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Menopause and HRT

Holistic-online.com

Alternative Medicine for Menopause

Nutritional

Paying attention to a healthy diet is very important to menopausal women. Some vitamins and phytochemicals seem to be especially helpful. Phytochemicals are health-giving substances found in foods. They are not vitamins or minerals. They are a large and diverse group of substances with a variety of duties in the body. Given below are some of the nutrients and phytochemicals that may be recommended to help a woman deal with the symptoms of menopause.

Vitamin A and Beta-carotene

Both vitamin A and beta-carotene strengthen mucous membranes throughout the body. This is helpful for the unpleasant menopausal symptoms of vaginal dryness and fragility. Experts recommend the combination of vitamin A (or beta-carotene) and evening primrose oil is effective in reducing the itchy, crawling sensation in the skin that often occurs during menopause.

The B Vitamins

The B vitamins are a vital group of nutrients that are involved in the functioning of the nervous system and in maintaining healthy skin, eyes, and hair. They also support adrenal gland function and are involved in energy production. The B vitamins should always be taken as a group, in a balanced B complex supplement.

Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), and Choline

These three simple and inexpensive nutrients that provide help for the common menopausal symptoms of anxiety, poor sleep, and loss of libido.

Vitamin B6

This vitamin is required for the conversion of amino acids into neurotransmitters (brain chemicals). It is essential for the conversion of the amino acid tryptophan into the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin exerts an antidepressant effect, and normal amounts are required for a healthy libido. The recommended daily dose of vitamin B6 is 50 to 100 milligrams. Do not take more than this, or transient nerve damage can occur. Good food sources of vitamin B6 are meats, whole grains, and brewer's yeast.

Vitamin B5 and Choline

These are the precursors for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is required for the normal functioning of memory. People who suffer from anxiety often have excessive levels of adrenaline and insufficient amounts of acetylcholine in their bodies. Acetylcholine is one of the neurotransmitters required for the action of the autonomic nervous system, which is involved in sexual excitement and orgasm. Ensuring adequate levels of acetylcholine helps to maintain sexual responsiveness and enjoyment of lovemaking. The recommended dose of both vitamin B5 and choline is 500 milligrams daily. Vitamin B5 is present organ meats, eggs, and whole grain cereals. Good food sources of choline include lecithin, eggs, soybeans, cauliflower, cabbage, tofu, and tempeh.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is needed for the manufacture of collagen, which acts like a flexible or elastic protein glue in connective tissue and bone. Ensuring plentiful vitamin C helps to maintain healthy collagen, thereby keeping the skin and mucous membranes thicker and stronger and the skeleton more flexible. If your ligaments and bones are more flexible, they are less likely to be torn (sprained) or broken (fractured). Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant and free-radical scavenger that helps to reduce degenerative diseases and inflammation, and to slow down the aging process. Vitamin C is found in high concentrations in the brain and the adrenal glands, and it is required for these organs to function under stress.

Good food sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, tomatoes, capsicum, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, berries (blueberries, gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries), bananas, alfalfa, guava, kidney, oysters, potatoes, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, spinach, watermelon, green leafy vegetables, green and red peppers, sprouted grains, and rose hips.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D, or cholecalciferol, functions as both a vitamin and a hormone. It is required for the absorption and utilization of calcium and helps calcium to be deposited in your bones. Even marginal or slight deficiencies of vitamin D can increase your risk of osteoporosis and deterioration of the joints. Deficiencies of vitamin D can also contribute to thinning of the hair, brittleness of the nails, and rapid aging of the skin.

Vitamin D is not present in a wide variety of foods, but is confined mainly to fish liver oils, fatty fish, liver, egg yolks, and butter, and, to a lesser degree, cow's milk.

Do not take excessive doses of vitamin D as this may cause very high blood calcium levels, calcifications in the body's soft tissues and organs, and kidney stones. Doses less than 1,000 international units daily are considered most unlikely to exert any dangerous effects. But, if you have a tendency to develop kidney stones, you should take vitamin D or calcium supplements only under medical supervision.

Vitamin E.

The antioxidant vitamin E is be helpful for menopausal women. It has a protective, or sparing, effect on estrogen, so that your estrogen (whether your own or from hormone replacement therapy) lasts longer. As a result, vitamin E helps to reduce hot flashes. Together with vitamin A, vitamin E strengthens the skin and mucous membranes. Many women find that these vitamins reduce vaginal dryness and shrinkage. Vitamin E also reduces free radical damage to your cells' membranes and is a powerful anti-aging nutrient. Instead of using vitamin E alone, use a combination of Vitamin E, C and Calcium. Food sources of vitamin E include broccoli, nuts and tomatoes.

