By Dr Harsh Sharma, DHMS, BHMS
Menopause means pause or stoppage of menses in the strictly literal terms, but there are lot of accompanying changes that happen with this event. It has been observed that there are lots of myths and misconceptions in the minds of women about menopause. While menopause is a natural physiologic process in the life of a woman signalling the end of the fertile period, it is often misunderstood or thought of as a disease or a problem. It is very important to understand that it is not at all a disease or any problem whatsoever. It is a perfectly natural and a normal physiological event which has to happen in the life of every woman. It is just another milestone like dentition in the case of an infant or puberty in case of youngsters. The usual time of the occurrence of this event is the fifth decade or in the early sixth decade of life though some women these days are having it a little earlier too. The age of menopause has been getting earlier and earlier over the ages as is happening in the case of puberty. There is not much significance attached to the age of climacteric or menopause, though an individual may think so.
The cause of Menopause
At birth time, there are millions of eggs in the ovaries but they die with age. By the time a woman reaches the fifth decade of her life, only a small fraction of the original number remains. At the same time, the ovaries become resistant to the hormone FSH ( Follicle Stimulating Hormone) which is the hormone responsible for ovulation. Another hormone which undergoes a major change at the time of menopause is oestrogen. The oestrogen is mainly produced in the ovaries. Oestrogen helps in the functioning of many systems of the body like the heart, the blood vessels, the uterus and the breasts. The production of oestrogen is stopped by the ovaries at the time of menopause. Most of the symptoms that a woman experiences at the time of menopause occur due to this reduction in the levels of oestrogen in the body.
Symptoms of menopause
Along with the cessation of the normal monthly cycle of menstruation, a number of things are observed during this time. One commonly observed symptom is frequent mood swings, which means that a person’s mood changes suddenly from happy to sad and irritable. One gets irritated easily which was not the case earlier in life. Another common symptom is hot flushes. Waves of heat are often felt in the hands, feet, face and even whole body at times. This lasts for a short while and get better on their own only to return some time later. Headache, sleeplessness, anxiety and palpitations are other frequently observed things. As mentioned earlier, the reduced oestrogen levels are primarily responsible for these symptoms. There are some long term effects also which are not immediately visible but are present all the same. Oestrogen tends to protect the body from arteriosclerosis or hardness of the arteries and presence of plaques in the arteries. Once the oestrogen levels get reduced in the body, this protection is gone. This is reflected in the increased incidence of heart attacks and brain strokes after menopause. Another thing that occurs is that the bones start losing calcium at a faster rate, which is manifested as osteoporosis. That is why women are advised to take increased doses of calcium after menopause. Mucous membrane in the vagina shrinks and this can lead to dryness inside the vagina, causing pain during intercourse.
Diet and supplements useful for menopause symptoms
Some supplements have been found to be effective in reducing the symptoms associated with menopause, soya products being the foremost. They have been known to contain high phytoestrogen levels or ‘plant oestrogen’, which helps in reducing the incidence of heat flushes, anxiety and bouts of perspiration. Intake of calcium in milk, curd or yoghurt should be increased to prevent osteoporosis.
Homeopathy for menopause and How Homoeopathy treats menopause symptoms
The symptoms associated with menopause yield easily to homeopathic medicines like Sepia, Sulphur, Pulsatilla and Lachesis, which are the most commonly used medicines in the treatment of these symptoms. It is necessary to note here that all these medicines are best used under the care of an expert doctor and there is no scope for any self-medication. Also, as these medicines do not contain any artificial hormones, they can be discontinued any time, once the patient is cured.