MENOPAUSE – a tortuous journey to physical freedom

Hot flushes – memory loss – night sweats – anxiety – weight gain – thinning hair – headaches – the list of menopausal symptoms is long and not very appealing.

Some women suffer far more than others; some can even begin the process before they’re in their forties; there is no one method to treat the symptoms, and trial and error may be the only way to find relief for different women.

The words ‘it’s natural’ don’t help. Nor do ‘every woman goes through it’ when you’re failing to sleep and your mood sinks to its lowest point all day.

Very few women get away with no symptoms at all, and although on average the symptoms will end around four years after their last period, around one in ten women still experience them for up to 12 years afterwards, according to the NHS.

Such a common problem, we all know what the cause is – so why isn’t there an easy cure for the symptoms?

Women’s physical health is just more complicated than that, unfortunately, and all we can do here is list the options available or suggested by people who claim to have found some relief.

Some women, for instance, swear by hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) – see information box – and some are completely against it, fearing side effects and other complications. Really, the safest thing to do is ask your GP.

Some claim soy-based diets help alleviate symptoms

Others swear by a more Asian diet, because a lot of what is eaten in eastern countries (soy and soy bean, tofu, chickpeas, alfalfa) contains phyto-oestrogens, naturally occurring oestrogen that can boost declining levels in menopausal women. Good news – these phyto-oestrogens are also found in alcohol, particularly bourbon and beer, so a quick half now and then could really be medicinal.

However, C4S must point out that this is anecdotal evidence, and while it’s likely that bone density can also improve with these foods, it’s not yet clinically proven.

Most sources do appear to agree that Omega 3 fatty acids help to regulate hormones, and these can be found in flaxseed and flaxseed oil.

Hot flushes

One of the most complained about symptoms is the hot flush, which can come on suddenly and with an unbearable intensity – only to ebb away almost as quickly. Suffering these at night is bad enough, but at work it can be, quite simply, embarrassing.

A long trawl through the library and the Internet didn’t bring up anything particularly helpful, unfortunately and the old favourite remedies returned: healthy food, exercise and water; but there are some practical things you can do. Wear thin layers that you can peel off easily, and buy yourself a handheld fan to keep in your desk drawer. Keep some damp flannels by your side, and keep yourself going with the prospect of a cold beer in your mind for when you get home (to boost your oestrogen, purely medicinal of course).

In summary, the painful truth is all women will have to go through this at some time, and some will suffer far more than others.
All we can do is look forward – to the freedom it will afford when it’s finally over.

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