Menopause is a normal part of a woman’s natural aging process and occurs as hormone levels in the body decline. Menopause is a process that usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 and begins 2 to 5 years before (perimenopause) a woman’s last menstrual period. It is considered complete (postmenopause) when 1 full year has passed without a menstrual period.
What Causes Menopause?
Menopause is caused by the natural declining function of the ovaries, which gradually produce lower and lower levels of the hormones oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
• Hot flashes
• Night sweats
• Vaginal changes (atrophic vaginitis)
• Difficulty concentrating/memory loss
• Emotional changes (depression, anxiety)
• Sleep disturbances (insomnia)
• Changes in sexual desire (increased or decreased libido)
• Rapid, irregular heartbeat (heart palpitations)
• Generalized itching
• Joint and/or muscle pain
• Urinary changes (urinary frequency)
Diagnostic Evaluation of Menopause
• A diagnosis of menopause is usually made based on your age, history of menstrual periods, symptoms, and the results of a pelvic exam.
• Vasomotor instability (i.e. hot flashes), irregular menses, insomnia, decreased libido, and mood swings are among the most common symptoms
• Osteoporotic compression of the spine as well as her gait, muscle tone, coordination, general nutritional status (i.e. dhatukshaya), flexibility, hearing, eyesight, and emotional status.
• The principle laboratory test for diagnosing menopause is the serum follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) level.
Symptoms – Nervousness, anxiety, panic, mood swings, vaginal dryness, loss of skin tone, feeling cold, irregular periods, insomnia, mild or variable hot flashes, constipation, palpitations, bloating and joint aches and pains.
Diet – Increase warm food and drinks, regular meals, and use spices such as fennel and cumin. Decrease caffeine and other stimulants, refined sugar, cold drinks, salads.
Lifestyle – Early bedtime, oil massage using almond and olive oil, meditation, yoga, Regular exercise like walking
Anti-Vata herbs include ashwagandha, arjuna, cardamom, comfrey root, garlic, guggul, liquorice, myrrh, sandalwood.
Symptoms – Prone to hot temper, anger, irritability, feeling hot, hot flashes, night sweats, heavy periods, excessive bleeding, urinary tract infections, skin rashes and acne.
Diet – Increase cooling foods, water intake, sweet juicy fruits (grapes, pears, plums, mango, melons, apples,) zucchini, yellow squash, cucumber, organic foods. Use spices such as cinnamon, cardamom and fennel. Avoid hot spicy foods, hot drinks and alcohol. No eating late at night.
Lifestyle – Go to bed before 10 pm, oil massage using coconut and sesame oil. Use Meditation and other techniques to reduce anger, hatred and resentment. Exercise and exposure to the sun are limited.
Anti Pitta herbs to be used include aloe vera, arjuna, barberry, golden seal, saffron, sandalwood and shatavari.
Symptoms – Menopausal Weight Gain, sluggishness, lethargy, fluid retention, yeast infections, lazy, depressed, lacking motivation, slow digestion.
Diet – Prefer light, dry and warm food, Consume fruits, whole grains, legumes, vegetables. Use spices such as black pepper, turmeric and ginger. Avoid meat, cheese, sugar, cold foods and drinks. Weekly fasting is helpful. Most or all of the daily food should be consumed before 6 p.m.
Lifestyle – Get up early (by 6AM). Mustard oil and linseed oil are often recommended for massage.
Anti Kapha Herbs include bayberry, cayenne, cinnamon, guggul, mustard and myrrh.
Key factors in achieving graceful menopause –
A smooth menopause transition and great health in the years to come can be achieved with the help of –
1. Balancing Doshas – Ascertain the imbalance dosha according to your symptoms and follow the advice given above to balance that dosha.
2. Balancing Diet – Diet plays a key role in balancing hormones during and after menopause. It is well known that Japanese women rarely experience hot flashes, probably because their diet contains large amounts of soy/soya, a food rich in certain plant estrogens called “isoflavones.” Soya products are not the only source of plant estrogens, however. Another equally healthful source of phytoestrogens are “lignans,” compounds found in a variety of whole foods including grains and cereals, dried beans and lentils, flaxseed, sunflower seeds and peanuts, vegetables such as asparagus, sweet potatoes, carrots, garlic and broccoli and fruits such as pears, plums and strawberries. Common herbs and spices such as thyme oregano, nutmeg, turmeric and licorice also have estrogenic properties.
Eat a varied diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and dried beans .It’s a rich source of phytoestrogen.
Variety and moderation are important because just as too much estrogen is unhealthy after menopause, too much phytoestrogen may also be dangerous.
Apana Vata, which governs the genito-urinary tract, elimination, and menstruation, is a key area to attend to when preparing for menopause. Drink plenty of warm water throughout the day. Eat plenty of cooked, leafy greens, as this helps elimination and is also a good source of calcium. For both Pitta and Vata imbalances, a breakfast of cooked apples and prunes and figs is a good way to start the day, as it balances the doshas and cleanses the digestive track.
3. Panchakarma – More serious symptoms, such as frequent hot flashes, continual sleep disturbance, and moderate to severe mood swings, are signs of deeper imbalances.
Ayurveda describes that these stubborn symptoms are usually due to the buildup of wastes and toxins, referred to as “ama,” in the body’s tissues.
In this case, a traditional Ayurvedic detoxification program “panchakarma,” may be needed to clear the body’s channels and gain relief. This internal cleansing approach is also the treatment of choice for more serious problems such as osteoporosis and high cholesterol.
A diet low in saturated fat, moderate in mono- and unsaturated fats, and high in properly cooked whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and which includes some dairy will contain more than adequate vitamins, minerals, and trace elements to promote strong and healthy tissues.
The diet should include five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
A sedentary lifestyle is an established risk factor in many common conditions including: obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, insomnia, low back pain, and certain forms of cancer (including breast) Exercise need not be a complicated or time consuming affair; it can be in the form of brisk walking, jogging, bicycling, aerobics, dancing, tennis, weight-training, rollerblading, ice-skating, or even gardening.
There are three general types of exercise and most women should try to incorporate examples of all three: (1) Aerobic, (2) Anaerobic and Weight Management
Obesity, or sthaulya, is a multifactorial complex of imbalances affecting both an individual’s physiology and psychology which results in an increase of body weight to more than 30 per cent above “normal”. This increase is due to the systemic accumulation of fat throughout the body aerobic (or weight-bearing), and (3) flexibility exercises.
Panchakarma (“five therapeutic actions”) chikitsa (“treatment”) are physical therapies that thoroughly cleanse and purify the physical and mental impurities from the body and mind.
Panchakarma therapies followed by rasayana therapies every 2-3 years. Depending on one’s risk factors, women should have a Pap smear and mammogram every 1-2 years and check her thyroid function, lipid profile, and have a colonoscopy every 3-5 years.
Contributed by: Dr. Priyanka Borole