Menopause Treatment for Severe Symptoms
Hormone therapy can help alleviate many of the troublesome symptoms of menopause. Low-dose oral contraceptive (birth control) pills are one option for perimenopausal women to help treat irregular vaginal bleeding and relieve hot flashes. Local vaginal hormone treatments can be applied directly to the vagina when treating symptoms of vaginal estrogen deficiency.
Examples of local vaginal hormone treatments include the vaginal estrogen ring, vaginal estrogen cream, or vaginal estrogen tablets (taken orally). Antidepressants have also been used to treat hot flashes associated with menopause. Other potential treatments that can help relieve symptoms include blood pressure medications, anti-seizure medications, and lifestyle modifications. Hormone therapy is not without its own risks, your doctor can help you weigh the risks and benefits of this treatment.
Menopause Treatment: Hormone Therapy
Hormone therapy is used to control the symptoms of menopause. This treatment consists of estrogen, or a combination of estrogens and progesterone, administered via pill, patch, or spray. Long-term use of hormone therapy has been associated with an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, and breast cancer, so it is recommended that the lowest dose of hormones that are effective be taken for the shortest time possible. There are a number of different types of prescription hormone therapies, and your doctor can help you find the best solution if you require this treatment.
Menopause Treatment: Bioidentical Hormone Therapy
The term “bioidentical” hormone therapy has been used to refer to hormones derived from plants prepared individually for patients at compounding pharmacies. Some FDA approved prescription products are also “bioidentical” in the true sense of the word. Some doctors feel that compounded “bioidentical” hormone products are safer, but the US FDA does not approve these products.
Menopause Treatment: Natural Remedies
Many women try alternative treatments for menopausal symptoms. Certain botanicals, or herbal supplements, are advertised to treat hot flashes and other menopause symptoms. However, the FDA does not regulate herbal supplements, so they may not always be safe.
Herbal Supplements to Ease Menopause Symptoms
- Black cohosh
- Dong quai
- Evening primrose oil
- Red clover
- Vitamin E
- Wild yam
If you decide to try these remedies, or other herbal products, be sure to discuss this with your doctor. Some botanical or herbal supplements can interact with prescription drugs.
Menopause Health Risks
Health risks associated with menopause include a greater risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. Heart disease remains the number one cause of death for women in the United States. It is important to make sure blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar are at normal levels. Cholesterol levels at the time of menopause may fluctuate, causing HDL (good cholesterol) to go down and LDL (bad cholesterol) to go up. These changes may result in heart attack or stroke. Declining estrogen levels may be partly to blame, but hormone therapy is not recommended for postmenopausal women to decrease these risks because it is associated with health risks of its own.
Menopause may also have an active role in osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become very weak and can break easily. Estrogen is important in building new bone. The decrease in estrogen during menopause makes women susceptible to osteoporosis. It is very important to build as much bone density as possible before age 30. Preserving bone density can be done by consuming foods high in calcium, such as milk and milk products. Vitamin D is also important because it helps the body absorb calcium.
Menopause and Good Nutrition
It’s never too late to start living a healthy lifestyle. Regular checkups should include a measurement of cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure. Be sure not to skip routine preventive screenings such as mammograms. Consuming plant-based foods that have isoflavones (plant estrogens) may slightly increase estrogen levels because the plants act like a weak form of estrogen.
Soy is an example of a food that contains isoflavones and may relieve menopause symptoms. Women also tend to have low levels of calcium and iron. Getting enough calcium and iron is extremely important for women transitioning through menopause. You can work with your doctor to establish a plan for a healthy lifestyle including a nutritious diet, physical activity, and stress management skills.
Diet and Nutrition for Menopausal Women
The following are tips to better nutrition for women going through menopause:
- Eat approximately 1,200 milligrams of calcium each day
- Eat approximately 9 milligrams of iron each day
- Eat approximately 21 milligrams of fiber each day
- Eat 1 ½ cups of fruit and 2 cups of vegetables each day
- Read and understand food labels
- Drink plenty of water
- Cut back on fatty foods
- Limit sugar and salt intake
Menopause and Weight Gain
Decreased levels of estrogen in women approaching menopause may cause weight gain. Lack of estrogen may also cause the body to use blood sugar and starches less effectively, increasing fat storage and making it difficult to lose weight. Regular physical activity is important at any age, and especially as a woman transitions to menopause.
During this time, a woman’s metabolism is slowing, making it harder to maintain or lose weight. Aerobic exercise strengthens the heart, and weight-bearing exercises to maintain bone strength are two important components of an exercise program. Regular exercise can also help keep weight off and elevate your mood. Even if you weren’t active before, you can start to increase your physical activity at any age.
Many women find that menopause is a time to celebrate a new phase of life rather than grieving for lost youth. After transitioning through menopause, women will not have any more periods or symptoms of PMS. They will also be able to have sex without worrying about pregnancies. Menopause should be used as a time to explore sources of pleasure and joy, fill yourself with positive thoughts, love yourself, and revive your sex life.
- Eat healthy
- Exercise daily
- Use lubricant during intimacy
- Make plans for dates and intimacy
- Talk to your doctor about any problems
Analysed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, Medical Director