I recently turned 50, and menopause is no doubt in my not-too-distant future. Instead of laughing at the birthday cards about hot flashes that I receive and then afterward feeling down about getting older, I’ve decided I’m going to look on the bright side. I am going to look forward to menopause as an interesting adventure, an experience that will usher in a whole new phase of my life.
As with most adventures, of course, there are challenges. Here are my thoughts on a few of them.
First of all, if you’ve been reading about menopause, you’ve probably noticed that everywhere you go you read about “symptoms” of menopause. “Symptom” is a word that implies health problem or disease, and menopause is NOT a disease. I will not use the word “symptom” when it comes to menopause. Instead, I’ll be on the lookout for signs of menopause approaching.
It seems that No. 1 among the discomforts caused by menopause is hot flashes. It’s easy to forget that many women never experience a hot flash at all, and many others experience only mild flashes. If your mother, like mine, was lucky enough to not have severe hot flashes, then it’s likely that your experience will be similar.
And, on the bright side of hot flashes: Layering of clothing is stylish! There are now lots of choices for lovely, breathable, stylish clothes made from organic fibers to pile on and peel off.
Decreased Sex Drive
There are a few positive ways to view the possibility of a decreased sex drive after menopause. First, as with hot flashes, not every woman experiences a decrease at all. Secondly, it could actually be kind of a relief. I’ve talked to many women who felt they were more able to concentrate on their careers, families—whatever it was that they loved—more fully when not quite so “driven.” Lastly, maybe as we get older it’s okay to acknowledge that we are, well, older. Possibly a good way to view sex in later life is: Quality over quantity.
There are several botanical remedies that may help ease the discomforts of menopause, including black cohosh, dong quai, ginseng, kava, red clover extract, and soy. It’s difficult to determine which among these works and doesn’t work, even after reading the research. The bright side: Most often, botanicals have few if any negative side effects. You should definitely, however, let your primary health care person know what botanical or remedy you are using.
There are many studies on other alternative methods of coping with menopause that, in the future, will let us know with more certainty what might help. Some of the studies include:
- Royal jelly mixed with bee and flower pollen: How it affects vaginal dryness and fatigue associated with menopause.
- Botanicals used by Central American populations: Whether it can ease menopausal discomforts.
- Acupuncture: Viability for easing hot flashes.
- Mindfulness-based stress: Can it reduce hot flashes.
- Soy supplements: How they affect hot flashes and night sweats.
An End In Sight
Menopause is an end to ovulation and menstruation. It is a naturally occurring event in a woman’s life. It is a phase, a period (oops, no pun intended) of change. It does not signify that your life is coming to an end, and does not mean that you will experience sudden and drastic changes in your health.
The Bright Side
A positive attitude does make a difference in how a woman experiences menopause. A Danish study found that the strongest predictors of the way a woman will experience menopause, including sexuality, were their health earlier in life, their social circumstances and their expectations of menopausal changes.
So look on the bright side, and keep doing those good things that you do, like exercising energetically, eating healthily, resting well and deeply, and keep in mind that the hot flashes, moodiness, irregular periods and other discomforts do eventually come to an end. And chances are you will continue to have good health for many years to come.
By Lynn Behrendt, Care2 Green Living contributing writer