By Roze S. Alex-Kadri
Around my birthday at the age of 50 years I received my retired person old age membership card, gray hair became noticeable, and soon after that menopausal symptoms began presenting themselves. How depressing. Could these be some very good reasons why heaven is purportedly under the feet of mothers (women)? Regardless, my gray hair was easily attended to and I easily dismissed the old retired persons card with as much pomp, circumstance, and expression as I could muster; however, I could not easily dismiss menopause. Contrary to popular culture, I found menopause neither humorous nor amusing. To that end, I developed this Menopausal Reference-Response, and Survival Guide (MRS Guide) to alleviate the physical and emotional effects of menopause on us and those around us. It is hereby presented to support my sisters in distress.
Contrary to the thinking that it is an affliction or disease, menopause is a natural, universal condition that will occur in every womanâ€™s life. There are occurrences, however, of unnatural surgical menopause which are a sequela of having both ovaries removed due to medical reasons. Although it varies, the average age of menopausal onset is 51 years old and the average duration of symptoms is 4.5 years.
Menopause is something like the converse of puberty. The onset of puberty for both males and females is characterized by the release of the hypothalamus hormone, Gonadotropin, which stimulates the pituitary gland to release Follicle Stimulating Hormone and Luteinizing Hormone which in turn stimulate the ovaries to begin releasing eggs (in females) every month. In females, this subsequently leads to the production of estrogen and progesterone hormones by the ovaries. The release of ovarian eggs leads to the thickening and then sloughing/shedding of the uterine lining which presents as bleeding â€“ the first period is known as menarche. These activities are cyclical â€“ occurring every month if egg fertilization does not occur. Menopause is defined as the beginning of the absence or cessation of ovulation.
Menopause has three stages: peri, menopausal, and post. The peri-menopausal stage is the transitional stage between menstrual cycling and menopause. It is characterized by the episodic menstrual periods and slight hormonally induced discomfort. It usually lasts for about one year. In post-menopausal, the body has ceased ovulation with menopausal hormones are greatly decreased and leveled off with the ratio of estrogen to progesterone being re-established for the duration of life.
In between these stages is the true menopausal stage which is actually the adjustment of the body to the cessation of ovulation. Menopausal symptoms are due to: 1. Decreasing levels of estrogen, especially, and progesterone; 2. Varying proportions of estrogen to progesterone; and 3. Compensatory surging levels of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinizing Hormone (LH). The lack of a menstrual period for at least one year and high levels (greater than 10 times the normal amounts) of the pituitary gland hormones FSH and LH serve to definitively identify a menopausal state.
Menopausal symptoms usually vary from day to day and from woman to woman and from society to society. There are studies that demonstrate that Western society women experience much stronger menopausal symptoms than their non-Western society counterparts. It has been hypothesized that this difference may be a manifestation of the increased mental demands and decreased physical demands of Western women.
My personal symptoms included: sleep disruptions resulting from hot body temperatures (or high metabolic activity); headaches; uneven body temperature (hot torso but cold extremities); difficulty communicating (verbal and written); difficulty handling my emotions-especially the sad ones; heart palpitations; higher blood pressure; higher cholesterol levels; not being cognizant of dreaming; not being able to nap regardless of how tired I always felt; a racing mind that was foggy brained and forgetful; reduced ability to memorize or concentrate (recall was a challenge); a voracious appetite; and a swollen face.
As appealing as being a dazed over-weight pseudo-pubescent blast furnace may be to some, I found the menopausal experience to be very distressing and disturbing. I was having great difficulty effectively and efficiently managing my daily activities. Like most â€œyoungâ€ women, the rigors of my family life, employment, and schooling disallowed me from having the luxury of waiting it out for 4.5 years until my body adjusted to its new homeostatic state. I, therefore, began searching for ways to counteract the negative effects of the hormone reduction and imbalance referred to as menopause. Regardless of how natural menopause supposedly is, my approach to handling it was similar to how one would approach a combat mission: it was serious business and not fun; I had to get through it; I needed to minimize the adverse effects and protect myself as much as possible; I needed to reduce the collateral damage to my family and friends; I needed a plan of attack; and I needed tools (remedies) to handle the circumstances.
I, therefore, resolved to try to find ways of addressing and attending to my symptoms in as natural and effective a manner as possible. My pursuit of a natural course was important because of wanting to avoid the adverse side effects of other remedies. My inspirational guidance came from Islam that says that there is a cure for every malady that afflicts us. The following remedies and practices were what I have used to address the negative effects of menopause. They helped ease my discomfort and dysfunction from menopause. This guide is not presented as a panacea â€“ complying with the suggestions will not completely counteract the signs and symptoms. Hopefully, however, these suggestions will alleviate them. There are many other remedies and products that I have not presented here but that are assuredly effective and beneficial and should be considered. Also, keep in mind that this suggestion guide has not been empirically tested nor peer reviewed. Therefore, before beginning this or any regime, have your physician evaluate it with and for you. This is very important since each body is different and your bodyâ€™s responses and needs will most likely also be different.
