In history, menopause and aging have not always been viewed negatively. Women often greeted the absence of their period gladly; welcoming a time when they would be free of the burden of childbearing, their time and energy liberated for new things. Many cultures have revered wise old women. They were sought out for healing or guidance. Not so in our times. Now it is a put down to call something an old wives tale! It’s a way of saying that something is false, frivolous, or foolish.
First of all, are you really in menopause? Menopause is defined as the end of your period. For several years before that happens you will likely experience symptoms of perimenopause, which is the time when your hormones start wildly fluctuating, and your period becomes irregular. Kind of like being a teenager again, only with wrinkles.
In modern culture menopause is viewed as a medical condition which can be treated. Current treatments often include hormone replacement therapy, or HRT. HRT can ease symptoms of menopause such as irritability, anxiety, memory loss, or skin or hair changes. HRT has also been connected with reduced risk of heart disease and osteoporosis; and can help if you experience vaginal dryness or loss of sexual desire. But there are risks that have been associated with HRT too. Some studies have shown a connection to breast cancer, blood clots, high blood pressure and gall bladder disease. The trend these days is to use HRT for a short focused period of treatment, rather than a long term one, to address the most bothersome and persistent symptoms of menopause, the ones you really cannot live with.
There are many alternative and natural therapies to try if you feel you need help calming the beast. The first time you feel like Krakatoa getting ready to blow; that you feel puffy, flushed faced and damp, and everyone else looks slender and cool as a cuke; or that you’re jotting your name down and you have to pause for a moment, to think what it is; you may decide it’s time to explore your options. It’s actually a great time to think of the wisdom passed on by our ancestors. Our great grandmothers learned about beneficial plants at grandmother’s knee. Today we can go to the bookstore, health food store, or the internet to find healthy products that are good for menopausal symptoms.
For example, products containing soy, such as soy protein powder or soy milk; contain a substance similar to estrogen. Soy can be very helpful for calming hot flashes, but consult with your doctor if you have a history of breast cancer. Likewise, flax can help lower the risk of cancer and heart disease, and also turns out to be beneficial for many symptoms of menopause: mood swings, depression, and night sweats.
Optimal health is especially important for the years surrounding menopause. It is generally wise to take a multivitamin, and there are many supplements which can be particularly helpful. Vitamin E helps ease menopausal symptoms. Calcium and Vitamin D counteract bone loss. Bioflavonoids help heal tender gums.
Keeping your weight down and finding time for regular exercise is more important than ever. With loss of estrogen, many women find that they gain weight more easily. Build a habit of daily exercise; whether walking, some stretching and yoga, or simply some music and dancing in your kitchen. Exercise strengthens your heart and lungs, your muscles, and raises your metabolism so you’ll gain less weight. Exercise helps sharpen your mind, and can reduce fuzzy thinking. Regular exercise gets your blood flowing. Your energy flows, and your brain lights up.
And lastly, exercise can help to reduce stress. Unwind after exercising with a cup of herbal tea, something that’ll calm your moods and your body; and perhaps try a little aromatherapy as well, some oil on the inside of your arm, or a candle burning while you’re in the bathroom.
It may also be time to rethink menopause. Time to stop seeing menopause as the enemy. Time to accept it; even embrace it as a passage of your life. Find out as much as you can about it, and make informed choices that are best for you. There are many pathways to good health and well being. Menopause can be a door opening, if you make it so.