Symptoms of Menopause
As many as 80 percent of women going through menopause experience some negative physical reactions. Women experience worse symptoms if they are undergoing severe emotional stress or have certain dietary habits that include excessive caffeine, sugar, or alcohol consumption.
Hot flashes are one of the most uncomfortable problems that menopausal women complain about. While most women experience hot flashes lasting two or three minutes, others last longer, even up to an hour. Roughly 80 percent of women going through menopause experience hot flashes, and for about 40 percent of those women the symptom is so distressing that they seek medical attention.
Some women have noticed that drinking coffee or alcohol can at times bring on hot flashes. Some women find relief from certain symptoms with the help of hormonal replacement therapy, in which various regimens of estrogen, progesterone and androgens are taken.
Other Helpful Remedies for Menopause
In addition to the hormonal treatments, other remedies that have been found helpful for the depression, irritability and anxiety experienced by some women include the use of tryptophan (an amino acid that has a calming effect, also naturally occurs in hot milk, beef, tuna, chicken, eggs and spinach), mild herbal teas (such as camomile and valerian root, taken at bedtime), regular exercise and relaxation.
As with any health issue, menopause is yet another life experience that is eased with good self-care, exercise and a healthy diet. Whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts, smaller portions of meat and unsaturated oils are all preferable to a diet laden in salt, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, dairy products (other good sources of calcium include green leafy vegetables, beans, peas, soybeans, fish, carob, and chicken stock made with bones), and fats.
Premature menopause can result from a variety of causes. One of these is the surgical removal of both ovaries as part of a hysterectomy to treat ovarian cancer or other cancers of the reproductive system, severe endometriosis, life-threatening infections, or to protect women from perceived risk of future cancer.
Early Menopause for a Small Few
About 5 percent of all women inherit a tendency toward early menopause from their mothers and are born with thousands fewer eggs than most women. Others inherit an autoimmune disorder in which their own immune system destroys healthy ovarian cells for as yet unknown reasons. These women tend to experience an earlier onset of menopause and range of symptoms than seen in the majority of other women.
The unpleasant side effects of going through menopause may be amplified by the meanings that menopause has for a woman. Some may see menopause as a sign of getting old; others may grieve the loss of their childbearing years. This phase of life may occur at the same time as other significant life changes: children may be entering college, parents may be getting older and may require more care, and women may begin to experience significant losses of relatives or spouses through death. The experience of menopause may be eased by viewing it in the context of other stresses that might be occurring in a woman's life.
Often allowing one to grieve the losses that are being experienced will paradoxically offer some relief to the adjustment to this normal phase of life. Finding someone supportive to talk to, such as someone older who has successfully made this transition, may be helpful. A holistic approach that addresses the physical, medical and emotional challenges that accompany menopause will ease the transition into what can continue to be a very enjoyable and rewarding time of life.