Pomegranate for cardiovascular issues: Fresh pomegranate seeds (â‰¥1/2 cup) should be eaten every day or 2 T. of concentrated juice which may be mixed with 2 ounces of regular juice or water for taste. The reasoning for this predates all of the research about the antioxidant and other positive effects of pomegranate which are, of course, beneficial. My reasoning stems from a story that has been passed down many generations regarding the beneficial effects of pomegranate for improving the cardiovascular health. My blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and heart palpitations decreased. This worked great for me.
Cucumbers as an antipyretic: Eat at any time but have one especially after dinner time to reduce hot flashes and reduce body temperature as a sleep aid. I keep the skin on for most varieties. Any variety was effective for me except the short, slender, smooth kind. The pickling kind is fine to eat. My experience with this remedy was based on a hadith that recommends consuming cucumbers to lower body temperature. This was very effective for me.
Rosemary tea with cinnamon and honey every night to combat inflammation and help with mental clarity and memory. Add Â½ cup of rosemary leaves and a stick of cinnamon to 3 cups of water. Wash and simmer on low heat until liquid turns dark-ish. I add herbal tea such as orange or lemon for taste. The tea leaves can be re-used five times by simply adding more water to the pot and boiling. Drink an 8 ounce cup of tea at night with a teaspoon or tablespoon of honey after dinner. One downside is that if this is drunk late at night, it seems to give bad breath the next day. Another down-side of the tea is that it stains the teeth so I recommend teeth whitening treatment. My reasoning for first using this remedy was that rosemary tea is used in the Middle East to reduce swelling for various reasons and to ease intestinal discomfort. The cinnamon is known for its anti-pyretic effects and the honey is a natural sweetener. I drink the tea regularly as a way to improve the clarity and memory of my mind.
Fasting for physiologic stability: Fasting Islamic-style (no food or drink from sunrise to sunset) greatly alleviates the overall symptoms and discomforts of menopause. The reasoning for even considering this treatment is based on a hadith encouraging us to fast if we have sexual urges on our mind that we want to control. I reasoned that if fasting is prescribed to control sexual urges, the glands related to sexual activity may also be controlled in this way. This was wonderfully helpful.
Ice chips / cold water in nose â€“ in mouth: This may seem bizarre or extreme but such measures may help when your mind feels like it is racing off a hot cliff. The focus of this remedy is the hypothalamus and pituitary gland activity which are located near the center base of the skull – interior to the naso and oropharynx area. The reasoning is that the coldness constricts the blood vessels in the area, thereby reducing the blood flow to those organs which theoretically should lead to a reduction in menopausal hormone stimulation and production. I occasionally used this remedy at night when I felt that my body was out of control and tired but unable to sleep, with a racing mind, and/or a very overheated body. This remedy helped stabilize me.
Iron supplements: High body temperature from infection and/or inflammation is associated with iron sequestration (leading to possible anemia) in the body. High menopausal temperatures may present as an analogous situation whereby iron is sequestered by the body in a natural process. Discuss with your physician the need to determine your iron levels and if supplements are needed.
Calcium supplements: Calcium products and supplements should be taken daily beginning in peri-menopause and thereafter. Estrogen protects against bone loss so decreased estrogen levels leads to a concomitant decrease in calcium absorption. A total of 4000 mg or more of calcium should be ingested every day with vitamin D (to ensure calcium absorption). A combination of milk products and calcium supplements should be taken (e.g., two 1000 mg supplements plus two 8 ounce glasses of milk per day).
Physical exercise: Engage in moderate to brisk daily physical exercise (at least 30 minutes per day). Such exercise supports bone strength, serves as a sleep aid, and stimulates the release of endorphins (â€œhappy hormonesâ€ neurotransmitters) â€“ all of which helps diminish some of the symptoms of menopause.
Miscellaneous suggestions: Pajamas-: Sleep in light cotton or silk pajamas (breathability). You would be surprised at how such a simple thing can make a difference in sleep comfort. Notes: Write notes and reminders. Such items alleviate the distress of forgetting and the anxiety of thinking that you will forget. Do not overtire yourself. Go to sleep early and get as much sleep as you can when you are able to so as to compensate for the sleepless times.
The aforementioned remedies may seem bothersome or arduous and I do not disagree with such an assessment but in my experience the benefits outweighed the costs. You may find that you only need to implement some instead of all of them. Be sensitive to what your body is experiencing for guidance as to what needs to be addressed and remember these aids during those times when you feel like you are going to spontaneously combust.
As temporary as menopause is, it can greatly and negatively become your world. Moreover, as natural as menopause is, it can cause personal and collateral â€œdamageâ€. Therefore, to prevent the exacerbation of menopausal symptoms, if at all possible, I recommend against the following: multi-tasking, starting an educational program, changing jobs, raising children, being responsible for anything, and/or entering a beauty contest. If you can avoid or postpone these activities, then the effects of menopause on your life should hardly be noticeable.
Thank you for giving me the respect of reading this article. I wish you good health and happiness.
(Gratitude goes out to DAA and MRK for reviewing this article and providing helpful suggestions.)