Thursday, June 26, 2008

Pre Menopause Symptoms Vary Depending on Sensitivity to Hormonal

Pre menopause or peri menopause are terms used to describe the time leading up to or ?around the time? of menopause, which is when menstrual periods have stopped for at least one year. Pre menopause symptoms may be nonexistent or minor, but some women have multiple symptoms that last for a number of years. Every woman is unique and so is her sensitivity to changing hormonal levels.

The first pre menopause symptoms that a woman may notice are increased symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and changes in the regularity of her menstrual periods. Women who use birth control pills often have fewer symptoms than women who do not. Sometimes recommended as a treatment option for irregular or heavy periods, birth control pills have many known side effects are associated and most women prefer not to use them, if they are not needed for contraceptive purposes.

If you had migraine headaches during puberty, you may see them return around the time of menopause. While the exact causes of migraine headaches are unknown, in women they regularly occur when levels of estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest. However, birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy are migraine triggers for some women. Anti-inflammatories are the treatment of choice for migraines related to changing hormonal levels.

Mood swings and depression are premenstrual and pre menopause symptoms. While, fluctuating hormonal levels are probably the cause, stressful life events and bad habits may also be responsible. Cumulative stress has long been recognized as a contributory factor in many health problems. One or two stressful life events experienced over a years time are typical and generally do not cause problems, but when a woman experiences several (such as retirement, a child leaving home or the death of a loved one) over a short period of time, the stress can become chronic and lead to exhaustion, anxiety and depression. Prescription medications are sometimes required to treat depression and are sometimes recommended for pre menopause symptoms.

Bad habits that can cause or worsen mood swings and depression include lack of exercise, alcohol consumption and poor diet. Lifestyle changes may be all that are necessary to relieve depression, anxiety and other premenstrual and pre menopause symptoms. Exercise improves mood. The B vitamins both increase energy levels so that you feel like exercising and relieve nervousness and depression. Too much sugar, caffeine and processed foods can increase mood swings and irritability and are migraine triggers for many women.

Hot flashes and night sweats usually appear closer to actual menopause, but some women experience them for years. These are directly related to decreased production of estrogen and other hormones. For many years, hormone replacement therapy was commonly used to relieve hot flashes and night sweats, as well as other pre menopause symptoms, but numerous health risks are related to the use of synthetic hormones. Phytoestrogens, which are plant components that have an estrogen like effect on the body, are believed to be safer and researchers have studied some of them for their effectiveness. In fact, a number of different plant components have been studied for their effectiveness in relieving the symptoms associated with pre menopause.

The seeds of an African plant called Griffonia simplicifolia contain a component called 5-HTP. This compound is a serotonin precursor and similar in action to some prescription antidepressants, without the side effects. It has been used to treat sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, migraines and a number of other conditions. It is a natural anti-inflammatory and its safety has been supported by clinical research. It is an ingredient in some dietary supplements.

Black cohosh is well known to effectively relieve hot flashes and night sweats in many women. Red clover is one of the plants that contain substantial amounts of phytoestrogens. A clinical study in Amsterdam concluded that red clover can significantly reduce hot flashes. Calcium supplements are important to prevent osteoporosis, but are also believed to help regulate menstrual flow and relieve cramping. Tribulus terrestris is a plant extract believed to stimulate hormonal activity and has the added benefit of increasing sexual desire and sensitivity.

Patsy Hamilton has more than twenty years experience as a healthcare professional and currently writes informational articles for the Menopause and PMS Guide. Read more at To learn more about pre menopause symptoms and natural products that may help, please visit the Menopause and PMS guide.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Menopause Diet Recommendations Include Soy, Calcium and Phytoestrogens

A good menopause diet should be well balanced and nutritionally sound. Foods that should be eaten regularly during menopause are ?nutrient-dense? foods. Foods to be taken during menopause are the same foods that everyone should eat, in appropriate amounts for their caloric needs, on a daily basis. The problem is that the typical American diet does not include many of these foods, so as a woman nears menopause and begins to notice symptoms, she may need to make changes in her diet, adding foods that she is not in the habit of eating.

According to information supplied by the USDA, ?Nutrient-dense foods are those foods that provide substantial amounts of vitamins and minerals and relatively few calories.? Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat sources of calcium are all nutrient dense foods. Processed foods that have added sugars and oils are not nutrient dense. Alcohol is high in calories, but has no real nutritive value. If hot flashes are a problem for you, then you should avoid alcohol and sugar, as well as caffeine, salt and spicy foods. That covers what should be left out of a menopause diet. Now let?s look at the foods that should be eaten regularly during menopause.

