Doctor Nancy Lonsdorf answers questions on the symptoms of menopause and the benefits of Transcendental Meditation

Q: I've read that Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is dangerous and can cause cancer. But I'm suffering from insomnia, anxiety and night sweats. Can the Transcendental Meditation technique help me?

Dr. Lonsdorf: While hormone therapy (HT) is effective at relieving menopause-related symptoms such as yours, it has been shown to increase breast cancer risk, as well as blood clots, stroke and heart attacks in older women. Therefore, it is used now as a "last resort," when symptoms are intolerable and all safer treatments have not given relief. In fact, research has so completely disproved the idea that the body needs replacement of reproductive hormones after menopause that the term has been changed from "Hormone Replacement Therapy" (HRT) to Hormone Therapy (HT), indicating that hormones that decline naturally with age do not need "replacing," but may be used as a medical therapy if needed.

Even Bioidentical Hormone Therapy, heralded by some as a "safe" hormone alternative, is not yet adequately researched and likely carries similar risks. Fortunately, most women with menopause-related symptoms can be helped with safer, more natural approaches.

Since stress is a trigger for common menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and sleep problems, helping the body handle stress better is likely to help. The Transcendental Meditation program has been shown to reduce anxiety twice as effectively as other relaxation and meditation techniques and is highly effective at reducing stress, a major contributor to menopausal symptoms. Practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique for twenty minutes twice a day has been shown to lower cortisol (a stress hormone), reduce stress, improve sleep and lift mood. Curbing excess cortisol production might also support the body's production of helpful reproductive hormones such as progesterone, according to some researchers.

In addition, research has shown that the Transcendental Meditation technique reduces heart attack risk in postmenopausal women, as well as reducing metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes. The Transcendental Meditation technique has helped alleviate mood swings and menopausal symptoms in many of my patients in midlife, as well as helping smooth their transition through this time that can be challenging in many ways. For all these reasons, I highly recommend the Transcendental Meditation technique as part of a comprehensive approach to managing menopausal symptoms.

Q: I feel tired all the time. Between my job and my family, I don't have any time for myself. Even if the Transcendental Meditation technique could help me, how could I possibly fit it into my day?

Dr. Lonsdorf:When we're tired, we don't think as clearly, are more distractible, and take longer to complete our tasks. We also may stay up too late trying to finish off what didn't get done due to inefficiency during the day. All this ends up creating a vicious cycle of fatigue, lack of rest, too much activity, and more fatigue. If 20 minutes of TM twice a day can break that cycle, it is well worth doing and will end up creating more time than it takes.

The Transcendental Meditation technique has been shown to provide a deep state of rest that refreshes both the mind and body. This results in improved sleep, increased job productivity, creativity and intelligence, as well as reduced anxiety, another drain on energy.

Many of my patients have reported that adding the Transcendental Meditation technique to their daily routine gives them greater clarity of mind and helps them get more done in less time. Most people find they spend 15–20 minutes here or there during the day just relaxing with the news or a magazine, chatting or otherwise trying to get themselves motivated. The Transcendental Meditation program is time taken truly for one's "self," our quiet, blissful inner self that is the source of our creativity and energy. Coming out of meditation, the mind is more settled and clear, which in the morning leaves you ready to dive into your work and in the evening refreshes you to enjoy your family more fully. If you are like most of my patients, you will find your time investment in TM well worth it, and both you and your loved ones will enjoy a happier, less stressed you!

Q: Is it more important to meditate or to exercise for good health?

Dr. Lonsdorf: Health is a result of balance of life. Balanced rest and activity both are needed and support one another. The Transcendental Meditation technique and exercise both have been shown to reduce anxiety, heart attack and stroke risk, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, as well as cancer deaths. Both benefit mind, body and health, yet one deeply rests and relaxes the body, and the other strengthens and invigorates it.

The Transcendental Meditation technique is the most fundamental thing you can do–it enlivens consciousness, which is at the basis of everything. Research shows that practicing this one simple technique improves relationships, mental focus, emotional health, job satisfaction and overall health. By developing consciousness, it provides a holistic way to develop balance in every aspect of life.

Better to choose both for longer life and good health. And if someone is not doing either at this time, I recommend starting with the Transcendental Meditation technique. It will give more clarity of mind and creativity, and that will support the ability to fit in the exercise too.

Nancy Lonsdorf, M.D.

Nancy Lonsdorf, M.D. is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She is a nationally renowned specialist in natural health and women's health issues. The author of The Ageless Woman: Natural Health and Beauty After Forty, she has been featured frequently in the national media, including National Public Radio, CNN and The Phil Donahue Show.