The EclecticPhysician

The Eclectic Physician
Natural Health Care
by Beth Burch N.D.


Menopause is technically defined as the cessation of the menstrual periods, but menopause is more a process rather than a specific event in time. The average age of cessation of menstrual periods is about 52 with a range of 45-55, however the process usually begins in the early forties with changes in the hormonal levels in the body. While in some cultures, menopause is marked by women moving into a new role of respect and wisdom and is accompanied by few or no symptoms, in our Western culture, this "change of life" is often viewed as the beginning of old age and physical decline and is often accompanied by a myriad of uncomfotable symptoms. Perhaps with the growing numbers of healthy women who are now approaching and reaching menopause, the societal view will change to seeing post menopausal women as vital, wise and valuable members of society. A new attitude may go far to help alleviate some of the bothersome symptoms women experience in this process.

As a woman's ovaries reach the end of egg production, though not hormonal secretion, in the forties, the pituitary gland responds with increased production of the hormones FSH and LH. The increased levels of these hormones may be responsible for some of the symptoms of menopause including hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia and fuzzy thinking. The lower levels of estrogen that occur contribute to vaginal dryness. As we know with women from other cultures and even some in our own, there may not be any symptoms at all except the cessation of the menses. Others may experience many symptoms, sometimes beginning in the early forties.

Osteoporosis is the term for bone loss, which begins in the late thirties, but progresses more rapidly after menopause. For women with a low bone mass before menopause, this can progress to the point of easily fractured bones by the early sixties without treatment. For women with strong bones, the extra loss at menopause does not necessitate estrogen administration. Bone mass testing before or at menopause can help determine if you are at high risk for osteoporosis. While estrogen is the mainstay of osteoporosis prevention, there are now several alternative medications for women who can not or do not want to take estrogen. Note: Women who have had a surgical menopause, also known as a complete hystyrectomy (removal of uterus and ovaries) will need estrogen replacement therapy since they no longer have any ovarian hormone production.

All premenopausal and menopausal women should follow a number of guidelines to help minimize symptoms and prevent bone loss. These include eating a healthy diet high in calcium and magnesium; supplementing the diet with additional calcium and magnesium according to the recommended daily allowances for your age; avoid and/or cut down on things that cause calcium to be excreted from the body including alcohol, caffeine, cigarette smoking, excess protein intake, excess sugar and refined foods; and doing regular weight bearing exercise to build strong bones. Don't exercise to the point of very low body fat since this can result in osteoporosis, even before menopause. Eating lots of soy products, which are high in phytoestogens will help with menopausal symptoms and also preventing cancer. Vitamin E has been shown to be helpful for hot flashes.

Herbal treatment for menopause symptoms is quite effective, but should be reserved for women who do not require estrogen replacement therapy. The use of phytoestogen herbs for menopausal symptoms for women in whom the use of estrogen is contraindicated (breast or endometrial cancer) remains controversial. While some natural practitioners are using herbs for these women, there are not yet studies to assure they are safe.

For premenopausal symptoms, especially skipped periods and heavy menstrual bleeding-
Vitex- helps to normalize hormonal production and ovulation, itís progesterongenic effect will help to decrease excessive bleeding
Dosage- Liquid extract- 1/2 teaspoon each morning
Dry herb in capsules- 500 mg each morning
Standardized extract-225 milligrams of an extract standardized for 0.5 percent agnusides

For menopausal symptoms, especially hot flashes, dry vagina, irritability
Black Cohosh-widely studied in Europe for relief of menopausal symptoms, found to be as effective as estrogen for symptom relief
Dosage- Liquid extract-
Dry herb in capsules-
Standardized extract

For menopausal/postmenopausal symptoms, especially dry vagina and decreased libido-
Chinese Ginseng-studies show it will affect vaginal tissue just like estrogen and is helpful for increasing energy and libido.
Liquid extract- 1/2 teaspoon one-three times a day
Dry herb in capsules- 500 mg one-three times a day
Standardized extract (18% ginsenoside content)- 150 mg one-three times a day
Caution: If you have heart disease or hypertension, consult with your health care provider before using any ginseng.

Also see Insomnia, Anxiety, Depression for herbs to treat these specifically

* The information presented in this web site is intended to inform and educate. It is not intended replace a qualified medical practitioner to diagnose or treat medical conditions.

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