Natural Treatment of MenopauseOnce women reach around 50 years, a variety of changes and physiological menopause symptoms occur and can have a profound impact on their lives.

Menopause is a term that refers to the end of menstruation, the result of decreased natural hormones (estrogen, progesterone and other) produced in the ovaries. After years of preparation and release of ova, ovaries eventually reach a point where your monthly routine ends.

As hormone levels decrease, a number of symptoms of menopause may arise, although their presentation and severity varies greatly from woman to woman.

Common symptoms of menopause

  • Hot flushes
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Irritability
  • Humor changes
  • Headaches.

These symptoms are highly variable in intensity and their appearance. Every woman experiences menopause differently. Some women have changes in several areas of their lives. It is not always possible to determine whether these changes are related to aging, menopause or both.

While a woman has insomnia as the main symptom of menopause, another has pain in the joints as her main symptom.

Menopause is not a disease but a natural transition when it ends the reproductive ability of a woman. However, many symptoms of menopause can mimic the signs caused by diseases.

What are hot flashes?

Hot flashes are experienced by many women, but not all women in menopause have this experience. A hot flash is a feeling of warmth that extends through the body, but often feels more strongly in the head and neck regions. Hot flashes may be accompanied by sweating or redness.

On average, they last from 30 seconds to several minutes. Although the exact cause of hot flashes is not completely understood, it is believed to be due to a combination of biochemical and hormonal fluctuations caused by reduced estrogen levels. What is known is that they can vary in severity, frequency and duration.

Sometimes hot flashes are accompanied by night sweats (episodes of night sweats). This can make the woman wakes up and then it costs to sleep again, resulting in fatigue and non-restorative sleep during the day.

How are hot flashes treated generally?

Traditionally, hot flashes have been treated with forms of estrogen orally (by mouth) or transdermal (patches). Hormone therapy (HT), also known as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or postmenopausal hormone therapy (PHT), consists of a combination of estrogen or estrogen and progesterone (progestin).

Either oral or transdermal form, estrogens are available as estrogen alone or estrogen combined with progesterone. Prescription for estrogen replacement drugs are effective in reducing the frequency and severity of hot flushes.

However, long-term studies in women receiving oral preparations of combined hormone therapy with estrogen and progesterone were suspended when it was discovered that these women had a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer compared with women who did not receive TH.

Estrogen therapy alone, however, is associated with an increased risk of developing endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus) cancer in postmenopausal women who have not had their uterus removed surgically.

What alternative treatments for menopause have been studied scientifically?

There are certain herbs and dietary supplements that affect the female hormones and relieve mental and emotional stress associated with menopause. The following are some of the herbs commonly used to treat symptoms of menopause:

The bioactivity of estrogen and progestin in foods, herbs and spices, was recently reported in more than 150 herbs traditionally used by herbalists to treat a variety of health problems (Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 217: 369, 1998). They were tested for their relative ability to compete with estradiol and progesterone binding to intracellular receptors for progesterone (PR) and estradiol (ER) in cells of intact human breast cancer (This does not mean that these herbs cause or promote cancer ).

The six herbs more closely linked with estrogenic action that are commonly consumed are soy, licorice, red clover, thyme, turmeric, hops, and verbena.

The six herbs and spices more progestogen-related action that are commonly consumed were oregano, verbena, turmeric, thyme, red clover and damiana.

Black cohosh

Black cohosh is a plant that grows up to 8 feet high in the northern hemisphere. It is the most studied grass to relieve menopausal symptoms. The grass is obtained from the rhizome (a creeping stem scales, leaves and roots extending horizontally below the ground surface).

Traditionally, it has been recommended for female, indigestion problems, and arthritis. The benefits for women during menopause come from its estrogen-like effects. Black cohosh has been studied mainly in Germany, where it is used to treat hot flashes. Experiments have shown that the herb has substances which bind to estrogen receptors and pituitary hormones in animal models and in humans.

However, a recent study in Denmark found no sign of activity of estrogen on the uterus and vagina of rats (Maturitas 25: 149, 1996). The authors conclude that the benefits of this herb for menopausal symptoms can not be explained as a traditional estrogenic effect measured in biological experiments. Therefore, this herb can work by other means, such as pituitary hormones influence.

