What is Menopause?
Menopause is the time that marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycles.
It happens when either a woman’s ovaries no longer make oestrogen and progesterone, two hormones needed for fertility; or if periods have stopped for 1 year.
Female menopause is a natural biological process as women age, for the majority in their 40s or 50s with the average age being 51.
But it can also occur due to surgery, treatment of a disease, or an illness. In these cases it can be called induced menopause, surgical menopause, or primary ovarian insufficiency, depending on the cause.
What are the Symptoms of Menopause?
When it starts naturally, the first signs of menopause may be an irregular menstrual cycle. Once it gets off-schedule, it usually stops completely within about 4 years.
As a consequence of the hormonal changes and that hormones can affect the entire body, there are a wide variety of signs and symptoms of menopause that a woman can get. Some of these menopause symptoms can last for years and understandably have an impact on a person’s quality of life.
> Vaginal dryness and soreness as a consequence of vaginal atrophy
> Hot flushes or flashes, including hot flushes at night
> Hot flush anxiety
> Hair loss
> Mood changes
> Lower libido
> Sweating, including night sweats
> Irregular heart beats
> Sleeping difficulties or insomnia
The Stages: How long does Menopause last?
The average length of time that symptoms can continue after the last menstrual period is between 4-7 years. However before menopause begins, a stage called perimenopause is occurring, when periods become irregular & women may first start experiencing some symptoms. This could be 4-7 years before menopause. Premenopause and perimenopause are sometimes used interchangeably, but technically they have different meanings. Premenopause is when you have no symptoms of perimenopause or menopause.
What happens Postmenopause?
Postmenopause is the stage defined as starting 1 year after your last period occurred. And if you were suffering various symptoms in the earlier stages, it can hopefully be a milestone in starting to feel better! On the other hand, postmenopause may bring new health issues. Some are part of the typical ageing process. Others are unique to the decrease in your body’s natural production of oestrogen. These can include:
- Women who’ve gone through menopause are more likely to develop osteopenia and osteoporosis, a condition that causes bone to become brittle and weak.
- Incontinence or increased frequency of urinary tract infections.
- Thinning out and drying of the vaginal tissues possibly leading to painful sex or pelvic floor weakening which could in turn predispose to lower back or hip issues.
- Reduced oestrogen may lower the metabolic rate, which prompts the body to store fat instead of burning it, making it easier to gain weight, which in turn can put undue pressure on the knees, ankles and back.
So what can be done?
City Osteopathy & Physiotherapy excels in providing relief with the symptoms and wide ranging effects upon the body as we age, such as perimenopause. Our treatments aim to facilitate rebalancing of the body, helping the patient become empowered to function at their best by using a variety of techniques.
Menopause Osteopathic Treatment
Osteopathic treatment can be used as treatment independently or alongside other treatment modalities in an integrated approach to the management of menopause. Menopause osteopathic treatment includes:
- soft tissue release
- joint mobilisation
- craniosacral osteopathic techniques
- and advising on helpful stretches and exercises
As we know for many women, physical and mental balance can be greatly affected during pre, peri and post menopausal stages. In addition to supporting management of some of the more common symptoms, fluctuating levels of the anti-inflammatory hormones oestrogen and cortisol can cause joint and muscle pain, in turn leading to the onset of arthritis. Osteopathy helps via re-establishing good movement patterns thereby averting joint problems and restoring nervous system stability.
Naturopathic Medicine for All Stages of Menopause
Most women use some sort of complementary and alternative medicine to manage the symptoms of peri- menopause and menopause. While the menopause transition can be a welcome one for a number of women, there are a number of women who experience difficult menopausal symptoms, and substantial discomforts such as hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, mental confusion, depression, mood swings, thyroid problems, weight gain, decreased libido, and vaginal dryness.
Peri Menopause (the stage where your cycle starts to be irregular) can be a very emotional time for some women as they come to terms with the gradual aging and the end of their natural fertility.
There are a number of different naturopathic approaches to menopause, including mind-body practice, herbal and vitamin supplementation, hormone support and dietary changes.
Participating in physical activity and exercise on a regular basis has been shown to improve bone health, increase metabolism, reduce stress, and improve sleep, especially for those in the transition of menopause. Resistance exercise may help prevent osteoporosis as well as help to manage menopause-related weight gain, low mood, and sleep issues. Pelvic floor exercises are also often also suggested to assist with sexual health and bladder control.
Throughout the menopause transition, it’s a good idea to review your nutrition as there may be substances you are consuming that are making your symptoms worse and your body may become sensitive to some foods that you were once able to eat.
For example, caffeine, spicy food and alcohol can be associated with increased hot flashes.
Your Blood sugar regulation is also important, as continual spikes in blood sugar can cause menopausal symptoms such as weight gain.
Our naturopathic is happy to help you find the best way to change your diet and still be able to enjoy life.
Herbal medicine can help alleviate the symptoms of menopause in some women.
Good research has often recommended the use of herbs such as black cohosh, soy, flax seed, ginseng, red clover, evening primrose oil, fennel, ginkgo, Licorice, St. John’s wort, and alfalfa.
Some of the Supplements that are often recommended are: Vit K2, Vitamin D, Magnesium and Antioxidants and Fish Oils.
But this is just a basic guide. We would recommend discussing your options with our Naturopath and seeing if an individualized treatment plan can provide you with some much needed support through menopause.