Treatments for PMS and Menopause
by Monique N.
GilbertWomen pass through unique hormonal stages throughout their
lives that dramatically affect their lives, relationships, and bodies. Puberty
and the onset of menses; pregnancy and motherhood; and menopause and the end of
menses are pronounced and distinct hormonal phases. The pharmaceutical industry
offers a wide array of medications for each, but an emerging group of studies
suggest that nutritional supplements offer safe, inexpensive, and natural
alternatives to these age-old problems.
In a study by The Hartman Group,
Inc., 61% of women agreed that they should take supplements formulated for
their particular stage of life; 46% agreed that supplements could help to
reduce the effects of menopause; 32% of women acknowledged using a product for
menopause; and 64% of women were willing to try a natural product to prevent
one of the most common side effects of menopause
Given this enormous interest in natural products, we
will discuss their use in two prominent conditions affecting womens lives PMS
PMS affects 30-40% of menstruating
women, peaking among women in their 30s and 40s. Common symptoms include
depression, irritability, anxiety, fatigue, bloating, water retention, breast
tenderness and food cravings. Most commonly, these symptoms occur during the
second half of the menstrual cycle when estrogen and prolactin levels are high.
Treatment is often directed at lowering estrogen levels to be more in balance
with circulating progesterone.
Diet and lifestyle can heavily
influence PMS symptoms. It has been well demonstrated that women who regularly
exercise, drink alcohol and caffeine in limited quantities, eat lots of
vegetables and fruits, and consume fatty fish (with omega 3 fatty acids), are
less likely to suffer severe PMS-related symptoms.
supplements such as B6 (pyridoxine), magnesium, calcium and vitamin E have all
been shown to lessen PMS symptoms. B6 promotes healthy levels of
neurotransmitters and endorphins that can reduce breast tenderness,
irritability and water retention. Magnesium has been linked to reducing
nervousness and breast tenderness. Calcium can improve mood and decrease water
retention. Studies show that vitamin E is helpful in reducing symptoms such as
depression, anxiety, low energy, fatigue and food cravings.
women who suffer from severe PMS can significantly improve their symptoms by
combining regular exercise with a good diet and proper
Menopause typically occurs between
the ages of 40 and 55. It can happen suddenly at any age as a result of the
surgical removal of the ovaries. The onset of menopause is accompanied by
uncomfortable symptoms as hormonal imbalances occur. Two thirds of American
women suffer from hot flashes, especially in the two years after the onset of
menopause. In addition, they may experience night sweats, insomnia, vaginal
dryness and mood swings. After menopause, women are at increased risk of heart
disease and osteoporosis.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is the
treatment of choice for most women for the relief of menopausal symptoms.
Initially, estrogen replacement therapy was universally embraced until it was
discovered that it quadrupled the chances of getting uterine cancer.
Subsequently, progestin was added to estrogen to reduce the risk of cancer. The
estrogen/progestin combination relieves hot flashes and reduces the risk of
osteoporosis. The effect on the risk of heart disease is less clear, and the
American Heart Association issued a statement in 2001 that said it should not
be used in women with existing heart disease because it may actually increase
the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Because of the risks and side
effects of HRT, many women are choosing alternative approaches to dealing with
their menopausal symptom, including diet, exercise, and nutritional
supplements. For many women, the addition of soy to the diet or perhaps soy
supplements could provide symptomatic relief. One recent study found a link
between soy consumption and reduced hot flashes. Soy may provide long-term
health benefits as well, as soy appears to protect against bone loss and
provide cardiovascular protection. Soy contains Phytoestrogens, or naturally
occurring estrogen-like compounds. These compounds are also found in other food
sources such as legumes (pea family) and lignan containing foods such as
cereals and grains.
Omega 3 fatty acids also help to alleviate symptoms
such as dry skin and provide long-term protective cardiovascular effects.
Natural sources of these omega 3 oils are salmon, mackerel, tuna, and
A variety of supplements offer both symptomatic and long term
relief for menopausal women. Nutritional supplements such as folic acid and the
B vitamins, along with calcium and vitamin D appear to provide long-term
benefits to menopausal women by relieving symptoms and reducing the risk of
osteoporosis. Black cohosh is a Phytoestrogen containing herb that has been
shown in some studies to reduce many menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes,
vaginal dryness, night sweats, and anxiety.