What Are the Symptoms of Menopause?
Menopause is a natural phase in a woman’s life, marking the end of her reproductive years. While it is a significant milestone, the journey through menopause is often accompanied by a range of uncomfortable symptoms. However, functional medicine offers relief by taking a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of these symptoms of menopause, while providing personalized solutions for a smoother transition.
Menopause typically occurs in a woman’s late 40s to early 50s, and it signifies the end of her menstrual cycle and fertility. This hormonal shift typically comes with a variety of symptoms that can vary from person to person. Here are some of the most common symptoms of menopause:
1. Hot Flashes: Sudden and intense waves of heat, often accompanied by sweating and palpitations, are a hallmark of menopause. Hot flashes can be disruptive and uncomfortable, impacting your daily life.
2. Night Sweats: Many women experience night sweats, which are hot flashes that occur during sleep. These can lead to disrupted sleep patterns and fatigue.
3. Mood Swings: Hormonal fluctuations can trigger mood swings, anxiety, irritability, and even depression. Emotional well-being can sometimes be compromised during menopause.
4. Vaginal Dryness: A decrease in estrogen levels can result in vaginal dryness and discomfort during intercourse, affecting intimacy and overall quality of life.
5. Sleep Disturbances: Insomnia and sleep disturbances are common during menopause, making it challenging to get a good night’s rest.
6. Weight Gain: Many women notice an increase in body fat and changes in body composition, particularly around the abdomen.
7. Bone Health: Reduced estrogen levels can also impact bone density, potentially leading to osteoporosis and an increased risk of fractures.
8. Cognitive Changes: Some women report memory lapses and difficulty concentrating during menopause, often referred to as “brain fog.”
Integrative and Functional Approach to Menopause:
1. Hot flushes and night sweats can be triggered by alcohol, caffeine, chocolate or spicy foods. Avoiding these triggers and sticking to a low carb diet can help to reduce hot flushes as well as minimize weight gain. Stress makes hot flushes worse, so having a routine to help deal with stress, such as biofeedback, can be extremely helpful. Many herbs (such as Black Cohosh, or Siberian Rhubarb) can help reduce hot flushes as well. Hormone replacement can be the most effective tool to reduce hot flushes. Conventional medicine sometimes offers Effexor for hot flushes, but we prefer other options, as Effexor as well as other SSRI antidepressants unnecessarily increase the risk of osteoporosis.
2. Mood swings often respond to adaptogenic herbs and nervines as well as hormone replacement. Reducing foods high in sugar and eating adequate protein and healthy fat, as well as regular exercise and adequate sleep is essential.
3. Vaginal dryness happens to most women, sooner or later, and can negatively impact sexual life as well as urinary system. Prevent atrophy by using vaginal estrogen or DHEA cream or vaginal suppository early. These treatments are very safe and can be used even in women with history of breast cancer. Moisturizers can help with symptom management and make sex more comfortable, however they do not address the underlying root cause.
4. Sleep disturbances: Functional medicine addresses sleep by using techniques such as meditation, and relaxation exercises as well as dietary adjustments (minimizing caffeine, alcohol, and chocolate), moving exercise to earlier times of the day, herbs and nutritional supplements, and for the right candidates – hormone replacement, Progesterone is one of the best sleep aids, naturally helping us relax and enjoy a deeper, more restorative sleep. We recommend only bio-identical progesterone, never a synthetic progestin, which – unlike the bio-identical form – has been linked to breast cancer, diabetes, and weight gain.
5. Bone Health: Functional medicine includes strategies to maintain strong bones through diet, exercise, and targeted supplements, which reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Conventional medicine focuses on calcium for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, but our bones need many other nutrients, such as vitamin D, vitamin K and magnesium. One of the biggest drivers of bone loss beside hormonal changes are inflammation and high cortisol states, which functional medicine addresses as well. Beware of medications that increase the risk of osteoporosis and fractures – such as proton pump inhibitors, steroids, and serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Hormone replacement reduces the risk of fractures even at relatively low dosages.
6. Cognitive Health: Cognitive changes can also be addressed through nutritional support and lifestyle modifications (regular exercise), treatment of inflammation, insulin resistance, restoration of sleep, stress resilience, adaptogenic and nootropic herbs, spices, and mushrooms, as well as bio-identical hormone replacement.
The Road to Relief from Symptoms of Menopause
Menopause is a transformative phase in a woman’s life, and while the symptoms of menopause can be challenging, they don’t have to define this transition. Functional medicine offers a holistic and individualized approach to managing menopause symptoms, allowing women to embrace this new chapter with more comfort and confidence.
If you’re approaching or experiencing menopause and seeking relief from its symptoms, consider a consultation with a functional medicine practitioner. By addressing the root causes of your discomfort and tailoring a plan based on your specific needs and genetics, functional medicine can guide you on a smoother and safer journey through menopause, extending your health span and improving your overall quality of life.