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Menopause Symptoms & Solutions

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 October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Menopause Awareness Month and National Chiropractic Health Month.   

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On Wednesday, October 15th I had the privilege of presenting information at the NBACC Women 2 Women Lunch and Learn.  The topic was Menopause Symptoms & Solutions.  *Note much of the information also applies to Breast Cancer recovery.  

Chanda Ryan, President and CEO of the Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce was the host and moderator of the zoom meeting.  Presenters included Dr. Amanda Williams of Positive Chiropractic and Dr. Sarah Skelly of Dr. Bawa & Associates of Fort Walton Beach and Gretchen CarterOrganized Occasions. 

Please check out the links to learn more about these fabulous women and their practices and businesses.   

 
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The following information was shared during the presentation. 

Overview of Medical Definition and Health Concerns related to Menopause 

The Philosophy of Menopause: 

There are two basically opposite and conflicting philosophies of menopause 

Philosophy 1: 

Menopause is a natural event, affecting everyone sooner or later. The normal status of women after approximately age 50 is to be menopausal, without any estrogen. The role of medication, if any, is to ease the transition from pre-menopause to menopause, helping women adjust to not having any estrogen.  Any medical treatment of menopause should involve the smallest amount of the fewest number of medications, for the shortest period of time possible. Then, the medications should be steadily withdrawn so that the menopausal woman will not become dependent upon it.  

Philosophy 2: 

Menopause is an estrogen-deficiency state. Womanhood is more or less defined by the effects of estrogen, which assists in the development not only of the breasts and genitals, but the skin, body fat, voice, memory, verbal skills, disposition, sociability, and nurturing.   Estrogen deprivation creates problems that are not only medical, but frequently psychologically distressing, and largely corrected through the use of hormone replacement therapy. The fact that everyone is affected by menopause sooner or later should not deter us from treating it and we should treat estrogen-deficient women with estrogen to restore them to their normal status (just as we would treat hypothyroid patients, or give diabetic patients insulin to restore them to their normal situation). Menopause is not a universal experience in the animal kingdom…it is seen only among humans. 

 

Given these two differing philosophies, it is not difficult to imagine that there are disagreements among conscientious practitioners as to the proper role of estrogen replacement therapy. 

 

Menopause is a relatively new issue in the human experience. Until recently, very few women lived long enough to reach menopause. Because of this, our clinical experience with large numbers of menopausal patients is really limited to the last century.  

The average life expectancy for women in North America in 1900 was age 42.  

Currently it is age 82.  

 

WHAT IS MENOPAUSE? 

  • Menopauseis the time in your life when you naturally stop having menstrual periods.  
  • Menopause happens when the ovariesstop making estrogen 
  • Estrogen is a hormonethat helps control the menstrual cycle 
  • Menopause marks the end of the reproductive years.  
  • The average age that women go through menopause is 51 years. 

WHAT IS PERIMENOPAUSE? 

  • The years leading up to menopause are called perimenopauseusually beginning in your 30s and 40s as the amount of estrogen produced by the ovaries begins to fluctuate.  
  • A common sign of perimenopause is a change in your menstrual cycle.  
  • Cycles may become longer than usual for you or become shorter. You may begin to skip periods. The amount of flow may become lighter or heavier.  
  • Although changes in menstrual bleeding are normal during perimenopause, you still should report them to your health care professional. Abnormal bleeding may be a sign of a problem. 

Symptoms 

 

Some women do not have any symptoms or have only a few mild symptoms. Others can have many symptoms which can sometimes be severe.  

Common signs and symptoms include the following: 

  • Hot flashes—A hot flash is a sudden feeling of heat that rushes to the upper body and face. A hot flash may last from a few seconds to several minutes or longer. Some women have hot flashes a few times a month. Others have them several times a day. Hot flashes that happen at night (night sweats) may wake you up and cause you to feel tired and sluggish during the day. 
  • Sleep problems—You may have insomnia (trouble falling asleep), or you may wake up long before your usual time. Night sweats may disrupt your sleep. 
  • Vaginal and urinary tract changes—As estrogen levels decrease, the lining of the vagina may become thinner, dryer, and less elastic. Vaginal dryness may cause pain during sex. Vaginal infections also may occur more often. The urethra can become dry, inflamed, or irritated. This can cause more frequent urination and increase the risk of urinary tract infections. 

