Women's Health - the Menopause

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HOMEOPATHIC Remedies for Menopause

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Guide to the Menopause

Menopause is the date on which you haven’t had a menstrual period for a year.
Perimenopause is the time of fluctuating hormones, and maybe changing periods, that leads up to menopause; it can last 5-15 years or longer.
Medical menopause is menopause brought about by medical treatment - typically hysterectomy or cancer treatment.

What's Happening to my Hormones?

Lets compare the normal menstrual hormones....
After your period, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is sent by the pituitary gland to the ovaries, to stimulate new follicles.
The follicles produce oestrogen and eventually the FSH level drops, having done its job.
Oestrogen signals the brain to release luteinizing hormone (LH). LH causes a follicle to release an egg (ovulation).
The empty follicle becomes a corpus luteum. This produces progesterone which continues to rise for the rest of the cycle. Progesterone prepares the uterus for pregnancy
If fertilization does not occur, there is a rapid decline in both estrogen and progesterone. Withdrawal of progesterone causes your next period.

...with menopausal hormone changes
The ovaries become less responsive to FSH and LH
Levels of FSH and LH rise, as they work harder to get a response. Detecting this one of the guides that menopause is on the way.
Ovulation stops altogether, average age 45-55
Production of progesterone stops, and much less oestrogen is manufactured – but it is usually still more than the (non-existent progesterone. This is called ‘oestrogen dominance’.

Normal physical changes include:
Genital organs gradually become smaller
Elasticity of pelvic muscles is reduced and vaginal membranes become drier (so the vaginal tissue thins, and is more prone to infection)
Breast tissue can lose fullness and firmness
Skin may become drier and hair thinner
Bone density decreases
Cholesterol levels rise in the blood (oestrogen and progesterone are both made from cholesterol) so that post-menopausal women carry a similar risk of heart disease to men.
Body shape changes with a tendency to accumulate more fat around abdomen and
Some oestrogen remains in the body. The adrenal glands and fat cells become important as oestrogen-manufacturers.
Poor nutrition and exceptional stress can bring on an earlier menopause

Some women experience:
Hot flushes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, fatigue and loss of libido, aching joints, constipation, breast tenderness, itchy skin or increased facial hair (due to relatively higher testosterone).
And some women don’t!

What is a Hot Flush?

There is a lack of consensus over hot flushes, or flashes as some people call them. There are many theories.

Theory 1
: hot flushes are caused by a deficiency of oestrogen. We know that fluctuating oestrogen levels are part of the picture, because many women experience relief while taking synthetic oestrogen. This theory, however, does not fully explain flushes. Many menopausal and post-menopausal women with low oestrogen levels never experience flushes. Other women experience flushes at the same time as symptoms of a relative estrogen excess (signs of oestrogen excess or dominance include weight gain, breast tenderness, heavy menstrual flow, and erratic mood swings).

Theory 2
: studies show a 30% improvement in flushes in women who are only given placebo! This really shows how much the mind and emotions are involved, and this is something we can turn to our advantage.

Theory 3
: menopause adjusts our internal temperature regulation. Both oestrogen and progesterone play a role in temperature regulation, but we do not fully understand how. What you may notice is that a small temperature change, which wouldn’t have bothered you before, now triggers a big compensation: your body tries to lose heat by flushing the skin and sweating, and you feel very hot! Afterwards you may feel cold. It can be quite wearing if it happens a lot.

Theory 4
: some research indicates that hot flushes may be triggered when declining oestrogen and progesterone cause a withdrawal of naturally occurring opiates (endorphins), chemicals in the brain that affect mood, pain control, and hormone modulation.

Theory 5
: A recent Detroit study showed that REM or rapid eye movement sleep (dream sleep) suppresses thermoregulatory signals in the brain. This means you may have less flushes during dreaming sleep. The researchers noted that during the first half of the night, the women were awakened by the hot flushes, whereas later in the night, the women woke up first, and then experienced the flush. My own experience is that I always have the flush after I wake – I have never been woken by it!

Note 6:
A further complication is that many illnesses can also produce flushing. (Carcinoid syndrome, systemic mast cell disease, pheochromocytoma, medullary carcinoma of the thyroid, pancreatic islet-cell tumors, renal cell carcinoma, hyperthyroidism, neurological flushing, emotional flushing, and spinal cord injury.)

