Men-O-Pause – The Madness, Muddles & Misdemeanors

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Menopause

As a 50+ year-old woman, I have seen it all, been through and experienced a vast cacophony of ups and downs. I’ve been on some white-knuckle rides and had my heart broken (several times). I’ve had successes and failures, joy and pain. Hasn’t everyone?

Through it all I’ve always, somehow, managed to pick myself up off the floor, dust myself down and just get on with it. Looking back, sometimes I have no idea how I did.

But this. The Men. O. Pause. This crappy condition of hormone-imbalance, depression-inducing, sweaty, sleepless nights, of bad moods, body-changing, weird-skin and sheer madness – well. . . Let’s talk about it, shall we?

Because this subject brings forth a fire and fury in every woman over a certain age whom I have spoken with, the likes of which I have never seen, especially awkward when spoken of in front of men.

Depression

So why oh WHY, is this hell on earth something that the life-bringers, the nurturers and the carers, the mothers, sisters, daughters, grandmothers, aunties; almost every woman of this world, has to endure? This “condition” which strikes at the time of our lives when everything else seems to fall into place. When we finally achieve that level of confidence and security of finally knowing who you are (because that didn’t take a lifetime to achieve, did it ladies?). At the time of life when you are actually starting to be content with you. Who you are. Where you are. What you’re doing and having enough money to do it!. You’ve worked all your life to get to this point – and BOOM! Here comes the menopause.

AAAAARRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!

It’s cruel. It’s debilitating. It’s uncomfortable. It’s unreasonable, rude and stressful. It’s miserable, it’s hot, it’s cold, it’s tiresome and it’s just bloody horrible.  So, why haven’t we found a cure?

In my experience, most women accept it and just get on with it. But for some, it can be utterly devastating.  For example, I wanted to be a Mum. Always thought I would be. Why wouldn’t I be a Mum? But sadly, it never happened. So when I was told that this was it, I was having my menopause, tht was it for me… no more chance, not even a miracle could happen at this stage. It was devastating and deeply depressing.

My Debilitating Depression

I’ve been low before, but this was a whole new depth. Not only did I become depressed, but I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. Not even a glimmer. I was quite literally on my knees, crying every day. One day, my friend Clare came round to see me for a coffee. She took one look at me and hugged me (which of course made me cry instantly) and said: “Right you, let’s get you sorted out”.

She explained that she had gone through the same feelings; also not had children and felt like this really was the end of her ‘use as a woman’ (these things are programmed-in fairly early as a young woman). She sympathised completely with my feelings of hopelessness, having felt every bit of the deep sadness I was now experiencing.

I had some blood tests (FYI the ones the Dr give you say “normal” but on mine the levels of all my “feel good” hormones were absolutely at the wrong end of “normal” so all of them being so low in conjunction with each other, was no wonder I was feeling so sad.

I made an appointment with the Hormone Clinic in Harley Street (now I know that this is quite a pricey option), but for me, it really was life or death.

Symptoms

For me, it began with the irregular periods, so I never knew if I was going to bleed from one day to the next. Then the hot flushes appeared, followed by the night sweats, sweating so profusely in the night that you wake up freezing cold soaking wet. Then there are the other symptoms which luckily I didn’t experience; the loss of libido, vaginal dryness, mood swings, irritability, anxiety, depression, difficulty concentrating and foggy brain.

As if that’s not enough to contend with, then there’s the fatigue, due to sleep problems, possible hair loss, dizziness, weight gain, bloating, allergies, brittle nails, osteoporosis, irregular heartbeat, bladder problems and changes in body odour.

And then, to top it all off, then there’s the pain; breast pain, headaches, joint pain, burning mouth, electric shocks, nausea, digestive problems, dental problems, muscle tension, dry itchy skin, tingling extremities.

Now we’ve got the nasty symptoms out of the way, let’s see what we can do to ease some of that.

The Menopause Assistance List

Don’t worry, it’s not all bad news. I’ve done some research and found a plethora of ingredients and supplements to help ease mos of these symptoms. If only I’d known about some of these beforehand, I would have been forearmed.

The first herb to speak about has so many helpful attributes that it simply has to be at the top of the list:

Passion Flower  – So Many Benefits

Anxiety/Depression

If depression is related to the menopause, then Passion Flower could be the most effective herb. As well as alleviating symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats (which are in themselves depressing enough), the alkaloids “chrysin” and “benzoflavone” present in this herb have been found to increase GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain. GABA is one of the inhibitory neurotransmitters, used by the brain to prevent over-excitement and attain balance. It also helps to decrease the activity of depression-inducing brain cells.

I mention more about GABA in one of my other articles about Moods (you can read it here).

Insomnia

Passion Flower is a gentle anti-anxiety and mildly sedative herb that can even be used to induce a good night’s sleep in children. One particular study asked volunteers with trouble sleeping to drink a cup of Passion Flower tea at bedtime for a period of time, all reported significant sleep improvement.

The increased GABA in the brain that Passion Flower can induce will also reduce the anxiety so often associated with insomnia. In addition, Passion Flower is known to be a muscle relaxant, easing away the tension that can make it more difficult to drift off to sleep.

Antioxidant/Anti-inflammatory

Passion Flower is powerfully antioxidant due to the presence of the antioxidant compounds; vitexin, isovitexin, kaempferol, quercetin, rutin, apigenin and luteolin glycosides. It also contains indole alkaloids, fatty acids, gum, maltol, phytosterols, sugars and traces of volatile oils. One compound in particular – quercetin – has been extensively studied, it has been found to be exceptionally effective in ridding the body of damaging free radical molecules and it inhibits various enzymes that cause inflammation.

