Menopause: A Natural Process – NOT A Disease!

by Richard H Ealom

INTRODUCTION: Menopause is the point in a woman’s life when menstruation stops permanently, signifying the end of her ability to have children and is diagnosed when a woman has gone without a period for 12 consecutive months. It is considered premature if it occurs before the age of 40, or artificial if radiation exposure, chemotherapeutic drugs, or surgery induces it. Menopause is something that happens to all women as they get older.

HOT FLASHES: Hot flashes are perhaps the most troublesome symptom associated with approaching menopause and are experienced by a majority of women during the transition period (no pun intended). An ancient Chinese therapy offers some menopausal women another option for their hot flashes.

For others however, the decreasing levels of estrogen associated with menopause may produce more distressing symptoms that include: Mood swings – Reduced sex drive – Hot flashes – Sweating – Racing heart (palpitations) – Headaches – Vaginal dryness and soreness – Trouble sleeping and Thinning bones (osteoporosis). These symptoms can last from a few months to up to 10 years.

HORMONES: Known as the “change of life”, It is the last stage of a gradual biological process in which the ovaries reduce their production of female sex hormones–a process which starts about 3 to 5 years before the final menstrual period. When you are in your mid-30’s, your ovaries begin to change how much estrogen and progesterone (two female hormones) they produce.

During this time, called perimenopause, which can last anywhere from five to fifteen years, the brain continues to send out hormones trying to stimulate the development of ovarian follicles, and it is common for a woman’s ovaries to respond erratically, so that her hormones fluctuate a great deal from month to month. It continues to produce hormones even after ovulation ends, producing some estrogen and also androgens (male hormones) including testosterone.

To best understand what occurs during menopause, it is helpful to know about the physiology of menstruation and the hormones that are involved in your monthly cycle. Changes in hormones are a major factor in that sense of physical, mental, and emotional imbalance that may characterize a woman’s experience of menopause.

A lot of women discover that the right combination of herbs, exercise, nutritional support, and natural hormones helps them to control most of their symptoms. Eventually your ovaries stop creating estrogen and other hormones.

CANCER: Your chances for heart disease, cancer, and bone thinning (osteoporosis) rise after menopause. You should be checked regularly for colon, rectal and skin cancer. If you have a family history of breast cancer, check with your physician about your risk. If you have a uterus and decide to take estrogen, you need to also take progesterone to prevent endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus).

“There’s been a lot of experimental evidence and patient experience showing estrogen given alone can lead to endometrial cancer,” says FDA’s Smith. Endometrial cancer is not the only risk from using estrogen. It is not known whether estrogen use raises the risk of breast cancer, or what effect adding progestin would have on this risk. In recent years, a large number of studies on breast cancer and estrogen use have been conducted, with mixed and conflicting results, says Smith.

TREATMENT: Menopause has become increasingly medicalized, which means it is viewed as something that needs intervention and treatment rather than as a natural life transition that may benefit from support. You don’t need treatment for it unless your symptoms bother you. Be sure to speak to your physician about your possible health risks before you begin a treatment for menopausal symptoms.

There are also “natural” treatments for the symptoms that are available over-the-counter, without a prescription. You can start or end the treatment at any time.

CONCLUSION: Menopause is a natural process and not a disease. It is a normal part of life just like puberty. Part of the stigma is its association with aging, but we age no more rapidly in our 50s than in any other decade of life. In the United States, the average age is 51, with most women usually reaching natural menopause somewhere between 40 and 58 years of age. If you’ve never been an exerciser, it is a great excuse to make the change.

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