Menopause is the permanent end of menstruation 12 months after the last menstrual cycle and a woman is no longer able to reproduce anymore. This is a natural biological process and results from a natural decline of the female hormone oestrogen. The average age for the menopause is between 45-55 yrs.
In the case of hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) with the ovaries still intact a woman will no longer have periods but oestrogen and progesterone continue to be produced. Where both the ovaries are also removed (hysterectomy and bilateral oophorectomy) menopause occurs immediately with the likelihood of menopausal symptoms to occur. Similarly chemo and radiotherapy can also cause temporary menopause during the course of the treatment. After the menopause women are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, urinary incontinence due to loss of tissue elasticity and weight gain.
Symptoms of Menopause
Menopause is associated with both physical and emotional symptoms. There may be irregular or heavy bleeding, along with hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, increased stress, breast tenderness, vaginal dryness, sleep disturbances and thinning of hair. Longer term complications of the menopause is osteoporosis and changes in cholesterol levels.
Treatment of Menopause
Mostly, changes in diet and lifestyle will relieve symptoms of menopause. Treatment is recommended when symptoms are severe and start to interfere with normal daily life. These include; hormone replacement therapy (HRT) by replacing oestrogen, vaginal lubricants and sometimes antidepressants to treat hot flushes.
Integrative & Complementary therapies
Acupuncture may help to reduce menopause symptoms and permenopause through the regulation of oestrogen and its associated female hormones (FSH and LH). It increases relaxation and reduces anxiety by changing the mood enhancing chemicals in the brain, boosting levels of serotonin and endorphins. These help to alleviate negative emotional states. One study found it to ease hot flushes for up to 3 mths.
Nutrition improvements in diet i.e. reducing intake of sugars, caffeine, alcohol and processed foods to reduce the body’s toxic overload, whilst increasing vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, oily fish, whole grains and water will enhance the levels of vitamins and nutrients required. Flaxseed, evening primrose oil are important hormone regulators, and vitamin E can help alleviate hot flushes in some women. Vitamin B is helpful to overcome stress of dealing with their situation.
Aromatherapy & Massage: Bergamot, German and Roman camomile, clary sage, geranium, ylang ylang, lavender, rose and other essential oils influence the production of hormones and therefore useful in treating PMS. The also have the added action of reducing depression and irritable behaviour. Massage has the added effect of lowering stress and improving relaxation, but may also improve tiredness, fatigue and feeling of being bloated.
Other therapies: Herbs such as soy foods, black cohosh and red clover may offer some benefit, with added positive effects on cholesterol levels in the blood. Chinese herb dong quai is useful but contraindicated in women experiencing heavy bleeding. St John’s wort is useful for mild to moderate depression and mood disorders. and vitamin E. Hypnosis shows some promise in treating hot flushes in the menopause as well as in breast cancer survivors.
- Menopause. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).
- Geller SE, Studee L. Botanical and disetary supplements for meopausal symptoms: That works, what doesn’t. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2005; 14(7): 634-649.
- Menopause. (2014). NHS Choices.
Revised: Dec 2014