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Menopause: A Functional Medicine Approach

September 5, 2023

middle aged woman

At 51, Julia was the proprietor of a successful business, the mother of teen boys, and had a loving marriage with a supportive spouse. Of course, she’d been through the ups and downs life brings, in both business and family life, but she’d always faced those challenges head-on. Her resilience paid off time and time again.

But menopause was a wave that seemed to come out of nowhere and nearly tossed her on her head.

Sound familiar? Menopause is a huge life-change – one that can last up to 10 years (or more)!

As a functional, integrative clinic, we believe in a holistic path to menopause management, one that not only addresses symptoms but also promotes overall wellbeing.

1. Understanding the Change

We often fear what we don’t understand. One of the first steps in treatment of symptoms of menopause is to improve understanding of the process. Menopause marks the end of menstruation and is a normal and natural part of aging. Menopause is a phase of life characterized by hormonal changes. It is not a disease or ailment. The most common hormonal change is a decline in estrogen that often leads to combinations of symptoms that vary in intensity (hot flashes, sleeplessness, memory lapses, mood swings, etc.). Those combinations and differences in symptom intensity are as varied as the women who experience them.

2. Diet & Nutrition

A balanced diet could work wonders in easing some of the effects of menopause. For example, the plant-based estrogens, or phytoestrogens in some foods (soy, flaxseeds, and whole grains) could help a woman adjust to their age-related, natural reduction in estrogen levels. Plus, specific dietary changes, including eating more fish, walnuts, and chia seeds, to increase intake of Omega-3 fatty acids have been used to reduce mood swings experienced by menopausal women. And don’t forget the loss of bone density associated with lowered estrogen levels. This change requires added calcium and vitamin D through the diet or by taking supplements to promote bone health during and after menopause.

3. Herbal Supplements

There is a reason hot flashes and night sweats are the symptoms most commonly thought of when someone mentions menopause. The struggle is real!

It is extremely important to consult your healthcare provider before beginning any regimen of herbal supplements. Just like conventional medications, herbal supplements may not be appropriate or effective for everyone. When taken with care and appropriate guidance, black cohosh, red clover, and evening primrose oil can be options for reducing hot flashes and getting some more of that precious sleep you’ve been missing.

4. Meditation & Yoga

To ensure a holistic, integrative approach to managing menopause, the mind-body connection cannot be overshadowed by physical symptoms. Mental and emotional health and the associated changes that occur with menopause often get lost in the shuffle. Meditation and yoga may be most commonly viewed as exercise, but they can be much more. Mindfulness practices in meditation, along with flexibility and strength training through yoga, have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, improve quality of sleep, and provide a space for mindfulness and inner connection.

5. Conventional Medicine

A holistic, integrative approach and the use of conventional medicine are not mutually exclusive. In fact, combining alternative and conventional treatments, as appropriate for each individual, is the definition of an integrative approach.

Aspects of conventional medicine, such as monitoring bone density and cholesterol levels, as well as other concerns associated with menopause are critical to overall integrative care.

Prescription of low-dose hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for a short duration may be the best option for a woman with difficult symptoms that do not respond to other therapeutic approaches. As always, these decisions should be made based on individual circumstances by the patient and her doctor who, together, weigh the potential benefits and risks.

If you’ve reached this stage in your life, feel free to reach out to our team at Well Life. We’d love to partner with you on this health journey.

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