I never really understood why getting a wave of heat could be such a problem for women going through "menopause"! That was until my mother would constantly talk about how difficult it was to sleep straight through the night – having to constantly get out from under the covers, change the sheets, try to get back to sleep to only be awoken 30 minutes later with yet another hot flash (aka night sweat).

With a new understanding of what awaits many women – I decided to not only help my mom out, but spend a little more time bringing this knowledge into my private practice.

Bio-identical Hormone Therapy has become the talk of the 30-40 something crowd. An increasing amount of younger women experience what most would call "menopause" symptoms such as:

• hot flashes
• night sweats
• insomnia
• bloating
• depression
• anxiety
• vaginal dryness
• decrease libido

Due to the use of synthetic plastics (explanation maybe?), hormone therapy in dairy and poultry markets and the use of birth control, women are being exposed to high amount of "xenoestrogens" which mimic our bodies natural estrogens, and also work at sending mixed messages to the other hormone regulating systems in the body (i.e. thyroid).

While bio-identical hormone therapy (the use of natural progesterones and estrogens that are 'identical' to our bodies own hormones) is one way to treat these symptoms – this is often pricey and requires specific testing. The testing is completed by using a saliva collection kit, in which patients spit into 11 tubes – this kit is then sent out to a specialized laboratory in the United States for analysis. After testing is completed, an individual hormone cream is developed for the patient.

But what if you don't have the time or the money to get your hormone levels tested? There are fortunately many options out there that are simple and inexpensive ways to combat PMS / Menopausal symptoms:

• Hot Flashes: Eating or drinking hot or spicy foods, alcohol or caffeine, feeling stressed, or being in a hot place can bring on hot flashes. Try to avoid any triggers. If you can, dress in layers, and keep a fan in your home or workplace. Regular exercise might also ease hot flashes, but sometimes bring one on.

• Vaginal Dryness: A vaginal moisturizer (found in most large health food store chains) can provide lubrication and help keep needed moisture in vaginal tissues. Extreme vaginal dryness may need topical (trans-vaginal) Estriol Cream (which is a bio-identical hormone cream).

• Insomnia: One of the best ways to get a good night's sleep is to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week. But, don't exercise close to bedtime. Also avoid large meals, smoking, and working right before bedtime. Caffeine and alcohol should be avoided after noon. Drinking something warm before bedtime, such as herbal tea (no caffeine) or warm milk, might help you to feel sleepy. If hot flashes are the cause of sleep problems, treating the hot flashes will usually improve sleep.

• Memory problems: As people age, their memory is not as good as it once was. Some women say they have "fuzzy thinking" as they reach menopause. This may be caused by changing hormones and can improve over time. Getting enough sleep and keeping physically active can help. Keeping your mind active is also important – crossword puzzles, sudoku…… take your pick!

Taking charge of our health is the most beneficial thing that we can do. We are no longer confined to the conventional medical system for treatment options. By exploring the many different alternatives out there, you may just find there is a whole new way of living and feeling healthy.