Menopause is a good example of Western medicine’s focus on disease, rather than on health and wellness. In this case, a natural state—the end of menstruation—is deﬁned by many conventional doctors as a disease that must be treated with medication. Women who don’t take their estrogen pills, Western medicine implies, will lose their femininity and their value to society. Luckily, many women instinctively know bet- ter, and studies have proven that there are extreme health risks with synthetic hormone replacement. To these wise women, menopause is a time of freedom from the men- strual cycle and the onset of wisdom and power. And it’s no coincidence that these women, who refuse to view themselves as “diseased,” experience far fewer (and some- times none) of the problems usually associated with this change of life.
Since attitude plays a signiﬁcant role in the physical response to menopause, it helps to understand the changes that are taking place. These changes can start several years before menopause proper actually sets in, with erratic periods or unusually heavy or light bleeding. This phase is called perimenopause or premenopause and provides an opportunity to prepare emotionally and physically for the larger transition to come. During premenopause, the ovaries no longer ovulate on a regular basis. This is the basis for the cycle changes and the beginning of symptoms such as hot ﬂashes. Menopause itself usually begins in the mid-forties to early ﬁfties. When the ovaries stop producing signiﬁcant amounts of estrogen and progesterone, the menstrual cycle ceases; a woman who has had no periods for a year is said to be menopausal.
Women’s reactions to menopause vary widely. Some enjoy the change, while others suffer from problems like hot ﬂashes, vaginal dryness, heart palpitations, and mood swings, often for years. But if a woman is healthy, active, and well nourished, her adrenal glands will usually respond to menopause by creating precursor hormones
such as pregnenolone and DHEA, which are then converted into estrogen, proges- terone, and testosterone. And if she takes natural steps to encourage this process, it is likely that she can avoid harsh and possibly dangerous medications altogether.
The days of routinely prescribing synthetic estrogen, synthetic progesterone, or both, should be over. Several studies, including the well-publicized Women’s Health Initiative Study, which involved over 16,000 women, concluded that the “beneﬁts did not outweigh the risks” of using the combination of synthetic estrogen (Premarin) and synthetic progesterone (Provera). A signiﬁcant increased incidence of breast cancer and cardiovascular disease stopped this study short of its completion.
There are also times when menopause really is a disorder or a serious problem. If menopause arrives for unnatural reasons, such as from anorexia, bulimia, or extremely intense exercise, the root cause must be treated so that the cycle returns. When menopause is brought about by a hysterectomy or removal of the ovaries, natural hor- monal replacement therapy may be necessary to counter the sudden depletion of estro- gen and progesterone and the resulting bone loss.
We believe that every woman must be addressed individually. Optimally, it is best to get a hormone test done to ﬁnd out which hormone imbalances you may have. Saliva testing is a good option. For women with mild to moderate symptoms of menopause, we generally recommend the use of diet, exercise, and nutritional sup- plements, especially herbal and homeopathic remedies. The beauty of this approach is that these natural supplements balance the hormones that are already present in the body. In addition, the use of natural progesterone appears to be very safe and effec- tive when a stronger approach is needed. Likewise, precursor hormones, such as preg- nenolone and DHEA, may be helpful.
For women with extreme symptoms that are unresponsive to nutritional supple- ments, the use of natural hormone replacement may be required. This is particularly true of women who had their ovaries removed at an early age or for others with mod- erate to severe osteoporosis. This is, of course, best done with a doctor who is knowl- edgeable in natural hormones.
• Cessation of periods
• Hot ﬂashes
• Vaginal dryness and thinning
• Night sweats
• Heart palpitations
• Memory problems and difﬁculty
• Cold hands and feet
• Reduced libido
• Bladder problems, including incontinence
• Mood swings
• Depression and anxiety
• Joint pain
• Skin changes (acne, facial hair, hair loss on scalp)
ROOT CAUSES OF EARLY MENOPAUSE
• Eating disorders
• Extraordinarily intense exercise or physical training
• Ovarian disease
• Surgical removal of the ovaries, usually as part of a hysterectomy
• Hypofunctioning adrenal glands
The following tests help assess hormone balance and other issues related to menopause:
Hormone testing (thyroid, DHEA, cortisol, testosterone, IGF-1, estrogen, progesterone, FSH)—saliva, blood, or urine
Complete blood count and chemistry proﬁle—blood
Thyroid panel—blood or saliva or urine
Cardiovascular proﬁle—blood (see Cardiovascular Disease section for more detail)
Bone resorption assessment—urine
Bone density—DEXA scan (X-ray)
If you begin to incorporate these suggestions into your diet at the onset of peri-
menopause, you will likely experience far fewer problems when menopause begins in earnest.
