September is Menopause Awareness Month. There are an estimated 64 million postmenopausal women in the United States (US), and as many as 32 million women may suffer from symptoms including pain during sexual intercourse, vaginal dryness, and vaginal irritation. This number is increasing as approximately 6000 women enter menopause each day in the US. I have worked with thousands of menopausal women for the past 20 years and a good majority of them have confided in me about their discomfort and how it affects their intimate relationships.
Let’s first take a quick look at the root cause of the problem in menopausal women. During the childbearing years, a thin layer of clear fluid covers the walls of the vagina. This thin layer keeps the lining of your vagina elastic, thick and healthy. As you approach menopause, there is usually a drop in your estrogen (female hormone) level which reduces the amount of lubrication available. This can lead to vaginal dryness and vaginal atrophy as well as dryness of the external female genitals (vulva). Vaginal dryness may cause fragile vulvovaginal tissues. The tissues may then become more susceptible to irritation, pain during intercourse or dyspareunia (dis-puh-ROO-nee-uh) and sometimes bleeding which is the result of injury and tearing of the vaginal tissue and vulva. Sometimes, even women who are not sexually active are bothered by vaginal dryness and the irritation that may accompany it.
In addition to natural menopause, there may be other factors causing vaginal dryness such as:
Fortunately, there are many options out there to help women suffering from vaginal dryness. They may include hormones, lubricants, oils or vaginal moisturizers (creams that are used to restore moisture in the vagina). Here is a comparison chart:
|Hormone Free||Free of Harsh Chemicals||Long-Lasting Effect||Natural|
|Estrogen Vaginal Cream|| ||No||No||Yes||Maybe|
|Oil Based |
Lubricant (VitE, Olive Oil,
An example of an all-natural vaginal moisturizer is FabuVag® (www.naturalvaginalsolutions.com), which is an herbal cream. When looking for such a product, it is important to find a moisturizer that is free of harsh chemicals such as parabens, perfumes, synthetic dyes and coloring, glycerin, Petrolatum, phthalates, and propylene glycol.
Pay attention to the labels and read them carefully since you apply the preparations to the most intimate area of your body and may absorb a good portion of it. when in doubt, ask an expert. For more information or to ask questions, feel free to contact me. I will be happy to help you navigate through the menopause maze.
Dr. Sharzad Green, Pharm.D. is a graduate of the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy and specializes in bio-identical hormone therapy and natural alternatives for men and women. You may contact her at (480) 264-7600, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each year 1.3 million women reach menopause in the United States. Although most women transition to menopause without experiencing psychiatric problems, it is estimated that 20% have depression at some point during menopause.
Studies have generally shown an increased risk of depression throughout perimenopause, however, there is a decrease in risk of depression during postmenopausal years.
So, is there a connection between your hormones and depression. Studies have indicated that changes in estrogen levels, may be related to depressive symptoms in the menopausal transition of some women.
Estrogen has a close relationship with the brain and can affect the chemical messengers of the nervous system. Serotonin and norepinephrine are thought to be the chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) of the brain that are related to the physiologic cause of depression.
Although the precise mechanisms are yet unknown, as estrogen levels decline, regulation of serotonin and norepinephrine may change which may contribute to depression.
As most women can attest, depression is significantly linked to times of hormonal changes in females. Observations and data suggest that depression in women begins at puberty. Hormonal changes are thought to contribute to pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD, PMS), as well as mood changes after giving birth and in perimenopause.
Scientists have discovered that women with a history of mood disorders or of premenstrual and postpartum mood-related symptoms are more likely to experience depression during menopause when hormones start declining.
In addition to hormonal changes, women with particular types of stressors seem to be at increased risk for perimenopausal depression. Such stressors or factors include the following:
It is never easy to experience depression or to see your loved one be depressed. In my practice, I oftentimes observe a positive improvement in the mood after a woman’s or man’s hormones are balanced. Sometimes the depression is so severe that the patient’s loved ones seek help for the patient. It is important to note that depression is a very complicated physiological and psychological disorder and hormones may be an important piece of this puzzle.