Boron

Boron can help to soften menopausal symptoms. It appears to work by increasing the levels of certain forms of estrogen. Some studies suggest that eating boron-rich foods or taking boron supplements may raise estrogen levels as high as those found in women taking estrogen-replacement therapy.

A study done in 1987 found that boron may be helpful in preventing osteoporosis. (Source: Barbara Evans: Life Change, Pan Books, London, 1979, p38.) Twelve post- menopausal women between the ages of forty-eight and eighty-two were studied for twenty-four weeks.

During the first seventeen weeks, they were given a diet low in boron (similar to what many women normally consume).

During the subsequent seven weeks they received 3 milligrams of boron daily.

Eight days after they began taking boron, the women's urinary losses of calcium and magnesium were greatly reduced, and they had significant increases (approximately twofold) in their production of estrogen and testosterone.

This research suggests that taking boron supplements, especially if your dietary intake of boron is low, can cause favorable changes in mineral metabolism that can reduce, and may even prevent, the loss of mineral from the bones (osteoporosis). Boron is also necessary for healthy hair, skin, and nails, and an adequate intake of boron may help prevent muscle and joint aches and pains.

Foods high in boron include fruits, vegetables, and sesame seeds. Meats and poultry, on the other hand, are low in boron. Three or four apples a day or three to four ounces of peanuts may supply boron- deficient women with all they need. Boron is also found in pears, raisins, peaches, almonds, honey, peas, beans and lentils.

Phytoestrogens

Phytoestrogens are estrogen-like compounds found in certain foods, such as soybeans and flaxseed. These phytoestrogens act like mild estrogens within the body, helping to relieve many of the symptoms of menopause. (See foods containing natural estrogen.)

In a 1990 study, 25 postmenopausal women ranging in age from 51 to 70 had soy flour, red clover sprouts and linseed added to their diets for two weeks each. At the end of the six- week period, laboratory examination of vaginal cells from the women showed an increase in estrogenic activity. The benefits quickly disappeared once the women went back to eating their regular diets.

Several plant-based and other natural menopausal treatments are available for hot flashes, vaginal dryness, irritation, thinning, and osteoporosis. These include:

Fifty grams of soy protein a day, or one-fifth of an average block of tofu, has been proven to decrease the intensity of hot flashes. Soy foods are rich in phytoestrogens and isoflavones, which decrease menopausal symptoms and balance estrogen levels.

Phytoestrogens are also highly concentrated in cashews, peanuts, oats, corn, wheat, apples, and almonds. Phytoestrogens appear to block the effects of excess estrogen stimulation of the breasts and uterus; many researchers believe that they have a protective action. Many researchers believe that Japanese women have a lower incidence of hot flashes and other symptoms because of their soy-based diets.

Another reason to eat soy: eating soy foods for protein rather than animal foods can help bone health. (An excess of animal protein can hinder calcium absorption.)

Bioflavonoids

Sometimes called 'vitamin P,' the bioflavonoids give citrus fruits their orange and yellow colors. It seems that some of them bear a structural resemblance to estradiol, a form of estrogen.

The combined effects of bioflavonoids and vitamin C were tested on 94 women complaining of hot flashes. The bioflavonoid/vitamin C combination relieved the troublesome hot flashes in 53 percent of the women and lessened them in another 34 percent. There was, however, a mildly unpleasant perspiration odor. In another study, bioflavonoids combined with vitamin C successfully relieved nighttime leg cramps, bruises and spontaneous nose bleeding in menopausal women. Bioflavonoids can be found in oranges, grapefruit and tangerines.

Calcium

Women need to consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium. Anything less can increase their risk of developing osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, cramps, and fragile skin. Calcium and magnesium work together to form bone substance and to regulate muscular tone, and they are required in a ratio of 2 to 1 (that is, 200 milligrams of calcium per 100 milligrams of magnesium).

Magnesium

Magnesium is involved in the production of enzymes and in the process by which cellular energy is released. It plays an important role in regulating muscular tone. Magnesium serves as a natural muscle relaxant, making it useful for relieving such symptoms as muscle cramping and anxiety. Many menopausal women suffer from heart palpitations associated with hot flashes. This can be helped by increasing your intake of magnesium. Magnesium and calcium supplementation, in a ratio of 2 milligrams of calcium for each milligram of magnesium, can reduce bone loss after menopause. Magnesium is also essential for the health of the heart and the circulatory system. An appropriate supplemental dose of magnesium is around 500 milligrams daily.