Triggers for flushes include:
spicy food, hot drinks, alcohol, sugar, caffeine, stress, hot weather, hot tubs and saunas, tobacco, and strong emotions, also (unfortunately) lovemaking.

What to do?

The idea of controlling the unwelcome symptoms with drugs becomes very attractive, and we are conditioned to believe that the menopause is some kind of illness. Living in a culture which values youth more than age can only make this worse.
  • Regular exercise directly decreases hot flushes, by decreasing the amount of circulating LH and FSH. Exercise also nourishes and tones the hypothalamus, and raises endorphin levels. As little as 20 minutes three times a week may reduce flushes significantly.
  • Meditate. A study at the Royal Hospital for Women, Sydney (2000) involved women not taking HRT and meditating twice daily for 8 weeks. 6 out of 10 women experienced effects similar to using HRT, with a 65 per cent reduction in their hot flushes. Explore meditation, or other spiritual approaches new or old.
  • Regular massage may be another useful way of relaxing.
  • Watch your blood sugar levels and eat sensibly
  • Drink enough water
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and any other triggers
  • Look after your liver, as it’s here that excess oestrogen is broken down.
  • Keep up your sex life. With or without a partner, giving yourself sexual pleasure is a healthy and creative way of keeping your reproductive parts toned and with a good blood supply. Use it, or lose it.
  • Find any way you can to boost your self esteem. This can be a very ‘fertile’ time of life, full of freedom, wisdom, celebration and exploration.
  • Consider natural therapies such as homeopathy, Chinese medicine, acupuncture or shiatsu, reflexology, herbalism or aromatherapy.
You will not find any support here for soya, or HRT, or ‘natura’l progesterone. I believe all these carry unacceptable risks. Feel free to read elsewhere about these.

MANopause – the Male menopause

What is manopause?
It’s the male menopause, properly known as the andropause, formed by combining two Greek words, andro meaning male, and pause meaning stop. And it’s no joke.
It begins with hormonal, physiological and chemical changes that occur in men between around 40-55. It can occur as early as 35 or as late as 65. By the age of 50, 10 percent of men have low levels of testosterone. By age 70, more than half of men have low testosterone. It’s as normal as the female menopause, and similarly, it may cause problems.
One notable difference between menopause and manopause is the decline of testosterone is gradual in comparison to women, where the decrease in oestrogen is sudden, ceasing in a matter of years.
Symptoms
Physical signs of low testosterone include: decreased beard growth, increased fat, decreased muscle and bone mass, and breast enlargement or tenderness, and hot flushes.
The following symptoms are common in manopause, but are often dismissed as a normal sign of aging: loss of energy, fatigue, night sweats, joint aches and stiffness in hands, changes in skin quality, anxiety, memory loss, loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, irritability and mood swings, sleep deprivation, decreased bone density and depression.
Of course, all these symptoms could have a number of other causes.

Causes
Many conditions can cause the symptoms associated with low testosterone:
Alcohol abuse
Thyroid and other hormonal disorders
Liver and kidney disease, heart failure
Tumor of the hypothalamus or pituitary gland
Certain infections, such as tuberculosis or HIV
Chronic lung disease
Too low blood pressure
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
Reaction to monosodium glutamate (MSG), a food additive
Reaction to certain medications

In the medical cases, the condition would have existed before you experienced the hot flushes. If things seemed normal up to this point, it is possible you are experiencing a male version of menopause, or andropause.

Men may have hot flashes when they experience a sudden and substantial drop in the sex hormone testosterone — such as after surgical removal of the testes (orchiectomy or orchidectomy) or when taking medications to decrease testosterone levels for treatment of prostate cancer.

Treatments
Treatments for low testosterone include: increased weight-bearing exercise, losing weight, reducing stress, eating healthier and smaller meals, taking calcium/magnesium supplements, and the possible use of Testosterone Replacement Therapy. Remember that all hormones have side effects.
Men may have a sudden drop in testosterone after surgical removal of the testes (orchidectomy) or when taking medications to decrease testosterone levels for treatment of prostate cancer.

Natural Remedies for

Menopause Problems (women)

Agnus Castus

This is one of the most widely useful herbs for so many female problems. Read on!

