Such is the human condition that we are usually and unfortunately more excited by drama than comedy, by the gruesome rather than the beautiful, the bad news rather than the good.
Struth! I can hear you wince, what has possessed Elyane to this melancholic musing? Well… Take menopause for instance. Most people nowadays are expecting that this is going to be a life shuttering experience and that the minute your hormonal balance is short of perfect you are going to behave like a lunatic and your life will be miserable for evermore.
This sort of stories abound, but about the good ones? Does any one want to know that many people, like yours truly, have never had any negative signs of the menopause? That the only symptom was that the period simply stopped?
For instance, did you know that a comparative study of rural Mayan Indian women living in Mexico and rural Greek women showed that the menopause was seen as a liberating stage; with increased freedom and improved sexual relationships because of no fear of unwanted pregnancy. These women enjoyed increased power and respect in their culture after the menopause. The Mayan had no symptoms whatsoever, the Greek experienced flushing and cold sweats but this was considered to be a natural and temporary stage which needed no medical treatment.
Another study showed that, compared to American women, Japanese women experienced lower rate of bone fracture, lower rate of cancer and only 10% suffered from menopausal symptoms which happened to be mostly flushing.
Another survey actually showed that in fact there were improvements after the menopause:
- 40-51 per cent had fewer headaches
- 46-48 per cent had less breast tenderness
- 20-24 per cent had less social dysfunction.
Some women do experience horrendous symptoms but is it normal or is it common?
Child abuse is common but it is not normal. Menopausal problems may be common but they are certainly not normal. Most cases of bad change of life are simply pre-existing problems that cannot be no longer controlled simply because the woman is too run down.
Is there a way to avoid these common problems and enjoy a normal, healthy, good Change of Life? Well I thought you’d never ask!
To look for solutions once horrible symptoms start plaguing you is like bolting the stable door after the horse has run away. The change of life is a normal occurrence in humans (by the way many mammalian species never go through it from rats to elephants) the body simply start producing less and less of the hormones that it had been producing since puberty (progesterone and oestrogen), however there should still be plenty to go around as the body continues making enough hormones to keep us alive and well. The body is going to respond stressfully to any physiological changes, the trick is to keep your body well tuned so that it can cope with these changes.
Oestrogen metabolism takes place in the liver, adrenal glands, fat, muscle tissue and intestines as well as in the reproductive system. So now you understand why smoking, drinking and taking drugs (this includes medical drugs), which affect the liver negatively, affect oestrogen production and storage. Stress affects the adrenal glands; being too thin will affect oestrogen storage.
Therefore having a life style with a sensible diet full of fresh and whole foods, regular exercise and a system to control stress (not just meditation or yoga, but also simple hobbies that give you pleasure) should be adopted in your late twenties and early thirties. When you avoid excessive drinking, smoking, drugs and sugary foods your friends might think you are weird but you get your revenge when you turn fifty and are happy and gorgeous and they are devastated and desperate for the hormone replacements.
ALMOST MAGIC BULLETS
In the past couple of years a lot has been written and seen in the media about Phyto-oestrogens (oestrogen from plants). It is important to know than those phyto-oestrogen are actually not oestrogen replacements what they do is stimulate the body’s own ability to continue producing hormones.
There are many types of phyto-oestrogens but the following ones are the best because they are readily available and you can simply include them in your diet, in fact cultures where these foods are used regularly tend to be free of problematic menopause. You can use them as herbs in your food or have them regularly as herbal teas.
- Aniseed, Fennel, Celery seeds, Parsley, Sage and Red Clover are very common and do not need to be bought expensively in fancy packages.
- Sage and Red Clover are particularly good even after symptoms have struck, they are great to control flushing and night sweats.
- Oats are great for energy and the nervous system, so the humble porridge will serve you well.
- Oats green are a great sedative.
- Linden tea is excellent both for insomnia and night sweats.
Wild Yam in rub on cream form is very popular. The interesting thing is that it actually does not have a hormonal effect. But! Because it is in fact an anti-inflammatory it actually helps with the aches and pains that occur with ageing (for females and males).
“What about Soya products? I hear you clamour, That’s the ‘in thing’, isn’t it?”
