Menopause is the medical term used for the last menstrual period a woman will ever have. However, the term is more often used to describe the years leading up to this time, also called the ‘change of life’ or just ‘the change’. This period is more accurately known as climacteric.
Menopause is a natural process that every woman goes through and every woman’s experience of the menopause is different.
Causes of Menopause
Autoimmune disorders may be connected to early menopause. They can attack your female organs and prevent the body from making the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are necessary for healthy functioning of the reproductive system.
Women have two x chromosomes. One is active and the other is inactive. Fragile X syndrome indicates a defect in the inactive X chromosome. This defect can trigger premature menopause.
The medications that are used in chemotherapy and radiation treatments may cause early menopause. The ovaries can be damaged with these treatments. This is not usually reversible damage. Other surgical procedures may cause ovarian damage as well.
A total hysterectomy is the complete removal of the uterus, fallopian tubes and the ovaries. This is also an abrupt reduction or cessation of hormone production which may also trigger early menopause signs. The removal of both ovaries (an oopherectomy) may also trigger early menopause.
Menopause: Medical and Natural Treatments
There are a variety of menopause treatments, both natural and medical, that can help alleviate the symptoms of menopause:
1. Hot flashes and night sweats: triggered by heavy blankets, caffeine, alcohol, hot water. Dressing in light layers can alleviate hot flashes and night sweats; avoiding caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods can also minimize these symptoms, as can deep breathing
2. Insomnia: characterized by fatigue, irritability, waking up during the night, trouble falling asleep, cognitive impairment and decreased memory. Natural treatments for insomnia include: valerian, hops, passion flower and dong quai, all of which are sedative herbs. Vitamin B6 is also helpful because it produces serotonin; exercising during the day, avoiding alcohol, avoiding caffeine before bedtime, relaxing before going to bed (for example, taking a bath) and sleeping in a dark room can also help
3. Depression and mood swings: characterized by a decreased interest in life, fatigue, loss of appetite, thoughts of suicide and talk of death. St. John’s wort, magnesium, a vitamin B complex and exercise can help minimize these menopausal symptoms
4. Anxiety: symptoms of anxiety include feeling out of control, increased heart rate and difficulty breathing. Herbal menopause treatments include passion flower, valerian root and vitamin B, which boost the nervous system. Aromatherapy is also beneficial, and lavender has a particularly calming effect. Yoga, tai chi and meditation can also help relieve anxiety
5. Dry hair and skin: menopause often leads to dry, itchy skin and weak, thin hair that breaks often and that has lots of split ends. Flax seed oil and zinc (found in poultry, dairy, red meat, oysters and whole grains) can help restore your hair and skin’s healthy appearance, as can vitamin E
6. Vaginal dryness: menopause decreases vaginal elasticity, leading to vaginal dryness. Vitamin E can help, as can Kegel exercises, which help restore elasticity. Using water-based lubricants during sexual intercourse also minimizes discomfort related to vaginal dryness
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