Menopause is a fundamental transition that all women go through and can encompass 5-10% of a woman’s lifetime. In other cultures, women who have crossed into menopause are highly respected and are considered wise, yet our society obsesses with looking young forever and tries to hide this inevitable phase. Do we really need to add more stress to ourselves? Can we not just embrace our destiny? I’m not saying throw away your attempts at staying healthy and looking nice but instead of being overly critical about every line and freckle, maybe we should learn to appreciate the new qualities we have acquired.
The stage before menopause is called perimenopause. This is when the ovaries slow down estrogen production, which decreases the chance of ovulation. Without ovulation, progesterone levels will drop and this can cause symptoms like hot flashes, insomnia, mental fogginess, and headaches. Every woman will experience the transition of menopause differently. About 80% of women over 50 have experienced hot flashes. Hot flashes can raise the temperature of the skin up to 6 degrees Celsius and increase the heart rate. Night sweats are also common and while this disrupts the quality of sleep, it also affects our adrenal function, which plays a role in anxiety and fatigue. Heavy and frequent bleeding is also common and can lead to anemia.
Some of the common triggers for hot flashes are stress, vasodilators like coffee, spicy food and alcohol, smoking and excess weight. Intense aerobic exercise can also increase incidences. Yoga is a wonderful practice to add to your life during the menopausal transition. Research shows that doing yoga for 8-10 weeks decreases hot flashes and improves sleep quality and of course, helps build core strength, which, we all need. When hormones start to decrease the skin can become thin, and you may start to lose more of your hair. A healthy intake of fatty acids can make a big difference. Taking Vitamin E, Royal Jelly and applying moisturizing rich oils to the skin can help.
In the past women have tried Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and Bio-identical Hormones but evidence has shown that with this, come chances of stroke, cancer, dementia and other risks. There are a number of things a woman can do to help ease them through menopause. Using herbs has proven to minimize symptoms. Sage (Salvia officinalis) can be used to reduce hot flashes and night sweats. Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa) has anti-spasmodic properties; aids in sleep, blood flow, and may reduce blood pressure. Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is hormonally normalizing, and has been effective in improving mood and symptoms. Ashwaghanda root (Withania somniferum) is an adaptogen that helps with anxiety and stress.
The adrenals play an important role in menopause as they take over the production of estrone (the main player in estrogen). Research has shown that women who have adrenal fatigue before going into menopause tend to suffer with more of the symptoms. Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) is an incredible herb that helps with fatigue, memory, and depression among many other symptoms that go along with menopause. Tonics can be made with various herbs that will work with your body chemistry. I recommend reaching out to a local herbalist that can work directly with the ebb and flow of your body’s needs. Mindful Mixtures has created PAUSE an essential oil blend that can assist with the symptoms of menopause. This is applied to the abdomen and breathed in a minimum of 2 times per day.
For me, knowledge always makes everything better. Understanding what your body is going through and learning how to care for it can make something dreaded, like menopause, not seem so bad. Being proactive and staying in tune with your body is going to improve your odds of having an easy transition. Above all we must love who we are, appreciate where we have been and be proud of our accomplishments. Life is what we make of it, and to quote Ja A Jahannes, “Unless we learn to know ourselves, we run the danger of destroying ourselves”.
To easy and painless transitions!