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Remedies for Menopausal Symptoms
The Menopause Self Help Book
by Susan M. Lark, M.D.,
PREMENSTRUAL SYMDROME (PMS)
In spite of clinical evidence of physiological changes as the underlying disturbance, most medical textbooks, researchers and physicians have attributed PMS symptoms to psychological causes. Though psychological factors may intensify the patient's suffering, they do not cause the syndrome.30
PMS, which has been attributed to an increase in the estrogen-progesterone ratio, involves a wide variety of symptoms such as water retention, sore breasts, digestive distress, decreased libido/sexual frigidity, and emotional uproar. The symptoms are different for every woman, but all usually disappear with the onset of menstruation. For most women, the nature of premenstrual symptoms is likely to change with the onset of menopause. Then it's also common to feel sore all over or have difficulties with normal sexual relations. Herbs, when used wisely, can be a much gentler way than drugs to deal with the symptoms of PMS;31 however, it is possible that some women will need estrogen supplementation.30
Fluctuation in hormone levels: Dr. Elizabeth Lee Vliet has studied the connection between moods and fluctuation of hormone levels and has found that "approximately 80-85% of these women in their mid-thirties and early forties who described 'worsening PMS' had below-normal estrogen levels at these points during their menstrual cycle."
Dr. Vliet found also that "prematurely low estradiol levels were even more likely to be present in women who had experienced a surgical procedure that affected blood flow to the ovaries, such as tubal ligation or hysterectomy (even when the ovaries were left in place)." To restore their estrogen levels to more normal levels these women were offered low-dose estrogen supplementation rather than antidepressants, as is commonly practised by many physicians. Dr. Vliet has been "astonished at the results". In spite of this, she cautions that "estrogen should not be used by women at high risk of breast or uterine cancer, fibroid tumors of the uterus, liver or gall bladder disease, or depression."
EFAs-Essential fatty acids (linoleic and linolenic acids) such as flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds promote 'good' prostaglandins I and III which reduce inflammation, boost immune function, decrease menstrual cramps, and decrease risk of heart disease by regulating blood pressure and platelet stickiness. All of these factors help reduce PMS symptoms. Essential fatty acids are particularly important to menopausal women because the deficiency of these oils is responsible in part for drying of the skin, hair, vaginal tissues and other mucous membranes that occurs with menopause.16
In some studies, breast tenderness and other PMS symptoms such as irritability, depression and bloating improved significantly in women taking evening primrose oil (EPO), an omega-6 EFA, as compared with those taking a placebo. However, not all studies have shown this, so this application remains a subject for debate.23
Some 70% of PMS patients have some atopic factor as an underlying cause (eczema, arthritic-related disease), and EFAs have been found very useful for many in the treatment of these symptoms.33 An increasing amount of research indicates that people who suffer from atopic eczema have a defect in the function of a crucial enzyme that GLA (gamma-linolenic acid) helps to metabolize.23
Oral dietary supplement forms of GLA have not only proved effective in improving atopic eczema in various studies but have also been shown to be significantly superior to a placebo in relieving itching and reducing the need for steroid medications. Not all trials have reported such positive results, but topical EPO formulations for treating atopic eczema are officially approved and commonly used in England.23
Vitamin E has been found to be of benefit for symptoms of PMS.16 Results from studies regarding claims that vitamin E can lower cholesterol and other blood lipids are mixed; however, one recent double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that 500 IU of vitamin E daily can elevate the good cholesterol HDL by about 14%. This form of cholesterol helps transport the dangerous forms of cholesterol out of the body.12 Several other studies indicate that vitamin E can help protect against potentially life-threatening blood clots.12
A double blind, placebo-controlled study examined whether vitamin E reduces
symptoms of PMS. It confirmed earlier research reports and concluded that
"all major categories of PMS symptoms are improved with supplementation
of 400 IU of vitamin E daily."12
Dietary Changes for PMS: Dr. Elizabeth Lee Vliet advises the following for relief of PMS:
Researched and written by the ProjectAWARE group, 2000
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