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September is National Menopause Awareness Month, and the goal is to help women understand and embrace menopause in lieu of suffering from its

symptoms. To celebrate this awareness, the Women’s OBGYN Medical Group of Santa Rosa, CA discusses healthy ways women can manage the physical changes that result from menopause.

The severity of menopausal symptoms will vary among woman. A healthcare provider who specializes in menopause can help patients find the best ways to address lifestyle expectations and teach them how to relieve uncomfortable symptoms with the latest treatment options, including hormone therapy. At the same time, complementary therapies offer a variety of alternative treatments and products that can relieve symptoms for many menopausal women. Although these treatment options may fall outside of what we know as conventional medicine, there are many therapies that are considered safe and effective.

What is Menopause?
Menopause marks the stage of a woman’s life when her body has transitioned from regularly producing estrogen and progesterone in the ovaries to its post-menopausal state. This process typically occurs naturally in women between the ages of 40 and 60, but there are also natural causes and voluntary procedures that can induce premature menopause, such as hysterectomy or the removal of both ovaries due to treatments for cancer, disease, or trauma.

Symptoms arise in most women as the body adjusts to new hormone levels. Common but generally mild symptoms which can be treated effectively with complementary therapies include hot flashes, sleep difficulties, and stress-induced muscle pains. Examples of complementary therapies for these types of symptoms include:

>>Massage

>>Herbal and dietary supplements

>>Yoga, t’ai chi and qigong

>>Biofeedback and meditation

>>Exercise

Massage
Massage therapy can offer safe and effective relief for many women experiencing various stages of menopause. Typical symptoms of menopause can be intensified by feelings of anxiety and fatigue, which in turn can cause additional pain in the back, neck, and shoulders. Massage therapy and other forms of bodywork allow the body to relax, offering relief from anxiety and stress.

Massage therapy is well known for its ability to relieve headaches and body tension, as well as increase range of motion. It can also help women reconnect with the natural rhythms of their bodies during menopause. Massage also improves flexibility by stimulating the natural lubricants between connective tissue, helping to alleviate back, neck, and shoulder pain caused by menopausal stress. Another aspect of massage that may help improve hormonal imbalances is reflexology—an ancient method of massaging acupressure points, most commonly in the hands and feet.

Herbal and Dietary Supplements
Research has yet to provide the necessary scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of many complementary health practices, but women are still discovering symptom relief during the menopausal transition with the wise use of herbal and dietary supplements. That said, it is vital that patients discuss all complementary therapies they are using with their physician because not all are proven safe and/or effective, and some supplements may even interfere with conventional treatments.

Some commonly talked about supplements include:

>>Flaxseed, which contains substances called lignans; these are important modulators of hormone metabolism. Flaxseed can be taken as a supplement or added to the diet in a variety of ways.

>>Dong Quai is touted for its ability to support and maintain the natural balance of female hormones. However, this is one of the herbs commonly recommended for menopause that should not be taken if a woman is experiencing heavy bleeding.

>>Black cohosh is one of the best-studied traditional herbs for menopause commonly used for hot flashes. Black cohosh may work by maintaining hormonal levels, which may lessen the severity of hot flashes although it isn't effective for everyone.

>>Magnesium supplements or magnesium-rich foods help strengthen bones and prevent conditions such as osteoporosis, a bone-weakening disease which can develop during menopause. Maintaining strong bones throughout menopause can help prevent bone fractures and serious injury. Magnesium is known to help reduce other common symptoms of menopause, such as insomnia, tissue dryness, mood swings, anxiety, irritability, and water-retention, and it can also help improve energy levels, which may decline during menopause.

>>Evening primrose oil is a good source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid that can help influence prostaglandin synthesis and help moderate menopausal symptoms.

>>Vitamin E, taken daily in a dose of 400 IUs, has proven to help alleviate symptoms of hot flashes in some menopausal women.

>>B-vitamins (taken individually or as a complex) may also help women deal with the emotional stress of menopausal symptoms.

Yoga, T’ai Chi, and Qigong
A 2010 National Institute of Health (NIH) review of 21 papers evaluated mind and body therapies for menopausal symptoms. Researchers found that yoga, t’ai chi, and meditation-based programs may be helpful in reducing common menopausal symptoms, including the frequency and intensity of hot flashes, sleep and mood disturbances, stress, and muscle and joint pain.

Biofeedback and Meditation
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, many nonprescription techniques may relieve the symptoms of menopause—these techniques include meditation, acupuncture, hypnosis, biofeedback, and deep breathing exercises. Many of these exercises involve focusing attention inward and eliminating stressful thoughts. This type of relaxation not only helps reduce stress immediately but also can help a person to better deal with stress throughout the day.

Exercise
Weight gain is common after menopause, and as many as 30 percents of women ages 50 to 59 are obese—not just overweight—today. Lack of estrogen may cause the body to use starches and blood sugar less effectively, which may indeed increase fat storage and make it harder for women of a menopausal age to lose weight. There is a way that mature women can avoid this particular symptom of menopause while helping to reduce the risk of many other health problems associated with aging: by adopting a routine of aerobic exercise.

An NIH review showed that people who participated in aerobic activities every day for just 10 or more minutes had as many as six fewer inches around the waistline, compared with people who didn't exercise. A regular routine of aerobic activity can help lower the risk of many menopausal symptoms, including osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease, and relieve depression and anxiety.

Professional and Compassionate Care during the Menopausal Years
Complementary therapies are not covered by most insurance policies, so it is important to check with your insurance provider when considering trying these therapies in conjunction with any conventional treatments. Physicians and nurses at the Women’s OBGYN Medical Group carry decades of experience providing professional, compassionate treatment and advice to women going through menopause, and it brings our practice great satisfaction to help ease the emotional and physical discomfort that comes with it. To learn more, please visit our website or call (707) 579-1102.

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ABOUT US

Belltown Spine & Wellness, an integrated health and spinal rehabilitation center, has helped thousands of people over the past 22 years regain their health and vitality through their natural, integrated approach to health and wellness in the greater Seattle area. Our services, which include chiropractic, spinal rehabilitation, massage therapy, acupuncture, naturopathic medicine and medical weight-loss are customized and targeted for each individual's health goals. Our signature 4-step program is specifically designed to help patients recover from neck and back pain chronic conditions. This system, created by Dr. Scott Mindel, Seattle chiropractor and owner of Belltown Spine & Wellness draws on the latest rehabilitation techniques available today.

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