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Menopause can hit you like a freight train, and despite the fact that it’s a natural phase in life, the symptoms can simply be too much to bear. You may not be bedridden, but hot flashes, mood swings, fatigue, and all the other mental and physical problems of menopause can certainly affect your quality of life, and there’s no reason to sit back and let that happen.
An effective menopause treatment plan will usually involve a few different therapies – pharmaceutical, traditional, and self-guided – to relieve the discomfort and take control over your health. Consider these popular therapies that show good promise in treating menopause symptoms.
1. Hormone Therapy
The most recognized therapy for menopause symptom control is also the most intense, and not every woman will be suited to it. However, for those with moderate to severe menopausal symptoms, and who are relatively new to menopause, hormone therapy may be a good option.
There are two methods to consider: systemic hormone therapy (estrogen in pill or patch form) and low-dose vaginal products (in cream, tablet or ring form). While the systemic option is more effective for a wider range of discomforts (including hot flashes and night sweats), studies show that it can also bring some dangerous side effects, so doctors are more reluctant to prescribe it these days. Nevertheless, if other treatments aren’t working and your symptoms are too much to bear, discuss the hormone therapy option with your doctor.
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A sudden and profound drop in estrogen is at the root of many menopausal symptoms, so taking in natural estrogens – or phytoestrogens – could help to counter the effects. These are plant-based compounds that mimic the effects of estrogen and since their effects are milder, they’re not guaranteed to solve all your problems. However, some research suggests that phytoestrogens could help to relieve hot flashes, reduce night sweats, and lower cholesterol.
Plant compounds called isoflavones are good sources of phytoestrogens, and they’re mainly found in soy: try squeezing some more tofu, soybeans, or soy milk into your diet, but be cautious if you’ve had breast cancer or are at risk for uterine cancer.
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People have been tapping into the potential of plants for centuries; natural botanicals actually form the base of almost 50% of today’s prescription drugs. It follows that taking the right plant compounds could help to relieve some menopause-specific symptoms (though it’s important to note that very little scientific evidence exists to support this claim).
Black cohosh is a leading supplement for menopause. Used in the short term (less than six months), it may help to relieve hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness. Evening primrose oil has been used to treat hot flashes, though it brings the possibility of more uncomfortable side effects for some women, and St. John’s wort is often used to control mood swings and anxiety.
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4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is important for women of all ages, but it’s especially helpful after menopause. Once your estrogen production plummets, your hormonal balance can wreak havoc on your body for a while, and your bones are at risk if you don’t actively keep them strong.
This is where vitamin D comes in: not only can it improve hormone balance, it is absolutely necessary for the process of calcium absorption and bone renewal. The easiest way to work more into your day is step out into the sunshine for 15 or 20 minutes (with good sun protection, of course), but you can also take a vitamin D supplement in capsule form to top up your levels.
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An ancient practice that has been gaining ground in the modern Western health arena, acupuncture may even have some benefits for menopausal women. Plenty of people chalk up any acupuncture benefits to the placebo effect, but more doctors are getting on board with this alternative medicine.
The very thin needles are placed in very specific areas on the body to free the flow of energy (according to traditional practitioners) or stimulate various nerve pathways to relieve pain and tension (closer to what the contemporary medical community believes). The aim is to relieve physical symptoms like hot flashes and emotional disruptions like depression.
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Exercise is an important part of post-menopausal life, but certain exercises can bring a wider array of rewards than others, and yoga is a great example. The meditative aspect is a fantastic mood stabilizer; relaxation postures and focused breathing have been known to reduce irritability and depression.
Strengthening workouts are excellent complements to your regular cardio routine, too, so try to work in a few yoga sessions each week to reap the rewards. It can be helpful to begin with a class led by a trained instructor, and once you get the hang of it, take it up in the comfort of your own home.
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7. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
You might know about the rewards of visualization and deep breathing techniques, but cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is more than mental exercises. In fact, CBT can help you overcome physical discomforts, and even improve the way your body functions. Symptoms like hot flashes are a bit mysterious, but one thing is fairly clear: stress makes them worse. If you learn how to mentally shift your perspective and adjust your behaviour at the onset of an episode, you can overcome the stress, calm your mind and heart rate, and help to draw your focus to other things to make for a much more tolerable time.
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8. Antidepressant Medications
Although they target emotional distress, certain antidepressants may be able to significantly decrease the severity of your hot flashes. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are what work best, since they affect the serotonin levels in your brain, and serotonin is thought to play an important role in regulating body heat. Many women report less irritability, depression, anxiety, and mood swings with SSRIs, as well. Minor side effects are usually easily managed, and major side effects are rare, but be sure to go over the pros and cons of any medication with your doctor before you make your decision.
Read more about treatments for menopause symptoms over at NewLifeOutlook.