Menopause - a gateway to freedom

Menopause - a gateway to freedom

By Dr Rosy Daniel

Menopause – a gateway to freedom


Dr Rosy Daniel, Weleda's Integrative Health Consultant, shares her advice on menopause.

 
For many women in their 40s and 50s the word menopause is accompanied with a groan and a sense of anxiety about potentially unwelcome changes. Along with this can come a whole raft of fears - will I now age rapidly, will I lose my youthful glow, libido, sex appeal? These fears can lead women into complex, expensive and risky solutions aimed at stopping the clock in order to “stay young and beautiful, if you want to be loved”.

It is time for us to do a complete reframe and take on board that menopause is a healthy natural phenomenon just like the start of menstruation. It is a transition, not an ending, which can bring with it a whole new lease of life. This has been captured brilliantly by author Leslie Kenton in her book ‘Passage to Power’. She urges us to see the freedom and opportunity in the transition from being a menstruating, fertile, hormonally cycling, child bearing and child rearing woman into a power house, full of wisdom and maturity that we can now bring towards the enrichment of our lives, our minds, our careers and our souls.

This is a wonderfully empowering message to carry us through ‘the change.’ And just look at all the new freedom that we have: no more need for contraception and its side effects, no more cramps and pre-menstrual tension, no more hormonal mood swings, skin outbreaks and bloating, no more worry about disruption to social life, sport, relationships that heavy periods can sometimes bring – not forgetting the cost of all those feminine hygiene products!

We can help ourselves greatly by understanding what is happening to us physically and emotionally; what changes are occurring with what symptoms; and how can we support ourselves optimally to make the transition itself, and life thereafter, as easy and healthy as possible.

The process of menopause happens as the function of our ovaries declines and we stop producing so much oestrogen, progesterone and eggs. In an attempt to stimulate further activity in our ovaries, our pituitary gland in the brain makes higher levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinising hormone (LH) which normally trigger the ripening and release of eggs and the preparation of the womb to receive a fertilised egg. So, it is relatively easy to tell how far progressed you are into menopause by asking your GP to do a menopausal blood test to measure the levels of these hormones in your blood.

Often the first symptoms are that periods get more irregular or sometimes heavier. It is important to get medical help if bleeding is very heavy and prolonged, as this can lead to anaemia and fatigue. Reflexology can be very helpful to restore hormonal balance when this happens, as the therapist can stimulate directly the pituitary master gland, and also work with the ovaries and womb.


reflexology for menopause

The most common symptom of all is hot flushes. These can vary from a mild sense of warmth to feeling like our body is on fire, accompanied by drenching sweats. It is as if our thermostat is broken, and anything which would normally raise our temperature slightly kicks us into an uncontrolled rise in temperature. The best way to avoid this is to prevent yourself getting hot in the first place. Practically speaking this means lighter bed covers, sleeping with the window open, and avoiding crowded and poorly ventilated places. Calming ourselves with meditation and yoga breathing practices helps increase the threshold at which we become irritated or distressed, which can raise our temperature and spark a hot flush.

A common medical solution offered can be either oestrogen-based hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or drugs to inhibit vasodilatation, our body’s reaction to heat. However, the majority of breast cancers are oestrogen receptor positive (meaning that they thrive in the presence of oestrogen) and given that breast cancer is now affecting one in eight women in the UK it may not be suitable for every woman, it is a decision that merits thorough discussion with your GP. An alternative solution is the use of natural progesterone cream made of wild yam. This can be prescribed by doctors or bought online. Use of this cream for 2 to 3 years can take the edge off hot flushes and greatly ease the transition.

Looking deeper into our physiology, it is good to consider how we can support the body in other ways. For example, we can help to provide substrate for the manufacture of hormones within our own body. The precursor of our steroid and sex hormones is vitamin D. We also need adrenal support to pump prime this process. It is therefore vital that we spend time outside in nature enjoying natural daylight and that our nutrition, exercise and oxygenation is optimum. This can be a very good time therefore to take a vitamin D supplement as well as adrenal support supplements and multi-vitamins and minerals.

vitamin D for menopause

The longer-term effects of reduced oestrogen levels can be losing calcium from our bones, thinning of our skin and drying of the vaginal mucosa. To prevent osteoporosis and osteopenia the key is exercise, and particularly bone loading or isometric exercise where we take weight or apply mechanical stress down the length of the bone. Yoga is particularly helpful for this as well as for maintaining our flexibility and strength. A good exercise coach can also help you build a bone loading programme to do at home or at the gym.

