By BARBARA VAN EECKHOUT, MD
Hot flashes, insomnia, and night sweats can make menopause miserable. Learning how to find relief can make the transition years easier to bear.
Menopause usually takes place between ages 45 and 55 when a woman’s body stops producing estrogen and progesterone, ending menstruation.
While this transition is a natural event, “the change” can cause a variety of symptoms, including:
• Trouble sleeping
• Night sweats
• Hot flashes
• Mood swings
• Leakage of urine
• Less interest in sex
• Vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse
Menopausal symptoms don’t bother some women. But if your symptoms are very uncomfortable or disrupt your life, you should speak with your doctor about treatment.
You may find relief with lifestyle changes, prescription medication, dietary supplements, or a combination of all three.
Fortunately, women can make a variety of lifestyle changes to help manage menopausal symptoms. These include:
• Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods
• Exercising regularly
• Eating a healthy diet that includes plenty of calcium and soy foods
• Practicing relaxation exercises such as yoga, tai chi, and meditation
• Doing Kegel exercises to strengthen pelvic muscles
• Dressing lightly and in layers to deal with hot flashes
Taking hormones can help some women with severe hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and vaginal dryness. However, research has shown menopausal hormone therapy poses serious risks because it can increase the odds for breast cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and blood clots. Before you decide to use hormones, make sure you and your doctor weigh the risks and benefits of this treatment carefully.
Because of the potential dangers connected to taking hormones, many women turn to complementary or alternative remedies for relief of their menopausal symptoms. The effectiveness of herbal remedies for relief of menopause symptoms is at best inconclusive.
The bottom line: Women and their doctors should carefully consider potential side effects of all treatments—medical and alternative—when deciding on an approach for managing menopausal symptoms.
If you would like to talk to Dr. Van Eeckhout about any women’s health issue you may schedule a consultation at her office at Los Alamos Medical Center by calling 505.661.9201.