Updated: Jan 12
Menopause has been called many things. It’s been called Puberty’s older sister, the moment of tropical weather and as Margret Atwood said: “it’s a pause while you reconsider men”. All jokes aside, just as with menstruation and motherhood, you need a little courage to pass through menopause.
Many women between 45 to 55 years of age are dealing with menopause. And with menopause, some unwanted symptoms may occur such as hot flashes, night sweats, palpitations, vaginal dryness, loss of libido, irritability, mood swings and sometimes depression. Sounds scary?! Well, from experience it was at first but as with most things, nature gives us a helping hand to deal with most of the symptoms.
Fortunately, there are positive and natural steps to overcome the symptoms of menopause. And going natural isn't an odd thing, its believed that 80% of the worlds women use natural herbs for menopause. Natural herbs are concentrated sources of nutrients that can help your body function properly.
Women live on average 7-8 years longer than men. And surprisingly, many women over 65 have independent living in the community.
So as we may live longer than men, we need to take care of our bodies so we continue to be strong and able to support our loved ones. Because let's face it, we probably will need to.
As your periods become irregular, shorter or longer, with heavier or lighter bleeding, or varying lengths of time between periods (yes, there is no correct pattern) it’s good to visit your doctor to talk about the symptoms. Sixty per cent of Australian women will have mild to moderate symptoms of menopause, with one in 5 women having severe symptoms.
Hot flushes or is it a power surge
I liked to think that my hot flush is a power surge. As you become accustomed to the “new version” of you, you will feel the heat rise in your body. I tell family members around me “power surge coming”. I imagine myself as a superhero and my family gets it. They gently step back to allow me to process the heat. Being honest with your loved ones helps and knowing that this is, in fact, a power surge. Society often places an image of a nervous woman having a ‘hot flush”. You are processing heat and that is powerful!
If your power surge is keeping you awake at night, dress appropriately. Thin layers of clothing, even in winter. Carry a facial mist in your purse. I carry my Aphrodite rain mist in my bag everywhere. I spray it on my face and around my head. The smells that are released into the air are also calming.
Menopause may cause mood changes such as increased anxiety, increased irritability and feelings of sadness or depression. Doctors say it’s not actually clear whether these feelings are linked to lower oestrogen levels or other issues which can coincide with this time in your life, such as career pressures, children leaving home or suddenly finding that you can't have babies anymore. Let’s face it, it’s a huge change in your body! One minute we’re ready to make babies, the next we are not.
Going back to the comment that “Menopause is Puberty’s older sister” rings some truth. We can’t get pregnant! And that can be a big up for women who don’t want to be on the pill. It’s your moment of being the older sista of puberty. Use that extra energy to create.
And if you’re feeling anxious, tired and even a little depressed, do something nice for yourself. You deserve it. Stretch, walk, meditate or start reading books again. I found that if I was feeling sad, I would do 5 push-ups. There and then! Many studies show that people who exercise regularly benefit with a positive boost in mood and lower rates of depression. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins which triggers a positive feeling in the body. Did I look crazy? Probably! A sometimes I would spontaneously hit the ground and do 5 push-ups. And then keep walking. It helped me keep in control of my hormones.
Falls in oestrogen levels can cause your vagina and vulva to become drier and the labia to become thinner, which can lead to itching, irritation or pain during sex.
You may need to use a personal lubricant (available here) to make having sex easier, and more comfortable resulting in a playful experience. Always buy organic lubes remembering that if you can't eat it, don't use it in your vagina.
I wasn’t too pleased when my Doctor told me that menopause could result in the weakening of my bladder and thinning of the opening of the bladder (the urethra). Meaning that laughing, coughing or sneezing could result in the leaking of urine in my underwear. My first reaction was “No way, give me a break!”.
Yet she said that the good old pelvic floor muscles can help keep this area fit and lovely. So if you are experiencing this, ask doctor or physiotherapist to show you pelvic floor exercises that should help improve muscle tone and reduce problems with urinary incontinence.
Alternatively is using the 'yoni egg' in your own privacy (Yoni is a Sanskrit word for the female genitalia that means “sacred space). It's believed that women have been using stone eggs to increase muscles in the vagina for 5000 years.
Herbs that heal
Herbs have been used for centuries to aid in the symptoms of menopause. Here are a few things you may already have in your garden or kitchen cupboard.
In addition to helping with digestion and gastrointestinal problems linked to ageing, mint has antioxidants that prevent cancer, heart disease and other problems associated with ageing.
Yarrow was often used to help shrink fibroids in premenopausal women. Yarrow is a hormone balancing herb and especially effective in helping the body produce progesterone. Yarrow is an excellent herb against urinary infections or incontinence. Also, it helps to tone and strengthen the bladder.
The roots of the dandelion are rich in iron, manganese, phosphorus, protein and vitamin A. They contain bodybuilding calcium, nerve soothing niacin and a potassium-rich, anti-cancer environment. Dandelion leaves steeped in wine is said to strengthen the heart.
Flaxseed is rich in chemicals called lignin. Lignin is converted by intestinal bacteria in phytoestrogens that help relieve menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness. They also have a stabilizing effect on mood changes hormone.
Garlic is renowned for its powerful effect on viruses and bacteria, but it also lowers cholesterol levels and helps lower blood pressure. In a Japanese study, garlic decreased related memory loss with ageing in animals.
Green tea is also a powerful antioxidant that can prevent the formation of many forms of cancer and heart disease. According to the studies of green tea, antioxidants may reduce and prevent rheumatoid arthritis.
And my favourite, sage.
Sage has been consumed by women for centuries. It was used to treat excessive sweating. Simply use fresh or dried leaves as a tea. If the taste is too strong, add a squeeze of lemon. Drink at least three cups a day. I make a jug full and leave it in the fridge to drink cooled.
Note: For most women, menopause symptoms do not last long. But if you are feeling that it’s all too much and you are not handling it very well, go visit a Naturopath. The Naturopath can give you a fresh outlook on your diet and habits that you may need to change to lessen the symptoms.
Guest writer: Lucy Legan