Elevated levels of a pituitary hormone, called luteinizing hormone , is believed to contribute to hot flashes, insomnia and depression in menopause. When 110 women took black cohosh or placebo for two months, luteinizing hormone was reduced by 20 percent for those taking the herb (Planta Medica 57: 420, 1991).

Two black cohosh studies compared the conjugated estrogens, and diazepam (Valium). Women black cohosh group had greater relief of symptoms of menopause and a greater reduction in anxiety and depression than those taking prescription drugs. (Med Welt 36: 871, 1985; Theripeuticon 1:23, 1987).

Vaginal atrophy also improved. Other research has found significant relief of symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, profuse sweating, headache, dizziness, heart palpitations, ringing in the ears, disorders nervousness, depression and sleep disorders (Zentralblatt Gynakol 110: 611, 1988; Gyne 1:14, 1982).

Few side effects are seen with recommended doses. Ingestion of large doses of leaves can cause nausea, vomiting and may induce miscarriage (Lawrence Review of Natural Products, September 1992). This herb can have lowering effects on blood pressure, so people taking pills to treat hypertension should be cautious.

Chaste berry

As its name suggests, berries castes were believed to suppress libido. Chaste berry is the fruit of a small tree of Eurasia. Berries and leaves are used in the preparation of herbs.

Chaste berry extracts inhibit prolactin secretion of pituitary cells in rats (Horm Metab Res 25: 253, 1993). a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, 52 women with high production of prolactin (hyperprolactinemia), using a daily dose of one capsule (20 mg) of a berry preparation caste, and was found after 3 months was conducted therapy prolactin release was reduced and estrogen (17 beta-estradiol) increased (Arzneimittelforschung 43: 752, 1993). No side effects were observed. Therefore, this herb has effects on female pituitary and ovarian hormones and there is some scientific evidence for use in menopause. In addition, it is an alternative treatment for the production of high prolactin in women in their reproductive years.

As for side effects, it can cause itching, rash, or nausea. its use is not recommended during pregnancy.

Licorice

Licorice is a perennial plant native to southern Europe, Asia and the Mediterranean; distinguished by tiny violet flowers. It is one of the most popular and widely consumed herbs in the world. It is said to be 50 times sweeter than sugar.

The main constituent found in the root is glycyrrhizin, which stimulates the secretion of aldosterone hormone adrenal cortex. Root extract produces mild estrogenic effects, and has proved useful in the treatment of menopausal symptoms. It was found that licorice binds to estrogen receptors in the uterus cells of experimental animals (Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand 65: 839, 1986).

Side effects that usually generates are headaches, diarrhea, lethargy, fluid retention, weakness or shortness of breath. The intensive use of licorice can affect the production of adrenal hormones (aldosterone) that causes an electrolyte with sodium retention and loss of potassium imbalance. This in turn can lead to hypertension and edema.

Ginseng

Ginseng is native to China, Russia, North Korea, Japan, and parts of North America. Ginseng is the most famous Chinese herb and its use dates back to 7,000 years. The name panax is derived from the meaning of the Greek word panacea, "all healing.". The root provides the grass.

Ginseng is known to have estrogenic activity (Br Med J 281: 1110, 1980). The face cream with ginseng has been reported to cause vaginal bleeding in postmenopausal women; demonstrating its potential for potent estrogenic activity (Am J Obstet Gynecol 159: 1121, 1988).

Side effects are very rare.

Hops

Female flowers climbing shrub are used to prepare the grass. Historically, Hops has been used as a sleep aid.

The hops seem to have an estrogenic effect and join the estrogen receptors of human cells (Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 217: 369, 1998). 

It is not toxic and, therefore, has no side effects.

Dong quai

The Chinese have been using this herb for more than 2,000 years to treat gynecological problems. The rhizome is the source of grass.

It has been observed stimulation of uterine tissue (J Chinese Materia Medica 20: 173, 1995). Dong quai does not act as an estrogen, but may have some direct action on reproductive organs (uterus) and possibly other hormones.

