Today’s post is for the women readers. A reader writes in to us saying: “I’m 54 and, even though they’re winding down, menopausal periods over the last 2 years have been hell! Fibroids and hormonal crazies! I am on iron to keep my blood count up. Think I’m estrogen dependent. Never was on the pill or took soy.”
These are all very common symptoms many women are experiencing with menopause. The good news is many of them are simply symptoms of other issues that can be “healed” naturally. Menopausal and happy is possible!
WHAT IS MENOPAUSE?
With this shift in reproductive hormones, like estrogen and progesterone, women may not know that the vaginal inner ecosystem also changes. Researchers at the Lawson Health Research Institute in Ontario, Canada, have found that reduced numbers of good bacteria in the birth canal after menopause are associated with:
- Vaginal dryness
- Pain during intercourse
- Inflammation of vaginal tissue
This means that the microbes living in the birth canal may influence how quickly vaginal tissue ages.
THE VAGINAL INNER ECOSYSTEM
According to the Mayo Clinic, as vaginal tissue ages, it may come into less contact with the reproductive hormone estrogen. The “aging” of vaginal tissue happens because estrogen prompts the expression of genes that protect and nourish vaginal tissue, reducing dryness and irritation. Menopause means a dramatic shift in hormones that can change the vaginal inner ecosystem. Numbers of good bacteria in the birth canal may drop to cause vaginal dryness, tissue inflammation, and pain during intercourse.
Vulvovaginal atrophy (VVA) is a common condition, affecting as many as 47%-62% of women. Signs of VVA include:
- Pain during intercourse
- Urinary frequency, urgency, and incontinence
- Urinary tract infections
- Incontinence related to stress
An alkaline pH of 4.6 or more is used to help support the diagnosis of VVA. Interestingly, the microbes living in the birth canal are mostly lactic acid bacteria. Lactic acid bacteria produce lactic acid, which helps keep the birth canal slightly acidic and free from infection. Without enough lactic acid bacteria, other microbes have the opportunity to grow, inflame vaginal tissue, and cause infection.
THE VAGINAL INNER ECOSYSTEM CONTINUED
We have already discovered that we are bacterial beings. Our bodies are more bacteria than human! We are 80% good bacteria; they live on our skin, tissues, and in every one of our barrier systems (lungs, urinary tract, digestive tract, etc). Our health could be boiled down to the healthy ratio of good to bad bacteria on and in our body. Unless we take preventative lifestyle measures, it is the natural inclination that as we age, the healthy microbes living on/in our tissue dwindle. This means the vaginal canal as well!
The latest research tells us that probiotics may help manage the communities of vaginal microbes. Researchers at Johns Hopkins are even hopeful that probiotics might prevent or treat VVA in the future.
IRON DEFICIENCY RED FLAG
Iron deficiency is a common symptom that goes along with other menopausal symptoms. In fact, menopause itself is a symptom! But first let’s address the iron issue. In short, iron deficiency is not usualy as simple not “getting enough iron.” This is a huge red flag for digestive distress and adrenal fatigue, like most other menopausal problems are.
What usually is happening is that digestion s very poor in the individual experiencing menopause and showing iron deficiency in their blood work. This is due to their weak digestive tract not absorbing iron, not that the individual isn’t consuming enough. Therefore, taking iron only masks the real issue; poor digestion, assimilation and absorption.
Iron absorption requires strong stomach acid production. Stomach acid production decreases with age but doesn’t have too. Consuming digestive bitters, astringent and sour foods like fermented foods, raw greens and spices like turmeric and ginger all aid in HCL production. Taking a high quality HCL protein digestive supplement is a fantastic way to kick start your digestive fire along the way of dietary changes.
The adrenals and thyroid control digestion. When these glands are stressed from emotional stress, lack of sleep and poor quality food or excessive exercise, then we stop producing digestive enzymes and acids. The body recognizes these daily stressors as danger and send your body into fight-or-flight. Therefore, “stress management” is highly advised. I would recommend pursuing a spiritual journey through meditation, journaling and seeking a spiritual mentor to dissolve all stress at its core.
While you work on these things, you can help strengthen your adrenals and thyroid with a diet like The Body Ecology Diet, that removes sugar, digestive irritants and includes mineral rich and probiotic foods. Taking a mineral supplement may also be a great way to aid your body during the initial healing process.
HOW TO RESTORE YOUR INNER ECOSYSTEM AFTER MENOPAUSE
Unfortunately, we live in a society that focuses on disease rather than health, and drug therapy rather than natural preventive measures. It will take some time and effort to get remedies such as probiotics into the mainstream. Until then, you can role model the more healthy cultures of our world by using probiotic lactic acid bacteria to fight off harmful microbes.
These probiotic bacteria produce toxins that prevent harmful bacteria from sticking to vaginal tissue, they also modulate the immune system and interfere with the production of inflammation. Less inflammation means less tissue damage. To reap the rewards of probiotic foods try these things:
- Eat a small serving of fermented foods like raw sauerkraut, kim chi or fermented greens with each meal.
- Drink a few ounces of a fermented beverage with every meal.
Raw cultured food and liquids are far more potent than any probiotic pills you can find in the health foods stores. A 2 ounce shot of coconut kefir can contain up to 200 billion CFU’s of probiotics. Also, these living foods survive digestion and thrive in the human gut, where man pills/powders are questionable.