Can Menopause Strike Early?
Menopause is a stage in life when a woman can no longer become pregnant. The average woman goes through natural menopause in her early 50s. Premature menopause happens to women before age 40 and early menopause happens before age 45. The symptoms for these conditions are similar to natural menopause and the causes are often unknown.
Menopause is a natural biological process termed Rajonivritti in Ayurveda terminology. According to Ayurveda, menopause is linked with ageing. Ageing involves a vata predominant state of life. However, some women experience the symptoms of menopause at an early age. The symptoms of menopause experienced by some women are similar to the symptoms seen when the vata dosha rises and upsets the normal balance of the body.
Every woman goes through menopause (Rajonivritti). It is one of the natural signals of the end of the menstrual cycle. Commonly seen is a reduction in the production of the female hormone estrogen. The body is transitioning from the Pitta phase into the Vata phase of life.
Vata controls all the movements in the mind and body, including blood flow, heart function, breathing, the neuro-hormonal system, and also controls the level of estrogen in the body. So, any imbalance in Vata impacts the functioning of the ovaries. Women who have experienced Pitta or Vata imbalance in the years leading up to menopause are likely to have a difficult time during this phase.
The causes of premature menopause can be classified into two categories:
– Primary ovarian insufficiency
– Hypothalamic and pituitary tumors
– Surgery to remove the ovaries or uterus
– Chemotherapy or radiation therapy for cancer
– Chronic diseases
– Psychiatric disorders
– Stress and tension
– Lack of exercise & Hectic schedule
– Poor nutrition and junk food
– Use of harsh chemicals that get absorbed into our skin
– Pollution and lack of greenery
– Smoking, drinking, and substance abuse
– Emotional turmoil
– Estrogen is stored in the fat tissues of the body. Women who are very thin have less estrogen stored and are at higher risk of early menopause.
How to Identify
The diagnosis should always be considered in any woman presenting with a history of primary or secondary amenorrhea or oligomenorrhea, vasomotor disturbances, or other signs of estrogen deficiency and may be confirmed by the detection of an elevated serum level of follicle-stimulating hormone and estrogen deficiency. In short and simple, understanding the diagnosis is based on a triad of amenorrhea, elevated gonadotropin levels, and signs and symptoms of estrogen deficiency.
Premature Menopause or early menopause is associated with multiple symptoms such as irregular/missed periods with the heavier or lighter flow than usual, vasomotor symptoms (hot flushes and night sweats), vaginal symptoms (vaginal dryness and dyspareunia), urinary symptoms (frequency, urgency, incontinence, and atrophic cystitis), sexual dysfunction, and sleep disturbances. Other symptoms are headache, depression, anxiety, irritability, skin atrophy, joint pains, cancer, phobia, and lack of concentration.
Early-onset of menopause should not be taken lightly. Lower levels of estrogen in the body can lead to complications like osteoporosis, gum diseases, and cataract formation. It can even put women at risk of colon and ovarian cancer.
Measures to be on the Safer Side
Since premature menopause is irreversible, the best advice is to take preventive measures. The following diet and lifestyle changes are recommended
– Meditate to calm the mind and reduce stress.
– Consume fruits and vegetables of organic produce, which are free of pesticides and insecticides.
– Say No to smoking, alcohol, and drugs.
– Follow a balanced healthy diet and consume meals on time. Say no to junk food, fizzy drinks; reduce the amount of refined sugar and caffeine intake.
– Avoid salty, spicy, and sour foods. Eat more of warm food, drinks and add Indian spices like fennel and cumin seeds to meals.
– Exercising regularly 30 minutes every day.
Ayurvedic Rasayana Chikitsa, following Dincharya, Rutucharya, regular seasonal Panchakarma, and Satvavajaya Chikitsa prove to be beneficial.
Most of the early menopause symptoms are due the Vata-aggravation followed by other factors. In early Menopause, it is best to balance the aggravated Doshas so that the intensity of the symptoms will be less or even can be negligible. In order to achieve this one should follow the Dosha specific Ayurvedic Diet and lifestyle followed by Ayurveda herbs on regular basis. If the symptoms still persist, it is better to undergo ‘Panchakarma’ (detoxification) which helps in the elimination of vitiated Doshas to bring them to a balanced stage.
The following can be considered in the management of this condition.
– Appropriate diet and herbs
– Panchakarma therapy (Internal detoxification therapy)
– Sattvavjaya Chikitsa
– Rasayana Chikitsa
– Herbs: Withania somnifera, Terminalia arjuna, Elettaria cardamomum, Allium sativum, Commiphora mukul, Santalum alba, Zizyphus jujube, Aloe vera, Terminalia arjuna, Emblica offcinalis, Crocus sativus, Brassica nigra, Terminalia chebula, Cyperus rotundus.
– Rasayana: Many drugs have rasayana properties.
Triphala: Triphala consists of Haritaki (Terminalia chebula), Vibhitaki (Termanalia bellerica), Amalaki (Embelica officinalis), which pacifies all the three Doshas and also is an excellent vayasthapana (antiaging agent).
Ashwagandha (Withana somnifera) is a powerful antioxidant and immune modulator. It improves strength, muscle mass and relieves stress. In early menopause, it effectively controls the vasomotor symptoms (hot flushes, night sweats, palpitation).
Yasthimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is another rasayana drug that is prescribed for early menopause. It is an excellent antioxidant, immunomodulator, anti- depressant, and memory enhancer.
Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) : The root contains phytoestrogen, which helps to regulate estrogen from ovaries and the skin.
– The most beneficial practices are Yogasanas, Pranayama, and Meditation (Dhyana). Varjasana, Veerabhadrasana, Surya Namaskar, Pranayama – Sheetalipranayam, Ujjayipranayama, Kapalbhati are beneficial. Current evidence indicates that women will benefit from yoga therapy during the early menopausal stage in terms of decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, loss of bone mineral density as well as improved psychological wellbeing, sleep patterns, and emotional modulation.
At the end of the day, your health is your responsibility. As the quote goes “Communities and countries and ultimately the world is only as strong as the health of their women”. So, with specialist guidance, supervision, a little bit of awareness, diet, and lifestyle modification, women can keep themselves protected from early menopause and live healthy life.