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Girl Talk: Maca, a possible natural remedy for Menopausal symptoms

Posted Dec 01 2012 3:05pm

…….….Disclaimer…..I am NOT a doctor, and it is not my intent in this post such as this to give medical advice. Although maca is a whole food and not a medicine, and has been extensively researched and generally considered safe, a proper implementation plan, either via one's own self study and experimentation, or through trained professionals such as herbalists/nutritionists/naturopaths, should be considered when making decisions on new foods.

 

Women sit or move to and fro, some old, some young, The young are beautiful, but the old are more beautiful than the young.
–Walt Whitman

 

Maca is one of my favorite whole foods. The radish looking plant, native to the mountains of Peru grows at and above 14,000 feet, and evolved to be a nutrient packed plant, in order to survive rough and frigid conditions in the Andes Mountains. One sniff of the extremely pleasant "Strawberry Ice Cream" scented powder tells you you have something special. For me, as a male, maca definitely lives up to it's claimed health benefits for males. However, the plant has a wealth of benefits for women, especially as women push into their 40's, 50's, 60's and beyond.

Addressing menopausal issues is one of the areas many women have reported positive results with maca. I've run across so many women raving about it, I felt it was at least worth presenting some of that general info, as opposed to just have it sit on my computer hard drive, hopefully presented in a more digestible way than the typical "guy-like" bunch of scientific and technical "mumbo-jumbo". Hence came the inspiration (and fun challenge) for my blog section call "Girl Talk" …………..

When a woman goes through menopause there is a conflict between the brain and the ovaries (according to Menstruation.com), which causes some confusion. The brain is still sending out messages to the ovaries to drop an egg but the ovaries have gone into retirement and are not responding as they normally did. Women may continue to have premenstrual symptoms, but no period because of this short-circuiting of a system that worked so well for years and years.

Many women will no longer submit to standard hormone replacement therapy and risk the dangers of synthetic and horse-derived hormone drugs like Premarin® and Prempro®. Doctors persist in prescribing these drugs even after the Women’s Health Initiative exposed their deadly side effects in 2002 and 2004.

Maca root is highly beneficial to women entering menopause, because Maca encourages an increase and then a balance between estrogen and progesterone. This increase in estrogen helps especially to reduce hot flashes and vaginal dryness.

Maca root also helps to increase libido, restoring sex drive that was lost during menopause. Maca root is also thought to help decrease the effects of memory loss and osteoporosis research has documented maca’s ability to improve sexual desire and fertility and reduce menopause-induced stress and weight gain, along with beneficial effects on lipid levels and bone density.

Maca induces favorable effects on blood lipid profiles and bone density markers, two parameters that decline drastically during menopause. The maca root does not contain plant estrogens but, instead, is an "adaptogen" (adaptagens are herbs and plants that help the body adjust to environmental and internal factors that put stresses on the body).

Maca operates differently than other natural interventions for menopause, promoting optimal function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis that governs hormone levels in the body.

There seems to be a defection from the heavily promoted HRT (hormone replacement therapy) trend, with an increasing number of women not feeling right about consuming hormone pills to stifle the undesired effects of a natural hormonal shift.

With HRT's come the risk that are now widely known, blood clots, and increased risks of breast and uterine cancers. For an increasing number of women, short-term reliefs of Hormone Replacement Therapy don't add up to be worth the health risks.

Conversely, there are no well-known adverse reactions with the use of maca. However, the toxicological profile of maca indicates that it has a low acute and subacute potential for acute oral toxicity. People with thyroid conditions should avoid maca because it contains glucosinolates, substances that induce goiter formation.

Also keep in mind that anyone, hypothetically, can have a food allergy to any food, or can have seemingly negative reactions that might be temporary, as some extremely healthy foods and herbs have the initial effect of pushing toxins out of the body, causing temporary bouts of bad skin, dry mouth, or whatever. 

An international team based at Charles Sturt University in Australia has added substantially to these findings through extensive research in humans using an organic, standardized maca extract. Their first study, a pilot, placebo-controlled test among early postmenopausal women, showed encouraging results: there were significant changes in the “background” hormones that influence sex hormone secretion, resulting in increased estrogen and progesterone levels after 8 months of supplementation.The maca extract stimulated production of estradiol while simultaneously suppressing FSH levels—a nearly unprecedented induction of hormonal balance

The full documentation of the study can be found here , for those who like to dive deep and do their own homework into the subject matter.