Agnus Castus (chaste tree) has a rather different action from other herbs commonly used for female hormones. Most act on oestrogen: this acts on progesterone.

Agnus Castus influences the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus, the major controls on all hormones. It increases progesterone production and acts to improve the ratio of oestrogen to progesterone.

Agnus Castus also reduces another hormone called prolactin. During breastfeeding, prolactin enclurages milk production. Studies have shown Agnus Castus increasing milk production by up to three times that of control group, after 20 days of use.

At other times, excess prolactin may increase PMS, benign breast cysts, painful breasts, and even benign enlargement of the prostate in men. Studies in PMS sufferers using Agnus Castus have shown up to ninety percent having improvement of symptoms.
Other studies have shown this herb to useful with menstrual problems such as heavy periods, lack of periods, or irregular cycles.

Agnus Castus is sometimes used by herbalists to treat fibroids, ovarian cysts or endometriosis, and it may be used in fertility treatment as it stimulates progesterone levels, often low in infertility.

Because Agnus Castus inhibits the ‘male’ androgens, it may benefit acne sufferers with an androgen excess.

Last but not least, this herb also has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, and may help combat candida by improving the balance of bacteria in the bowel.
Warnings:
Agnus Castus appears safe for long term use at normal doses.
Avoid with any progesterone drug, contraceptive pill or HRT.
Agnus Castus may aggravate spasmodic dysmenorrhoea (menstrual cramps) if not associated with PMS.
Caution with dopamine antagonist drugs.

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Black Cohosh

Black Cohosh is the first herb most women try for menopausal symptoms, and many are happy with it.

Black Cohosh originates in North America, where native people have long used it for menstrual or hormone problems, and arthritis. It is widely used in Europe especially Germany, and becoming more popular here. Research evidence is contradictory: some studies suggesting that 70% of women find relief from menopausal problems with Black Cohosh, while others suggest it is no help. This may be due to the research design.

Some clinical studies demonstrate that Black Cohosh can lower levels of Luteinising Hormone. This is one of the hormones that stimulates the ovaries to produce oestrogen. Black Cohosh contains isoflavones that bind to oestrogen receptor sites, and other chemicals acting on the pituitary and hypothalamus. Black Cohosh has a complicated action on several female hormones, and research has not yet clarified its exact mode of action.

Black Cohosh has also traditionally been used for painful or irregular periods, arthritic symptoms, and osteoporosis; these results have not yet been confirmed by research.

Warnings:
I do not advise using this herb if you are taking any conventional treatment for hormones, including the contraceptive pill, HRT, or tamoxifen. Current evidence does not suggest that the use of Black Cohosh and tamoxifen together is contraindicated, but professional guidance by a physician is recommended.
Some research indicates that Black Cohosh may be useful for hot flushes following breast cancer treatment: please consult a qualified herbalist.
Avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Avoid if you have measles.
Avoid with chemotherapy.
Avoid with liver disease.

Normal doses appear to be safe for long term use, although some sources recommend limiting use to 6 months. Large amounts (several grams) may lead to abdominal pain, nausea, headaches, dizziness, and miscarriage.


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Dandelion and Burdock

dandelion burdock womens healthDandelion (Taraxacum Officinale) and Burdock (Arctium Lappa) form a helpful duo of liver detoxifying herbs. They are both extremely safe, having few known drug interactions, and appear safe for long-term use.

Dandelion has a confirmed diuretic action, and is one of our safest herbal diuretics. Dandelion does not deplete the body’s potassium, so it does not have some of the potential side effects of other diuretic drugs.

Dandelion and Burdock both encourage our bodies to cleanse and eliminate unwanted toxins. They stimulate the liver and kidney to detoxify unwanted chemicals, including excess oestrogen. These herbs are sometimes used to aid symptoms of oestrogen excess, such as menopausal symptoms, PMS, or symptoms of uterine fibroids. If you have tried more specific ‘hormonal’ herbs without benefit, try this more general treatment instead. In this you may compare Dandelion and Burdock with Milk Thistle.

Both Dandelion and Burdock are tonics for the digestive system; their bitter ingredients stimulate the digestive juices. Dandelion contains unique sesquiterpene lactones. Burdock contains lignans and sesquiterpenes.