A recent double study blind, placebo-controlled, examined the effects of dong quai in the vaginal cells and endometrial thickness in 71 postmenopausal women, and no statistically significant differences between endometrial thickness, vaginal cells, or the number of found hot flashes between the grass and a placebo. (Fertil Steril 68: 981, 1997). The authors concluded dong quai is no more effective than placebo in relieving menopausal symptoms.

About the side effects, the components of this herb may interact with sunlight and cause rashes.

Herbs with effect on mood:

St John´s Herb

The St. John's wort is a shrubby perennial with numerous yellow flowers. It is native to many parts of the world including Europe and the United States, and grows as wild in northern California, southern Oregon and Colorado. The grass stems flowering plant.

The St. John's wort is available in Germany for the treatment of anxiety, depression and insomnia. There are at least 10 compounds that can provide effects, but the hypercium seems to be the most active ingredient.

This compound alters the neurotransmitters in the brain resulting in emotional benefits. There were 23 randomized trials conducted on a total of 1757 outpatients with mild to moderate depression. It has been found that, after 2 to 4 weeks, Hypericum extract was more effective than placebo and as effective as standard antidepressants (Lettr Med 39: 107, 1997). It takes two to four weeks to develop the effects of mood.

As for side effects, some patients report dry mouth, dizziness, constipation, gastrointestinal discomfort, and confusion. In trials, less than 2% stopped taking the herb because of side effects. One patient reported photosensitivity (reaction with sunlight).

kava

Kava is prepared from the rhizome of an evergreen shrub found growing in Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia. Traditionally it has been used as a drink to induce relaxation.

A study of women with menopausal symptoms has been found that these symptoms were reduced after only 1 week  with improved sense of well being and less depression (Fortschr Med 109: 119, 1991).

A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of 25 weeks duration in multicenter outpatient compared the active ingredient in kava with antidepressants and commonly prescribed tranquilizers, and found that kava has superior benefits against drugs, with rare side effects (Pharmacopsychiatry 30: 1, 1997). The authors suggested kava as an alternative treatment with proven long-term benefits and no tolerance problems associated with antidepressants (tricyclic) and tranquilizers (benzodiazepines).

Other research has shown similar benefits (Arzeimitteelforschung 41: 584, 1991).

As for side effects, even when administered within their prescribed doses, this herb can adversely affect motor reflexes and judgment for driving. You can enhance the effects of alcohol. Chronic ingestion causes, flaky skin, dry and discolored eyes bloodshot.

Other herbs for menopause:

Other herbs commonly recommended to treat some of the symptoms of menopause include: blueberry, black currant, bitter melon, chamomile, damiona, echinacea, feverfew, flax seeds, goldenseal, hawthorn, horsetail, motherwort, oat straw, wind flower, passion flower, salvia, saw palmetto, uva ursi, valerian root and wild yam. Its benefits and risks have not been sufficiently tested.

Vitamins to treat menopause

Vitamin C

Bioflavonoids found in vitamin C can help reduce the frequency of hot flashes. In order to get relief from hot flashes, it is recommended to eat more foods with vitamin C or take a supplement it.

Vitamin E

Studies have shown that antioxidants such as vitamin E play a significant role in reducing the symptoms of hot flashes. In order to get relief from hot flashes, we recommend a vitamin E supplement or eat more foods with vitamin E.

Behavioral interventions

The North American Menopause Society recommends that women try to make behavioral changes such as regular exercise, yoga and meditation. Several studies have demonstrated a beneficial effect of exercise on hot flashes, possibly because exercise raises the core body temperature and can, in fact, trigger hot flashes. However, regular exercise has significant benefits in the prevention of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other conditions.

Relaxation therapy and interventions for stress management does not appear to be effective in treating hot flashes, according to scientific studies. However, these interventions may be beneficial for women in maintaining general health, physical, emotional and well-being during the menopausal transition.

Before starting any changes in your diet or lifestyle, request your consultation with Dr. Garant, who will first perform a clinical and laboratory examination to tailor treatment to your needs. Dr. Garant is a leader in natural treatments and interventions to minimize menopausal symptoms and improve quality of life.

References

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