by Tina Ding

Rhonda Jolliffe practices holistic medicine, with the majority of her patients seeking help for menopausal symptoms and treatment. And in thirteen years, she’s worked with a full spectrum of needs and individualized care for those patients.

An entire host of symptoms urge women to enlist in her help – to educate them in their specific situation. Though no two women’s bodies respond to the same treatment, every time, the fact remains that menopause is a normal process bringing each of us – as women – to the next phase in our lives, leaving child bearing years behind.

Women may first notice symptoms near age 45, although peri menopause may begin as early as age 35. Natural menopause lasts anywhere from 5 – 10 years. Post menopause becomes official once a woman has had no menstruation for one year.

Since every woman’s body reacts uniquely to menopause, each patient should be treated respectfully.
“What I do is look at their situation with a holistic perspective – probing first for risk factors, such as: cardiac disease, osteoporosis or breast cancer,” Lifeways Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner Rhonda Jolliffe MSN, FNP-BC, CN said. “For some, hormone replacement therapy is a great option and for others it is not, depending on their medical history and personal needs.”

Jolliffe reviews common symptoms of menopause with each woman, though not every woman will experience each. Some women move through menopause symptom-free, as others endure hot flashes, night sweats, fibroids, vaginal dryness or fuzzy thinking for many years. Since sleep issues or insomnia often result from low hormones, HRT and/or melatonin may be prescribed.

“For some, the quality of life may forever be changed as a result of hormone replacement therapy,” Jolliffe said. “When considering improved memory, sleep, low moods and overall functioning, it’s a nice option.”
Further, she said the fear of breast cancer as a result of the media on HRT has been a disservice to the health of women. “HRT needs to be individualized, determining risk factors, general health and overall symptoms,” she said.

Once controversial, today’s hormone replacement therapies offer women an entire host of choices for their specific need. In addition to treating the various symptoms, HRT can be important for prevention of many chronic diseases including heart disease, osteoporosis and alzheimers.

Today’s physicians and nurse practitioners may collaborate with pharmacists when considering some options for HRT to blend the right ingredients to customize medications for individual patients. Dosage, application method and even taste can be altered or compounded to suit each patient; some respond to pill form as others require a patch, a topical spray, cream or gel – applied in proximity to where the medication needs to be absorbed, as opposed to ingesting it directly into the bloodstream.
Although HRT works well for many women, it’s not for all.

And whether turning to HRT or going it alone, a healthy lifestyle will help prevent risks.

“The key to managing menopause lies in lifestyle,” Jolliffe said. “Menopause forces women to get healthy if they’ve not already chosen to do so. Now’s absolutely the time to eat healthy by eliminating refined sugars and foods, choose a low glycemic diet and limit alcohol. Smokers should stop. And exercise should be incorporated.”

Menopause may affect a woman’s body overnight. An otherwise healthy blood pressure can spike or cholesterol levels can elevate – increasing the risks for disease.

And so a woman needs to become fully aware of her body. Alert to what her body is saying to her. How her body is changing. And if seeking a holistic approach at Lifeways, she’ll become educated on the importance of lifestyle management as well as a basic understanding of hormones.

“It’s beyond managing the symptoms,” Jolliffe said. “The goal in working with menopause is to prepare for menopause before menopause, making changes for a lifetime.”

Rhonda Jolliffe ~ Lifeways ~ 1001 Gateway Avenue ~ Bismarck ~ 751.3271