Menopause

So, what is the menopause? Menopause stands for “menstruation stopping”. “Meno” → menstruation, “pause” → pausing.

All women will experience menopause at a certain point of their life, as they get older. It means that your ovaries are actually shrinking, producing less and less estrogen, that’s the female hormone. The ovaries are also losing their main function and that is making eggs for you to have babies with them. The average age of reaching the menopause is about 50, so ‘round the age of 50 you will start experiencing special symptoms that are a sign that you are going into your menopause. These symptoms that happen before the menopause and maybe after it’s complete, we call it perimenopausal symptoms.

Some women would experience menopause earlier, younger than 40, and in this case we call it early menopause. These women might be having a certain disease like ovarian failure or have had cancer and have had radiation therapy or have undergone hysterectomy, and all this can lead you to also going through your menopause.

The menopause itself is a physiological phenomenon but can cause some health problems and some symptoms that might bother you as you go through it.

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What are the symptoms of menopause? How do you know that you are going through the menopause?

The first thing you might notice is that your periods will be different. You might have abnormal vaginal bleeding, which means that your period will be heavier or lighter, or more frequent, or less frequent

You will also notice hot flashes, which are waves of feeling very hot all over your body, and sweaty, and red, and it might be embarrassing sometimes. At night you might notice night sweats, which might disturb your sleeping pattern and give you insomnia.

Sometimes you will also notice vaginal dryness or itchy vagina and you will experience maybe some difficulties having sexual intercourse.

You might also suffer from stress incontinence, which means that as soon as you cough or sneeze you might leek some urine.

You might also experience fatigue, lack of concentration, mood swings and other symptoms, because you’re feeling sad, depressed that you’re getting a bit older.

There’s also a fact that when the estrogen is less you will experience the effect of relatively more testosterone in your body, and that’s the male hormone, which means that you’ll experience some acne, also some hair on your chin or moustache area.

You might also experience some weight gain, especially around the area of your tummy, so, in the abdomen here, or sometimes around the waist. This is a defense mechanism from your body, because the fat is being stored around the area where actually the estrogen can be stored from the ovary. So it’s actually a reserve for your hormones. So, what you need to do there is not panic, just chance your diet habits a bit and do some sports and everything will be fine

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What are the complications of menopause?

What we worry about is more also the complications that might happen with the menopause. These complications are two main things: that you might be having a higher chance of getting blood problems like clods or heart diseases, and you might also have problems with your bones, so you might have osteoporosis, which means that you are more prone to breaking your bones easier. We also heave to deal with that.

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What are the treatment options for menopause?

There are actually no blood tests to diagnose the menopause. We actually find out that the lady is going through her menopause by hearing her history and knowing the symptoms she’s suffering from. The most important thing is to replace or try to correct the levels of the estrogen in your blood.

Medicine is offering options from hormonal replacement therapy, so we give the women estrogen and progesterone, but the problem is that it has side effects and some women are not allowed to take it – those with history of cancer or health problems that might be affected by estrogen, if you take extra of it or synthetic estrogen.

There is a new line of treatment called bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, which is using estrogens that are actually from natural sources, and they’re doing very well in this line and hopefully we would be able to treat a lot of women with them.

There’s also the oral contraceptive pills, the birth control pills. Some women use them, because they have hormones in them, and are happy with the results.

There’s also vaginal creams containing estrogen that you can use to treat vaginal dryness or itchiness.

And some women who are suffering from psychological problems can use antidepressants, and all under the medical supervision of your doctor.

You might be able to receive collagen injections at your doctor’s office to treat the urinary incontinence.

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What are the alternative therapies for menopause?

There are also alternative home treatments for menopausal symptoms. First of all, we can use plant estrogens, so, female hormones that are available from plants. So, what are those? Any soy products, you can have those in the form of capsules or eating certain things like beans chickpeas and lentils. Those contain soy, isoflavones or fitoestrogens that are very good for you in very minimal levels. They’re not as much as you would get from the doctor’s prescription drugs but they are estrogens, from natural sources. But always consult your doctor, even before using natural products.

Also vitamin E is very good for your over-all wellbeing and your skin condition, so I would suggest that you use vitamin E for your skin, just as lotion but also to administrate in capsules.

I would also suggest using omega 3 capsules. They would be containing also vitamin E added. Also, if you use anything with vegetable oils, they are your friends, so, olive oil and all the other vegetable oils containing very good amounts of vitamin E that is very good for your skin.

There’s also natural things like black cohosh or wild yam. Women use it, but it’s not scientifically proven yet that they are good for their menopausal symptoms. But some women are happy with the results. It comes in capsule forms or in cream forms. You can read the instructions and consult your doctor about them. Some women also are happy with the results of acupuncture, and that’s all alternative treatments, but it’s worth trying.

Changes in your lifestyle are very important. You have to sport more, because sports will bring your hormones into balance and also keep your weight and will make you feel good about yourself, which is very important. There is also the right nutrition. Try to eat healthy stuff like nuts, ginger is very good, and all types of seeds are very good for you.

For your over-all health, especially bone health, you have to concentrate on getting more vitamin D3 that’s the sun vitamin. You can sit in the sun, or use it in capsule form. And it could be a good idea to add calcium, extra calcium, to your diet, either in tablet form or take more dairy products. Some women also use whole food multivitamin capsules if they have a hectic lifestyle, which is also a good idea if they are not able to eat healthy food all the time.

Some women who suffer from urine incontinence say that they are very happy with Kegel exercise.

In Japan women suffer very little from the menopause, and it could be because of their lifestyle; healthy soya products, probably they’re more active than Western women. Also the fact that the Japanese culture values the woman as she gets older, because her role in life is not only bearing children. So I’d like you to think that as we get older we have a different role in life and life is still beautiful and it doesn’t mean that all the stereotypes of beauty have to apply to all of us. We just have to have some peace in our lives. Sport, eat well, and everything will be fine.

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Enjoy life!

Alyaa Gad