Seasons Of Change

part two
by Rebecca Huber

Last week I looked at what menopause is and the physiological changes that go on in our bodies. Symptoms of menopause can be wide and varied depending on an individual's general health, genetics, diet, use of medications and the stressors we have in our lives. We cannot change who we are and our body makeup but we can lessen our stress, use a better diet and, in general, clean up our health.

Change, any change, will come more easily with a gentle approach that is gradual and kind to the body. Also, today's women feel better if they are armed with some knowledge of what is going on. And I mean more than what you are usually handed by the gynecologist when you go in to discuss the "M" word. Now I'm not a doctor-basher; they are very busy but that's no excuse for the amount of information women receiving from them about menopause and their bodies being so inadequate. Don't be mad­­ just get out there and take some responsibility for educating yourself about your body. Menopause­­ as much as we fight against it­­ is an inevitable natural process. The good news is that we are not alone and there's lots of help.

If you are beginning to suffer uncomfortable symptoms that may be related to menopause, by all means start by seeing your doctor. The biggest question you will face will be how you want to manage your symptoms­­ with hormone replacement therapy or the more natural route­­ or possibly a combination of both.

Although estrogen levels drop during the postmenopausal period, the hormone does not disappear. Other organs take over in the production of estrogen and other hormones. The organs known as endocrine glands secrete hormones to maintain proper bodily functions. Therefore, it is very important that we support endocrine function, and in particularly adrenal function, during this time of shift.

So, if you are generally in good health and your symptoms are not too severe, you may be able to manage your symptoms with natural supplements and some herbs. Other reasons to consider an alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) are a history of breast cancer, uterine or ovarian cancer, gall bladder disease, liver disease or high blood pressure.

The best nutritional alternatives to estrogen replacement therapy are primrose oil, vitamin E and bioflavanoids. Primrose oil contains some natural occurring plant estrogens and helps balance endocrine function as does vitamin E. Bioflavanoids are believed to work like estrogen because they have the same chemical activity as estrogen.

Beefing up lagging digestion with digestive enzymes can be critical in your success in using more natural therapies. All of the endocrine glands are under extra stress including the pancreas which is responsible for the production of enzymes used in digestion.

Calcium and magnesium become even more important to help balance cellular function and just as importantly, magnesium helps produce the relaxation needed for a restful night's sleep. Another important mineral is potassium which helps ease the symptoms of hot flashes.

Valuable herbs to utilize would be black cohosh which contains natural plant estrogens, licorice which works to balance to endocrine system, ginseng which helps eliminate fatigue, dong quai which is good for hot flashes and depression.

Dietary changes that would be helpful include limiting dairy, sugar and meat, consuming more whole grains, raw foods, green foods and fish. In general let go of highly processed dead foods.

On the other hand, estrogen replacement therapy may actually be a good idea for some women. Don't be a martyr; if you've given it your best shot and you and your doctor agree that HRT would be good for you, do it by all means. Also, you may want to consider HRT if you are at high risk for osteoporosis or heart disease.

Whether you choose the more natural route or go with traditional, you'll be ahead of the game years down the road if you include some positive changes in your life that include more natural ways of dealing with menopause.

Till next week, Rebecca.

This article posted to Zephyr online February 27, 1997
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