Eat a diet loaded with plant foods, especially whole grains, legumes, fresh vegetables, and fruits. These contain phytosterols, naturally occurring nutrients that have a hormone-balancing effect. You’ll also get the ﬁber you need to keep your heart healthy and the nutrients that will encourage a strong, vibrant response to menopause.
Japanese women have signiﬁcantly fewer problems during menopause, thanks to their consumption of soybeans, tofu, miso, and ﬂaxseeds, all of which are excellent sources of phytoestrogens. Add these to your diet, unless you have a soy allergy.
Essential fatty acids protect the heart and promote smooth, radiant skin. Good sources are cold-water ﬁsh like salmon, cod, and tuna, as well as ﬂaxseeds.
Vitamin E regulates estrogen production. Make sure to include cold-pressed nut and seed oils in your diet, perhaps as a dressing for a green salad.
Consume 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground ﬂaxseeds daily. They contain lignans, which are phytonutrients that have estrogen-balancing properties and that lower cholesterol. Take each serving with 10 ounces of water.
Drink a glass of clean water every two waking hours. You’ll ﬂush out toxins and replace ﬂuid you may have lost during hot ﬂashes.
Food to Avoid
To protect yourself against heart disease, reduce red meat and other sources of satu- rated fat from your diet. Eat hormone-free animal products to avoid causing a hor- mone imbalance.
Carbonated drinks also deplete calcium from your body, so you should avoid them. Caffeine and alcohol aggravate hot ﬂashes, so eliminate them from your diet.
Keep your system clear of artery-clogging toxins by doing a three-day juice fast once every three months. Regular fasting is especially beneﬁcial for women on hormone- replacement therapy, whose livers may be taxed with extra waste.
Super Seven Prescriptions—Menopause
Super Prescription #1 Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)
Take 80 mg one to two times daily. This herb has been shown in numerous stud- ies to alleviate a multitude of menopausal symptoms, including hot ﬂashes.
Super Prescription #2 Natural progesterone cream
Perimenopausal women should apply 1⁄4 teaspoon (20 mg) to the skin on the inside of their wrists and forearms one to two times daily, from days 14 to 25 of the men- strual cycle or as directed by their health-care practitioner.
Menopausal women should apply 1⁄4 teaspoon (20 mg) to the skin on the inside of their wrists and forearms two times daily, three to four weeks of the month or as directed by their health-care practitioner.
Postmenopausal should women apply 1⁄8 teaspoon (10 mg) to the skin on the inside of their wrists and forearms once daily, three weeks of the month.
Natural progesterone alleviates a multitude of menopausal symptoms and may
help bone density.
Super Prescription #3 Vitex (chasteberry)
Take 160 to 240 mg of an 0.6 percent aucubin extract daily. Vitex relieves hot ﬂashes and prevents a heavy menses for perimenopausal women. Do not use it if you are taking the birth control pill.
Super Prescription #4 American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)
Take 600 to 1,200 mg daily. This herb supports adrenal function, improves energy, relaxes the nervous system, and has a cooling effect.
Super Prescription #5 Hops (Humulus lupulus)
Take 250 mg two to three times daily. Hops reduces anxiety and tension and has mild hormone-balancing properties.
Super Prescription #6 Rehmania (Rehmania glutinosa)
Take 25 to 100 mg daily. This Chinese herb has a cooling effect and reduces hot ﬂashes, night sweats, heart palpitations, and other common menopause symptoms.
Super Prescription #7 Soy protein powder (preferably fermented)
Take up to 60 grams a day, as studies show that it reduces hot ﬂashes. Do not use it if you have a soy allergy.
DHEA supports memory, libido, and mood. If your level of DHEA is low, take 5 to
15 mg as a starting dosage, under the guidance of your doctor.