Manganese

Manganese is a vital mineral for health and is required for the metabolism of food and the production of sex hormones. It helps to reduce degenerative diseases associated with aging. Manganese is part of normal bone and cartilage structure. Studies have found that women with osteoporosis have low levels of manganese compared with women whose bones are normal.

An adequate daily intake of manganese is 2 to 5 milligrams. Up to 10 milligrams daily is safe. Good food sources of manganese are whole grains and nuts, wheat bran, organ meats, shellfish, and milk.

L-tryptophan

This amino acid is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps to prevent depression. Although more study is needed, it appears that low levels of tryptophan m the blood are related to estrogen and to the depression some women face during menopause. If this theory is proven by further research, L-tryptophan may be used as a natural antidepressant and mood modulator for menopausal women. Food sources of L-tryptophan include beef, pork, lamb, veal and cheese.

L-Glutamine

L-glutamine is an amino acid that crosses the blood-brain barrier and passes into the brain tissue, where it is converted into glutamic acid. The brain then converts glutamic acid into the neurotransmitter gamma-amino-butyric-acid (GABA). GABA is a neuroinhibitory transmitter that regulates many aspects of brain function.

Taking L-glutamine increases the production of GABA. This process can also be aided synergistically by taking 50 milligrams of vitamin B6 daily. Increased levels of GABA in the brain serve as a natural calming and memory-enhancing agent, and generally help one to think more clearly. L-glutamine reduces the craving for alcohol.

The recommended dosage of L-glutamine is 500 milligrams, twice daily.

Melatonin

A natural hormone produced by a part of the brain called the pineal gland, melatonin helps us to sleep at night. In fact, the pineal gland releases melatonin only when it's dark and no light is striking the retinas of the eyes. Its secretion is turned off by light.

Many adults frequently endure nights of little sleep, and insomnia is a common symptom associated with menopause. As little as 1 mg of melatonin, taken two hours before going to bed, may help to ease sleeping problems. (The average dose is 3 mg.)

Essential Fatty Acids

Essential fatty acids (EFAS) are vital for the production and release of many hormones, including sex hormones and adrenal hormones. They are also an integral part of cell membranes, and they give these membranes the proper flexibility and suppleness. They stop your cells from drying out and give them normal cohesiveness.

There are two basic types of EFAS, known as omega-3 and omega-6.

Omega=6 EFAs are linoleic and gamma linolenic acids. Omega-3 EFAs are alpha linolenic and eicosapentaenoic acids.

These nutrients can help overcome dry and/or itchy skin, dry hair, hair loss, dry eyes, and dry mouth, and can reduce vaginal dryness. They also help to reduce infections of the skin and mucous membranes such as cystitis, vaginitis, and mouth ulcers. Many women find that EFAs have the added benefit of reducing hot flashes by enhancing and balancing the production of sex hormones and Prostaglandins.

Essential fatty acids must be obtained from foods like fish, fish oils, unprocessed fresh vegetables, seeds, nuts, and botanical oils.

To boost your intake of omega-6, take 2,000 to 3,000 milligrams of evening primrose oil, 1,000 milligrams of lecithin, and 1,000 milligrams of spirulina daily.

To increase your level of omega-3, take 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams of fish oil capsules daily or increase your consumption of fish to four servings weekly. In addition, use one tablespoon of cold-pressed canola, olive, or sunflower oil in your salad daily. Or grind a mixture of flaxseeds, almonds, and sunflower seeds and sprinkle it on your cereal or rice for breakfast. This is a delicious way to increase your EFAs.

Other nutrients.

Although they do not specifically relieve menopausal symptoms, several vitamins and minerals are very helpful in keeping a woman as strong and healthy as possible during what can be a difficult time of life. Chief among these are the 4 ACES: vitamin A in the form of beta carotene, vitamins C and E and the mineral selenium. (Beta carotene is the 'plant" form of vitamin A, found especially in carrots and other yellow, orange and green vegetables.)

Suggested Supplements For Menopause

• Beta-carotene: 15 mg per day

• Vitamin B complex

Thiamine: 1.5 mg per day
Riboflavin: 1.8 mg per day
Vitamin B6: 2-10 mg per day
Vitamin B12: 2-10 mg per day
Niacin: 20 mg per day

• Vitamin C: 100-500 mg per day

• Vitamin E: 100-400 IU per day

• Calcium: 1200 mg per day

• Magnesium: 400 mg per day

• Zinc: 15 mg per day

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