Thursday, July 14, 2011

Addressing Menopause, Part 3: Naturopathic Treatment for Menopause

In American culture, menopause is treated like a disease because of common problems associated with the normal hormonal changes. It can, however, be a fresh phase of life with new opportunities that a woman's wisdom of experience can direct. During this series we will examine menopause in the U.S. and look at past and current medical treatments as well as naturopathic therapies.

Part 3 – Naturopathic Treatment for Menopause

While many doctors may prescribe synthetic hormones for HRT (hormone replacement therapy) there has also been a recent surge in demand for bio-identical hormones by women who have read popular books on the matter. It is important to know that while there's much relief to be gained from HRT, it may not be appropriate for every woman. However, studies have shown that nBHRT (natural bio-identical hormone replacement therapy) has significant benefits over conventional synthetic hormones. 

In addition to HRT and nBHRT there are other natural ways to ease the transition of menopause. In my personal practice, we aim to not only help you feel better, but to also address the underlying issues. Many times this involves diet and lifestyle recommendations, and other times it will involve supplements and natural medicines to increase organ health. In the case of low hormone levels, two main factors are involved: diet and lifestyle. The liver processes hormones out of your body each day. You need the appropriate substrates to make new hormones everyday. Dietary change and supplementation with essential fatty acids (such as fish oil) may be in order.

Second, stress depletes hormone levels. Initially, when you are stressed your body will shunt fatty acids and precursor hormones over to the production of cortisol (the stress hormone), decreasing the levels of progesterone, DHEA, testosterone and estrogen.
Next, the adrenal glands, which produce cortisol, get tired and hormonal pathways get sluggish. We need to feed the adrenals (and potentially other glands) to increase health. This may include glandular supplements.

Women must be educated and proactive: annual testing, breast exams, mammograms and lifestyle changes can all promote better health and more balanced hormones. It takes a blended approach—optimal health care does not come in the form of one prescription pill.

With an appropriate perspective of menopause, and the guidance of a trained, well-informed and sensitive practitioner, a woman can seize this opportunity the transition provides to optimize her health and lifestyle in a proactive and preventative fashion.  A naturopathic treatment plan will be based on diet and exercise changes in addition to supplements, herbs and possibly natural or other HRT aimed at relieving menopausal symptoms, optimizing bone health and prevention of heart disease.

What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic Medicine is based on the belief that the human body has an innate healing ability. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) teach their patients to use diet, exercise, lifestyle changes and cutting-edge natural therapies to enhance their bodies’ ability to ward off and combat disease. NDs craft personalized and comprehensive treatment plans that blend the best of modern medical science and traditional natural medical approaches to not only treat disease, but to also restore health. 

Steeped in traditional healing methods, principles and practices, naturopathic medicine focuses on holistic, proactive prevention and comprehensive diagnosis and treatment. By using protocols that minimize the risk of harm, a ND helps facilitate the body’s inherent ability to restore and maintain optimal health. It is the ND’s role to identify and remove barriers to good health by helping to create a healing internal and external environment. 

NDs treat all medical conditions and can provide both individual and family healthcare. Among the most common ailments they treat are allergies, chronic pain, digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, obesity, respiratory conditions, heart disease, fertility problems, menopause, adrenal fatigue, cancer, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. NDs are trained to utilize prescription drugs, although the emphasis of naturopathic medicine is the use of natural healing agents.

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