Menopause related articles.
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Flashes No More
Flashes No More
written by Dr. Love
Six to 12 months without a menstrual period is the commonly accepted
rule for diagnosing menopause. Classic symptoms include hot flashes,
skin wrinkling, vaginal dryness, headaches and night sweats.
Menopause is thought to occur when there are no
any eggs left in
the ovaries, This "burning out" of the ovaries reflects the natural
course of events. At birth, there are one million eggs. This number
drops to about 300,000 or 400,000 at puberty, but only about 400 eggs
actually mature during the reproductive years. By the time a woman
reaches the age of 50, few eggs remain.
Hundreds of years ago, women relied upon their
intuition and Mother
Nature to keep themselves healthy, The conventional medical treatment
of menopause disregards this factor and primarily involves the use of
hormone replacem nt therapy (HRT), whereby a combination of estrogen
and progesterone is utilized to control symptoms.
During the 1940s and 1950s, estrogen was widely
prescribed to help
women cope with the symptoms of menopause. By the 1970s, estrogen
replacement therapy became firmly entrenched as the medical treatment
of choice for women in menopause. Unfortunately, the consequences of
long-term estrogen therapy were not well understood at that time.
It is now well established that estrogen replacement
associated with a 4-13 times increased risk of developing endometrial
cancer (cancer in the lining of the uterus). To combat this tendency,
drug companies and physicians began recommending that estrogen be
combined with progesterone, Estrogen replacement therapy thus became
hormone replacement therapy. And hormone replacement therapy carries
with it the risk of causing other cancers.
The Physicians Desk Reference (as do the package
inserts for estrogen
and progesterone products) provides a long list of side effects of HRT.
In addition to the well-known risk of cancer, estrogen and progesterone
increase the risk of blood clots, breast tenderness, PMS- like
symptoms, depression, uterine fibroid enlargement, fluid retention and
Fortunately, herbal medicine and the use of
extracts can provide effective, long-term relief of such symptoms.
The use of short-term (less than 6 months) hormone
for menopausal symptoms provides only temporary relief. It is not a
permanent cure; it only delays the inevitable. Long-term hormone
replacement therapy is not justified in most women (exception; women
with severe osteoporosis) because its risks outweigh the benefits.
Breast cancer is the form of cancer most likely to be exacerbated by
hormone replacement therapy. In 1998, it is also the most common cancer
Thus HRT is not advised for women who are at high
cancer or women with a disease aggravated by estrogen, including breast
cancer, active liver diseases, and certain cardiovascular diseases.
I am always fond of recommending high-quality
standardized herbs, and those which are prepared in combination.
Nowhere is that more important than in your natural approach to
menopause. It is in the setting of synergistically blended formulations
that one herb enhances the effects of another thereby producing a more
profound effect on a woman's health. A healthful lifestyle is vital,
fun, exciting and most importantly, free of the bothersome symptoms of
Here are the five most common nutrients I suggest to
women who are suffering from symptoms of menopause:
Dong guai (Angelica sinensis) Called the "female
ginseng", it helps
balance levels of your two major hormones: estrogen and progesterone.
It also stabilizes blood vessel walls, eases PMS symptoms and can ease
heavy bleeding. Dong Quai is also an analgesic, antibacterial and a
Chasteberry (Vitex agnus castus) Native to the
chasteberry helps balance your hor- monal swings as well as hot
flashes, vaginal dryness, heart palpitations, night sweats and
Black cohosh (Cimic~ia racemosa) I have to thank my
introducing me to this one. This herb was first used by Native American
women hundreds of years ago and now is a very popular alternative to
HRT in Europe. It is the most well-documented natural alternative
(trade name: Remifemin) to HRT and effectively relieves all menopausal
Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) Licorice balances
levels of estrogen and progesterone ratios, helping to ease hot
flashes, mood swings and vaginal dryness. It is useful for treating
fatigue since it also helps replenish your adrenal glands.
Soy "The Bean" is finally gaining popularity in this
country. It keeps
your vaginal tissues moist and healthy, counters hot flashes and
protects against cancer (animal studies show activity against breast
cancer) and heart disease. With regards to cardiovascular disease, soy
lowers blood levels of LDL cholesterol when consumed at levels of about
45 grams or more per day.
