Six Paths to Menopausal Wellness

Whether natural or ­conventional, your choice of menopausal health-care regime is a uniquely ­personal decision.­

| January/February 2000

  • Ryan McVay
  • Soy foods such as tempeh, soy milk, whole soybeans, and tofu can reduce hot flashes, ­improve cholesterol ratios, and may help slow bone loss.
    M. Hrdlicka
  • Dong quai, a traditional herb for menstrual ­problems, works best when combined with other herbs.

Contrary to what some people think, menopause is normal and natural. But too often, discussions about menopause and its associated problems can make it sound like a disease or a warning of pending fragility, disability, and even death.

Even though it’s normal, menopause is not an event to ignore. A balanced approach is necessary—both naiveté and overly medical approaches are unhealthy. Menopause is the beginning of a new phase of life; for many women it will be a time of empowerment, personal growth, and positive, life-changing insights and decisions. With a proper understanding of menopause and an adequately informed and respectful health-care practitioner, most menopausal women can be healthy and happy.

As a naturopathic physician, I tailor treatment considerations to the specific needs of my patients. For menopause, I offer six options that range from minimal intervention to the most conventional pharmaceutical option. A thorough evaluation—including medical history, physical exam, and laboratory and investigative tests—is imperative for determining a woman’s risk of osteoporosis and heart disease. My advice to all women is to have a full evaluation by a practitioner who is educated in natural, hormonal, and pharmaceutical nonhormonal options—generally a licensed naturopathic physician. Based on a woman’s risk for osteoporosis and heart disease and her current symp­­toms, a naturopath will recommend a treatment plan that will incorporate one or more of the six treatment options below.

Many changes accompany menopause. They range from mild to severe and include hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, heart palpitations, depression, anxiety, mood swings, decreased memory and concentration, vaginal dryness, decreased sex drive, urinary dysfunction, acne, facial hair growth, and irregular bleeding. Osteoporosis and heart disease are the two most serious problems associated with menopause.

Whether to use natural therapies or conventional hormone replacement therapy, or some combination of both, is a uniquely personal decision. A well-informed patient who has a caring, knowledgeable, and open-minded practitioner is in the best position to make appropriate decisions. Remember that no decision you make is permanent. As your feelings evolve over time regarding menopause, aging, and long-term health problems, you may decide to try something different to meet your changing needs.

For most perimenopausal women, incorporating the diet, exercise, herbs, nutritional supplements, and natural progesterone creams described in this article should relieve menopausal symptoms. Women who do not find adequate relief from these therapies should see a licensed primary-care provider who preferably is educated in the range of hormone options, both natural hormone formulations and conventional hormones.

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