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Myths of Menopause: What to Know Now
By Pamela Adams D.C.

Oh for the good old days when, shortly after the first hot flash, women hurried off to their doctors for hormone replacement relief. Ahhh. Skin glowing, juices flowing, they faced the world knowing they had found the true elixer of youth.

Oops. Turns out eternal youth has it's drawbacks, the worst being the very well documented risk of breast cancer. Now what's a woman to do?

First, read either of these thorough and well- balanced books: Dr. Love's Hormone Therapy by Susan Love M.D. or The Wisdom of Menopause by Christiane Northrup M.D.

Second, find a gynecologist, someone who is well-versed in the latest developments in women's health, who is open to alternative medicine and who doesn't subscribe to a one-size-fits-all approach. Ask for a blood and/or saliva test to see exactly which hormones are low and which are not. Include thyroid hormones. Get a list of treatment options.

Third, take time to do your own research, now that you are armed with more specific personal information. Learn how diet, exercise, depression and stress can aggravate or alleviate symptoms. Then experiment. Try nothing.Try lifestyle changes. Try herbal, or homeopathic remedies. Try synthetic hormones (which exclude Premarin or Prempro as they are derived from mare urine). Try a patch, try cream, try suppositories. What's right for you is what's right for you.

Let me dispell few myths so, at least, you won't start out with misinformation.

MYTH ONE: Menopause is a condition that should be treated.

Do you even remember when your mother went through menopause? Probably not, because in those days, it was generally ignored. Maybe you noticed she was overly sensitive or irritable, but it passed, and you both forgot it.

So how is it you are suffering so much and need symptom relief when she got through it so easily? For one thing, you expect to suffer. She didn't. (Actually, only 30% of menopausal women have symptoms) For another, your mother's lifestyle was different,certainly less busy. Perhaps she was a stay-a-home mom and could take naps in the afternoons. And she could sweat in private.

She also knew with certainty there was an end to it. She would feel fine. Every woman did.

If you knew for certain that the hot flashes, insomnia, irritability and forgetfulness would end forever in 6 months to a year if you did nothing, would you be able to get through it like your mom?

MYTH TWO: All estrogen is alike.

Premarin (estrogen alone) and Prempro (estrogen and progesterone) are the brands of estrogen which were found to increase women's risk of breast cancer in that now famous study. It is derived from pregnant mare's urine. I agree that no one should take that type of estrogen.

However, there are synthetic hormones that more closely match those women naturally produce which have not been proven to increase the risk of breast or ovarian cancer. They require a prescription from your doctor.

Finally, there are estrogenic chemicals derived from plants which mimic human hormones. These are generally derived from yams or soy. They have not been proven to increase the risk of breast cancer, although there is some question about soy. These can be found over the counter, but you would do well to take the recommendation of your alternative health care practitioner.

There are many types of supplements and remedies which can be helpful for symptom relief and have no estrogenic properties.

MYTH THREE: Even If you have no symptoms, HRT is good for you.

Studies are now showing that taking estrogen does not protect you from heart disease, and while it does seem to protect against post menopausal bone loss, the risk still outweighs the benefit.

Eating well, exercising regularly and quitting smoking are better ways to protect yourself.

MYTH FOUR: You can take hormones temporarily for symptom relief.

Menopausal symptoms are caused by the withdrawal of estrogen and progesterone from the body. Whether the drop in hormones happens internally by the body's own processes, or externally by ceasing hormone replacement therapy, the result is the same. If you took estrogen replacement therapy until age 90 and stopped, you would still experience hot flashes and other symptoms. Not a happy thought.

If possible, women should follow their mothers' lead. Menopause is a short-term phenomena like puberty. You wouldn't think of interfering with puberty, would you?

For more information, visit holisticonline.com menopause and hormone replacement therapy infocenter.

(c)2003 Pamela Adams D.C., holistic health coach has helped hundreds of people live happier, healthier lives. She is the author of "Dr. Adams' Painless Guides." for her books, articles and free newsletter go to http://www.PainlessGuides.com

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