In our western, ageist culture, menopause is considered to be a deficiency disease.
Medicalizing (is there even such a word?) menopause would be like treating puberty as if it were a disease.
Despite the fact that puberty can be a difficult time for the teenager as well as the rest of the family, we realize that it’s a transition from childhood to young adulthood. Teenager aren’t considered to be suffering from a deficiency of courtesy, respect for parental authority or treated for a surfeit of hormones!
Why then, is menopause treated so differently? Why do women not allow themselves the freedom to appreciate that they are making a transition once more. Why does our medical system want to medicate women in order for them to stay ‘girlish’ and more importantly, why do women fall for that crap!
We fall for it because we live in a world where despite many advances in the rights of women have been made, the patriarchy still rules. We live in a culture that reveres youth and denigrates ageing. Men are still considered sexy and powerful well into their sixties and seventies whereas woman are just considered to be old.
We’ve been duped. We’ve bought into the following myths:
1. When you go through menopause you stop producing estrogen and progesterone completely.
While it’s true that the ovaries stop production estrogen and progesterone, hormones made by the adrenal gland can be converted into estrogen in fat and other tissues.
Our environmental exposure to estrogen like compounds called xenoestrogens. Women often have low blood levels of estrogen but high saliva and tissue levels. Too much estrogen can cause similar symptoms as too little estrogen.
Also the number of androgenic (male sex hormones) double during menopause. This makes women more assertive and less likely to put up with crap.
These androgenic hormones can be made via the adrenals, the skin, muscle tissue, the brain, the pineal gland, hair follicles and body fat.
As ovarian production falls, so other sites takes over. Androgens themselves can act as weak estrogens.
Stronger adrenals and better general nutrition eases the transition into menopause.
Many women enter menopause in a state of nutritional and emotional depletion and that makes transition more difficult.
The amount of androgen produced form the other organs in the body depends on how many building blocks for these molecules are available in those organs and on nutritional status.
The liver is also a major site of androgen metabolism so liver health is important.
Interestingly testosterone secretion by the ovary is the same in women who have gone through menopause as it is in younger women. This blows the idea that you may as well remove your ovaries since you no longer need them, right out of the water!
Progesterone can be produced in small amounts by the adrenals and can be produced in fatty tissue and liver.
Progesterone levels can be decreased by alcohol consumption and stress.
2. Having bad symptoms during menopause is normal.
As mentioned above, your nutritional status, the health of your adrenals, the health of your liver and your general levels of stress are all important predictors of how well you’ll made the transition through menopause.
Most of the symptoms of menopause such as hot flushes, irritability, insomnia, brain fog, weight gain etc. can be linked to chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation causes problems with hormone signaling. The chronic inflammation caused by poor diets, lack of movement, high stress levels and inadequate sleep are usually present long before women got through menopause.
When menopause is accompanied by a myriad of uncomfortable symptoms, the decrease in hormones is always blamed as if that’s the only factor that need to be considered.
Decreasing chronic inflammation by eating a largely plant based diet while removing gluten, dairy, vegetable seed oils and factory farmed animal products and processed foods from the diet can significantly improve menopausal symptoms and increase overall well being.
3. Menopausal means ‘old’ and no longer of use.
Ironically, menopause is the transition that provides women with the opportunity to deeply connect to their femininity.
Arguably no other stage of life has as much potential for understanding and tapping into a woman’s power as the transition through menopause.
In Celtic cultures the young maiden was seen as the flower, the mother the fruit and the elder woman, the seed. The seed is the part that contains the knowledge and potential of all the other parts within it.
In some native cultures, menopausal women were felt to retain their wise blood, rather than shed it cyclically and were therefore considered more powerful than menstruating women. A woman couldn’t be a shaman until she was post menopausal in these cultures.
Menopause, when understood and supported, provides the next level of initiation into personal power for women.
In our culture, talking about menopause and power is taboo. Women have been made invisible or encouraged to remain forever young through HRT or other medical intervention. This cultural alienation from a vital rite of passage leaves older women feeling useless, isolated, and impotent.
3. It’s purely physiological.
Menopause has is profoundly influence by the mind-body connection.
You may have symptoms because of you may experience feeling generated from a perception of having spent your life caring for others.
Although caring for others gets us societal approval but the imbalance of expending your energy caring for others while keeping neglecting yourself creates imbalances in your physiology which can show up as hot flushes, irritability and anxiety.
When you something in your past has left you feeling hurt and angry and you cannot express love for yourself of the other, it can result in symptoms.
When you’ve been stuffing your emotions down (or eating them away), they can appear as symptoms of flushing irritability etc. to get your attention. Your feelings want to be felt, not suppressed.
When we’ve been striving, comparing and competing to be the best wife, mother, business owner, cook, whatever, and we lose touch with our feminine energy, we can be made aware of this through symptoms.
When we spend too much time doing, and not enough time being,
When we don’t take time to nurture ourselves.
When we put others first and ourselves last.
When the striving, comparing and competing becomes more than the surrendering, accepting and including.
When all of this happens lose touch with ourselves and our biology pushes us to straighten things out, to find our voice and to reclaim our lives.
This is the true gift of menopause. May we embrace it as we embrace our amazing selves.