An Integrative Approach to Menopause
Menopause is not a disease. It is a natural process of change that occurs when a woman’s body is no longer able to bear children. Lots of Baby Boomers are in or near menopause at this time, and there are many of us who have symptoms that cause difficulty.
From the perspective of energy medicine, menopause is a time when the energy focus of the body shifts from the second chakra to the fourth chakra. The second chakra is focused on survival. Nothing is more basic to the survival of a species than reproduction. The fourth chakra is the heart chakra. It relates to finding what is true for you. How do you create what you want in your life?
Menopause is often a time of high stress. Children are grown and leaving home. Divorce or re-evaluation of relationships often occurs. Some women are re-evaluating their careers at this time. These kinds of stresses are all related to an evaluation of your life and to finding what is really right for you. Emotional stresses combine with hormonal shifts to create the perfect storm. Baby Boomers have been leaders in the area of self-discovery. Many of us spent years searching for the key to our happiness. Naturally, menopause would be a time of continued searching.
For many women, hot flashes signify the physical aspect of the energy shift. Hot flashes are jokingly called, “power surges” which isn’t so far from the truth. When you have more energy in your heart, you become more powerful.
Part of your approach to menopause should include lifestyle changes with your diet, exercise, and nutritional supplements. You could make some basic nutritional changes. As hormone production declines, our tolerance for carbohydrates declines and contributes to the weight gain many women experience at menopause. A diet higher in protein is more balancing. I don’t recommend a diet as extreme as the Atkins’ diet because it is filled with poor quality protein, such as bacon and sausage.
Helpful supplements include such things as B complex, omega fatty acids, and a good multivitamin. If you have tried vitamins and fatty acids for a month and still have symptoms you can begin to work with herbs. The most common herbs in a typical menopause formula include black cohosh, damiana, dong quai, and vitex-chaste tree berry, as well as soy based supplements. Each of them is effective for some people. You can experiment to see which one will help you.
If you don’t experience relief with these, I encourage you to seek the help of either a professional herbalist or Chinese medicine specialist or a doctor who does integrative medicine. The possibilities of treatment are endless and should be personalized to your set of symptoms.
With all the controversy surrounding hormone replacement therapy (HRT) it is still a viable option for many women. When your symptoms don’t respond to supplements or herbs a low dose of a bio-identical hormone combination can make all the difference. What do I mean by bio-identical?
Bio-identical or “natural” hormones are chemically identical to the hormones your body would naturally produce. Theoretically, they are safer to use because they are not interfering with our bodies natural processes, just supplementing them. They are made in a lab, not taken from the ground. No amount of soy beans or wild yams will give you enough hormones to survive menopause, they are just the base from which bio-identical hormones are made.
Premarin, is a natural estrogen for horses, it is made from pregnant mare’s urine, but isn’t natural to humans. When the studies implicating HRT as bad were done in 2002, the researchers used Premarin and Provera. Provera is a synthetic progesterone, that is not bio-identical.
While there isn’t much conclusive research saying that bio-identical hormones are safer, the philosophy of using bio-identical hormones is more from a place of making sure you sustain balance in your body. We give doses that will support your well being, for long enough to get through the bothersome symptoms of menopause, and using delivery methods that won’t challenge your liver-such as creams or topical applications. The whole approach is different from what used to be done with giving everyone the same medication at the same doses regardless of side effects.