 

Health Risks During Perimenopause & Menopause:   

estrogen graph

The estrogen produced by women’s ovaries before menopause protects against heart attacks and stroke. When less estrogen is made after menopause, women lose much of this protection. Midlife is the time when risk factors for heart disease (such as high cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and being physically inactive) are more common.   

All of these factors increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. 

image of a heart disease statistic

Heart disease risk rises for everyone as they age, but for women symptoms can become more evident after the onset of menopause. However, it is important to note that menopause itself does not cause cardiovascular disease (CVD) 

  • More than 1 in 3 female adults has some form of CVD 
  • An overall increase in heart attacks is seen about 10 years after menopause.  
  • A decline in estrogen may be a factor since this hormone is believed to have a positive effect on the inner layer of artery walls: 
  • keeping blood vessels flexible and allow them to relax and expand to accommodate blood flow 
  • Estrogen decline isn’t the only reason women face a higher cardiovascular disease risk, assorted changes in the body occur with menopause: 
  • Blood pressure starts to go up due to decreased blood vessel flexibilty 
  • LDL (“bad” cholesterol) increases, HDL (“good” cholesterol) declines, and Triglycerides (types of fats in the blood) also increase. 

What can we do to decrease our risk? 

  • Good nutrition and eliminating unhealthy habits like smoking (increases risk of blood clots, decreases flexibility of arteries, and lowers HDL cholesterol 
  • Strive for Heart Health, women should aim for: 
  • 150 minutes of physical activity each week to help prevent heart disease 
  • 300 minutes or more weekly for weight loss 
  • Walking, cycling, dancing or swimming — activities that use larger muscles at low resistance — are good aerobic exercises 
  • If you follow a healthy lifestyle and continue doing so at menopause, your risk for heart disease and stroke is lower.  

 

Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause 

 

GSM describes various menopausal symptoms and signs including not only genital symptoms, but also urinary symptoms, and sexual symptoms which can have profound negative impact on the quality of life: 

  • Vaginal dryness, burning, discharge, and/or irritation 
  • Genital itching 
  • Dyspareunria (pain/discomfort with intercourse), light bleeding after intercourse, decreased lubrication, impaired or decreased sexual function/desire, and shortening and tightening of the vaginal canal 
  • Urinary urgency, frequency, dysuria (pain or burning with urination), incontinence, and recurrent urinary tract infections 
  • The terms vulvovaginal atrophy and atrophic vaginitis were used until recently 
  • limited because they did not cover the full spectrum of symptoms and  
  • did not imply that the symptoms are related to a decreased estrogen level in menopause.  

When to see a doctor 

  • Many women experience GSM but few seek treatment. Make an appointment with your doctor if you have any unexplained vaginal spotting or bleeding, unusual discharge, burning, or soreness. 

 

Menopause and Bone Health 

image of bone cross sections

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  • Osteoporosis: is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. As a result, bones become weak and may break from a fall or, in serious cases, from sneezing or minor bumps.  Osteoporosis means “porous bone”. 
  • Many women can suffer from bone loss during menopause leading to osteopenia and/or osteoporosis 

What Causes Osteoporosis? 

  • Estrogen, a hormone in women that protects bones, decreases sharply when women reach menopause, which can cause bone loss. This is why the chance of developing osteoporosis increases as women reach menopause. 
  • Two major factors that affect your chance of getting osteoporosis are: 
  • The amount of bone you have when you reach menopause. 
  • How fast you lose bone after you reach menopause. 
  • In fact, a woman can lose up to 20% of her bone density during the five – seven years following menopause. If you lose bone quickly, you have a greater chance of developing osteoporosis. 

 

What Can I do About it? 

build your bones image

  • Get enough calcium and vitamin D 
  • Eat a well-balanced diet 

Spinach, kale, collards, salmon, sardines, tuna and milk are all great sources of vitamin D and calcium 

  • Exercise 

Weight bearing exercise, added weights if possible 

  • Don’t smoke or drink 
  • See a Chiropractor 
  • Get regular bone scans as advised by your doctor 

chiropractic image

How Does Chiropractic Care Help? 

