Menopause

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Afinity Yin - Women's Health

Afinity Yin - Women's HealthAll ingredients in Afinity Yin are extracted from precious traditional herbal medicines and have been well demonstrated to be beneficial in the management of menopausal symptoms.

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Menopause

“According to population projections by the government of Canada, 1 in 6 women (a total of 2.4 million women) will hit menopause within the next decade.” (1) Menopause can begin as early as age 40 with less frequent, irregular reproductive cycles (perimenopause), and typically begins to affect more women in their 50s.

This natural and inevitable transition of life is experienced differently from woman to woman, as some will experience few or no negative side effects, and others will suffer with a range of disruptive symptoms which vary in severity and duration. Some of the most common side effects of menopause include hot flashes, headaches, sleep disruption, vaginal dryness, frequent bladder infections, weight gain, forgetfulness and the inability to concentrate.

In order to discuss solutions to these symptoms in any meaningful way, we must remember that all symptoms are the expression of an imbalance in the body.  Change is natural, but many factors conspire over the course of a woman’s life to throw her delicate hormonal balance off, resulting in an imbalanced transition that brings unpleasant symptoms with it. In order to relieve symptoms we must look at the root causes of imbalance, and provide the body with tools to naturally realign itself in order to experience new and different hormone levels in a healthy, balanced way.

 Factors to Consider:

  • The transition into menopause is a natural occurrence shared by every woman, and is NOT a disease that requires medical treatment.
  •  In 2002, the Women’s’ Health Initiative, a landmark study of over 16,000 women, concluded that conventional HRT (consisting of prescribed, synthetic estrogens) carried dangerous consequences to women, however, the medical community has been slow to adopt new, safer treatments.
  • Studies concluded that conventional HRT side effects include a 26% increased risk of breast cancer, a 29% increased risk of heart attack, a 41% increase in risk for strokes, and a doubling in risk for blood clots relative to the untreated group. Moreover, women receiving conjugated equine (horse-derived) estrogen experienced a six-fold increased risk for uterine cancer (2)
  • Although declining estrogen levels have gotten all the attention in recent decades, a balanced menopause experience takes the levels of all hormones into account, including progesterone, DHEA and testosterone. One must consider their relationship to each other and their appropriate levels for a woman’s stage of life.
  • Although hormone levels will naturally change  in the latter years of  women’s lives, they can still remain appropriately balanced through good dietary choices, proper supplementation, regular exercise, scientifically proven botanical extracts and, when necessary, bioidentical hormones – those compounds that exactly match the ones produced naturally in the body.

 Conventional Medical Treatment

 As women’s hormone levels decrease, their risk of several degenerative diseases increases, including risk of Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, CVD (cardiovascular disease) and cancer. (3) In an effort to mitigate this risk, conventional medicine sought to replace women’s naturally declining estrogens with synthetic substitutions.  Conventional HRT makes use of non-bioidentical hormones that differ chemically from those naturally produced by a woman’s body. Furthermore, the relative levels of the female hormones administered in conventional HRT are also different. (4) While you might assume typical HRT was designed to restore balance, in truth there has been a different goal: to restore youth, even though it is unnatural for the body of a 50-year-old woman, who is no longer meant to bear children, to deal with hormone levels that are out of sync with her stage of life.

To fully appreciate the complexity of HRT, it is important to understand the various forms of estrogen and their effects in the body. More than 15 forms of estrogen naturally created in a woman’s body have been identified (6) .These include estrone, estradiol, and estriol.  Each of these estrogens has a particular function.