To find foods to be taken during menopause, you need to look at vitamins, minerals and other compounds that are particularly important to women during this time of their life. Calcium, Vitamin A, C, D, E, K, B-complex, iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, potassium, fiber, isoflavones and phytoestrogens are all recommended for a menopause diet. Obviously, there is no single food that contains all of these and eating the right foods in the right combination every day can be difficult. Supplementation or a good daily multi-vitamin provides insurance that a menopause diet contains adequate amounts of each of these. The USDA now recommends that anyone over the age of 50 should add B-12 and D supplements, even if they eat a healthy diet.

Calcium rich foods that should be eaten regularly during menopause include skim milk, fat-free cottage cheese and yogurt, spinach, broccoli and seafood. The RDA for calcium ranges from 1000mg per day to 1500 mg per day. If your mother had osteoporosis (porous, brittle bones that fracture easily and is characterized by a loss of height and humped back bone), then a calcium supplement is a good idea, but be sure to take it with a vitamin D supplement or your body cannot easily absorb the calcium. Additionally a recent study has linked inadequate intake of vitamin K to osteoporosis, although the connection is unclear.

Phytoestrogens and isoflavones are plant components found in soy, whole grain cereals and red clover (an herb). Soy is one of the most commonly recommended foods to be taken during menopause, because it is the best known source of isoflavones. Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that have estrogen like effects on the body and can thus reduce the symptoms associated with reduced estrogen production, such as hot flashes. Soy is also a good low fat source of protein, iron and various other nutrients.

No discussion of a menopause diet can be complete without mentioning the importance of regular exercise. Certain things cancel out the positive effects of vitamin and mineral supplementation. One factor that cancels out the effect of calcium is lack of exercise. Women who spend less than four hours a day on their feet are at higher risk of developing osteoporosis. Exercise reduces the symptoms of PMS and peri menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and insomnia. Regular exercise reduces the risk of heart disease, another illness found in many post-menopausal women. Increasing physical activity reduces the likelihood that a woman will be overweight. Overweight and obesity have recently been identified as risk factors for developing cancer and have long been known to increase the risk of heart disease. So, substitute the foods that should be eaten regularly during menopause for the red meat and high sugar, high fat foods that you once ate and increase your level of physical activity.

If you make the necessary lifestyle changes, including adding foods to be taken during menopause to your diet and you still suffer from symptoms related to menopause and peri menopause, a number of natural herbal products may help, including red clover and black cohosh. Additionally, there are some natural remedies that contain adequate amounts of isoflavones that may be helpful if you do not like soy products or are allergic to them. A menopause diet may not provide relief from all of the symptoms you are experiencing at this time, but some of these natural products should.

Patsy Hamilton has more than twenty years experience as a healthcare professional and currently writes informational articles for the Menopause and PMS Guide. Read more at

To learn more, please visit the Menopause and PMS Guide.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Menopause Treatment Alternatives Vary Depending On Symptoms

For many years, the most highly recommended menopause treatment was hormone replacement therapy. However, a large study known as the Women?s Health Initiative found that long-term estrogen only or progesterone, estrogen combination therapies resulted in an increased risk of blood clots and stroke. Since, the first symptoms of menopause may appear years before actual menopause (which is when a woman has not had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months) alternative treatments may be the best choice.

Menopause signs, symptoms and conditions that may appear up to ten years before actual menopause include:

Irregular periods

The first symptoms of menopause that usually appear are changes in menstrual periods. These may be normal, but it is important to see your doctor regularly and report things like; heavy bleeding, periods that last several days longer or are more frequent than what you are accustomed to, and spotting between periods or after sex. Herbs that help to correct hormonal imbalances, including black cohosh, red clover and sarsaparilla, may help regulate and normalize periods. Black cohosh is one highly recommended alternative menopause treatment.

Mood swings, Depression, Anxiety

These emotional difficulties may be menopause signs/symptoms related to changing hormonal levels. They could be symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome if they occur in the last two weeks before a period. They can be caused by changing life situations or life events that cause cumulative stress. When mood swings, depression or anxiety affect your quality of life or your relationships, you should see your doctor, counselor or psychologist. If you have had suicidal thoughts, do not delay. An alternative menopause treatment that addresses emotional difficulties is 5-HTP. Used by the body to create serotonin, which regulates sleep, mood and sexuality, small amounts of 5-HTP are found in turkey and other foods and is an ingredient in some health supplements. Because, the action of 5-HTP is similar to prescription antidepressants, they should not be taken together, without consulting your doctor.

Increased symptoms of PMS, fatigue, breast tenderness

Fatigue and breast tenderness are some of the first symptoms of menopause, but are also symptoms of PMS, which (not to be repetitive) can be one of the first symptoms of menopause. Women who have never suffered from PMS sometimes start to see symptoms in their thirties. As with all of the other menopause signs/symptoms, other conditions should be ruled out, before assuming that you are suffering from PMS. The symptoms of PMS are believed to be caused by decreased levels of estrogen. Sometimes recommended as an alternative menopause treatment, phytoestrogens found in soy and red clover can help relieve the symptoms of PMS. Phytoestrogens are plant components that have an estrogen-like effect on the body.

