I was out having dinner with a few girlfriends, doing a bit of a catch-up. Suddenly, one of the women started furiously fanning herself.It was in the middle of winter and we had not even started our beef vindaloo!. Her forehead was lathered with beads of perspiration, her face reddened and she grew anxious. We all pretended not to notice, as we knew exactly what was going on. All being in our fifties, we too have had similar experiences and could certainly empathise. Whilst we make jokes about’ it”, sometimes “it” can be enough to drive us to drink or worse still, check out from this planet!
Of course, I am talking about that dreadful state of being called menopause. When I was growing up I thought this was a misnomer, and it was really women just having a pause from men. That could be possibly a truth in itself. Menopause can be a devastating experience for a lot of women. This stage of life is defined as the last menstrual cycle, indicating the end of fertility. That in itself gets the thumbs up!
This occurs when the body’s natural secretions of progesterone, testosterone and oestrogen (in the form of Oestradiol) is reduced and due to diminished ovarian follicles preventing the endometrium from proliferating. This leads to no more shedding of the uterus and the appearance of other symptoms. Apart from the obvious, no monthly cycles and no more emergency runs to the nearest 7/11 for supplies at ungodly hours! Yehah! The relevance of the diminished level of these hormones can make a woman more vulnerable to an outbreak of histrionics, mental amnesia and other disorders. Oestrogen while predominately a reproductive hormone is also essential for normal functioning of cells containing oestrogen receptors. Organs like our bladder, breasts, skin, bones, arteries, heart, liver and brain too have eostrogen receptors. No wonder we go mad ! We can not think straight, we become forgetful, irritable,irrational and teary. What may have been a simple decision years ago may too great to even contemplate now. I thought I was going mad(well madder than usual), yet I have been luckier than some, as I know how to manage this so called condition.
Whilst normal age of menopause is between the age of 40 and 55, it may vary with age and of course a woman’s individuality. I went through “the change” as my gynecologist put it, when I was 46. Could you imagine my disgust, when she used this term. At that stage I would have attempted to put my stiletto through any bodies eyeballs, should they cross me, even if it was trivial. The hormonal changes that occur affects you in all aspects of your life with some women not being affected. However the severity can depend on the woman’s personal and medical history.
Eighty-five percent of women experience at least one or some of the following symptoms with ten percent seeking assistance from a health practitioner, a GP, naturopath or a nutritionist. Symptoms may include irregular periods with changes in bleeding patterns. This can disrupt sleep, and cause fatigue. Hot flushes , as a result of hormone changes particularly our follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). Insomnia,lack of energy and/or self-esteem, depression, reduced libido, achy joints and a lot of unwanted hair on our chins. This time can produce a thickening of the waist line and Vaginal dryness. Falls in estrogen cause vaginal walls to become atrophic, and drier which can lead to itching, irritation or pain during intercourse. Sounds like fun! Skin becomes drier. You may experienc the urge to pee more often or the odd leaking when you laugh, cough and sneeze. there may be associated pain when urinating as well .
These symptoms can be so overwhelming that it may be life altering, Understatement of the year. I know of husbands leaving their wives, because of their “dry vagina”. Some women turn into feral animals caught in a cage with an acceptance that this is a natural phenomenon which will pass if we keep moving through “it”. But should we accept this as fact and a part of life and realise, that it is” what it is”, or should we at least attempt to modify this radical change.
If there is any consolation, it is about management. It’s not that we can avoid “it”, but we can modulate these changes through what we eat, how we live and how we think. First before we rush out to our GPS and demand hormone replacement therapy, why not make some small but significant changes in our diet and life style, after all , we are what we eat , inside and out. What goes into our mouth is probably underestimated, and certainly what we drink as well! Food is our natural resource at restoring the balance of the hormones that change naturally altering our behaviour.
Our slowing metabolism requires less input which means less food and a better quality of food is needed.With lowered mood and energy levels there is an increasing demand for all the B Vitamins. We can never get enough of these vitamins. B vitamins are essential to assist in time of additional stress , emotional and physical. Essential for hormonal synthesis and helps regulate the nervous system. Less mental pauses, means we can carry on as a “normal human being”. Omega threes will assist with dry skin protecting the outer barrier of every cell within your body. Extra calcium is required so we don’t get brittle bones and other growths in our joints. Leafy greens, bony fish like salmon and sardines are a great source. Magnesium sometimes called the wonder mineral, it is not only a muscular-relaxant, but plays a major role in neuro-synthesis, regulation of hormones and in the creation of energy.Vitamin D is also recommended. We all know that exposure to the sun for about twenty minutes a day is beneficial as a way of getting this vitamin. Eating eggs having cod liver oil and milk will top up your levels.
We also need more anti –oxidants. A higher than normal level of free radicals are being produced through our day to day function. Anti-oxidants will neutralise these molecules and whist they do, they just might help slow down the ageing process. Vitamin C, an anti-oxidant can be found in red capsicum, citrus fruits, parsley, broccoli and cabbage. Selenium, is necessary and can be found in onions, garlic and Brazil nuts.
So next time you reach for the 3rd glass of wine to get you through the day, you may like to consider another choice of beverage. Any one for chamomile tea? Take care of yourself and your mental state. Eat well and stay sane, as you are going to need all the help that you can get.
After all your life is “all about you”.
Caroline is a clinical Nutritionist practicing on a consultation basis. Caroline's experience encompasses research and writing on disease prevention with natural herbs, spices, foods and supplementation. Caroline practices holistic nutritional medicine that combines the three elements of being human. Those being, the physical , emotional and the mental components that make us who we are. All of these criterior is fueled by the fundamental of all health, food .