Natural Approaches To Menopause
Three Pathways For Health
If you’re female between the ages of forty-five to fifty-five you’re probably moving through menopause. You know the signs – weight gain, moodiness, trouble focusing, less hair on your head and more on your face, hot flashes and night sweats.
There are three stages to menopause: perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. The clinical definition of menopause is when a woman's menstrual periods stop completely and for a minimum of 12 months straight. It signals the end of the ovaries releasing eggs for fertilization. What may surprise you is that menopause can occur as early as the 30s or as late as the 60s. It can also result from the surgical removal of both ovaries, and also chemotherapy treatment can induce menopause.
Decrease in circulation of estrogen also puts you at a higher risk of bone loss and heart disease.
There is good news though. While menopause is a hormonal transition, it’s only temporary. But that’s no consolation when you’re soaking your pajamas!
Hormone Replacement Therapy (or HRT) is out – due to its contribution to risk of breast cancer, stroke and heart disease, and dementia. In are natural solutions that are safe and effective.
Weight bearing exercise and supplemental calcium is essential for attaining peak bone mass and preventing postmenopausal osteoporosis. Adequate vitamin D intake along with magnesium, boron, strontium, and manganese is required for optimal calcium absorption.
Kale is really popular because it keeps your bones strong. So eat lots of it and its green leafy cousins.
Natural products like Valerian or Hops have been shown to help you sleep better and lack of energy can be supported with the herb Rhodiola. But the number one challenge during menopause is the dreaded hot flashes!
Sage in supplement form contains compounds that have been clinically proven to reduce the instances of night sweats and hot flashes after just two. And, here’s an important tip: ensure your supplemental sage is fresh, organic and GMO-free!
You may already be familiar with a lot of this. But what you likely don’t know is that menopause is orchestrated by far more than just estrogen decline. The latest science shows us that the human body consists of multiple systems that communicate to maintain hormonal balance during and long after menopause.
The coordinated interconnectedness of the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems is often overlooked when considering solutions to manage menopause. Nevertheless, an ideal transition hinges on the balance of neurotransmitters and cytokines, which are essential chemical signals that mediate the communication between the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems, respectively. Collectively, these systems constitute the Psycho-Neuro-Endo-Immune (PNEI) supersystem.
There are several important hormone-neurotransmitter interactions and three pathways at which much hormone-neurotransmitter-cytokine interaction occurs. There is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) pathway, the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) pathway, and the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) pathway.
The HPA Pathway
The HPA pathway is a neuroendocrine system that regulates the reactions to stress, energy storage, and the immune system. Cytokines act at several levels of the HPA axis to induce the release of cortisol and epinephrine. Cortisol and epinephrine act to suppress the immune response. If you have led a very stressful life up to the point of menopause, then this pathway will likely be imbalanced. If your adrenals (which are like battery backups to your ovaries) are burnt out by menopause, it becomes necessary to support your transition with adrenal support supplements known as adaptogens. Some of the more evidence based adaptogens include Rhodiola and Relora. Another incredibly effective way to support this pathway is to learn about and practice Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction techniques (MBSR).
The HPT Pathway
The HPT pathway is a neuroendocrine system that regulates metabolism. When the hypothalamus senses low circulating levels of the hormones T3 and T4, it signals to the pituitary, which then signals the thyroid gland to release T3 and T4. This pathway often gets interrupted during menopause. It can be very helpful to supplement with the amino acid L-Tyrosine. Tyrosine supports the conversion of T4 into the more active and potent T3.
The HPG Pathway
The HPG pathway is a neuroendocrine system that regulates the reproductive system. The hypothalamus releases gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) to stimulate the pituitary to release luteinizing hormone (LH), which then signals the ovaries. This communication pathway ultimately leads to the production of testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone from the ovaries.
Estrogen tends to have a stimulatory effect on the immune system, while testosterone tends to have suppressive effects. Theoretically, moving through menopause may leave you slightly more immune-suppressed. Besides keeping a healthy diet and exercise, consider supplementing your diet with Wellmune – a natural yeast beta glucan derived from the cell wall of a highly purified, proprietary strain of baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) with a ton of science to back it.
As you see, the mind-body connection is very real (and quite intricate). But, menopause is a rite of passage, not a disease. Try not to sweat it!