The average doctor’s visit is about 15 minutes. In that amount of time, it’s nearly impossible to address all of your health concerns! Going in with a plan and with a list of questions can help you get the most out of your next visit.
1. Are there any tests I should have?
This question prompts your doc to look at any past labs and also helps them quickly think about your current situation and any diagnostics that are appropriate. If you have specific tests in mind, list them out and ask about them specifically.
2. Is there anything I can do to manage “XYZ” about my menstrual cycle, if you still have a cycle?
If you are concerned about your cycle, the amount of flow, pain, PMS, or any other symptoms associated with menstruation, ask!
3. I’m experiencing some discharge/odor/itching/discomfort… is this normal?
It may feel awkward, but you need to know that your doc has heard and seen it all. If you’re concerned about your vagina, you should discuss this with your OB/GYN.
4. What are my options for birth control, if you are still menstruating?
Birth control options can be confusing! Your doctor will help you determine the method that is a good match.
5. My sex drive is low. What can I do about it?
Libido issues can result from a variety of factors. If your sex drive or issues with sex are impacting your life… talk about it! Your doctor will help you get to the bottom of it so you can get back to a more comfortable place.
6. I no longer have a menstrual cycle and am in menopause. When it comes to sex, it feels uncomfortable because it’s very dry down there. What can I do to fix this?
If you have not had a period for 12 months, you are in menopause and the drop in estrogen and progesterone hormones can cause vaginal dryness. There are natural options such as dietary adjustments. Keeping your blood sugar low, taking probiotics, vitamin D3, the herbs black cohosh, dong quoi and red clover are also effective.
If considering any herbs, speak with your doctor and also a reputable herbalist. Herbs can have interactions with certain medications so always check with your doctor first and do your due diligence. Organic virgin coconut oil is a natural lubricant that helps with dryness. There are drug store lubricants but I recommend getting to the root of the issue and possibly doing a hormone test to check what your levels are. The Dutch test is a good at home test you can order online. You can then discuss your results with your doctor or seek out a functional medical doctor who is more well versed in holistic options for a variety of conditions and situations.
3 Herbs To Ease The Symptoms of Menopause
My three favorite herbs to support and ease menopausal symptoms are:
RED CLOVER is an invaluable and potent estrogenic plant that also acts a mild diuretic. Red clover can be useful in reducing hot flashes, relieving insomnia, and improving mood. Red clover also appears to benefit the cardiovascular system. It has been shown to increase HDL (the good cholesterol), as well as relaxing arterial walls, thereby reducing the risk of high blood pressure.
CHASTEBERRY normalizes sex drive, may reduce hot flashes and help moisten dry vaginal tissues. This herb is also effective for the PMS-like symptoms of perimenopause: menstrual cramps, bloating, breast tenderness, acne, migraine headaches, and depression. Chasteberry can help regulate the menstrual cycle, which may become irregular at this time.
DONG QUAI is a Chinese herb also known as “angelica,” from its Latin name, Angelica sinensis. Traditionally, it’s been used to treat symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and thinning of vaginal tissue. Dong Quai helps moisturize, and improve vaginal lubrication, relieve aches and cramps, and restores vitality to the tissues. Another benefit of Dong quai is that it helps ease symptoms of depression. Caution: Dong Quai is not recommended for women who have bloating, menorrhagia, diarrhea, fibroids or those individuals using blood-thinning medications or aspirin.
Start with prepared, high-quality herbal products like whole herbs, herbal extracts and tinctures. Many acupuncturists also have a background in Chinese herbs as do Naturopathic doctors. I always recommend getting a personal referral from someone who has had a positive experience. Avoid taking any herbs or supplements if you are on medications or are struggling with complex health issues. Consult with a medical professional you trust and have a good relationship with for guidance.
What You Need to Know About Menopause
As women age, they go through various life phases: There’s the teen years, childbearing years, and then menopause. During menopause, you can no longer get pregnant and will no longer have a menstrual cycle. When I was in my teens up to my thirties, menopause seemed so foreign to me. I never gave it a single thought until I was in my late forties. That’s when I wanted to learn more of what to expect and what tools would help me have a healthy transition into this phase of life.