Burdock is also traditionally used for general skin disorders, and has anti-microbial properties. It has an anti-inflammatory effect that may be helpful in conditions involving joint and skin inflammation, for example, arthritis with psoriasis.

Because of their gentle diuretic, detoxifying and hormone balancing effects, Dandelion and Burdock are often included in weight-loss programmes. The increase in bile flow may help improve fat metabolism (including cholesterol).

Warnings:
Lithium: Toxicity to lithium may be worsened due to sodium depletion.
Diuretics and Hypoglycemics: Theoretically, dandelion or burdock may heighten the action of these drugs, please take medical advice.
The milky latex in the stem and leaves of fresh dandelion may cause an allergic rash.

Dandelion tea/coffee made from your own garden dandelions!
Collect from areas not contaminated by chemicals or by dogs toileting.

Dandelion leaves: the young leaf can be used to brew tea, or in salads. Older leaves are horribly bitter. Dandelion is a rich source of vitamins and minerals, with a high content of vitamin A as well as moderate amounts of vitamin D, vitamin C, various B vitamins, iron, silicon, magnesium, zinc, and manganese.


Dandelion root. Dig large dandelion roots, easiest in wet weather in Autumn. Clean thoroughly, and dice small. They can be dried in a very low oven and stored in airtight containers. For better flavour, roast carefully on a low heat in the oven or in a pan. Then infuse in boiling water for a tasty healthy drink.

You can also buy pure dandelion leaf or root from companies such as Cotswold Herbs, or Baldwins. See Links.

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Milk Thistle

milk thistle womens healthMilk Thistle's active ingredients are compounds collectively called silymarin. Sylmarin acts in several ways. It is an antioxidant, and it stimulates the liver. This last property makes Milk Thistle potentially very helpful in menopausal problems due to an apparent excess of oestrogen, because it is the liver that clears this oestogen from our bodies.

Milk Thistle will also assist the liver to clear other toxins known to aggravate menopausal flushes, such as caffeine and alcohol.

Milk Thistle has been shown to improve the solubility of bile, which may help during treatment for gallstones. Many women of menopausal age also develop gallstone problems. Milk thistle has even been recommended as a treatment for itching due to poor gallbladder function during pregnancy (physician’s guidance recommended in pregnancy).

Warnings: Milk thistle is non-toxic and can be taken long-term. It appears to be safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

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Omega 7 Oil

omega oils female healthPlease also read All About Omega Oils

Omega 7

Omega 7 is a recently discovered type of omega oil. It is usually extracted from Sea Buckthorn seed (around 40%), also in Macadamia oil (around 20% but cheaper). Its main application is what is politely known as ‘dryness’. Sometimes, hormone changes around menopause result in differences in the vaginal tissues and lubrication. Also beneficial are Vitamins A and E, and a tender and skilled partner.

Local applications of special sexual lubricant gel, or pure aloe vera gel, can make life much more comfortable. Some women recommend using a Vitamin E capsule as a pessary, but I have no evidence for this.

Warnings:
None known

Recommended:
I cannot really recommend as there is little research. Not many products are available yet, though you can buy macadamia oil from good health stores.


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Sage

This herb, grown in many gardens, can help in so many areas of health: menopause, infections, indigestion, mouth problems, and brain health.

Sage is sometimes helpful with menopausal hot flushes with heavy perspiration. It is a useful herb to try if you have found the more common herbs (black cohosh, red clover) ineffective. Sage is a common ingredient of herbal deodorants, and one study in Germany suggests that taking Sage can reduce excessive perspiration (unrelated to hormones) by up to 50%.

Sage has traditionally been used to regulate the periods, and for menstrual cramps.

In one double-blind study of people with Alzheimer’s disease, Sage significantly improved brain function. It is thought to affect acetylcholine, one of the chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) in the brain. Sage has anti-oxidant properties similar to Vitamin E.

In laboratory tests, Sage has demonstrated anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. It can be used as a gargle for sore throats, mouth ulcers or inflamed gums, or a douche for thrush. Try adding a few drops of Echinacea.

Warnings:
I do not advise using this herb if you are taking any conventional treatment for hormones, including the contraceptive pill, HRT, or tamoxifen.
Use as herb tea or capsules, do not take Sage oil internally.
Avoid in pregnancy; avoid with fever; avoid in epilepsy or if you have a nervous disorder; use only with supervision if you are diabetic. Large doses may lead to rapid heartbeat or dizziness, reduce dose. Not for children under 6.

