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How to Stop the Discomfort of Menopause

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Hot flashes and night sweats, who needs them? A good diet and exercise plan can help you beat the heat.

 
Self-help Advice on Menopause

*Exercise is a powerful ally. It calms the body and produces endorphins that help counteract sleep disruption from night sweats and hot flashes. 

*Remember that herbs are medicine and need to be considered when calculating doses of other medications. Let your doctor know what herbs you are using.

*The earlier you begin taking good care of your body, the better off you will be during menopause.

*Every body is different. What works for your friend might not work for you and vice versa. You may have to experiment, with your health practitioner's involvement, to discover what works best for you.

*Hope for luck: According to Dr. Parker, 20 percent of women experience no unpleasant effects from menopause.

 
 

Many women approach menopause as though there were little to be done but await the unavoidable.  But, even in your 30's, experts say, lifestyle choices can make a difference in how you experience menopause.  And, the sooner you get started, the better.

A healthful diet and exercise are essential to meeting menopause head-on, says nutritionist and educator, Andrea Crivelli-Kovach. While women who have lived a healthier lifestyle all along will fare better than those who embrace nutrition and exercise later in life, Crivelli-Kovach says, no matter when you start, this two-pronged approach will help you better manage menopause.

Start by incorporating whole foods and mineral-rich Asian foods, particularly miso soup and seaweed, into your diet, says Crivelli-Kovach. The typical American diet is woefully deprived of minerals, and sea products can help make up the deficiency. Minerals help regulate nerve and muscle functions, and those are often the systems that are the most stressed during menopause.
 
You may also want to consider taking a good vitamin supplement, says Crivelli-Kovach. She recommends boosting intake of vitamin E and the Omega 3 essential acids. The Omega 3 fatty acids help the body to better metabolize and absorb important minerals and nutrients. These can be find in salmon and flax seeds.
Although much of the evidence about how lifestyle influences menopause is anecdotal, research has shown that soy protein can reduce the number and intensity of hot flashes, says Dr. William Parker, staff gynecologist at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center.

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Eat Right to Manage Menopause

"Many women have hot flashes at night that might be mild enough thathow to treat hot flashes during menopause they're not aware anything's happened," says Parker. "But their sleep is interrupted and they don't get enough REMs [the indication of deep sleep]." The result is that these women experience additional symptoms from the sleep deprivation. A healthy dose of soy in the diet may be able to help women sleep more soundly.

Aerobic exercise is also important, says Parker, because it releases endorphins in the brain, which calm the body and mind, helping a woman feel rested and ready to meet the challenges of a busy life.
Although he doesn't prescribe herbs or natural remedies himself, Parker refers women to homeopathic doctors. Based on patient feedback, he believes that remedies like black cohosh, evening primrose and raspberry leaf tea can make a difference in the duration and severity of hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings.
 
Kate LaFrance, a newspaper columnist, is convinced. Seven years ago she began to have night sweats, waking up "drenched head to toe and thinking this menopause thing was going to be hell."
 
"I really abhor taking chemicals and I have a low tolerance for most medications," said LaFrance. She decided to try a natural approach, taking tinctures of motherwort and dandelion every day for about two years. "These things aren't instant and it takes about 30 days to build it up in your system, so give it time," she cautions.
 
Her symptoms have now all but disappeared, she says. But the best thing about her regimen was the feeling that she was participating in her own health.
"It gives me ease of mind, a sense of control. I feel good psychologically, knowing that I'm doing something really good for my body."


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