the bothersome symptoms a woman may have experienced before menopause gradually decrease. But as a result of several factors, including a lower level of estrogen, postmenopausal women are at increased risk for a number of health conditions, such as osteoporosis and heart disease.
Osteoporosis has become a dreaded aspect of menopause. Most women don’t know they have osteoporosis until they sustain a fracture, often from a relatively minor incident. Vertebrae are the first to go, as they become porous, weaken, and then suddenly collapse, leaving the characteristic stooped posture and loss of height we see in the elderly. What makes menopause the target of osteoporosis is that women can lose up to 20 percent of their bone mass in the five to seven years following menopause. If the bones are thin to start with, then there is an increased risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
Since the adrenal glands are called into play as the sex hormones decline, you can have episodes of adrenal surges that you may not notice, except that the adrenaline can trigger heart palpitations. If you are experiencing heart palpitations, it’s important to see your doctor. Heart disease does affect as many women as men, but we don’t seem to have the same dramatic symptoms that everyone identifies with a heart attack. Instead of severe chest pain, sweating, and severe shortness of breath, women may feel breathless without chest pain; feel nauseated and clammy; feel fatigued, weak, and dizzy; have pain in the jaw, neck, shoulders, upper back, and chest; and feel very anxious.
Angina and Atherosclerosis
Angina is a condition of aging blood vessels. There have been decades of speculation that estrogen is protective against heart disease. Women before the age of menopause have a lower incidence of heart disease than they do after menopause when estrogen is lower. However, the WHI study of both HRT and ERT informs us that at least synthetic estrogen and progestin are not protective of the heart and should not be prescribed for this reason.
What causes menopause?
Menopause happens when the ovaries no longer release an egg every month and menstruation stops.
How long does menopause last?
What causes early menopause?
Most women slip gradually into menopause, except if they have had surgical removal of their ovaries.
ovaries, hysterectomy, Premature ovarian failure Menopause Weight Gain
Sex after Menopause
Now that we have vaginal dryness, incontinence, and urogenital infections under control, we can start thinking about sex. It is possible that sex loses its zing because of all the problems that arise when there isn’t enough estrogen to keep the vagina lubricated.
(deit, relaxation, kegels, sleep, relaxation, vaginal discomfort, cool hot flashes, deit, smoke, exercise
(phytoestrogente- soybeans, legumes, bioidentica hormones, black cohosh, acupuncture, yoga)
Life Style and Home Remedies
True balance is achieved by following a program of diet, exercise, supplements, and herbs, and then—if you need actual hormones—you have ones that are safer than synthetics.
The Transition Diet accomplishes several things—it gives you more fiber (which helps drag excess estrogen from the body); provides more nutrients; uses high quality fats and oils (that help build a healthy fatty layer that surrounds all the cells of your body including your nerve cells); and reduces intake of refined food.
Let’s break the diet down into the three major food groups. A balanced diet means you eat something from each group at each meal: protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
We’ve mentioned several times here that chemicals are stored in fat tissue. Therefore, when you eat animal protein you can ingest chemicals in animal fat. Because the whole food chain is slightly saturated with chemicals, animals that eat contaminated grass, grain, and water or eat other contaminated animals are concentrating chemicals in their bodies.
Fish, chicken, turkey, meat, legumes, beans, peas. Have only one serving a day of animal protein and two servings a day of vegetarian protein. Do your best to buy free-range, non-antibiotic, non-hormone animal protein and organic legumes, beans, and peas. Protein sustains blood sugar for two to three hours.
Organic Complex Carbohydrates
Eating fruits and vegetables sprayed with chemical pesticides, drinking water contaminated with estrogens, and perhaps even breathing air close to chemical factories causes measurable amounts of chemicals in 100 percent of people tested. For these reasons, it’s important to eat organic produce.
There are two types of carbs. Simple carbs are the refined products that can play havoc with your blood sugar. They include white flour and white sugar products: bagels, bread, cakes, cookies, etc.—all the things we think are good, but that aren’t our friends! Complex carbs include whole grains (millet, rice, wheat, barley, kasha, quinoa, spelt, kamut), vegetables, beans, peas, lentils. Complex carbs are the best kind of carbs, and if you can make them organic, that’s even better. Carbs are for quick energy, lasting one to two hours. Sugar can only sustain the blood sugar for one half hour.
Fats and Oils
Healthy sources of fat include nuts, especially almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, filberts; seeds, sunflower and pumpkin; avocados; butter from free-range cows; flaxseed oil on cooked cereal or salads; olive oil on salads; and coconut oil for cooking.
Fats sustain blood sugar for three to four hours. That’s why you feel more full after a fatty meal. Fat became the “bad guy” when researchers began to uncover the connection between saturated fats and heart disease. Unfortunately, butter was snagged up in the ban on fats, which lead to the huge commercialization of synthetic spreads such as—that’s right—margarine.
Alternative medicine: Stress, Exercise, Sleep
It’s not enough to say everything causes stress (although it does).You need to remember that some stress is good and some is bad. Let’s go over the list of possible negative stresses in your life so you can put them into perspective and hopefully on the back burner. One thing to know is that physical exercise burns off the excess stress hormones that can flood your body. Here are some more ways to relieve stress:
- Sleep!—at least seven hours a night
- Relaxation exercises
- Deep breathing
- Tai Chi
- Body work—deep tissue massage, craniosacral therapy, lymphatic massage
- In Hormone Balance, our discussion of cleansing is focused on battling estrogen dominance and xenoestrogen overload. Estrogen dominance causes a lot of nasty symptoms, up to and including cancer. The following list—“Avoid Known Toxins”—shows you some potentially damaging practices to avoid. The second list—“Do Something Constructive about Toxins”—gives a number of action steps you can take to prevent disease. These two lists are adapted from lists in Helke Ferrie’s article “New Perspectives in the War on Cancer.”
