Integrative Approach to Menopause

The Integrative Health and Wellbeing Program at NewYork-Presbyterian, in collaboration with Weill Cornell Medicine, offers customized, evidence-based care to patients who may not find relief in a more “typical” medical setting, explains Jillian Cohen, MD, fellowship director, clinical fellowship in Integrative Medicine and assistant professor of medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine.

Here Dr. Cohen discusses how WCM’s integrative healthcare options to promote overall wellbeing.

What exactly is the integrative approach to menopause, as it applies to care for Weill Cornell patients? What services and issues does it address? 

The integrative approach to menopause is the same as the integrative approach for all conditions: to fully evaluate what may be out of balance in a patient’s lifestyle, and to try to rectify that and offer solutions. We help inform and empower the patient to understand enough to take control of their health and take steps to rectifying the imbalance.

Sometimes we can help patients achieve that through mind-body exercises, herbs or supplements, dietary and nutritional changes, and sometimes we will utilize conventional medical approaches. 

Hot flashes are a good example of a symptom that lends itself well to a few possible integrative approaches. 

A well-studied herb called black cohosh can sometimes ease symptoms. It works by maintaining hormone levels, as hot flashes often are brought on by fluctuations in hormone levels--but it’s not recommended for everyone.

Meditation and hypnosis also are well studied and effective treatments for hot flashes, working on the mind-body aspect to change stress levels. Nutrition and vitamin levels also may have a role to play in hot flashes, and sometimes patients undergo acupuncture and perhaps other traditional Chinese medical approaches to find relief.

When should patients visit the center for relief—is there an optimal time?

Patients often patients wait until symptoms begin-- sometimes as long as six months to a year the onset. But we recommend coming to us before then, if possible.

Why is personalized medical care so important, particularly for women approaching and/or experiencing menopause? 

From our perspective, not all patients experience menopausal symptoms for the same reason or in the same way. People have different physiological constitutions, so we rely on a comprehensive approach to assess each patient individually to see how best we can help. 

We take a very comprehensive medical history, a close look at diet and nutrition, lifestyle, physical activity, stress levels, and even relationships. We also use the electronic medical record to make sure that we share applicable notes to other WCM providers, and contact them to discuss a patient’s status when necessary.

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