 Another major problem with conventional HRT is the ratio of estrogens. Specifically, an approximate ratio of estrogens in Premarin® is about 75% estrone, up to 15% equilin (a potent horse estrogen), estradiol, and at least two other equine estrogens. These are substantially different from the ratios observed naturally in a woman’s body (7).
Conjugated equine estrogen (CEE), as the name implies, is obtained from the urine of pregnant mares (horses) (5). CEE is usually given in combination with progestin, a chemical compound modified for the purpose of appearing structurally similar to natural, bioidentical progesterone, but which, in fact, is not the same. Keeping progesterone levels in proper ratio to estrogens is equally as important as “topping up” declining estrogen levels during menopause. In a healthy young woman, progesterone serves as a counterweight to estrogen. The structural differences between conjugated equine estrogens and chemical progestins and the hormones women’s bodies produce naturally, and unnatural ratios, explain many of the adverse affects associated with conventional HRT.

The importance of balance cannot be over-stated. If HRT is required, use the lowest possible amount for the shortest possible time to achieve results, and choose bio-identical hormones over synthetic whenever possible.

 Dietary Recommendations

 Phytoestrogen-Containing Foods.

Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that have a balancing effect on estrogen levels in the body because of their ability to bind to estrogen receptor sites. If estrogen levels are low, they will increase estrogen activity. When estrogen levels are high, they will cause a decrease in estrogen. Plant based estrogen is extremely mild – only 2% the strength of naturally produced estrogen. By consuming ample phytoestrogenic foods in the diet, the body will use this natural tool to restore balance to fluctuating hormone levels.

Foods high in phytoestrogen compounds include soy foods such as steamed soy beans, miso and tempeh, flaxseed and flax oil, nuts, whole grains, apples, fennel, celery, parsley and alfalfa.

 Antioxidant Rich Fruit & Veggies.

It is essential that women as they approach and pass their menopause age consume generous portions of anti-oxidant rich fruit and vegetables from a variety of sources, as these protective compounds are known to play a key role in the prevention of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, CVD (cardiovascular disease) and cancer.

 Therapeutic Supplementation

Zwell menomendZ

  • EstroG-100™, the active ingredient in Zwell menomendZ, is a blend of all-natural phytochemical extracts that has been developed by screening hundreds of different herbs for their effects on menopausal symptoms.
  • These effects have been proven by extensive, human clinical trials involving peri-, post-, and menopausal women.
  • Based on one 12-month trial with 48 patients with pre- and post-menopausal symptoms, EstroG-100™ resulted in significant improvement of menopausal symptoms, bone density, human growth hormone (also known as the hormone of youth), and triglycerides. (8)
  • EstroG-100TM was studied for its impact on many biochemical markers for safety and showed no adverse impact on women’s health, unlike synthetic HRT.
  • EstroG-100TM has been thoroughly examined and approved by Health Canada and is deemed to help to relieve the symptoms associated with menopause such as hot flashes, night sweats, paresthesia, insomnia, nervousness, melancholia, vertigo, fatigue, rheumatic pain and vaginal dryness.

Zwell’s Trusted Advisor Recommendations

CRON.  As women’s hormone levels decrease, their risk of several degenerative diseases increases, including risk of Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, CVD and cancer. (2)In an effort to mitigate this risk, conventional medicine sought to replace women’s naturally declining estrogens with synthetic substitutions. A landmark study, the Women’s Health Initiative, revealed this approach carried a far greater risk to women’s health than the actual menopause symptom benefits.

A safe and natural alternative for disease prevention is to choose nutrient-dense foods that provide a high ratio of vitamins, minerals and protective antioxidants for the calories they provide. This style of eating, first introduced by anti-aging scientists, is known as C.R.O.N.Calorie Restriction, Optimal Nutrition.

Following a CRON diet high in nutrient-rich whole foods can help naturally adjust your estrogen-to-progesterone ratio, along with all the other benefits you get from a healthy diet. That means steer clear of commercial red meat and all foods that contain artificial hormones or trans-fatty acids, which can increase estrogen levels. Cut out all alcohol until your hormone levels balance out, and eliminate refined sugars. That’s because both reduce your liver’s ability to break down estrogen. At the same time, increase your intake of whole grains, nuts, seeds, and intensely coloured organic fresh fruits and vegetables. These help reduce estrogen production in the body, keep it from binding to receptors, and support the body’s ability to break excess estrogen down and eliminate it. If you’re wondering what your plate should look like, here’s a snapshot: Avoid the conventional slab-of-meat-with-a-dab-of-vegetables mindset, and think about the multi-flavoured, multi-coloured, “mini-taste treat” dinners served in Asian cultures.