Avoid Known Toxins
In Hormone Balance, our discussion of cleansing is focused on battling estrogen dominance and xenoestrogen overload. Estrogen dominance causes a lot of nasty symptoms, up to and including cancer. The following list—“Avoid Known Toxins”—shows you some potentially damaging practices to avoid
- Do not smoke, or tolerate smoking in your family’s presence.
- Avoid excessive exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet rays.
- Do not use breast implants.
- Do not use dark hair dyes; check out safe alternatives (such as Aveda brand, or henna).
- Avoid perfumes, perfumed air fresheners, deodorants, and antiperspirants. If they contain benzene, aluminum, or lemon-scented chemicals, or lack a full list of all ingredients to permit a check‑up in a toxicology manual, then do not use them.
- Treat all cosmetic products with extreme suspicion until you have proof positive that they contain no known carcinogens, as safe alternatives exist.
- Avoid dry-cleaned clothes, and look for non-chemical alternatives.
- Avoid chlorinated water.
- Do not drink fluoridated water or use fluoridated toothpaste.
- Avoid electromagnetic fields, especially with children. Electromagnetic fields have been linked to childhood leukemia and brain cancers. Use appropriate protection on your computer screen, avoid using a microwave oven, and avoid living near hydro towers.
- Do not use hormone-disrupting or hormone-mimicking substances such as chemical pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, fungicides, and bug killers such as DEET.
- Do not use cleaning, polishing, or renovation materials in your home that list unspecified “inert ingredients.” If they have toxic warning symbols, require calling a doctor, are “corrosive,” give special disposal instructions, or require “well-ventilated areas” for use, then look for substitutes. If you cannot avoid some of these substances (e.g., oil paint, furniture stripper, car maintenance materials), wear the best charcoal- filtered mask available and minimize exposure, especially to skin and lungs.
- Reduce consumption of salt-cured, smoked, and nitrate-cured foods.
- Do not use the meat or dairy products from animals routinely treated with antibiotics and raised with hormones. According to Dr. Samuel Epstein, such milk products are among the most effective cancer-causing agents currently known. Safe, certified organic milk and meat products are widely available in health food stores and some grocery stores.
- Never heat shrink-wrapped foods or put hot food in plastic containers. The plastic molecules migrate into the food when heated. They are xenobiotics—manmade chemicals with structure that are foreign to humans.
- Avoid food additives, especially Red Dye No. 3, which is found in most junk foods and many pop products. Avoid emulsifiers such as carrageenin.
- Do not consume hydrogenated vegetable oils, margarine, or trans fats.
- Limit sport fish consumption to the guidelines provided seasonally by the government.
- Do not drink or eat foods that contain sugar substitutes such as NutraSweet, aspartame, etc. Avoid refined sugar, as it usually contains silicon. Stevia, unpasteurized honey or maple syrup, and brown rice syrup are healthy substitutes that are easily available.
- Avoid antibiotics unless your doctor has done the necessary test to identify the exact bacteria this antibiotic kills (except in extreme emergencies, e.g. meningitis); keep any treatment period to a minimum.
- Avoid prescription drugs unless your doctor also gives you a copy of the full drug information from the annually updated PDR (Physicians Desk Reference) and explains this information to you; if the drug requires regular liver function tests, insist on discussing alternatives or keep treatment to the minimum.
- Avoid birth control pills, antihypertensives, antidepressants, and hormone replacement therapy in pill form (toxic to the liver), and do not take tamoxifen preventively. Get the full data on those drugs, and check them out first on the Internet at preventcancer.com.
Tests for menopause
Because hormone levels may fluctuate greatly in an individual woman, even from one day to the next, hormone levels are not a reliable method for diagnosing menopause. Even if levels are low one day, they may be high the next day in the same woman. There is no single blood test that reliably predicts when a woman is going through the menopausal transition. Therefore, there is currently no proven role for blood testing regarding menopause except for tests to exclude medical causes of erratic menstrual periods other than menopause. The only way to diagnose menopause is to observe the lack of menstrual periods for 12 months in a woman in the expected age range.
More Videos on Menopause
Hormone Imbalance: Basics on estrogen and Progesterone
Hormone Treatment Plans Video
Learn more about Hot Flashes
About Dr. Carolyn Dean – Medical doctor, Naturopath, Herbalist, Acupuncturist, Nutritionist, Lecturer, Author
Dr. Dean has been in the forefront of health issues for over 30 years. She graduated from Dalhousie Medical School in 1978, holds a medical license in California and is a graduate of The Ontario College of Naturopathic Medicine – now the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) in Toronto. She served on the board of Governors of the CCNM for six years. Dr. Dean has authored or coauthored over thirty books, including How To Change Your Life With Magnesium, Future Health Now! Encyclopaedia, Death by Modern Medicine: Seeking Safe Solutions, The Magnesium Miracle, The Yeast Connection and Women’s Health, IBS for DUMMIES, IBS Cookbook for DUMMIES andHormone Balance. Currently, Dr. Dean lives in Maui with her husband where she visits the beach most days, swims, snorkels and thoroughly enjoys her work and play – most days not knowing which is work and which is play!