Whether or not you're taking hormone replacement
perfectly safe to try herbs if you're experiencing menopausal symptoms
(hot flashes, vaginal dryness, fatigue). I urge you to consider taking
Your menopausal symptoms are mild but you'd like
You don't want to take HRT because of breast cancer risk or other
You're on HRT but would like the added benefits of
References: (for additional scientific viewpoints)
Birkenfeld, A. and Kase, N.G., "Menopause Medicine: Current Treatment
Options and Trends," Comprehen Ther 1991; 17:36-45.
Bergkvist, L. and Perssson, I., "Hormone replacement
Therapy and Breast
Cancer: A Review of Current Knowledge," Drug Saf 1996; 15:360-370.
Warnecke, G., "Influencing Menopausal Symptoms with
Phytotherapeutic Agent," Med Welt 1985; 36:871-4.
This information is for educational purposes only.
is not intended
to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any diseases. Dr. Love is a
practicing M.D. with over 15 years of experience. Dr. Love has acquired
a 15-year history with the use of natural medical therapies and is the
author of the critically acclaimed book Sudden Death. Dr. Love endorses
the importance of nutritional supplementation in his active practice
and conducts educational seminars.
Ovarian Failure (POF)
POF is estimated to affect 250,000 American women
represents approximately 3% of women between 15-39. The average age of
WHAT IS PREMATURE menopause? Better called
ovarian failure" (a term many patients with this condition prefer) or
this is menopause which occurs for any reason before the age of 40 as a
result of lost ovarian function. For most women with POF, the cause of
condition is never identified. Known causes of premature menopause
autoimmune disorders (most common), genetic factors, chemotherapy,
radiation, surgical removal of the ovaries for any reason (e.g.
endometriosis, trauma, cancer, etc.), or endocrine disorders (e.g.
or pituitary problems, diabetes). While it may seem disconcerting that
condition is increasing in frequency, the good news is that the
largely due to the large number of women who are being treated for
The ovarian failure of POF may be temporary or
or incomplete. Some patients may ovulate occasionally so contraception
still necessary if pregnancy is undesired. Pregnancies have occurred
the diagnosis of POF in about one in 12 women not using contraception.
Menopause means more than just losing your periods.
is a syndrome with clinical symptoms as well as long term consequences.
important distinction here is that women who have had a hysterectomy
(surgical removal of the uterus) but whose ovaries function normally
have periods, but they are not "in menopause." They will go into
naturally when their ovaries cease functioning.
POF is estimated to affect 250,000 American women
represents approximately 3 percent of women between 15-39. The average
of onset is 27. There is no typical menstrual history for women with
Approximately 10-15 percent of females with POF have primary
which means they never had a period on their own.
What are the symptoms of premature menopause?
with menopause, many women have no symptoms other than that their
occur less and less frequently, or, in some cases, "irregularly
until they stop altogether. Many women have the typical symptoms of
menopause: hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, moodiness, sleep
disturbances, vaginal dryness, decreased libido, and hair
What is the difference between "premature menopause"
"perimenopause"? Premature menopause, as explained above, is when a
enters menopause before age 40, for whatever reason. Perimenopause, on
other hand, is the transitional phase a woman goes into for the 2-10
preceding her natural menopause. During this time she may have normal
irregular periods and one or many of the symptoms of menopause such as
flashes, night sweats, mood changes, irritability or sleep
Common myths, misconceptions, and misinformation
The most common misperception is that POF just isn't
big deal. Upon hearing of this condition, many who are not affected
with nonchalance saying "I wish I could get out of having my periods 10
years earlier!" This condition is about much more than losing your
however. For starters, this may cause infertility, which can be
not only for the woman but her family as well. Even for women who have
already had children, this can represent a strong sense of loss. Many
with POF struggle with the emotional burden of feeling "old" before
time. The confusion of the numerous but vague physical and
symptoms can be overwhelming, especially when many physicians don't
menopause as a diagnostic option in women under 40. Some women report
when they asked their doctors if their symptoms could be related to
menopause, they are told "Oh you're too young. Come back and see me in
years." Patients fear that they are stigmatized; they fear telling
and fear that no one will understand.
The most dangerous myth is that POF doesn't have
serious consequences other than infertility. This simply is not true.
with POF go through the same loss of estrogen as menopausal women in
50s, but usually faster or suddenly, as for women who have surgery to
their ovaries. In many cases, this estrogen loss is even before these
have had the full benefits of estrogen in their lives, such as building
maximal bone mass. Losing estrogen puts women at increased risk for
osteoporosis, heart disease, colon cancer, Alzheimer's disease, tooth
impaired vision, Parkinson's disease and diabetes. The longer women are
without the protection of their own estrogen, the greater their risk
serious health consequences of these conditions.
