Naturopathic medicine a holistic approach to dealing with symptoms of menopause

This content is sponsored by Casey Health Institute

Though menopause is a natural part of the body’s aging process, one every woman will end up experiencing, its symptoms can sometimes be disruptive to a woman’s life. Conventional medical approach is often limited to hormones and antidepressant medications.  Naturopathic medicine aims to look at menopausal symptoms holistically and help a woman navigate it as gracefully as possible.

The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians defines naturopathic medicine as “a distinct primary health care profession, emphasizing prevention, treatment, and optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and substances that encourage individuals’ inherent self-healing process. The practice of naturopathic medicine includes modern and traditional, scientific, and empirical methods.”

The field is often misunderstood. Naturopathic medicine is not just “alternative” medicine, though its practice may include modalities that are thought of in the alternative realm, such as diet and lifestyle changes, herbal medicine, and nutrient therapy.

Naturopathic doctors are “trained in Western medical sciences, but throughout our medical training, we’re taught about nutrition, diet and lifestyle, counseling, herbs, vitamins,” as Dr. Carrie Runde, a naturopathic doctor with Casey Health Institute, puts it. “I have a wide range of options in my treatment toolbox.”

In treating women who are navigating menopausal changes, naturopathic doctors can choose the most effective tools from their toolboxes to help bring balance back to the body.

Some women may notice very few problems, if any, during this change, while others may be bothered by fatigue, difficulties with sleep, irritability, mood swings, changes in libido, hot flashes and/or urinary tract issues.

Herbs can help ease symptoms; nutrition can be a big factor in navigating the change. Runde says she talks to her patients about “the timing and composition of meals, and getting adequate amounts of healthy proteins and enough vegetables. I’m finding that I’m shifting more women, because there are changes in metabolism, to eating diets that will improve energy, body composition, body fat percentage, help them stay hydrated, and build muscle mass. I really tailor my recommendations to the person sitting in front of me.”

Runde may look at neurotransmitters or cortisol levels, to find if there are any “deviations from a normal rhythm of cortisol secretion,” and help a woman get those rhythms back into a correct pattern. Occasionally she may put a patient on hormones, at the lowest dose possible, but will try herbs or homeopathic remedies first.

Exercise is another big part of the equation. Women at this stage of life need to focus on resistance training, since it affects resting metabolic rate and combats the natural loss of muscle mass and bone mass that occur over decades. Runde refers patients to a trainer if they haven’t worked with weights before. Regular resistance training “has an incredible effect,” she says.

Women who are facing the changes of menopause can find a great deal of help from the naturopathic approach. And it’s not “fringe” or very different from what they are used to, Runde points out. “A naturopathic doctor’s going to ask your history, do a physical exam, order any necessary tests…we just differ in the treatments that we may use.”

For more information about Casey Health, or to make an appointment with Dr. Runde, please call 301.664.6464 or visit www.caseyhealth.org

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