Decreased sex drive, vaginal dryness, painful intercourse

The majority of women report a decreased sex drive as one of the first symptoms of menopause, but some women notice an increase in sex drive. Depending largely on whether or not vaginal dryness causes pain during intercourse. Other changes in a woman?s body can cause discomfort during sex at this time and normal monthly changes of the cervix can cause pain in certain positions. Painful intercourse should always be reported to your doctor to rule out other causes. Tribulus terrestris is among the herbs recommended to increase sex drive, by regulating hormonal levels. Vaginal dryness can be relieved by using K-Y jelly or lotions. Among the newest varieties are ones that ?heat up? when applied and ones with pleasant fragrances. Changing positions can be more comfortable and more fun.

Urine leakage or urgency

Most women consider it a part of getting older, but this is one of the more embarrassing first symptoms of menopause. It can be related to other conditions, but is usually caused by decreased levels of estrogen in the body. An alternative menopause treatment that addresses this symptom is Kegel exercise, which strengthens the pelvic muscles. Other things that you can do include; losing weight if you are heavy, limiting caffeinated beverages, avoiding artificial sweeteners and train the bladder to gradually hold more urine (waiting longer before you go).

Hot flashes

You feel hot, for no reason. You may sweat more than usual. You may have red blotches on your face, neck and chest. Caused by changing estrogen levels (isn?t everything), these may not be the first symptoms of menopause that you notice, but they are some of the more easily recognizable ones. Black cohosh is an alternative menopause treatment that has been shown in numerous studies to effectively relieve these symptoms.

Night sweats

These are the same as hot flashes only that happen in bed at night and may wake you up, interrupting your sleep and possibly leading to the next symptom.


Difficulty sleeping may be caused by night sweats or many of the other menopause signs/symptoms. Though not recognized by many health care professionals as such, an alternative menopause treatment that addresses this symptom is 5-HTP, previously mentioned, it can improve the quality of sleep.

Not all women experience all of these menopause signs/symptoms and there are others that are not mentioned here, including headaches, body aches, joint pain and migraines. If you seek help when you notice the first symptoms of menopause, then you may be more comfortable throughout these years.

If conventional menopause treatment does not appeal to you, you are not alone. Many women, me included, seek alternative solutions. For more information about natural products that can help, please visit

Patsy Hamilton has more than twenty years experience in health care and currently writes informational articles for the Menopause and PMS Guide. Learn more about menopause and treatment options at

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Herbal Remedies and Vitamins For Menopause - Relief in a Jar

Whether shopping on-line or at your local drug store, you will undoubtedly find a large assortment of herbal remedies (menopause relief in a jar, so to speak), vitamins for menopause and combos that supposedly provide everything that a woman needs for a ?healthy menopause?. The question is which one to choose. Choosing a health supplement of any kind can be difficult.

The Federal Trade Commission advises that while the benefits of some health products are well documented, others have no proven benefits and may even be dangerous. It is the responsibility of the health supplement manufacturers to insure that the products they sell are safe. These are general statements that apply to all health supplements, but apply to herbal remedies, menopause treatments and vitamins for menopause, as well. It is the consumer?s chore to evaluate the effectiveness of these remedies by ?giving them a try? or by researching the product ingredients.

This brings up one way that a consumer can spot a questionable product. Manufactures that are confident in the quality and effectiveness of their products will provide a detailed list of ingredients. The best manufacturers will even provide information supporting the use of the ingredients for any given condition. Manufacturers that make broad, non-specific statements concerning ingredients are either unsure about what the product contains, unsure about the products effectiveness or trying to mislead the consumer by insinuating that the product contains substances that are actually not included.

Let?s look at an example of what to avoid, without giving any brand names. One internet company that sells vitamins for menopause makes this statement, ?formulated to deliver essential vitamins and minerals, as well as menopause discomfort relieving herbs and isoflavones.? Sold under the heading ?herbal remedies menopause?, this product apparently contains no herbs of any kind. The list of ingredients includes a number of vitamins, but no herbs and no isoflavones. Apparently this company is hoping that the consumer will read the description, but not the list of ingredients.

None of this is meant to be discouraging. There are a number of effective herbal remedies; menopause relief (even in a jar!) is available. And, most health care professionals recommend specific vitamins for menopause health, when used in conjunction with a healthy, well-balanced diet and regular exercise. You may wonder why exercise is so important. You may think that if you take a calcium supplement you are protected from osteoporosis (a weakening and thinning of the bones), even if you do not exercise regularly. If you think this way, then you are wrong. Certain activities (or lack of activity, in this case) and substances have a canceling effect on vitamins and minerals. Lack of exercise cancels out the positive benefits of calcium supplementation.

