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Treatment of Menopause Symptoms in the Clinic

by Warren Cargal, L. Ac.

Women in their 40s start to experience a number of physiological changes to their body, such as menopause, signs of osteoporosis and a greater risk of heart disease. There are a range of nutritional solutions that can improve the quality of life and help prevent future health issues.

I want share with you some of the recent research supporting the vitamins, minerals and Chinese formulas we use in the Clinic to help keep you healthy during these changes.

More than 42 million women in the U.S. are currently living with some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to a 2010 report from the American Heart Association, which was published in the peer-reviewed journal Circulation. Killing more than a third of American women, heart disease remains the leading cause of death. In addition, more than 200,000 women die each year from heart attacks—five times as many women as breast cancer.

In a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers investigated the ability of omega 3 fatty acids to prolong the survival of coronary heart disease patients. They looked at omega 3 fatty acid blood levels and compared them with temporal changes in telomere length, an emerging marker of biological age. Scientists believe as telomeres shorten over time that the eventual result is cell death. The prospective cohort study examined 608 ambulatory outpatients in California with stable coronary artery disease who were recruited from the Heart and Soul Study between September 2000 and December 2002 and followed up to January 2009.

In another recent study, specific to women, researchers examined the association of fatty fish and marine omega 3 with heart failure (HF) in a population of middle-aged and older women. Participants in the Swedish Mammography Cohort, aged 48-83 years, completed food-frequency questionnaires. Women without any history of HF, myocardial infarction or diabetes at baseline (n=36,234) were followed from January 1998 until December 2006 for HF hospitalization or mortality through Swedish inpatient and cause-of-death registers; 651 women experienced HF events.

Researchers concluded that moderate consumption of fatty fish (1-2 servings per week) and marine omega 3 fatty acids were associated with a lower rate of first HF hospitalization or death in this population. Results were published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition this past March.

And another reason to consider Omega 3, some menopausal women may experience symptoms of depression. The potential for omega 3 as a treatment option for depression is in its infancy but several studies have reported improvements in symptoms on a high omega 3 diet. Several research studies have also documented that people suffering from depression have significantly lower levels of omega 3 in their blood.

Calcium + Vitamin D

In addition to heart health and weight issues, bone health continues to be a top concern for many women throughout their lives, especially during menopause. Osteoporosis affects about 8 million women in the U.S., and as many as half of all women older than 50 will break a bone due to this disease.

Calcium remains the most studied nutrient for building and maintaining strong bones while vitamin D continues to gain recognition for its ability to increase calcium absorption. Other nutrients like vitamin K and genistein—an isoflavone found in plants like soy and kudzu—also offer compelling evidence that they increase bone density.

The Women’s Health Initiative Calcium and Vitamin D (CaD) Study, which involved a total of 36,282 postmenopausal women—making it the largest randomized clinical trial of calcium and vitamin D supplements—was designed to determine the effects of calcium and vitamin D supplements on the risk of hip fractures (and colorectal cancer) in postmenopausal women. The effects of calcium + vitamin D on other fractures and bone density were also studied.

Participants received 1000 mg of calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D or placebo. Over an average of seven years, women who took the active supplements regularly had 29% fewer hip fractures than those taking placebo (on average, 10 compared to 14 cases per 10,000 women each year), which was a statistically significant difference. Among women 60 years of age and older, those assigned to active CaD had a 21% decreased risk of hip fracture compared to women 60 and over who were taking placebo (17 compared to 23 cases per 10,000 women each year). This difference was also statistically significant. Results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine in February 2006.

Interestingly, results from this study also showed a potential weight management role for calcium and vitamin D, as these nutrients may stimulate the breakdown of fat cells and suppress the development of new ones, according to findings published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in May 2007.

Women in the group taking calcium plus vitamin D weighed an average of 0.28 pounds less than those taking the placebo pills, which is a small but statistically significant difference in weight change. Women taking active pills were also less likely to gain weight. The greatest benefits were seen in women whose total calcium intakes at the start of the study were below 1200 mg per day. In these women, when compared to those taking placebo, those taking the calcium and vitamin D supplements had a lower risk of gaining weight, and had a higher likelihood of maintaining a stable weight (within 2.2 pounds of their starting weight) or losing weight (more than 2.2 pounds), after three years in the study. Researchers suggested that further research should evaluate the effect of calcium supplementation, combined with caloric restriction and physical activity, on preventing weight gain.

In the Clinic we are typically suggesting a daily Vitamin D dosing of 5000 i.u. with the  amount doubling if the individual tests with low Vitamin D levels. Research continues to validate the significant benefit of Vitamin D to health and longevity.

Specific Menopausal Problems

Women are turning to phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) and other natural products for menopausal symptoms. Particularly as there is a growing concern that taking synthetic estrogen can be problematic, especially the longer you take it.

The three main kinds of phytoestrogens are isoflavones, lignans and coumestans. Isoflavones are the most potent and the most common phytoestrogens in supplements. Phytoestrogens are also found in many common food sources.

Two products the we often use are PhytoB and Progon B both are plant derived and are used to help balance estrogen and progesterone.

It is also well established that menopause and its hormonal swings adversely affect a woman’s ability to concentrate and focus. Menopause is often accompanied by memory loss, disorientation and a general state of mental confusion during this life transition stage. In addition, menopausal women have a harder time sleeping, which also taxes memory and focus. Menopausal women may also experience added stress due to other symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings. We would use either the PhytoB or Progon B to help with these symptoms

Sometimes these supplements will not completely resolve symptoms of hot flashes with or without a feverish feeling and excessive perspiration. A Chinese herbal formula we use for this with good results is Anemarrhena Tablets by Seven Forests. Anemarrhena has several herbs which clear heat from the body and nourish the kidneys. We may use Anemarrhena as a stand alone formula or combine it with phytoestrogens to help balance the hormones.

Graceful Aging & Antioxidants
 
Women of all lifecycle stages are looking for ways to age gracefully, and many women turn to dietary supplements for the purpose of protecting the skin. As we age, our skin becomes depleted of important antioxidants necessary to protect the skin against the damaging effects of internal and external toxins, such as free radicals.

When antioxidants like beta-carotene, vitamins C and E and CoQ10 become depleted, the skin’s ability to combat free radicals is compromised. We need to consume a wide variety of antioxidants to replenish the antioxidant supply in the skin.
 
Recognizing the importance of antioxidants for skin health,  we use GliSODin, a dietary supplement that combines a number of antioxidants with super oxide dismutase (SOD) extracted from cantaloupe melon (Cucumis melo LC.) with wheat gliadin biopolymer. The product works as a biological catalyst, rapidly and repeatedly reducing reactive oxygen species. Like most other protective mechanisms in the body, the production of SOD decreases with age, while we are exposed to increased endogenous and exogenous stressors.

I hope you have found this article helpful. Please email us or call us should you additional questions.

 

This article was published on Saturday June 12, 2010.
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