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The “M” Word

by Teresa Valdez on September 5, 2013

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MENOPAUSE!!  That dreaded “M” word has many of us “Over 40” women worried and stressed out.  So much so that an actual musical has been produced.

DEFINITION:  the cessation of menstrual cycles for 12 consecutive months.  The ovaries, unlike other endocrine glands which function life-long, are programmed to “shut down” after about 50 years.  Natural menopause occurs between the ages of about 40 to 58.

SYMPTOMS:  Symptoms can persist for weeks, months, or even years.  The severity of these symptoms also vary from woman to woman.  The mainstay of these symptoms is the “hot flashes”. Up to 85% of women report having these.  Some hot flash triggers include:  alcohol, caffeine, hot drinks, hot or spicy foods & stress.  Other symptoms include: anxiety, depression, concentration difficulties, irritability, joint pain, loss of libido & headaches.

LIFESTYLE MODIFICATIONS:  Lifestyle modifications is definitely THE first step in managing menopausal symptoms.  Overweight women with a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 30 are more than twice as likely to suffer moderate to severe hot flashes compared to women whose BMI is less than 25.  Exercise, healthy food intake, and quitting smoking are highly recommended.  A very beneficial and natural approach to manage menopausal symptoms is participation in the practice of yoga.  Hot flash frequency is significantly decreased when participating in 8-10 weeks in a yoga regimen.

HORMONE THERAPY:  For short-term treatment of of symptoms, hormone therapy still play and important role.  However, duration of hormone therapy is limited to about 5 years.  Longer duration of treatment is associated with an increase in breast cancer risk.

PHYTOESTROGENS:  aka “plant estrogens”.  Since hormone therapy has fallen out of favor, natural remedies have become increasingly popular.  Three of the top 10 best-selling herbal products in the U.S. are commonly used for menopausal symptoms.  There are 3 main kinds of phytoestrogens:  Isoflavones, Lignans, and Coumestans.  Phytoestrogens are also found in many food sources.

1.  Isoflavones:  legumes (soy, chickpeas, red clover, lentils, beans)

2.  Lignans:  flaxseed, whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables

3.  Coumestans:  red clover, sunflower seeds, sprouts

However, one must be cautious as phytoestrogens have estrogenic effects.  Research findings on the potential risks associated with phytoestrogens are conflicting.  As always, checking with your health care provider is advised.

Are you a woman over the age of 40 ready to make the lifestyle changes necessary to diminish the risk of experiencing uncomfortable menopausal symptoms?

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