Rock your menopause

Living Now - - Contents - by Casey Con­roy

Women in midlife are at a cross­roads: ei­ther we can con­tinue liv­ing with jobs, relationships, and poor health sit­u­a­tions that we have out­grown, or we can do the in­ner work that our bod­ies and hor­mones are call­ing out for.

Afull 85% of women suf­fer hot flushes, vagi­nal dry­ness, and emo­tional tur­bu­lence dur­ing menopause, and to top it off we are told that our risk of heart dis­ease and of os­teo­poro­sis is ris­ing! But does it have to be this way? Most of us know some women who seem to sail through menopause, and come out the other side stronger, wiser, and full of vi­tal­ity.

In the last decade more women than ever have wo­ken up to the power that menopause can bring, and have used it to their full ad­van­tage. Some of the most beau­ti­ful, in­tel­li­gent, and lus­cious women I know are in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and be­yond. In a se­niors’ yoga class I ran at a med­i­cal cen­tre, one sparkly-eyed 90-some­thing-year-old lady (who looked younger than some women in their late 60s) un­hesi­tat­ingly shared with me the se­crets of a good mar­riage – and a good sex life. “Eat lots of good food, drink good wine. And tell him what you want, be­cause he wants very much to please you.”

A few years ago I learnt some­thing very in­ter­est­ing about the way women’s hor­mones be­have once we’ve passed through menopause. We have two hor­mones LH (lutein­is­ing hor­mone) and FSH (fol­li­cle stim­u­lat­ing hor­mone) – an­te­rior pi­tu­itary hor­mones that di­rect the be­hav­iour of an egg de­vel­op­ing in ei­ther of our ovaries. In pre-menopausal women, these two hor­mones nor­mally peak around ovu­la­tion and stay low for the rest of the cy­cle. So at ev­ery ovu­la­tion, the point at which we are most elec­tric, ir­re­sistible, and open to cross-pol­li­na­tion from all sources, our lev­els of LH and FSH peak dras­ti­cally – but they don’t stay there.

How­ever, once we have stopped men­stru­at­ing and are of­fi­cially menopausal, these two hor­mones re­main at high lev­els for the rest of our lives. It’s akin to AC (al­ter­nat­ing cur­rent) and DC (di­rect cur­rent) when think­ing of the flow of elec­tric charge: be­fore menopause, we are al­ter­nately open and closed to the chang­ing cur­rent of univer­sal wis­dom.

Af­ter menopause, we are wide open to a di­rect, con­stant cur­rent of in­tu­ition and wis­dom. They are not called the wis­dom years for noth­ing.

No other stage in a woman’s life has as much po­ten­tial for al­low­ing women to un­der­stand and har­ness her own power, as does menopause. For those women who man­age to nav­i­gate through the choppy waters of cul­tural neg­a­tiv­ity that have sur­rounded menopause for eons, this stage spells new­found free­dom, vi­tal­ity and power. For those who don’t take the vi­tal steps needed to ne­go­ti­ate these waters, and who don’t ad­dress the emo­tional bag­gage that comes up dur­ing this time, the body will cry out with se­vere hot flushes, night sweats, and all man­ner of emo­tional tur­bu­lence un­til we turn our at­ten­tion to­wards mak­ing changes.

Our cul­ture tells us that, when it comes to menopause, we’re in for a rocky ride and there’s noth­ing we can do about it. So we may as well don the glam me­tal pants, play some loud ACDC and re­ally rock it! And that means tak­ing the self-care steps nec­es­sary to make this epic jour­ney as en­joy­able as pos­si­ble. If we take the time to ob­serve our body’s mes­sages, process our emo­tional bag­gage, and take ac­tion, the jour­ney may not be quite as rocky as we are taught to ex­pect.

Love your adrenals

Those no­to­ri­ous menopausal symp­toms are partly due to chronic de­ple­tion of a woman’s meta­bolic stores over her life­time.

A healthy woman with strong adrenals and gen­er­ally good nu­tri­tion tran­si­tions eas­ily into this stage.

Her adrenal glands grad­u­ally take over hor­monal pro­duc­tion from the ovaries. Un­for­tu­nately, many women ap­proach menopause in such a state of emo­tional, adrenal and nu­tri­tional de­ple­tion that the hor­monal shifts can be jar­ring and over­whelm­ing.

If you find it hard to get out of bed, rely on su­gar and caf­feine for en­ergy, and sleep poorly, your adrenals are prob­a­bly in need of some TLC. Longterm stress has caused the stress hor­mones adren­a­line and cor­ti­sol to be pumped out in ex­cess for years, dis­turb­ing the bal­ance be­tween cor­ti­sol and DHEA, and set­ting you up for fa­tigue and se­vere menopausal symp­toms. Un­re­solved emo­tional stress, en­vi­ron­men­tal tox­ins, too lit­tle or too much ex­er­cise, and poor diet fur­ther aug­ment the sit­u­a­tion.

