Menopause, and a more common term that you’ll hear these days – perimenopause – sum up what’s dauntingly known as “the change” in a woman’s life. It typically happens anywhere from her forties onwards – for some even earlier, and for some it comes later. I think it’s a bit like breastfeeding in that this is supposed to be a natural part of life, but “natural” doesn’t speak to how uncomfortable, difficult and painful it can be. While the natural levels of estrogen gradually decline, symptoms of hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, depression, irritability, lack of sex drive and vaginal dryness are the most common perimenopausal symptoms. This time before a woman hits menopause can dramatically impact her quality of life.
I recently read this quote: “Still to come – Menopause. Because nature decided that pregnancy, labor, delivery, sleepless nights, stretch marks and saggy boobs weren’t enough.”
Menopause, or generally, talking about female hormones is kind of taboo in many ways. It’s somehow not talked about or understood nearly enough. There’s a lot of confusion in understanding perimenopause, menopause and even MAN-opause, because yes, there’s a “change” for men too. The change for women is a lot more than bypassing the feminine hygiene aisle of the drug store because her menstrual cycle has ceased. Menopause can change so many things (like physical appearance), and as there is a term ‘menopause belly’, you can guess what people hone in on.
Oh, then there’s the emotions and personality changes that are all driven by the hormonal changes that are going on. Female hormones get a bad rap anyway, right?! Those damn monthly PMS symptoms like mood swings, the monthly bloat, headaches, breast tenderness, change in appetite and sex drive that we deal with this from our teens onwards, only to move into symptoms like hot flashes, really messed up sleep, and changes in mood to a new level of unpredictability like extreme and sudden feelings of panic, anxiety, or anger. No wonder everyone wants to hide and not talk about this. But not us, right?
Let’s talk about perimenopause, menopause, and all that it brings. And gents- don’t shy away from this episode and show. This isn’t only for ladies listening, but this is also for you men who love us. Sure this ‘happens’ to women, but those around us need to have some level of understanding, to offer support and empathy, because I can tell you first hand, it can be a hellish time of life. I’ve enlisted the help of a very knowledgeable naturopathic doctor to talk this through, so buckle up for a very insightful conversation on EAT THIS with Lianne: All About Menopause.
In the 60’s, hormone replacement therapy (or HRT) became the prescription of choice for menopausal women, seemingly easing the list of symptoms of like hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, depression, anxiety, irritability, lack of sex drive and vaginal dryness. I feel like there’s a tinge of shame to menopause, like women have to hide their experience and feelings. I mean you can go from a well balanced individual to wondering before anyone else if you’ve lost your marbles. This isn’t something that my mom talked about with me and my sisters, or even a discussion that my friends had until someone mentions the hot flashes and you come back with the sudden anxiety that you’re feeling. I wondered what was happening to me as I recall a few times getting on a plane that suddenly looked like a long metal tube that I couldn’t get out of as we flew through the air. For the first time in my life, I found myself scoping out the exit doors and listening to specific calming meditations that eased my sheer panic from being stuck in a plane and not being able to get out. It was a terrifying feeling, and the weight of an elephant on my chest making it hard to breathe didn’t help. I’ve stepped onto a plane so many times in my life, flown all around the world, and I was amazed that all of a sudden, flying made me want to smuggle my CBD in a hip flask.
My mom was on HRT for eight years. Eight years. That is way out of the recommended time to take it, but her doctor said if it’s working, keep going. And while I remember the start of her moodiness, upset and overall ‘blah’, I didn’t realize that it was menopause. I had just moved to England and had a ton of issues of my own as a teenager still navigating puberty in some ways. I do remember when my mom came off HRT and it wasn’t like a gradual thing like a few hot flashes, anxiety, moodiness, a little weight gain (we didn’t go there about sex drive and vaginal dryness), but the usual symptoms ALL happened for her at the same time. This began as I started my nutrition training, so I had her on just about every diet and supplement to help her through the instant barrage of symptoms that most women cycle through over time. Now I know that when our bodies, hormones and detoxification are working well, we can navigate PMS better. I believe that similar holds true for menopause. In my mom’s case, having taken synthetic hormones for eight years meant that her liver was working overtime, and that could have made it worse. (Sidebar: If you want to understand that more about detoxing and drainage, head to episode 55.)
I’m going to stop waffling now and introduce my esteemed colleague who knows a lot more about this than I. She has been a women’s health expert in natural medicine for 20 years. Naturopath Dr Ginger Nash learned how to both assess and treat hormone imbalances for women (and girls) of all ages. In fact, she loves working with women at times of big transition as there is so much opportunity for growth and healing. Dr Nash believes there is no need to fear! Menopause is not a disease. It is a natural life-stage that can be traversed beautifully if you have the right support along the way. Make sure to listen to the episode for her incredible insights.
I believe with all things that the more knowledge and understanding that we have, the easier life can be. That’s my take anyway. I loved how she touched on the MANO-pause, and maybe this is something that we need to dig into further. Because while women go through it, so do the gents and us who love them need to know what’s going on for them.
I mentioned in one of my questions about a Facebook group that a colleague and friend created called Pique Well, and it’s a tremendous source of support for so many women. Google Paleo Diet for more on what I did to get my weight to a more comfortable place and watch this space for an episode about IF in the future.
Note: A paleo diet typically includes lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds — foods that in the past could be obtained by hunting and gathering. A paleo diet limits foods that became common when farming emerged about 10,000 years ago. These foods include dairy products, legumes and grains.
If you’d like to find out more about Dr Ginger Nash, head to gingernash.com and under the same name on social media.
And above all else, stay in the moment and please remember to EAT THIS, one mouthful at a time.