Pregnenolone is a precursor hormone to make estrogen and progesterone. Take 30 mg twice daily, under the guidance of your doctor.
Adrenal glandular extract supports the hormone-producing adrenal glands. Take
1 to 2 capsules twice daily on an empty stomach.
For memory and concentration problems, take Gingko biloba. It increases blood
131 doctors and 629 female patients revealed that black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) alleviated several menopausal symptoms in 80 per- cent of women within six to eight weeks. Symptoms that were improved included hot ﬂashes, headaches, vertigo, heart palpita- tions, nervousness, ringing in the ears, anxiety, insomnia, and depression. Another study of 80 women going through menopause found that black cohosh (Cimi- cifuga racemosa) had the best results in alle- viating symptoms, as compared to Premarin or a placebo.
every synthetic hormone prescription, there exists a natural version that is identical to what is found in your body. If you need hormone- replacement therapy, consult a doctor who is knowledgeable in natural hormone replacement. These hormones are avail- able from a com- pounding pharmacy in your area. Note: Most hormones require a prescription.
double-blind trial found that transdermal natural progesterone cream reduced hot ﬂashes in 83 percent of women, compared with improvement in only 19 percent of those given a placebo. Transdermal natural progesterone has also been shown to pre- vent the build-up of the endometrium (lin- ing of uterus) among postmenopausal women who take syn- thetic estrogen (Pre- marin).
ﬂow to the brain. Take 120 to 240 mg daily of an extract standardized to 24 percent ﬂavone glycosides.
Hormone-replacement therapy puts a great stress on the liver. If you choose to take this medication, detoxify with milk thistle (Silybum marianum). Find a formula that’s standardized to 70 to 80 percent silymarin content, and take 250 mg twice a day.
Saint-John’s-wort (Hypericum perforatum) has been shown to ﬁght depression that comes on with menopause. Take 900 mg daily of a 0.3 percent hypericin extract.
If you have heart palpitations, take motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) at a dosage of 200 mg or 2 ml three times daily.
Sage (Salvia ofﬁcinalis) helps control the sweating associated with hot ﬂashes. Take a daily dose of 4 to 6 grams.
Red clover (Trifolium pratense) has been shown in some studies to reduce the symp- toms of menopause. Take 40 mg one to two times daily.
If you need to unwind and destress, ﬁnd a quiet moment to drink a cup of tea made from chamomile, peppermint, or passion ﬂower. Each of these herbs is relaxing and calming.
Vitamin E-complex may help reduce the symptoms of menopause. Take 800 to 1,200 IU daily. Do not use this high of a dosage if you’re on blood-thinning medications.
For mild vaginal dryness, use a lubricant from your health food store or pharmacy. For severe vaginal dryness, have your doctor prescribe vaginal estriol cream. Insert
1 gram nightly, containing 0.5 mg, for two weeks and then as needed.
A high-potency multivitamin provides a base of vitamins and minerals for over- all health.
Take a daily total of 1,000 mg of calcium and 500 mg of magnesium, or a bone formula for bone health.
For a more powerful relaxing effect, especially if you need to sleep, drink valer- ian tea.
Pick the remedy that best matches your symptoms in this section. Take a 6x, 12x, 6C,
12C, or 30C potency twice daily for two weeks to see if there are any positive results. After you notice improvement, stop taking the remedy, unless symptoms return. Con- sultation with a homeopathic practitioner is advised.
Belladonna (Atropa belladonna) is a remedy for sudden hot ﬂashes that cause a ﬂushing of the face. Throbbing symptoms may occur in the head or other areas of the body, accompanied by heat. Heart palpitations, restlessness, and right-sided headaches are common symptoms.
Calcarea Carbonica will help menopausal symptoms such as night sweats, heavy ﬂow, and hot ﬂashes even though the woman is chilly. There is often a sense of anx- iety, fatigue, and a feeling of being overwhelmed. Women may also experience leg cramps and crave both eggs and sweets. There is weight gain with the menopausal transition.
Lachesis will ease a variety of menopausal complaints, including hot ﬂashes, anx- iety, headaches, insomnia, memory problems, and lack of concentration. It is a spe- ciﬁc remedy for heart palpitations that are worse from lying on the left side. The woman is often very talkative and may have strong emotions such as jealousy, sus- piciousness, or anger. Tight clothing around the neck is avoided. The libido often increases with menopause.