Keeping our skin soft and glowing is what Weleda is all about, and the use of creamy body washes and bath milks, skin brushing to increase circulation, and enriching moisturising creams and body oils can all become part of a luxurious bathing and self-care ritual. For skin around the perineum and vulva that has become drier and thinner due to menopausal changes, Weleda’s nourishing Perineum Massage Oil can help support the skin’s resilience. And for our internal lubrication, there are many natural lubricants available which can improve things significantly. However, if there is marked thinning of the vaginal mucosa it may be necessary to use a little locally applied oestrogen cream, or the herbal equivalent. If this support is needed, then ask your GP for an oestriol cream which is gentler and less stimulatory to breast tissue than the more common oestradiol-based creams.

Perhaps the biggest part of all is to take care of our emotional needs as we approach and enter menopause. This time of change may bring with it painful emotions perhaps linked to not having had children or having found the right partner with whom to start a family. It may bring up painful memories of miscarriages or terminations, or herald the end of the possibility of fertility treatment. These are huge and deep issues which women face and never is there a more profound need for support from other women who can bear witness to our distress, and help us feel our feelings, let go and move forward to the great opportunities that this transition can bring us.

Here I would greatly recommend the support circles of Joey Walters, ‘Rising Connected – belonging and blossoming in sisterhood’. In these circles the well of supportive love created allows us to express our feelings and between us, bear the unbearable. Also, of great help at this time is to work with a Health Creation Mentor to enable you to focus on yourself in a positive self-nurturing relationship, identifying and cultivating the new fully authentic and empowered life that is opening up before you.

Weleda also has a wealth of products to support you through this transition.




Stress Relief Oral Spray
Stress Relief Oral Spray 
Sometimes a healthy level of stress can suddenly become unhealthy, eating into your good night’s sleep. This homeopathic oral spray is helpful to ease feelings of irritability and tension, and is a combination of Pulsatilla together with calming Chamomile from our own Weleda gardens.
Avena Sativa Comp Drops
Avena Sativa Comp Drops 
A calming herbal remedy to help prepare for a good night’s sleep, especially useful if you’re having trouble switching off, or if you wake in the night and can’t get back to sleep. After a relaxing soak in Lavender Bath Milk, take a few drops of Avena Sativa Comp in a little water on retiring to bed.
Citrus Refreshing Bath Milk
Citrus Refreshing Bath Milk 
The citrus scent of Weleda’s revitalising and enlivening bath milk can help bring life into sharper focus, with a sense of grounding, if you are struggling with brain fog as a result of the menopause. The perfect pick-me-up.
Relax Aroma Shower
Relax Aroma Shower 
Soothe your senses with this subtle, relaxing blend of aromatic lavender, bright bergamot and enveloping, warm, woody vetiver, that invites you to find your inner balance, comforting mind and spirit.
Prickly Pear Cactus Facial Mist
Prickly Pear Cactus Facial Mist 
A wonderfully cooling spray if you are struggling with hot flushes. Spritz skin for instant refreshment with this oil free non-sticky fine mist which absorbs quickly leaving skin soft and hydrated.
Refining Toner
Refining Toner 
The mildly astringent plant ingredients in this cooling facial toner, including wild rose leaf extract, witch hazel distillate and lemon juice, have a pore-refining effect, leaving skin refreshed and toned whilst the fresh fragrance revives the senses.
Evening Primrose Skin Revitalising Concentrate
Evening Primrose Skin Revitalising Concentrate 
After the menopause skin naturally loses elasticity and bounce. A beautifully cooling serum made with revitalising evening primrose oil, cooling aloe vera and witch hazel distillate, leaving skin refreshed and supple. Follow with the Evening Primrose Eye & Lip Cream, Day or Night Cream, to protect and plump maturing skin and strengthen the skin’s resilience.
Revitalising Hair Tonic
Revitalising Hair Tonic 
One of Weleda’s original wellbeing products from the 1920s and still going strong today, this natural hair tonic supports the scalp if you are experiencing thinning hair, to build more growth and more body for naturally stronger hair and healthier scalp. Whilst the aromatic rosemary invigorates the senses.
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