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BLOOMINGTON, Minn.Almost 38 million women are reaching or are currently at menopause (ages 40 to 59), according to 2000 United States Census data. With recent studies reporting that hormone replacement therapy (estrogen alone or estrogen with progestin) increases a womans risk for stroke, breast cancer and blood clots, many women are searching for new and better options for treating menopauses unpleasant side effects and for preventing osteoporosis.
A womans menopausal experience can be improved naturally through a healthy diet and lifestyle along with some alternative treatments that are effective for treating mild to moderate symptoms, says Katie Burns Ryan, DC, an associate professor and faculty clinician at Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington, Minn. However, it is vital for patients to consult with their health care practitioners to compile a comprehensive health history that weighs the advantages versus the risks of different options.
Menopause is a natural part of a womans life cycle when the body doesnt make as much estrogen as progesterone. Estrogen and progesterone are hormones produced within the ovaries that are required to maintain the menstrual cycle. When these hormones are no longer produced in a specific ratio, the menstrual cycle eventually ceases. The result is a loss of bone mass and unpleasant symptoms, including hot flashes, vaginal dryness, changes in mood, painful joints or muscles, and night sweats.
Dr. Burns Ryan suggests the following methods to increase bone mass and relieve symptoms of menopause:
Calcium. Its important to make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet before menopause in order to maintain a healthy bone structure, and improve muscle firing and nerve conduction, says Dr. Burns Ryan. Calcium can be found in dairy products like milk and cheese, or you can take two doses of a calcium supplement a day: 500 mg a dose, on an empty stomach.
Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps absorb calcium and is crucial for bone formation. In the winter when there isnt as much sun (sunshine is a major source of vitamin D), it is important to take 200 international units (IU) of a vitamin D supplement daily.
Isoflavones. These are phytoestrogens, or natural plant extracts, that are found in soy products or legumes that help relieve both the symptoms of menopause and prevent osteoporosis. Isoflavones act like a natural estrogen, although they dont completely replace it, by helping balance a womans hormones, says Dr. Burns Ryan. Some research has shown that isoflavones block the negative effects of hormone replacement therapies.
Black cohosh. This herb has been used for hundreds of years to fight the symptoms of menopause, specifically hot flashes, says Dr. Burns Ryan. Black cohosh, made from the root of a perennial plant that is native to North America, comes in the form of a tablet that can be added to water or tea.
Natural progesterone cream. This phytoestrogen cream is a combination of a natural estrogen and progesterone, and helps balance the hormones in the body by relieving hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness. The cream is easy to administer and can be rubbed and absorbed into soft tissues such as the back of the hands and chest where calluses are not present.
Chiropractic adjustments. The spinal cord is the direct link between the brain and the rest of the body. It has 31 pairs of spinal nerves that exit off the cord and communicate to specific parts of the body. Chiropractic adjustments are applied to the specific regions of the spine and can improve the local, mechanical function of muscles and joints to an optimal level, says Dr. Burns Ryan. Adjustments applied to a region of the midback, called the thoracolumbar spine, can also positively affect the nervous system leading to the ovaries, which can help ease the discomforts of menopause.
For additional resources about menopause, visit http://www.nwhealth.edu/nns, a Web site focusing on natural approaches to health and wellness hosted by Northwestern Health Sciences University.
from the March 14-20, 2007, issue