Natrum Muriaticum is for women who experience backaches and migraines, along with a craving for salt and cold drinks. It is also used for hot ﬂashes and vagi- nal dryness. Symptoms are worse in the sun. Depression and aversion to people may be present. The woman cries easily.
Oophorinum is a speciﬁc remedy for hot ﬂashes in women who have had their ovaries removed.
Pulsatilla (Pulsatilla pratensis) is for women who feel much worse in a warm room and who strongly desire fresh air. Mood swings and weepiness are characteristic symp- toms. They may have a strong craving for sweets, pastries, and chocolate.
Sepia is for menopausal women who experience pain or anxiety during intercourse, usually because of vaginal dryness. If periods still occur, there may be heavy bleed- ing. This remedy may help uterine prolapse and incontinence. Women who beneﬁt from this remedy usually feel irritable and exhausted. They have a strong craving for chocolate, sweets, or sour foods and have an aversion to sex.
Sulphur is a good remedy for hot ﬂashes and night sweats. The woman perspires easily and throws the covers off at night. She has a strong thirst for ice-cold drinks.
See pages 668–675 for information about pressure points and administering treatment.
• Governing Vessel 24.5 regulates glands and will minimize headaches and hot ﬂashes.
• Work Governing Vessel 20 for improved concentration and memory, as well as for relief from headache pain.
• Conception Vessel 17 will soothe tension and help you sleep. It also helps reduce hot ﬂashes.
• If you suffer from anxiety that leads to heart palpitations, work Pericardium 6. You can use this point as part of a daily practice, or you can press it whenever you feel tension coming on.
• To strengthen the urinary tract, work Bladder 60.
Massage therapy is a terriﬁc stress reliever. If you don’t already receive regular mas- sage treatments, this is a good time in your life to start.
If you’re feeling less sexual desire than you used to, you may be suffering from touch deprivation. Keep up physical contact with your partner by learning a few sim- ple massage techniques for the head, the shoulder, or the back.
If you have only a short amount of time, concentrate on the area corresponding to the uterus. You can also work the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, and all glands.
For stress relief, work the solar plexus.
The chest and lung area will strengthen your heart.
A warm sitz bath will increase circulation to the pelvic area and will improve vagi- nal dryness and decreased libido.
Geranium and rose oils have a gentle balancing effect on hormone levels. They have the additional beneﬁt of reducing stress. Add these oils to a bath or use them in a massage.
If you want to lift your spirits, you can try several oils. Bergamot, rose, and jas- mine are some of the best; use them in any preparation you like.
Patchouli and ylang ylang instill a sense of calm, while arousing sexual desire. Try a few drops in the bath or a room diffuser, or use in a massage.
Add chamomile to a lotion, and apply to dry skin for a softening, smoothing effect.
General Stress-Reduction Therapies
For some women, menopause is difﬁcult. Any of the techniques in the Exercise and Stress Reduction chapter can help you relieve stress. The key is to pick one or a couple and do them regularly. Walking has been shown in studies to alleviate hot ﬂashes.
Bach Flower Remedies
Select the appropriate remedy and place 10 drops of the liquid under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
Walnut is the remedy for anxiety about a new phase of life. Take it if you need help adjusting to the transition.
If menopause brings on speciﬁc fears—of aging or loss, for example—Mimulus will help.
If your fear is more general, one that you can’t exactly name, take Aspen. Mustard will relieve sadness that seems to have no obvious cause.
• Remember that one year without a single period must pass before menopause can ofﬁcially be declared. If a full year has not passed since your last cycle, it’s possible that you could still get pregnant. Take appropriate precautions.
• Don’t smoke. Smoking is linked to premature menopause, as well as to heart disease.
• Regular exercise improves general health, as well as many symptoms of menopause. Nonimpact workouts like swimming and cycling are good for your cardiovascular system, but to prevent bone loss you’ll need to include weight- bearing exercise as well. Walking is one of the best all-over conditioners, and weight lifting has been shown to increase bone density and vitality even for people in their nineties.
• Acupuncture can be helpful for alleviating a variety of menopausal symptoms, as can Chinese herbal therapy. See a qualiﬁed practitioner.