What about soy? Soy is controversial. Some reports say it lowers estrogen levels and protects against breast cancer, others say that isolated components in soy can raise breast cancer risk. This ignores two facts. One is that Asian cultures, which have a significantly lower breast cancer rate than we do, have included cultured (fermented) soy in their diets for thousands of years. Uncultured soy, such as soy milk or isolated soy protein, requires friendly flora in the gut to convert genistein, soy’s primary isoflavone, into an active phytoestrogen. If your digestive tract is struggling, which many people’s are, this can be a problem. In cultured soy products, the conversion has already happened. Another key is moderation. In Shanghai, most women include soy in the diet once a week. I recommend adding the fermented soy product Tempeh to your diet weekly. Its meat-like consistency makes it hold up well in a stir-fry, where it will take on the flavour of whatever delicious spices you use. Tempeh is available in most health food stores.

Hydrate. A common, discomforting symptom of menopause is vaginal dryness. Staying well hydrated is a simple and natural way to help alleviate this concern. Drink 32 to 48 ounces of clear fluids per day, such as pure water or herbal tea, and avoid substances that dehydrate mucous membranes such as alcohol, caffeine, diuretics and antihistamines.

Sweat & De-Stress. Swedish researchers conducted a study examining the effect of regular exercise on the occurrence of hot flashes in almost a thousand postmenopausal women. Results showed that women who participated in at least 3.5 hours of exercise per week reduced the severity and frequency of hot flashes so significantly that no additional treatments were needed. Additional research showed the same benefits in peri and menopausal women, as well. (9)

Connect. In many cultures women as they age are revered for their wisdom and honoured for their life’s experience. The transition into menopause is a positive event in a woman’s life, and consequently menopausal symptoms are virtually non-existent. In our North American society, where there is an unrealistic obsession with youth, many women suffer the transition through menopause. Although we have seen there are likely many cultural differences which play a part in these opposite experiences, such as diet, exercise and exposure to environmental toxins, the emotional link should not be over-looked.

It is important to examine your own feelings towards the experience and reach out to those in your family and community who honour and support you for all you have seen, done and learned and, of course, for all the great things that are yet to come.

Safety Considerations / Contraindications

  • This information is meant for educational purposes and is not meant to diagnose, treat or cure disease. If you require medical attention, please seek a licensed health care provider.

  • Therapeutic use of natural food constituents (such as vitamins, minerals and herbal extracts) may potentiate the effects of prescription medications. Speak with a licensed health care practitioner about possible interactions.

  • Never stop taking prescription medication without first consulting the prescribing physician

Resources:

1.    Turner, Dr. Natasha, ND. The Hormone Diet. Random House Canada, 2009. Pg 90

2.    Rossouw et al 2002; Grady et al 2002; Hulley et al 2002; Azoulay 2004; Moskowitz 2006; Ragaz 2010

3.    Wren 2009; Lenfant 2010; Lee 2010

4.    Turgeon 2006; Chlebowski 2010

5.    Bhavnani 2003

6.    Taioli, 2010

7.    Wright 1999

8.    Ki Ho Lee et al. Evaluation of Effectiveness and Safety of Natural Plants Extract on Perimenopausal for 1 Year. Korean Society of Menopause. Vol 11, No 1. March 2005.

9.    L. Slaven and C. Lee, “Mood and Symptom Reporting among middle-aged women: The replationship between menopausal status, HRT and exercise participation.” Health Psychol 16 (1997): 203-8

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