Again, getting stuck into mountains of soya beans the minute you hit 50 is not going to do you any good. Besides, soya products (depending on how they have been processed) can cause a very upsetting reaction in the gut. So what is the best thing to do?
By all means start introducing soya in your diet. One of the best and most active form (and incidentally, the cheapest) is bean sprouts. You know, those things that you have seen in Chinese food for decades and that you can buy in the supermarket for $1.49. The best way to have them is to chuck them in a salad, stir fry, casserole or soup just before you are ready to serve them. A handful a day can definitely help keep the HRT away.
Tofu, because it is already processed is much easier to assimilate. You can also mix into all sorts of recipes. Don’t eat it raw, it will give you a belly ache.
Soy milk is only good depending on who makes it. My advice is when you buy some soya milk look at the contents and if it has too many chemicals in it don’t buy it. As a general rule the organic ones are better and only a few cents more.
HOWEVER! Many, many people find that soy products including soy milk causes so if you start getting as flatulent as your horse, give the soy away.
Do not think that ‘added calcium’ is necessarily a good thing. Usually the added calcium is calcium carbonate or calcium triphosphate, which are extremely cheap and mostly indigestible. And this brings me to the next subject that causes a lot of stress about the menopause.
NO BONES ABOUT CALCIUM!
One of the fears that make women reach for the HRT is that if they don’t, their bones will crumble.Well, take a load of this statistic: The rate of men dying of from a non-traumatic fracture in Australia is the same as that of women. [Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue no 3303.0] One can hardly say that this is due to the fact that they were oestrogen deficient and did not take their HRT!
The best way to make sure your bones will not crumble with age is to have enough calcium in your diet.
Foods rich in Calcium:
- Yogurt is one of the best, it has three times the content of milk and which is assimilable (whereas many people can’t tolerate milk).
- Ricotta and parmesan.
- Green leafy vegetables
- Shellfish, mackerel, sardines, salmon.
- Molasses (but you need an organic source, the non-organic has too many chemical residues)
- Seaweed (as in Japanese food)
Bones. Don’t worry you don’t have to turn into Rover: if you simply cook bones in a soup and add a tablespoon of cider vinegar to the broth, this will make the calcium available -and it won’t take sour. Use the broth in a soup or casserole.
Some people always remind me that sesame seeds are the best and richest source of calcium. This is true but to get 500mgr of calcium you need to eat 50 grams of tahini. Not only this is so fatty it would make you sick, but it is also fattening and expensive. On the other hand, one cup of natural yogurt will give almost the same amount of calcium and is more digestible.
A good supplement
A lot of the calcium you buy is actually calcium carbonate (aka: chalk) in fancy packaging. It is almost un-assimilable and I would not give it to my horses (I give them di-calcium phosphate). The one really good calcium that is 100% assimilable is calcium hydroxyhepatate.
How about vaginal dryness?
Here is something your mother definitely did not tell you about! This is not just hormonal. The good news for riders is that the kind of exercise one does when riding actually loosens up the lower back, especially the sacrum.
Improve the blood circulation to the area by massaging the sacrum (which is the large triangular bone at the base of the spine) and by doing the kind of exercises pregnant women do such as squatting and rocking the pelvis. And of course, ride more.
Increase your intake of vitamin A (cod liver oil), vitamin E (apricot or wheatgerm oil) and omega-3 oils.
Use natural lubricants. Petroleum based lubricants actually cause more dryness, they are only good for medical examinations. The best base for a lubricant is aqueous cream that you buy at your chemist (it’s quite cheap). In my clinic I make up lubricants for my patients but I use different herbs in them. A good combination is to use aqueous cream with a little Aloe vera in it, or try just plain aqueous cream. A good one is called Sylk, which you get from your chemist. Do NOT use essential oils in a lubricant.
If nothing works you can try pessaries that will be prescribed by your doctor. They have tiny amounts of oestrogen which only work locally and are not absorbed systemically, so it is definitely not using HRT and you only need to use them twice a week for maintenance.
(c) Dr Elyane T Brightlight PhD, 1999.Pre-scriptum: all references re-studies available if wanted.