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- Harvard Medical School: Perimenopause -- Rocky Road to Menopause
- National Institutes of Health: Black Cohosh
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Perimenopause is the transition a woman's body goes through when she gradually stops ovulating. Perimenopause generally begins in your 40s, however it can begin earlier for some women and is characterized by changes in the frequency and duration of each menstrual cycle, according to Harvard Medical School 1. The hormonal changes that accompany this transition can also cause symptoms such as hot flashes, changes in mood and vaginal dryness. Hormone replacement medications and antidepressants can help decrease some symptoms however they often have unwanted side effects such as drowsiness or increased risk of cancers. A naturopathic treatment approach may be helpful by using supplements that can help relieve symptoms. Check with your doctor before using any dietary supplement.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Black cohosh is an herbal supplement used to treat symptoms related to both menopause and perimenopause, according to the National Institutes of Health 2. Although research evidence supporting the effectiveness of Black cohosh is mixed, some studies have shown that it may help decrease the incidence of hot flashes, sleep disruption and depression. While the immediate side effects that can occur while taking black cohosh are relatively mild and include headache and stomach upset, this herb may have more disturbing effects on your liver. Evidence regarding this problem is also mixed but some studies have shown an association between black cohosh use and liver damage. The average dose of black cohosh in studies listed by the National Institutes of Health was 8 milligrams per day, but some went as high as nearly 40 milligrams per day 2. Speak to your doctor about what amount may be right for you.
According to Dr. Beatrix Roemheld-Hamm of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, chasteberry is a supplement that has been used for hundreds of years to treat hormonal imbalances in women. This fruit, or berry, of the chaste tree contains substances that can help relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and perimenopause including breast discomfort and irregular menstrual cycles. Dr. Roemheld-Hamm explains that chasteberry is relatively safe to use, however because it can effect dopamine levels in your brain, it can interfere with medications prescribed for Parkinson's disease. American Family Physician reports that chasteberry is given in doses between 20 and 40 milligrams per day 3.
Dong quai, also known as the "female ginseng," is a root that is used to treat gynecological symptoms related to perimenopause and menopause, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center 145. They add that many women claim to find relief from hot flashes when using dong quai, although research hasn't yet found evidence to support this effect. Dong quai is also suggested for treating menstrual irregularity as well as heart disease and research suggests this may be due to an estrogen-like effect. Because this effect may exist, women with estrogen-driven cancers like breast cancer should avoid using dong quai. There is no recommended dose for dong quai, but the UMMC reports that the dose for menopausal symptoms is 500 to 600 milligrams, up to six times per day.
Wild yam, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, is a rich source of substances known as phytoestrogens 45. Naturopathic practitioners prescribed wild yam to treat symptoms of menopause and osteoporosis however, no evidence has been found to support these uses. The active ingredient in wild yam, diosgenin, has shown promise in decreasing high cholesterol. Additionally, this substance can be chemically converted into progesterone, which may suggest the source for it's effects on perimenopausal symptoms related to hormonal imbalance. Wild yam is available in capsule and tea form at your local health food store and if often found in combination preparations for treating perimenopause and menopause symptoms. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that to find an appropriate dose of wild yam for your symptoms you need to work with your physician 45.
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