 

Chiropractic is “A health profession concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, and the effects of these disorders on the function of the nervous system and general health.” 

 

When the spine and/or nervous system are under any stress, the communication system between brain and your body do not function at 100%. 

 

Stress to the spine/nervous system can occur with poor posture, sedentary lifestyles, accidents/falls, lack of flexibility, etc. 

 

Chiropractors perform adjustments to get your spine functioning properly. By getting your spine functioning we are also removing any interference in your nervous system so your body can work at optimal capacity and better adapt to life’s changes. 

 

When Your spine and nervous system are working… 

You can better handle hormone control, joint function, muscle pains, headaches, fatigue, and other symptoms. 

 

Seeing a chiropractor regularly helps keep you moving and functioning your WHOLE LIFE so you can live the whole time you are alive! 

 

 

Hot Flashes & Night Sweats 

The most common symptom of menopause and perimenopause and will be experienced by more than 2/3rds of North American women during menopause 

What is a Hot Flash: 

  • A sudden feeling of heat and sometimes a red, flushed face and sweating.  
  • We don’t know exactly what causes them, but they may be related to changes in circulation. 
  • Hot flashes start when blood vessels near the skin’s surface widen to cool off, making you break out in a sweat  
  • Some women have a rapid heart rate and/or chills 
  • When they happen while you sleep, they’re called night sweats 
  • A hot flush is a hot flash plus redness in your face and neck. 

How Long Will You Have Them? 

  • 8 in 10 women will get hot flashes. Some have hot flashes for only a very short period of time, others can have them for 11 years or more.  
  • On average, women get hot flashes or night sweats for about 7 years. 

 

Prevention: 

  • There’s nothing you can do to avoid hot flashes; but you can avoid triggers that may make them more frequent or more severe. Common triggers include: 
  • Cigarette smoke 

What Can You Do? 

  • Stay cool.  
  • Try a “chill pillow” (filled with water or other cooling material) at night, use fans during the day, and wear lightweight, looser-fitting clothes made with natural fibers such as cotton. 
  • Try deep, slow abdominal beathing (6 to 8 breaths per minute).  
  • Practice deep breathing for 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes in the evening, and when a hot flash starts. 
  • Exercise daily. 
  • Botanicals like plant estrogens found in soy products or Black Cohosh, may cut hot flashes.  

 

Insomnia occurs in 40–50% of women during the menopausal transition, and problems with sleep may or may not be connected to mood disorders. 

 

Women with insomnia are more likely than others to report problems such as anxiety, stress, tension, and depressive symptoms. 

 

Sleep & Nutrition:  affect each other in positive or negative ways 

* Recommended:  7 hours 

* Too little sleep affects Hunger Hormones 

  • Increases Ghrelin (stimulates appetite) and Decreases Leptin (decreases appetite).  Cravings and Carbs 

 

5 Best Practices for Better Sleep: 

Turn off electronics 30 minutes before bed 

Exercise Early-too late can make it harder to fall asleep 

Limit meal size—if need a snack, go for protein and only small portion 

Caffeine-takes 6 or more hours to wear off.  Watch mid afternoon “starbucks run” 

Alcohol and Nicotine—avoid for 3 hours prior to bed.  May fall asleep but may wake up in 3 to 4 hrs. 

image listing 7 side effects of sleep deficiency

Diet & Weight Management: 

Losing 10 lbs or 10% of body weight can have major effect on Menopause Symptoms.   

Low Estrogen promotes the accumulation of belly fat.   

Belly fat is known as Visceral Fat.   

Visceral Fat = heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes 

Cut Portion Size, Use Prepackaged portions 

Mindful Eating-Food is Fuel and Food has a purpose or role.  Empty Calories are Empty!   

Increase High Fiber Foods (Broccoli, Beans, Brussel Sprouts) to carry hormones from intestines out of body 

Increase Calcium and Vit D rich foods to help with bone density 

Dairy:  Yogurt, Cheese, Milk  

Green Leafy:  Kale, Spinach 

Oily Fish:  Salmon, Tuna 

Tofu & Eggs 

Hot Flashes:  Avoid Spicy foods, Stress, Alcohol & Caffeine, Heat of Day/Outdoor Exercise 

Alcohol & Wine: 

Difference between Men & Women processing alcohol: 

Men have more body water so they dilute the alcohol faster, and less burden on liver (Higher BAC) 

Women do not produce as much ADH in stomach (Higher BAC)  

During Menopause, less Estrogen means we actually produce more ADH (As a woman ages she metabolizes alcohol more like a man. The one good thing about menopause—can drink like a guy!!) 