If you or your loved one suffer from mood disorders, a simple blood test to check your hormone levels and a hormone consultation may be an important step in seeking help and getting closer to recovery. For more information call me at 480-264-7600
Cancer can feel like a tornado at times. The cancer affects you and the treatment affects you. Your emotions are affected and your family is affected. And there you are, in the middle of it all! That’s why it’s crucial to do everything you can to look after yourself and boost your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being during this time. Here are four ways you can do just that.
The Role of Spirituality and Religion
The links between religion, spirituality and well-being in cancer patients are complex and personal. Cancer can awaken spirituality in some people, but cause others to question their beliefs. The specific nature of your beliefs seems to play a role. As this article in the Huffington Post points out, there seems to be a link between the belief in a benign God and positive well-being in people with cancer. However, the reverse is also true — spiritual distress is linked to lower well-being in cancer patients.
If you’re a religious person, you have existing support in the form of your faith leaders. If you define yourself as spiritual but do not belong to an organized group, practices like mindfulness meditation and yoga may be of some benefit in clarifying your thoughts. Your health care provider can also support your spiritual and religious needs during your treatment.
Create a Comfy Home
You don’t have to go on a cleaning spree — and you likely won’t have the physical or mental energy to do so anyway — but creating a comforting home atmosphere will be a boon to you during this heavy time. Ask a loved one to help you, or consider hiring a professional to come give your home a good purging and cleaning. Start by getting rid of things you no longer want or need; too much “stuff” not only clutters your home, but can actually drain you emotionally.
Once you’ve gotten rid of excess items, your cleaning helper can move on to dusting, vacuuming, and mopping, which will improve the health of your home and you. Don’t forget your air quality, either. Allergens like mold and smoke have a nasty habit of lingering in the air, which can be especially nauseating to cancer patients. Replacing your home’s air filter with one rated MERV 13 or higher will rid your air of these and 98 percent of other irritants in the air.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Cancer treatment can affect your appetite, taste preferences and cause nausea — right at the time when good nutrition is most important. Everyone is affected differently, so adapt your schedule accordingly. If you only have an appetite in the mornings, eat your largest meal of the day at this time. You need to keep up your strength, so if you only feel like eating certain types of foods, then sticking to those is preferable over not eating. Meal-replacement powders or shakes can be a good way to get extra calories and protein when your appetite is low, and remember to stay hydrated. If you need more advice on nutrition, read the Eating Hints guide by the National Cancer Institute.
Start a Cancer Journal
A lot of our mental well-being stems from our thoughts. When we’re going through a difficult time, those thoughts can be fast, vague, and confusing. It can seem that no matter how much we think, we don’t get any clarity. That’s where a cancer journal comes in. Although journaling might seem like a simple exercise, it helps you build a narrative out of your thoughts and feelings, making them concrete and easier to deal with. You can write about your worries, your fears, things you’re thankful for, and things you hope for. It’s your journal, so do what you want with it.
Use Opioids Safely
If you have been prescribed opioids to help with your pain, use them exactly as prescribed by your doctor, and make sure your doctor is aware of all other medications, supplements, and over-the-counter medications you’re taking. Do not take a higher or lower dose than prescribed, as higher doses can cause more side effects and lower doses can cause withdrawal symptoms.
When it’s time to stop taking the medication, you’ll usually taper off your usage gradually over a few days or weeks. Opioids can cause drowsiness, so don’t drive or drink alcohol while you are taking them. If you notice any bothersome side effects, contact your doctor right away.
Cancer can undermine your emotional and physical health. Even if you’re not seeing the impact yet, it’s a good idea to get positive habits in place. This will make future stresses easier to deal with. However, if things start to get too difficult, it’s important to talk to your doctor as soon as you can.