Also known as the ‘change of life’, menopause refers to the final menstrual period and marks the end of a woman’s natural reproductive capacity. Menopause usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, with an average onset around 50. Menopause is marked by a significant drop in oestrogen and progesterone levels as ovarian function ceases.
This follows a period of often uncomfortable symptoms known as perimenopause, lasting two to ten years, caused by high oestrogen and fluctuating hormone levels as ovarian function gradually declines. When a woman has had no periods for 12 consecutive months, she is considered post-menopausal. About eight percent of women experience premature menopause before the age of 45, caused by premature ovarian failure, surgical removal of ovaries, or other causes such as chemotherapy.
Up to 60 percent of women experience mild symptoms for four to eight years during the transition into menopause, while 20 percent will continue to live with severe symptoms well into their sixties, and another twenty percent may not notice any symptoms at all.
Increased life expectancy has put greater emphasis on improving quality of life for peri-menopausal women, with a focus on optimising diet and lifestyle to reduce the typically unpleasant hormone-induced symptoms, such as:
There isn’t one single cause of eczema but a range of potential contributing factors that are unique to each person. These include:
Research has found people with the ‘atopic triad’ have a defective barrier of the skin and upper and lower respiratory tracts.
These genetic alterations cause a loss of function of filaggrin (filament aggregating protein), which is a protein in the skin that normally breaks down to create natural moisturisation and protect the skin from penetration by pathogens and allergens.
Filaggrin mutations are found in approximately 30 percent of people with atopic dermatitis, and also predispose people to asthma, allergic rhinitis (hayfever), keratosis pilaris (dry rough patches and bumps on the skin), and ichthyosis vulgaris (a chronic condition which causes thick, dry, scaly skin.)If one parent carries this genetic alteration, there is a 50 percent chance their child will develop atopic symptoms. And that risk increases to 80 percent if both parents are affected.
The connection between the gut microbiome and skin health is complex, however, research has found the microbiota contributes to the development, persistence, and severity of atopic dermatitis through immunologic, metabolic and neuroendocrine pathways.
Deficiency of Omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFA) has been linked with the increased incidence of atopic dermatitis, along with the inability for the body to efficiently metabolise EFA’s to gamma linoleic acids (GLA) and arachidonic acids (AA).
Changing weather conditions can certainly aggravate eczema symptoms, but the triggers are subject to change among individuals.
Mould exposure and susceptibility to mould can cause Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), of which dermatitis is a manifestation.
Conventional treatment options are available for menopause, but not without risks. Menopausal Hormone Therapy is available as either progesterone, oestrogen or combined hormone therapy. Research has found women who take combined hormone therapy, or oestrogen alone, are at an increased risk of stroke, blood clots and heart attack. Oestrogen-only therapy can also increase the risk of developing endometrial cancer. The risk isn’t permanent however and can return to normal levels after cessation of medication.
Due to these risks, RANZCOG has developed clinical guidelines on the prescription of Menopausal Hormone Therapy.
Progesterone: Progesterone-only hormone therapy is suitable for perimenopause, during which time there can be spikes of high oestrogen levels. Progesterone may provide relief from mood and sleep disturbances associated with perimenopause, including anxiety, insomnia, hot flushes and stress management. Prescription progesterone works by calming the brain and nervous system. It can also make periods lighter and provide an alternative to progestin-drugs such as the pill or hormonal IUD.
Oestrogen: Oestrogen only therapy is used for those who undergo hysterectomy or oophorectomy, while topical oestradiol is often recommended for women with mild symptoms like vaginal dryness and painful intercourse.
Bioidentical: Bioidentical forms of estradiol and progesterone are identical to the body’s own natural hormones and have become a popular option.
The menopause journey is unique for every individual, which is why our practitioners tailor their approach to supporting everyone we see. The beauty of functional medicine is its flexibility, and the ability to use it alongside conventional treatments, or as a more holistic natural menopause remedy alternative.
While Menopausal Hormone Therapy attempts to replace and replicate hormones, functional medicine acknowledges and honours menopause as a normal part of life, and supports this transition by restoring balance to the body where it’s needed most.
Our practitioners can use functional hormone testing to determine where you are in your perimenopause or menopause journey, and tailor a protocol to support the symptoms you’re experiencing, incorporating:
It’s important to remember, everyone is different. But what this might look like is:
The foods we eat affect our health on a cellular level, and the foods you choose can either ease, or exacerbate, perimenopause symptoms. While it may be tempting to reach for comfort foods or deep-fried snacks, these foods can worsen inflammatory responses in the body. Instead, this is time to nurture yourself with anti-inflammatory whole foods such as fruit and vegetables and healthy fats, like fish, nuts and seeds. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower contain elements which naturally support hormonal balancing.
Concentrated levels of nutrients in the form of supplements can bring about therapeutic benefits for supporting a wide range of menopause symptoms. Some of our favourites are magnesium, for its multitude of benefits including stress relief, GABA boosting, cortisol regulation, sleep promotion and support for muscular and joint pain, and taurine, which is an amino acid and neurotransmitter that relaxes the brain, and blocks adrenaline. Vitamin D intake is also critical for supporting bone mineral density, as most women lose 10 percent of bone mass within the first five years after menopause due to the drop in oestrogen.
Similarly, a range of herbal medicines can provide therapeutic support during menopause, including ashwagandha which reduces neuroinflammation to reduce anxiety and promote sleep, and black cohosh, which can help to reduce hot flashes. Herbal medicines can be in the form of a liquid or tablet, or even taken as a tea. A simple brew of fresh sage leaves steeped in hot water has been found to reduce hot flashes and sweating, calm the nervous system and improve memory function.
Finding the right balance of activity and rest in menopause can be challenging. If you have a busy lifestyle, you might need support with finding time and inspiration for relaxation, such as yoga or meditation which can support hormones, mental health and bone and joint pain. For others, perimenopause might be the time for doing more, like introducing an exercise regime, which can prevent loss of bone mass, support healthy weight and protect cardiovascular health.
Remember, this is just a sampling of the possibilities, and the suggestions here may not be right for you. The most important element of functional medicine is that it identifies your unique symptoms and situations to determine the best plan for you.
(Brenda is a real patient but we’ve changed her name and image to protect her privacy.)
Brenda is a married 55yo woman who runs a busy company. She was stressed about her weight gain of 10kg in 2 years, even through she was eating half the kilojoules required for her age, was going to the gym three times a week, plus walking and gardening on weekends. Sleep was fitful, and she knew she couldn't ‘push through’ her fatigue for much longer. Her daughter, who we'd treated for food intolerances, referred her.
Read Brenda's story by hitting the button below
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Also known as the ‘change of life’, menopause refers to the final menstrual period and marks the end of a woman’s natural reproductive capacity. Menopause usually occurs between 45 and 55 years of age, with an average onset around 50, and is marked by a significant drop in oestrogen and progesterone levels as ovarian function ceases.
Perimenopause can last two to ten years, as ovarian function gradually declines until menopause occurs. Up to 60 percent of women experience mild symptoms for four to eight years during the transition into menopause, while 20 percent will continue to live with severe symptoms well into their sixties, and another twenty percent may not notice any symptoms at all.
Women are typically between 45 and 55 years old, however about 8% of women experience premature menopause before the age of 45.
The ovaries cease to release the reproductive hormones oestrogen and progesterone, with the potential to cause a range of symptoms such as:
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