Alcohol can increase estrogen levels and protect against bone loss.   

Benefits of Wine (over other alcohols): 

Multiple studies show moderate (1 glass per day) wine drinking reduces changes for both ovarian and colorectal cancer.   

Antioxidant-Resveratrol (found in red wine grapes) helps with Heart Health and Diabetes 

Other Alcohols are often mixed with high sugar sodas, cocktail mixes that increase calories, and sugar intake.  

Brain Health—studies show reduced risk of dementia and higher cognitive ability 

Home Organization: 

There are REAL benefits to living in an organized home 

More clutter, more likely to make bad food choices, have higher levels of stress, and depression  (Weight/Hormones) 

Organization can help: 

Improve Sleep (mind is not racing and trying to remember 100s of things) 

Reduce Stress 

Improve Relationships 

Frees up time to spend on what enjoy most 

Reduce Depression and Anxiety 

Make better choices for exercise and food 

More Productive 

 

Links to other articles: 

Foods to help you Sleep: 

http://www.eatingwell.com/article/32617/9-foods-to-help-you-sleep/?did=572278-20201020&utm_campaign=daily-nosh_newsletter&utm_source=eatingwell.com&utm_medium=email&utm_content=102020&cid=572278&mid=43103645862 

10 Herbal Remedies for Menopause: 

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/menopause-herbs?slot_pos=article_1&utm_source=Sailthru%20Email&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=menopause&utm_content=2020-10-14&apid=36187114&rvid=bca2a2aa69b7d8df5767f0a0d3eb1d0dce4d54d997e4e6bb67990a5a7ca11d73 

 

Glossary:  

  • Antidepressants: Drugs that are used to treat depression. 
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): A condition in which a blood clot forms in veins in the leg or other areas of the body. 
  • Estrogen: A female hormone produced in the ovaries. 
  • Hormone: Substances made in the body that control the function of cells or organs. 
  • Hormone Therapy: Treatment in which estrogen and often progestin are taken to help relieve symptoms that may happen around the time of menopause. 
  • Hysterectomy: Surgery to remove the uterus. 
  • Menopause: The time when a woman’s menstrual periods stop permanently. Menopause is confirmed after 1 year of no periods. 
  • Menstrual Cycle: The monthly process of changes that occur to prepare a woman’s body for possible pregnancy. A menstrual cycle is defined as the first day of menstrual bleeding of one cycle to the first day of menstrual bleeding of the next cycle. 
  • Osteoporosis: A condition of thin bones that could allow them to break more easily. 
  • Ovaries: Organs in women that contain the eggs necessary to get pregnant and make important hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. 
  • Perimenopause: The time period leading up to menopause. 
  • Progestin: A synthetic form of progesterone that is similar to the hormone made naturally by the body. 
  • Urethra: A tube-like structure. Urine flows through this tube when it leaves the body. 
  • Uterus: A muscular organ in the female pelvis. During pregnancy this organ holds and nourishes the fetus. 
  • Vagina: A tube-like structure surrounded by muscles. The vagina leads from the uterus to the outside of the body. 

 

Over the Counter Medications Mentioned: 

Voltaren Gel:  arthritis pain 

Osteo Bi-flex (Chondroitin & Glucosamine) 

 

For more information or to discuss your needs with any of the presenters, please contact us on our websites or through the Navarre Beach Area Chamber’s member directory.  Thank you and please share this article with your friends and family.   

Stay Well-Stay Strong!   

 

Organized Occasions, Navarre, FL:   

I created Organized Occasions to help others make positive changes in their lives.  I focus on Home Organizing and Event Planning with Wine Tastings from the Boisset Collection.  I believe every day is an occasion to be celebrated.  And every occasion is best when organized! 

Gretchen Carter 

Owner, Professional Organizer, Nutritional Therapist 

 Organized Occasions 

 

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