Menopause marks a natural and necessary conclusion to a woman's reproductive years. In the United States, approximately 1.3 million women enter menopause annually. This transformative period is sometimes likened to a "second puberty" due to significant hormonal changes impacting physical, mental, and emotional states. Embracing an integrative medicine approach offers numerous ways to ease this transition. To navigate menopause effectively, it's essential to understand what it entails, recognize its symptoms, and explore alternative therapies for support.

What is Menopause?

Menopause begins when a woman's fertility phase ends. It is officially identified after 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period. The average age of menopause is 51, but perimenopausal symptoms may start in the mid-30s, with the actual phase commencing in the 40s. The menopausal process comprises three stages: Perimenopause, Menopause, and Postmenopause.

Top Menopause Symptoms

Menopause symptoms may gradually appear during perimenopause and escalate during menopause.

Key symptoms to be aware of include:

  • Hot Flashes

  • Irregular periods or missed periods

  • Breast tenderness

  • Vaginal dryness

  • Increased urination

  • Emotional changes

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Dry eyes, mouth, or skin

  • Reduced libido

Functional Medicine Labs for Personalized Menopause Treatment

Functional medicine labs can help identify the root causes of common menopause symptoms.

Here are essential tests conducted by practitioners:

  • Hormone Testing: DUTCH Complete analyzes hormones and metabolites in menopausal women, guiding treatment decisions, especially if bio-identical hormone replacement therapy is considered.

  • Lipid Panel: Monitoring lipid levels during perimenopause and postmenopause is crucial for supporting healthy cholesterol levels.

  • Liver Function: Checking liver function is beneficial as hormone metabolism occurs in the liver, and significant hormonal shifts can impact its operation.

  • Micronutrient: Hormonal changes during menopause can lead to nutrient deficiencies affecting organ systems like the bones and cardiovascular system.

  • Neurotransmitters: Menopausal women may experience mood changes due to hormonal fluctuations impacting neurotransmitters like serotonin, GABA, and dopamine.

  • Thyroid Panel: Assessing thyroid function is essential, as hypothyroidism is a risk factor for dyslipidemia and may share symptoms with menopause.

Strategies for Managing Menopause Symptoms

To ease menopausal symptoms, adopting preventative wellness care and healthy lifestyle habits is key.

The following strategies can be beneficial:

  • Nutrition: Implementing an individualized Perimenopause Diet rich in phytoestrogens, protein, calcium, fat, and fiber can support the body during hormonal adjustments.

  • Movement: Regular exercise can help manage stress, maintain a healthy weight, strengthen bones, improve mood, and boost libido.

  • Sleep: Addressing disruptive symptoms with botanical medicine, nutrient support, and tips for reducing body temperature can aid in achieving better sleep.

  • Stress Reduction: Practices like yoga, EMDR therapy, breathwork, relaxation techniques, and avoiding stimulants can help manage stress during menopause.

  • Herbal Medicine: Plants like Hops, Black Cohosh, Red Clover, Valerian, and Glycine soja have therapeutic benefits in reducing menopausal symptoms.

  • Vitamin Therapy: Monitoring and supporting vitamins like B2, B6, B12, Folate, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D can aid reproductive organs, bone health, and neurological function.

  • Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT): BHRT can be used to support hormones during menopause, but it's crucial to consult with a trained practitioner for personalized guidance.

  • Acupuncture, Massage, and Yoga: Integrative medicine approaches like acupuncture, massage, and yoga can offer valuable support for menopause symptoms.

Menopause is a significant phase in a woman's life, encompassing about a third of her lifetime. While it may present challenges, there are various conventional and alternative therapies available to ease the transition. Emphasizing lifestyle modifications and seeking guidance from holisticminded practitioners can contribute to a smoother and more comfortable menopausal journey