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Menopause is defined as the permanent cessation of menstruation. Often referred to as the "change of life" or "the change," Menopause causes a dramatic change in a woman's body. Menopause occurs when a woman's ovaries stop releasing eggs and the lining of the womb no longer sheds during menstrual periods.


SYMPTOMS
A woman's body changes, often dramatically, during menopause. Periods often become irregular, and bleeding is usually very heavy or very light. Some women miss periods altogether, or have more than one each month. More common menopause symptoms include:

Menstrual irregularity
Hot flashes or flushes.
Headaches.
Dizziness.
Rapid or irregular heartbeat.
Vaginal itching, burning or discomfort during sex.
Bloating in upper abdomen.
Bladder irritability.
Breast tenderness
Mood changes.
Tension and anxiety.
Sleeping difficulty.
Depression.
Fatigue.


TRADITIONAL TREATMENTS

HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY
Hormone Replacement Therapy or HRT, can help with many of the side effects of menopause. HRT, however, has bad and good effects, and should be discussed extensively with your doctor.

During HRT, two hormones are given to women: estrogen and progestin. Estrogen is used to relieve hot flashes, vaginal dryness, irregular bleeding and prevent osteoporosis. Progestin, in combination with estrogen, helps to regulate the menstrual cycle and protect against endometrial cancer. The risks of HRT include gallbladder disease, blood clots and possibly breast cancer.

ALTERNATIVE THERAPY
TO RELIEVE HOT FLASHES, try dressing in layers of clothing that can be taken off at will. Drink cold beverages often, and stay away from caffeine and alcohol, which encourage hot flashes. Vitamin E has also shown promise in helping to prevent hot flashes. Ginseng and sage, taken is daily capsule or tea form, can also help to alleviate hot flashes.

STRESS REDUCTION THERAPIES are often used to relieve tension and are effective measures. Meditation, Yoga and acupuncture have all shown to greatly reduce symptoms of menopause.

EXERCISE is encouraged in both traditional and alternative medicines as a way to reduce pain and discomfort and regulate menstruation. Swimming and walking work well to relieve symptoms and encourage bone strengthening, which may stave off diseases such as Osteoporosis. Weight bearing activities, such as aerobics, weight lifting and tennis have also proven to curb Osteoporosis.

ADDING CALCIUM to the diet helps to prevent Osteoporosis and control mood swings. Yogurt, calcium supplements, seaweeds and dark leafy greens are all recommended.

FOR VAGINAL DRYNESS, try ointments such as KY Jelly or Replens.

FOR WATER RETENTION, try chickweed, nettle or uva ursi. Cranberry juice is also effective in aiding retention.

NATURAL ESTROGEN REPLACEMENTS are often equally as effective as synthetic medicines. A combination of wild yams, licorice, sasparilla, spirulina, ginger and sage is sold at most herbal stores in pill and tea form.

BLADDER CONTROL leaks and problems can be eased with contraction exercises performed daily. Known as Kegel Movements, contracting the pelvic muscles is a commonly used, effective tool in dealing with bladder leaks and problems.