Menopause is part of a woman’s life. Typically it begins at age 52, according to the Office on Women’s Health.
Yet perimenopause, the transition into menopause itself, can begin much earlier. While some women begin to experience perimenopause in their late thirties, it more commonly begins when a woman reaches her forties. Many women confuse perimenopause with menopause. To understand the differences, consider this:
- Perimenopause begins up to ten years before menopause. During this time, your ovaries reduce the amount of estrogen produced. Its symptoms include night sweats and hot flashes.
- Menopause itself refers to the time when you have not experienced a period for at least twelve months.
- Postmenopause refers to your life after this time without a period. At this point, your hormones will stabilize at a low level. You may continue to experience some symptoms when you’ve reached this phase. Some women experience severe hot flashes, while others experience none or only minor and occasional flashes. Typically these symptoms vanish after two or three years. A woman in postmenopause runs increased risks for illnesses including cardiovascular disease, depression, and osteoporosis.
Functional Medicine’s Role In Treating Menopause
Functional medicine takes a unique approach to treating the symptoms you may encounter, taking a holistic approach. This includes looking at your environment and the specifics of your body. You can expect a series of tests to determine the role genetics plays in menopause. Your functional medicine practitioner may also look at your diet and your lifestyle to determine the factors that exacerbate or mitigate your menopause symptoms.
As a holistic functional medicine doctor, I seek to understand all factors that can impact menopause on you, to ensure that any course of treatment is specific to you. We are all unique, so treatments for conditions may be best tailored to our unique circumstances. Some methods I may use to treat your menopausal symptoms include:
Hormone Replacement Therapy
This is often used in standard medicine as a means of managing menopause’s symptoms, and it’s possible that this is the best treatment for you. To learn more about HRT, or hormone replacement therapy, read the article in the South China Morning Post where I discuss Bio Identical HRT. There are a number of hormones that may need to be adusted after menopause for your optimal health and comfort.
“What I usually tell patients is that 100 years ago we lived to 60, however life expectancy now is 85, so it seems obvious that we need some hormones after the age of 50, that is post-menopausal, to live full and healthy lives.”
– Dr. Susan Jamieson
Changes In Diet
Your diet may have, in your unique case, the greatest impact on your symptoms. I may suggest minor or major shifts in diet to better manage your symptoms.
Your symptoms may be driven by deficiencies in vitamins and minerals. You may need to simply increase these to mitigate your symptoms. As osteoporosis can be a risk after menopause, supplementing with nutrients that support the absorption of calcium in your diet can be an important strategy to help prevent it.
Living With Menopause and Postmenopause
This phase and its aftermath are part of a woman’s life. Menopause is not an illness and shouldn’t be treated as one. Rather, it should be viewed as a shift in how your body functions at this stage in your life. An effective functional medicine practitioner will look at how to manage its impact on you to improve your health and comfort as you enter this new phase. Don’t be afraid to ask your health care provider questions. The various phases of menopause can be managed comfortably and safely.