In the same study, there was also a significant increase in beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) in supplemented women—but not in controls. Most importantly, from the women’s own experiences, maca significantly reduced both the frequency and severity of individual menopausal symptoms, particularly hot flashes and night sweats.

The authors of the study found in Maca, as they put it, “an attractive non-hormonal addition to the choices available to early-postmenopausal women in the form of a natural plant alternative to Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)—hence, reducing dependence on hormone therapy programs.”

My advice to women might similar to my experimenting with the herbal testosterone booster, "Tongkat", is to TAKE YOUR TIME, start with partial doses for a few weeks, and then find your own unique dosage. Maca root actually can theoretically exasperate your hormonal symptoms and make them worse. It’s also an energy booster, in that one woman wrote that "I was feeling like my heart was beating faster all the time".

For me the blogwriter(as a male) there was definitely an energy boost from Maca, but amazingly smooth and natural, as opposed to the type of "jolt" that you would get from, say caffeine. Also it "seemed" like Maca help my sleep patterns get better, perhaps since I was more in balance.

One woman made the following comment about taking maca: "I felt a heap of stress and I couldn't sleep at night. In fact, my herbalist is not a fan of maca and does not recommend it. The only reason he agreed that perhaps I should continue to take it was because for the past week with continued use of the Maca, my skin has started to clear".

"I’ve been happy all the time and not anxious or depressed at all. In other words, maybe my hormones have finally balanced out. Maybe it’s from the maca, or maybe not. He suggested that I keep taking it because it’s working, but if I experience the crazy PMT and mood symptoms again, that I should immediately stop taking it".

Many variables exist, and it's up to the individual if she wants to look into maca. I suppose there are three (or more) possible approaches, One is to ask your doctor. I personally never take that route because they seem to always have very little information for me.

Number two is the converse with an herbalist, nutritionist, naturopath, or other trained/licensed professional. A good option if you can find a good one.

I am from the third camp, in that I will just experiment with things on my own, as long as it's a whole food, since I do extensive homework, I am in tune with my body, and have no known food allergies.

If one makes the decision to see what is up with Maca, make sure you DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Not just with the issues pertaining to consuming a new food, especially one that affects hormone levels in the body, but as equally important is that you have to find a quality product.

To make the decision to see what nature has to offer, start a plan, and then buy a bogus product that doesn't work is a very common experience. At that point you will probably never try Maca again and might miss out on one of Nature's gifts. I have some reliable companies that I purchase from that I list below.

My general notes about concerns in trying something new:

As I said before, I am no doctor, just a person who tries to stay informed on health and wellness issues,  but my point is that anyone's biochemistry can have different reaction from any new food.

An herbalist at Life Spring Health Food Store in Chicago taught me that all herbs affect either our yin or yang, and we have to get in tune to with our body's reactions to what we take in. For example, certain Ginsengs, and even excessive green tea, make me (the blogwriter) a little too "wired".

As I keep saying, IT'S OK TO BE AFRAID of something new, but at least DON'T BE AFRAID TO LOOK INTO SOMETHING NEW.

Maca gave me such a positive "vibration", and great sense of balance and well being when I started with it, that's why I'm taking the time to write about it if this writing can perhaps be of help to others.  This whole thing is about, in one sentence,  using all that is at our disposal to become interactively involved with our health and well being.

 

My favorite recommended maca brands

MacaSure

MacaMagic (this is the only one I see locally, like at Whole Foods and Health Food Stores)

Imperial Gold Maca (I would recommend their "geletanized maca" which is the version clinical studies are based on, and is highly digestible and processable by the body)

I currently order my maca bulk from one of the following web-stores

Natural Zing

Raw Guru

Nuts Online

Although I take testimonials on websites that sell maca with a grain of salt, I do get value out of testimonials from people (like me) taking their time to get on the web and present what they think is a great product. A few Maca testimonials can be found below:

A woman writes about how her patience with maca has paid off in many ways.

A woman who has a blog called "The PMS Warrior" says there is no "magic bullet" , but talks about why Maca is such a special food

The full research paper called "Therapeutic Effects of Pre-Gelatinized Maca  used as a non-hormonal alternative to HRT in perimenopausal women", from Charles Sturt University in Australia can be found here

 

….I hope this post serves as a good "starting point" for anyone interested in this subject, but doesn't have time to look into and/or doesn't enjoy researching these things 

~stay healthy~

 

<<<<<Check out all of my articles in "Girl Talk"

 

 

 

 

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