Make Your Own Sage Tea
One of the safest ways to take sage is as a tea, using 2-4 fresh leaves from your garden. You can also use commercially dried sage, I teaspoon in a mug. Take up to 3 times a day for hormone problems, or use as a gargle or douche where appropriate.



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Viridian Organic

Herbal Female Complex

viridian organic herbal female complexThis unusual complex has 75mg each of 4 major herbs, to balance female hormones and help cope with stress and change. This is much higher amounts than many other combination remedies. It also contains smaller amounts of another 4 herbs. It is totally pure and organic, and comes in a vegetarian capsule.

Viridian Organic Female complex is a combination of natural remedies to benefit both natural hormone balance, and herbs to balance anxiety, stress, adrenal function and the liver.

This organic complex has been used clinically for:
Menopausal symptoms including hot flushes, night sweats, emotional irritability, vaginal atrophy, weight gain, depression, joint pains, poor libido, headaches, nervousness, and fatigue. Menstrual irregularities, such as amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea, PMS and ovarian pain, cysts (PCOS), and in conditions of oestrogen excess e.g. uterine fibroids.

Hypertension, reducing high cholesterol, reducing mucus production i.e. chest infections, expectorant action.

Benefits have also been also noted for depression, headaches, and cardiovascular and circulatory disorders.

Warnings:
Not recommended during pregnancy or lactation.
Women taking oestrogen therapy (HRT) should consult their healthcare professional before using this formula.

Due to the liquorice content, this is not recommended in the following: hypertensive patients unless under physician supervision (adverse effects are rarely observed at levels below 400mg liquorice per day).
Patients taking digitalis preparations for the heart, such as Digoxin.
Patients using diuretics in the Thiazide group.
Eating high potassium, low sodium diet normally prevents the side effects of glycyrrhizin, one of the active constituents of liquorice..
Due to the Astragalus content, this is not recommended for patients using anticoagulants, antiplatelet, or anti-thrombotic drugs.
Caution should be taken with transplant patients and those with autoimmune disorders.
Due to Artichoke content, not recommended in patients with known allergies to artichoke and similar plants (Compositae=Daisy family), nor in cases of closure of the gallbladder.

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Homeopathic Remedies for Menopause

All symptoms need not be present; choose the best fit.

Read: How to Take Homeopathic Remedies.


Note: Reconstruction of homeopathic sections of website
Changes in UK law have obliged me to remove suggested usage from specific homeopathic medicines. Homeopathy is still entirely legal, and available just as before, but medicines are now categorised as ‘’unlicensed products’. I apologise for this inconvenience. It is my opinion that restricting this information makes the use of homeopathic medicines less accurate and reliable for the general public.
‘Homeopathic treatment’ does not imply cure, but an individual analysis of your situation and the selection of homeopathic remedies suited to you. No homeopathic medicines mentioned on this site should be taken as prescriptive, and you should always seek qualified advice before selecting homeopathic medicines for yourself or your children. Homeopathic medicine is complementary to good quality medical support, not a substitute. Please use your common sense, and always read instructions on any product.

Although I cannot give general guidelines on the website, you may still consult me, or another qualified homeopath, as an individual client. As this is more time-consuming, I may have to charge for this service.


Argentum Nitricum
Silver Nitrate, a mineral remedy.


Sorry – information removed for reconstruction. Please see special note above.

Belladonna
Nightshade, a plant remedy.

Sorry – information removed for reconstruction. Please see special note above.


Calcarea Carbonica
Oyster shell, a mineral/animal remedy.

Sorry – information removed for reconstruction. Please see special note above.


Cimicifuga
(Actaea Racemosa) A plant remedy.
Sorry – information removed for reconstruction. Please see special note above.

Lachesis
Snake venom, an animal remedy.

Sorry – information removed for reconstruction. Please see special note above.

Natrum Muriaticum
Sea salt, a mineral remedy.


Sorry – information removed for reconstruction. Please see special note above.

Pulsatilla
Wind flower, a plant remedy.

Sorry – information removed for reconstruction. Please see special note above.