The commonly recommended minerals, dietary supplements and vitamins for menopause or the years leading up to menopause are calcium, vitamin A, C, D, E, K, B-complex, iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, potassium, fiber, isoflavones and phytoestrogens.

Isoflavones are actually a well-researched form of phytoestrogens, but are sometimes listed separately. Phytoestrogens are simply plant compounds that have an ?estrogen-like? effect on the body. Lessening levels of estrogen in a woman?s body are believed to cause both PMS and menopause related symptoms. The most common sources of isoflavones are soy and red clover. Soy, as you probably know, is a food. Red clover can usually be found under the heading ?herbal remedies menopause?, except in the case of the product mentioned above.

Dietary guidelines from the USDA recommend that people should get most of their vitamins and minerals from the food that they eat, but that in certain cases supplementation may be necessary. Specifically related to vitamins for menopause are the recommendations that people over the age of 50 should add B-complex and D supplements or foods that are fortified with these vitamins. Vitamin D is necessary for the body to efficiently absorb calcium, as is phosphorous, magnesium, manganese, iron and vitamin C.

When it comes to other products usually sold in the ?herbal remedies menopause? section of your local drug store, black cohosh will almost certainly be there. It was used historically by Native Americans to correct hormonal imbalances. Scientific studies in the nineties and the following years confirmed that it was a safe and effective alternative to hormone replacement therapy. It is not always promoted or recommended by doctors, partly because the quality of the product that a patient may purchase cannot be controlled, partly because the safety of long term use is unknown, but mostly (I think) because most doctors know very little about herbs and other natural products. Example: An article written by a doctor for a popular medical website states in the first paragraph that isoflavones may be effective for relieving the symptoms of menopause. In the last paragraph she lists a number of herbal remedies, menopause treatments and vitamins that have little evidence to support their use. Among them is red clover, which is one of the best known sources of isoflavones.

There is evidence supporting the use of a number of other natural products and herbal remedies for menopause relief. The evidence supporting the use of the other vitamins for menopause mentioned above is too lengthy to add. This article is already much longer than I had intended. For more information, please visit the Menopause and PMS Guide.

Patsy Hamilton has more than twenty years experience in health care and currently writes informational articles for the Menopause and PMS Guide. Learn more about menopause and treatment options at

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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Menopause and Its Symptoms Q&A

Here we look at some basic questions about menopause and its symptoms, such as ?What are the symptoms of menopause?? and ?What is menopause??

What is menopause?

Technically, menopause means ?cessation of menstruation? or when a woman has no menstrual periods for more than a year, indicating that she is no longer fertile. It occurs in most women around the age of 50, unless loss of the ovaries due to illness or injury causes it to occur earlier. In some women it occurs as early as age 40. Menopause before age 40 is considered premature menopause and occurs in about 1% of all women. The term ?menopause? is commonly used to describe the period of time leading up to ?actual? menopause.

What is perimenopause?

Perimenopause is a term used to describe the months or years leading up to menopause. This is when women often say that they are ?going through menopause? and its symptoms become evident.

What are the symptoms of menopause?

Menopause and its symptoms vary. Some women experience no symptoms, other than irregular periods for several months preceding actual menopause. Most women experience hot flashes and/or night sweats. Some women have mood swings, trouble sleeping and vaginal dryness. Many women have bladder control problems. Other symptoms may include fatigue, headache, depression, irritability, heart palpitations, joint and muscle pain. Some women have decreased sex drive, are less easily aroused or less sensitive. Some experience discomfort during sex, sometimes due to vaginal dryness or to a thinning of vaginal tissue. Others enjoy sex more, once pregnancy concerns have passed. Women are unique, thus menopause and its symptoms are unique among women.

What are the symptoms of menopause caused by?

The symptoms associated with menopause are caused by decreased levels of estrogen and other hormones. Each woman is born with a limited number of egg cells in the ovaries. As the number of egg cells nears depletion, the amount of estrogen and other hormones produced by the ovaries diminishes.

What are the symptoms of menopause treated with?

For many years, hormone replacement therapy was the treatment of choice for menopause and its symptoms. Concerns over long term health risks have many doctors and their patients considering alternatives, particularly when decreasing levels of estrogen are bothersome at an early age. Lifestyle and dietary changes have helped many women deal with menopause and its symptoms. The herb black cohosh is one of the most commonly suggested remedies for hot flashes and night sweats, but a number of other herbs, vitamins and plant components may be helpful as well.

For more information, please visit the Menopause and PMS Guide.

Patsy Hamilton has more than twenty years experience in health care and currently writes informational articles for the Menopause and PMS Guide. Learn more about menopause and treatment options at

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