These compounds also relax the nervous system, helping to relieve nerve-related pain such as back pain.

Lower Blood Pressure

Studies show that using the extract of Passion Flower can help to reduce high blood pressure (hypertension). It was found that one cup of Passion Flower tea daily can help to regulate blood pressure levels in people with mild hypertension. However, it is important to note that those on blood pressure medication should not consume this herb as it can lower blood pressure to dangerous levels.

Do not take Passion Flower if suffering from liver damage/disease. Passion Flower can interfere with blood thinning and blood pressure medications. If you are taking any medication, please consult your health care practitioner.

Due to its sedative effects, driving or operating machinery is not recommended after consuming Passion Flower.

Black Cohosh

Black Cohosh, known scientifically as Actaea Racemosa, is a coarse, perennial woodland herb with large compound leaves. The plant is native to North America.  There are a few other names this plant is known by including black snakeroot, black root, bugbane, rattle root, rattle top, rattle squawroot and rattleweed.

Historically, Black Cohosh was routinely used as a medicine by the Penobscot, Winnebago and Dakota Native American Indians, for the treatment of coughs, colds, constipation, fatigue and rheumatism, as well as to increase breast milk production.

More recently, extracts of Black Cohosh have been marketed worldwide for the management of menopausal symptoms.

Black Cohosh is one of the most well-studied supplements for menopause. It’s made from the root of the North American Black Cohosh plant. Several studies have found it helps, especially with hot flashes, when compared to placebo (a fake treatment). But other studies haven’t found a benefit.

NB: Don’t use it if you have liver problems.

Calcium To Help Prevent Bone Loss

Bone loss can become a serious problem once hormone levels drop after menopause. It’s crucial to get enough calcium. Many women suffer from osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. It develops slowly over several years and is often only diagnosed when a minor fall or sudden impact causes a bone fracture.

It’s best to get your calcium from food.

DHEA – The Youth Hormone

After the age of 30, the natural levels of the hormone DHEA begin to drop. I have taken a DHEA supplement and I instantly began to feel better – this should not be self-prescribed, as my supplement came with my hormone replacement tablet from a Harley Street Doctor.

It is generally agreed that DHEA supplements ease menopause symptoms such as low libido and hot flashes.

There is some concern that long-term use or high doses of DHEA may raise the risk of breast cancer.

Dong Quai – The Empress Of Herbs

Dong Quai has been used in Chinese Medicine as a treatment for women’s health for thousands of years.

Flaxseed – Easing Night Sweats

Flaxseed and flaxseed oil may help some women with mild menopause symptoms. It’s a good source of lignans, which tend to balance female hormones. Flaxseed is a very unstable oil if you do use the oil, the best way to store it is in the freezer in small dark vials (split it into daily portions) and use it fresh from the freeze every day.  Flaxseed Oil tends to oxidise very quickly and is ruined and loses it’s potency completely if not stored correctly.

Red Clover – Hot Flashes

Many women use red clover hoping that its natural plant estrogens will ease their menopause symptoms.

Vitamin D – Get Some Sun

Vitamin D is just as important as calcium for bone health. Without vitamin D, your body can’t absorb calcium.

It’s best to take a supplement of Vitamin D3 with K2 – otherwise, it just doesn’t absorb.

Your body produces vitamin D when exposed to the sun, but even small amounts of sun can lead to skin damage, so make sure you sunbathe responsibly.

Wild Yam – As An Alternative To Hormones

Pills and creams made from certain species of wild yam are popular alternatives to hormone therapy for menopause. Some of the natural compounds in these yams appear similar to estrogen and progesterone.

Ginseng To Boost Your Mood

A few studies have found evidence that the different types of ginseng might help improve the quality of life during menopause. Ginseng has been shown to boost mood and improve sleep. But so far, studies haven’t found that either American or Korean ginseng helps with physical symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes.

St. John’s Wort – To Control Mood Swing

St. John’s Wort is a well-known treatment for mild depression. But it might also have a special benefit for women during menopause. There’s some evidence – particularly when combined with Black Cohosh, that St. John’s Wort can improve mood and smooth the mood swings related to menopause. Be careful if you are taking any medication, as St John’s Wort can react with other pharmaceuticals.

Is Soy A Wonder Food?

Menopausal women in Asian countries are over eight times less likely to have hot flashes than women in other countries. Could the soy in the Asian diet explain the difference? Possibly. Studies have found soy to be modestly effective in relieving hot flashes.

Soy foods (such as soy nuts and tofu) and phytoestrogen supplements, estrogen-like compounds found in some plants, are sometimes used to relieve mild hot flashes. The research isn’t conclusive, though.

Juicy Lucy’s Tip:

Please talk to your doctor, pharmacist about any supplements you take. Remember some supplements may have potential side effects and some herbs and supplements may interact with some medicines you take. They could boost or negate a medicine’s effect, or the interaction could cause other problems.  Some herbs can also cause allergic reactions.

Karen Newby, a nutritionist, created a range of sugar-free supplements called “Alchemy Superfood Blends”, which I use for my Nutless Balls Range. One of these Superblends contains Maca which acts as an adaptogen, aiding your  You can read her article here.

Meg Matthews has written a brilliant article on Menopause which includes Perimenopause, Post Menopause and you can read it here www.megsmenopause.com it’s well worth a read.

What Vicky Says:

Sage is brilliant for hot flushes. Soak six sage leaves overnight in fresh lemon juice and then take the sage leaves out and use the liquid in a smoothie in the morning. (It doesn’t work for everyone, like most herbal remedies.)

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