Symptoms of Menopause
Menopause can sneak up on you, where you don’t realize what’s happening until you see your doctor about odd physical or mental symptoms. Some women do get perimenopause first, where you experience some menopause symptoms prior to actually having menopause. This is actually a good thing because you have this for about a year before menopause. You then have plenty of time to adjust to the changes in your body. That’s what happened to me. At around age forty-eight, my periods were heavier, and would occasionally skip a month or two. At fifty, I began to have hot flashes that lasted a several minutes. It did feel strange and the fact that it could happen at any moment and anywhere made me feel anxious. One time I was at work and with a client when I felt a sense of heat rise up into my head. I just knew that my face was red and quickly excused myself. As I opened the bathroom door, I walked past the mirrors and saw blotches of red on my neck, and face. It was beyond blushing. I waited out the hot flash which was about three to five minutes. I wondered if anyone noticed and what they were thinking. I was relieved my client didn’t say anything. If someone did ask, I could have said, “I’m a hot mess,” and laugh it off. It was kind of the truth at the moment.
Symptoms can vary. Some women have severe hot flashes accompanied by sweating, while other women don’t have them at all. With a decrease in estrogen, the ability to regulate insulin becomes more important. Eating high sugar foods that trigger an insulin spike are associated with more hot flashes, so it’s in your best interest to decrease or eliminate processed carbohydrates like wheat-based breads, pastas, sweets, soda, candy, fruit juices, and increase your proteins and healthy fats.
Aside from the hot flashes, you won’t have any more periods. PMS symptoms will be different than they were before. You might have a little weight gain, especially around your midsection. You may also have vaginal dryness, as a result of the decreased hormone levels in your body. While you can no longer get pregnant naturally, you may still be able to carry a baby through in-vitro fertilization.
When You Will Go Through it?
You can go through menopause at different ages, but the majority of women experience it between 45 and 55. Some women have it much younger, starting with perimenopause first. Other women luck out and last until 60 or older before going through menopause. The average age for experiencing early stages of menopause is about 51 years of age. I was 51 when my periods completely stopped. If you haven’t had a menstrual cycle for two years, you’re in menopause. It takes a while for your body to adjust fully to menopause, and if you’re having a hard time, I recommend an integrative M.D as they are well versed in holistic options for treatment protocols. They also have a greater knowledge of nutrition, herbs and supplements compared to a typical western trained M.D whose background in nutrition is very little.
While menopause is completely normal and something most women will go through, there can be issues that may affect some percentage of women. For example, you might experience a steep decline in your sexual interest due to vaginal dryness and changes in your mood and physical health. This typically improves over time as the body adjusts to the hormonal changes. However, if you see no improvement, then, as I mentioned, seek out an experienced integrative M.D. who specializes in women’s health to do a full panel hormone test.
There’s the potential risk for medical conditions like osteoporosis when you go through menopause, but there is a caveat to this. I’m always on the lookout for solid science - based research that disputes or challenges the conventional ideas of mainstream medicine. Yes, there is absolutely a place for medical intervention in certain situations where it is warranted, but it often comes with side effects with long term use. Over the last century, medicine has moved away from its origins of being plant and food based to being chemical and mechanized. In other words, there’s less trust and belief that our bodies have a natural intelligence to bring about homeostasis when provided with the right substances from nature and correct life style changes.
In the article, “Reversing Osteoporosis With Hormone Balance,” on Hormones and Balance (dot com), Magdalena Wszelaki, in her blog says, “age isn’t even the primary risk factor for osteoporosis – it can be a hormone imbalance and poor nutrient absorption. She goes on to say, “Promoting hormone balance inside our bodies should be the first step in preventing osteoporosis. Our body thrives on homeostasis. When one simple hormone or nutrient is imbalanced that sends a trickle-down reaction throughout our whole body.”
“Alkaline phosphatase is an enzyme that contributes to bone formation. When the activity of this enzyme is diminished, calcium is stripped from the bones. The reduced activity of alkaline phosphatase is actually due to low serum levels of 3 key nutrients: zinc, manganese and magnesium.
“The author continues in her letter to discourage high-does calcium supplementation as well as hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT has been shown to lower blood levels of zinc, magnesium and alkaline phosphatase. Studies show that people on HRT lose more zinc through urinary excretion.”
Dr. Grant backs up her conclusions in a published observation that bone fractures among women between the ages of 35 to 65 years were the highest in countries where hormone replacement therapies are frequently prescribed.
When I looked into the research on this topic, I felt that it gives many women hope and safer options to use for menopause related conditions such as osteoporosis. The key to prevention is a multi-pronged approach. Diet and nutrition are absolutely integral, so is exercise and mind set.
The transition into menopause can be a great opportunity for learning about your body, what it needs, and a holistic self-care routine to help you thrive.
Menopause is like a magical doorway that up opens you up to the infinite wisdom that you’ve always had.