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Busting menopause myths

Contrary to popular belief, menopause isn't just about estrogen. In reality, there are many hormones involved, including several types of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and pregnenolone. Aging can affect other hormones as well, such as those that control metabolism and other body functions.

Another misperception about menopause is that it reflects a hormone imbalance. Menopause is not a state of imbalance, and it is not a disease. It is a state of change. While hormone replacement may have a role in helping some women, it's important to not just focus on hormone replacement and think about a more holistic approach.

Healthy living is the first step: exercise, sleep, good nutrition, avoiding excessive alcohol and caffeine. For many women, this is enough to keep their symptoms in check. For others for whom that's not enough, there are many treatments that can help.

That includes dietary supplements, herbal preparations, acupuncture, mind-body techniques and more. I often prescribe black cohosh and vitex to treat hot flashes, anxiety and other symptoms. Herbals often work together synergistically, so we put different herbs together to address different symptoms. Before considering herbs or supplements, it is best to check with a health care practitioner.

I encourage woman to view menopause as a new stage of life and be open to adapting to it. This is more about a process than a quick fix. We should be thinking about what we can do to be healthy at different stages of our lives.

Going through menopause? Help yourself with these tips:

• Eat wholesome foods.
• Avoid sweets, alcohol and caffeine.
• Get regular exercise. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day.
• Try yoga, meditation and other relaxation techniques.
• Try acupuncture.

If you do not have other medical problems and are not taking prescription medicines, consider supplements or herbal remedies that are formulated to address menopause symptoms. These should be purchased from a reputable natural foods store.

Consult with an integrative medicine provider if:
• Your symptoms are very disruptive and make you uncomfortable.
• Your symptoms are affecting your sleep, your work life or your relationships.
• You have tried addressing the symptoms on your own without success.
• You are not sure if your symptoms are related to menopause or to something else.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

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