Many women in their 20s and 30s whose periods stop
2-3 months take a home pregnancy test and, if it's negative, assume
their period stopped because of "stress." While this may in fact be
there are many other potential causes; this is worth discussing with a
Just because premature ovarian failure is common
mean that it's normal. But just because POF is abnormal doesn't mean
patient is abnormal! POF is a real, legitimate, biologic syndrome that
be treated, and managed. At this point it cannot generally be prevented
cured. The good news is that with prompt intervention and proper
many of the long-term consequences can be prevented or delayed.
Your doctor may advise you to keep a diary
of your menstrual bleeding: its frequency, duration, amount, and any
associated symptoms. This would also note menopausal symptoms such as
flashes or night sweats. This will help your physician confirm your
After taking a complete history and doing a
physical (including an internal exam), there are numerous tests your
physician may order to rule out related conditions: this may include a
pregnancy test, thyroid and pituitary tests, and tests for autoimmune
diseases. The most important test, however, will be an FSH: this is a
test for the hormone which causes the ovaries to produce estrogen. The
higher the FSH, the lower your ovarian function. This should be done at
least twice, a month apart. Your doctor may also recommend a blood
level and a karyotype (chromosomal test).
If you are in menopause, your doctor may recommend
tests such as a bone mass measurement to see if you have osteoporosis.
your physician if there are other screening tests usually offered to
in their 50s which you should have earlier since you are menopausal.
Remember that menopausal women need increased
(1,500 mg/day) and Vitamin D, so ask your physician if you should be
supplements. There are numerous new soy-based food products on the
now targeting menopausal women because of evidence that soy may have an
impact on menopausal symptoms. By all means eat them if you enjoy them,
as a good source of dietary protein.
Since stress is high on the list of consequences of
stress management techniques are high on the list of POF management
strategies. Lifestyle modifications can also help: get enough rest;
exercise, and eat healthfully.
Women with POF consistently cite the need for more
support and understanding of their condition; the POF Support Group
(www.POFsupport.org) is a great resource. Founded in 1995, they now
support groups in several cities and are continuing to grow. For POF
patients with infertility, there are numerous support groups. And for
patients with or at risk for osteoporosis as a result of POF, the
Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) can be very helpful (www.nof.org).
Whatever your choice of therapy, remember that
committed to that choice for life! You and your physician will monitor
progress and your comfort level with your treatment plan. If there are
factors that change, including your level of satisfaction discuss this
Estrogens derived from plants appear to
offer many of the benefits provided by hormone
replacement therapy (HRT) -- but without the cancer
risk associated with estrogen supplements.
Naturally occurring estrogens, or phytoestrogens,
found in significant amounts in soybeans, cereals,
alfalfa sprouts and other plants, according to Drs.
Lynette Wroblewski Lissin and John P. Cooke from
Stanford University Medical Center in California.
The authors review the potential benefits of
phytoestrogens in the May issue of the Journal of the
American College of Cardiology.
Phytoestrogens have been shown to provide several
beneficial cardiovascular effects. Eating a soy-based
diet, for example, can lower total cholesterol by 9%
and LDL ("bad") cholesterol by 13%, the report
indicates. The reductions are even greater for
patients with abnormally high cholesterol.
Phytoestrogens may protect against atherosclerosis
interfering with the initial inflammatory process, the
team suggests. Dilation of blood vessels, including
the coronary arteries, is also improved in animals
treated with phytoestrogens.
Potential noncardiac benefits of phytoestrogens
include a decrease in the number of hot flashes in
postmenopausal women, decreased risk of breast cancer
and other cancers, and protection against
osteoporosis, the investigators note.
Treatment with phytoestrogens, unlike estrogen
replacement therapy, does not appear to increase the
risk of blood clots or breast and uterine cancer,
according to the report.
Increasingly, information from a variety of sources
supports the increased use of phytoestrogens,
especially among individuals with a high risk of
developing heart disease. "The current state of
knowledge indicates that the world of plant-based
estrogens has much to offer," Lissin and Cooke
conclude, "but significant questions remain."
"In the interim," they suggest, "it seems reasonable
to recommend that women at high risk of cardiovascular
morbidity and mortality, particularly those without a
personal or family history of breast or uterine
cancer, increase their consumption of foods rich in
phytoestrogens such as soy protein."