So what can you do to sup­port your adrenals, and rock your menopause? A wide va­ri­ety of options ex­ist. We have the lux­ury of ac­cess­ing the best of West­ern med­i­cal knowl­edge com­bined with com­ple­men­tary modal­i­ties in­clud­ing med­i­ta­tion and herbs to pro­vide the best pos­si­ble in­di­vid­u­alised care. Here are the most use­ful steps I’ve found as an in­te­gra­tive nu­tri­tion­ist to as­sist women at this turn­ing point in their lives.

Nu­tri­tion

Eat a high qual­ity, whole­food diet with min­i­mal re­fined su­gar, caf­feine, hy­dro­genated fats, and al­co­hol. Avoid strict fasts or cleanses which will fur­ther weaken you. Get ad­e­quate protein at each meal – this doesn’t have to be from an an­i­mal source. Eat a diet abun­dant in plant foods, es­pe­cially those high in phy­toe­stro­gens such as flaxseed meal and oil, nuts, fer­mented soy foods such as tem­peh, legumes, pars­ley, fen­nel and whole­grains. Mid­dle-aged Ja­panese women eat­ing a tra­di­tional diet rich in soy foods rarely re­port menopausal symp­toms.

Fi­nally, en­sure you have enough of the fol­low­ing vi­ta­mins and min­er­als, as they are cru­cial for healthy adrenals: • Vi­ta­min C (for adrenal blood sup­ply): 500 to 2000mg in di­vided doses over the day • Vi­ta­min B5 (for en­ergy pro­duc­tion): 25 to 50mg, taken along with the rest of the B com­plex • Folic acid: at least 800mcg per day –

within a good B com­plex • Mag­ne­sium (to ex­pe­ri­ence op­ti­mal en­ergy): 300 to 800mg per day, in di­vided doses. Use mag­ne­sium fu­marate, cit­rate, gly­ci­nate or malate. Trans­der­mal mag­ne­sium is great for in­creas­ing lev­els of DHEA, which re­verses many of the un­favourable ef­fects of ex­cess cor­ti­sol. • Vi­ta­min D: A hor­mone as well as a vi­ta­min, which af­fects ev­ery cell in the body. En­sure safe lev­els of ex­po­sure to sun­light, or sup­ple­ment with up to 5000IU per day.

Herbal medicine

Adap­to­gens such as Siberian gin­seng (Eleuthe­ro­coc­cus sen­ti­co­sus) and licorice ( Gly­cyrrhiza glabra) are help­ful for adrenal func­tion. Take one 100mg cap­sule of Siberian gin­seng twice a day, be­fore 3pm if it’s too stim­u­lat­ing. Licorice can be taken as a tea or part of a herbal tinc­ture pre­pared for you by a herbal­ist or natur­opath. Chaste tree ( Vi­tex agnus- cas­tus) has been ex­ten­sively re­searched as a hor­mone bal­anc­ing botan­i­cal, while black co­hosh ( Cimi­cifuga race­mosa), sage ( Salvia of­fic­i­nalis) and Dong quai ( An­gel­ica sinen­sis) are help­ful for hot flushes. Get a qual­i­fied nat­u­ral health pro­fes­sional to ad­vise you on how to take these.

Emo­tional free­dom

Dr. Chris­tiane Northrup likens menopause to “ado­les­cence in re­verse – the same stormy emo­tions we ex­pe­ri­enced dur­ing pu­berty of­ten re­turn, urg­ing us to com­plete the un­fin­ished busi­ness of our early years”. Many women find them­selves leav­ing 20- or 30-year mar­riages, chang­ing ca­reers, trav­el­ling ex­ten­sively, re­vamp­ing their phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance, and redefin­ing their val­ues.

It’s much like our teenage years, ex­cept this time we have a life­time of ex­pe­ri­ence and many more tools to bring to the ta­ble to fa­cil­i­tate our meta­mor­pho­sis.

In the same way that PMS is the wake-up call of the monthly cy­cle, and SAD (sea­sonal af­fec­tive dis­or­der) is the wake-up call of the an­nual cy­cle, peri-menopause is the wake-up call of the en­tire life cy­cle. It is the cru­cial time to ad­dress what is not work­ing in our lives and to burn away the dross so that we can re-emerge re­born; able to live fully and au­then­ti­cally. As I men­tioned in the men­strual health ar­ti­cle, there is a price to pay for hit­ting the snooze but­ton ev­ery time we ex­pe­ri­ence PMS. If you rou­tinely pop a few Panadol, rage inces­santly, and/or curse your re­pro­duc­tive bi­ol­ogy in­stead of pay­ing at­ten­tion to how you’re deal­ing with the health and emo­tional is­sues in your life… just wait and see what hap­pens dur­ing menopause when 50 years of un­re­solved stuff hits you!

Whether you’ve ex­pe­ri­enced reg­u­lar PMS through­out your pre-menopausal life or not, there is much we can do to char­ter the peri-menopausal waters safely so that we come out the other side with our health in bloom, and make our way through the rest of life for­ti­fied with pur­pose, plea­sure, and in­sight.

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