Menopause Must-Knows!

By on June 3, 2011

By: Dr. Shelly Reitkop, N.D. –

There is no mystery to menopause: every woman knows she’ll eventually go through it. The hot flashes, weight gain and mood fluctuations are only a few of the changes that inevitably occur. The bright side? It doesn’t have to be so bad.

Menopause is a natural progression of the female human body. The average age of menopause is 51 years old. It happens when the ovaries stop producing the hormone estrogen, a sign that a woman can no longer bear children. The lack of estrogen results in a number of physiological changes and puts a woman in greater risk of developing certain conditions such as decreased libido and chronic diseases such as osteoporosis. Three important factors influences the age of menopause include: smoking, familial factors and genetic factors involving the estrogen receptors. Other influences include: increased body mass index (being overweight), greater than one pregnancy, history of no pregnancy, toxic chemical exposure, treatment of childhood cancers with chemotherapy and radiation, some medications, epilepsy and IQ (the greater the score, the later the onset of menopause).

The trick is, instead of fighting the facts of life, work with the body to reduce and even eliminate symptoms of menopause. Naturopathic Doctors use a number of approaches including nutrition, botanical medicine, and Traditional Chinese Medicine to make menopause a more manageable experience.

Foods play a critical role is balancing hormone levels and eating the “right” foods can help prevent or reduce symptoms of menopause. Include foods such as soy, a natural isoflavone, in your diet to balance diminishing estrogen levels. Soymilk, tofu, tempeh and miso are different forms of soy that are all equally beneficial. Other foods such as alfalfa mimic the effects of estrogen and can also be included in the diet to counteract the body’s reduced estrogen levels. Another food worth including in your diet is flaxseed. Flaxseed contains lignans, which work much like soy, having both estrogenic and anti-estrogenic properties. Flaxseeds should be eaten after they have been ground since the body cannot digest whole flax. Ground flaxseed should be kept in the fridge to prevent it from going rancid.

Lifestyle is just as important as diet. Weight-bearing, physical activity contributes to the prevention of osteoporosis and exercise outside is a great way of naturally getting your daily dose of vitamin D, another essential player in osteoporosis prevention. Regular physical activity also prevents excess weight gain.

Now that it’s spring, consider a detoxification. Cleansing the body under the supervision of a practitioner can significantly reduce or eliminate signs of symptoms of menopause. Since the liver is responsible for metabolizing estrogen, it is important to ensure that it is functioning optimally among the other organs of elimination: the intestines, kidneys, lungs and skin. A detoxification also helps remove toxins such as the ones we are exposed to on a daily basis. Endocrine disruptors ranging from plastics to pesticides, constantly burden the body. Non-organic meats contain hormones that can greatly disrupt estrogen balance and enhance symptoms.

Nutritional supplements that have been studied and shown to be effective in assisting a woman through menopause include: Vitamin C and Bioflavanoids, Evening Primrose Oil, Gamma-Oryzanol and Vitamin E. They are all well known for reducing hot flashes. Optimal levels of Vitamin B6 are also essential for preventing and reversing depression, insomnia and irritability.

Herbs such as Actea Racemosa (Black Cohash), Angelica Sinesis (Dong Quai) and Vitex Agnus-castus (chaste tree) are also well known to relieve hot flashes, nervousness and other menopausal symptoms. Ginkgo Biloba (Ginkgo) and Ginseng are both effective in combating changes in mental clarity, memory and concentration. Hypericum Perforatum (St. John’s Wort) is a natural antidepressant that is highly effective in people with mild to moderate depression.

Interested in going the Traditional Chinese Medicine route? Acupuncture with specifically selected needle insertion sites can reestablish hormone balance within the body and relieve symptoms associated with menopause. Homeopathy can help reduce physical symptoms while simultaneously shifting the emotional mind to a healthier state.

Meditate, elevate and appreciate the life changes you are going through and enjoy the transition. Menopause doesn’t have to seem so scary and if it does, just remember to embrace the process rather than suffer through it.

10 Common signs and symptoms of menopause:

1. Menstrual changes and eventual cease of menses
2. Hot flashes, night sweats
3. Irritability and mood swings
4. Difficulty sleeping
5. Depression, anxiety and feeling of apprehension
6. Headaches/Migraines
7. Loss of libido
8. Vaginal dryness and thinning
9. Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
10. Hair loss or thinning of head, pubic or whole body hair

Dr. Shelly Reitkop is a Naturopathic Doctor who works to inspire health by educating, motivating and empowering patients to take an active role in their health care journey. She has a clinical focus in digestive health, endocrine health, mental health, pediatric health and women’s health and offers services throughout The Greater Toronto Area and Town of Maple. She offers customized treatment programs and works with other health care practitioners in order to provide the greatest quality of integrative care. To book an appointment call 647-839-9155 or email: [email protected] To learn more about Dr. Shelly Reitkop’s services please visit her website at: http://www.naturedoctor.ca/.

About Dr. Shelly Reitkop

Dr. Shelly Reitkop, N.D. is a member of the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors (OAND) and the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND) and is licensed under the Board of Directors of Drugless Therapies. She is a graduate from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, Canada's premier institute for education and research in naturopathic medicine. Emphasizing disease prevention and health promotion, Dr. Shelly Reitkop, N.D. works to educate, motivate and empower patients to take an active role in their health care journey. She designs comprehensive, individualized treatment plans using Nutrition and Nutritional Supplementation, Botanical Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, Homeopathy and Lifestyle Counseling. She has a clinical focus in digestive health, endocrine health, mental health, pediatric health and women's health and works closely with other healthcare practitioners to provide the greatest quality of integrative care.

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Menopause Must-Knows!