The Menopause

Saturday, May 1st, 2010
Hot Flush
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) works alongside conventional medicine to help heal the body. The House of Lords Science and Technical Committee's report on complementary therapies divides them into three distinct groups: -

1. Therapies with a diagnostic approach such as osteopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, herbal medicine and homeopathy.

2. Therapies that are not diagnostic in approach such as aromatherapy, Alexander technique, hypnotherapy, and reflexology.

3. Therapies that have their own philosophies and don't follow conventional medicine - Ayurveda and TCM.

Here is an overview of therapies that have been found useful for treating menopausal symptoms, either anecdotally or via scientific studies. If you are considering using CAM, find a practitioner via a regulatory body for that particular therapy. Speak to your GP, as certain therapies may be available on the NHS.

 


 

Acupuncture

Acupuncture
Acupuncture is divided into two types: traditional Chinese, which dates back 2,000 years, and Western acupuncture, which is based on conventional medicine. Fine needles are inserted into the skin to stimulate the meridians to aid circulation and release muscular tensions.

Low levels of oestrogen during the menopause are linked to poor functioning of the parts of the brain that govern our hormones and changes in the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). Acupuncture corrects this imbalance and increases endorphins via the peripheral nervous system. A 2004 Swedish study found that it decreased hot flushes by 83% in those tested.

Alexander technique

Australian Frederick Matthias Alexander developed the technique in the 1890s. It teaches you the principles of good posture and breathing techniques to put less stress on the body and improve performance. It can help reduce high blood pressure, tension-related sexual disorders and migraines. Studies in 1985 and 1992 showed improvement in lung capacity and deeper, slower breathing, which can help reduce the impact of hot flushes.

Aromatherapy

Rose
Aromatherapy uses plant oils to prevent and treat different symptoms. The oils have an immediate and powerful effect on the senses, sending messages to the limbic system, the part of the brain that controls our emotions. This system helps to regulate our hormonal system. Aromatherapy can help relieve stress, insomnia, headaches and PMT.

‘Florals are great for dealing with the emotions,' says Carol Preen, Vice Chair of the Allied Aromatherapy Practitioners' Association (AAPA) and senior lecturer in aromatherapy at Morley College, London. ‘Rose is the queen of oils and good for treating female problems. It is very concentrated, so you only need one drop at a time (it takes 30 roses to make one drop of oil). It helps to regulate the menstrual cycle and reduce heavy periods. It is good for the nerves and works as an antidepressant, creating a positive feeling and lightness of heart.'

Geranium helps to balance the adrenal cortex, which produces androgens (male sex hormones). It is good for inflammation and can help reduce fluid retention. It acts as an antidepressant and stress reducer.

Frankincense is a uterine tonic so can help ease heavy periods and rebalance the reproductive system. It is calming and good for anxiety and dark moods.

Ayurveda

Ayurvedic practitioners work alongside conventional doctors to help treat patients holistically and will draw up a treatment plan based on dietary advice, exercise and herbal medicine. Ayurveda works on the principle that we have a mixture of energies in the body, which need to be balanced for optimum health. It can help treat insomnia, headaches, anxiety, high blood pressure and blood sugar imbalance.

Bach Flower Remedies

Harley Street doctor Edward Bach formulated 38 flower remedies to treat specific emotions. The seven emotional groups, which form the basis for the remedies are: fear, loneliness, not being in the present moment, despair, uncertainty, over-sensitivity, and over-caring for others. Bach Rescue Remedy is a combination of five original flower essences and can help relieve stress.

Bowen technique

Australian Tom Bowen developed the technique in the 1950s. ‘The Bowen technique creates a deep sense of relaxation and healing by working the body's autonomic nervous system, creating homeostasis at a cellular level', says European College of Bowen Studies teacher and practitioner Jo Lunn.

‘It is a very gentle technique and rolling moves are performed on the skin over the connective tissue. There are frequent, important pauses between these moves, which give the body time to benefit from each set. By combining moves, the practitioner is able to address the body as a whole or target specific problems'.

Herbal medicine

Western herbal medicine uses plant remedies as a form of healing. Popular hormonal regulating herbs for menopause include: -

· Black cohosh may help relieve hot flushes and vaginal dryness. There is a suggested link to liver damage but the evidence is inconclusive.

· Agnus castus works on the pituitary gland to balance hormones, relieve hot flushes and improve libido.

· Dong quai balances the reproductive system, boosts energy levels, and protects muscles, bones and joints.

· Ginkgo biloba improves memory and concentration by stimulating circulation.

Homeopathy

Pills
Homeopathy involves using minute doses of plant, animal and mineral remedies to treat symptoms. Samuel Hahnemann, a German pharmacist, founded it in the 19th century. It can help with hot flushes, tiredness, anxiety, insomnia and headaches. A study at the NHS Well Woman Clinic in Sheffield reported that 81% of 102 patients assessed reported an improvement in menopausal symptoms after using homeopathy.

Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy is a powerful relaxation technique that works on the subconscious mind to release negative thought patterns. It can help with low self-esteem, sexual issues, addictions, panic attacks, depression and stress. Hypnotherapists use voice, music and imagery to achieve this.

Reflexology

Reflexology works on trigger points in the feet and hands to stimulate healing. ‘It works on the parasympathetic nervous system to calm us down', says Glenys Underwood, founder of the Caritas School of Reflexology in Lincoln. ‘The big toe and ankle area are related to the reproductive and endocrine systems. If an organ is under pressure, you will feel tenderness in the related area on your foot. The heel is linked to the pelvic area, so work here can help with other symptoms such as painful sex'.

Complementary therapies can be very effective in relieving menopausal symptoms. Do your research. Speak to friends and family and ask for recommendations. Always check a therapist's credentials and try one therapy at a time so you can monitor how effective it is.

Taken from The Menopause - An Essential Guide by Nicci Talbot. £8.99 from Amazon / Waterstones / Need2Know Books or direct from the Author at www.inrudehealth.com

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