For six to seven months, I was startled to observe that my menses would come erratically, at one time after 50 days, at another time only 15 days after the last one. The length the menses was also startling -- as short as a day, to as long as 15 days. Otherwise, I felt fine. My friends urged me to check up with my ob-gyne, so I finally relented.
It didn't occur to me that I could be experiencing the start of menopause. But I never encountered hot flashes, perhaps never noticed it in the normal heat of our country, nor did I have noticeable mood swings. But at 43, my ob-gyne confirmed after extensive tests that I had broken through the early stage of menopause.
Some Facts about Menopause
Menopause is a stage of a woman's reproductive life when the ovaries cease to produce an egg cell every 4 weeks. Thus menstruation ceases and the woman is no longer able to become pregnant. This point is an important trigger for the onset of female menopause, which usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55.
At menopause, hormonal changes cause a decline in production of:
- estrogens, which are responsible for many aspects of female sexual development
- melatonins, which protect te body cells from toxic effects of alcohol, radioactivity, acids and other harmful substances
- progesterone, which helps protect us from heart attack, hypertension, artherosclerosis, hair loss, cancer, regulate proper metabolism, and a host of other functions
- testosterone (am not sure yet how this works in women)
Post-menopausal women absorb dietary calcium less efficiently, thus elder women suffer greater risk of osteoporosis.
Because of the lowered estrogen production, three out of four women experience side effects of menopause, in one way or another, including
- decline in the elasticity of arteries and blood vessels, and susceptibility to varicose veins
- excessive perspiration (hot flashes)
- susceptibility to hair loss
- lowered metabolism leading to lethargy (I know I experienced this !!!)
- susceptibility to bone loss and osteoporosis
- nervous system conditions such as anxiety, apathy, poor concentation, depression, insomnia, irritability
- reduced sexual desire and susceptibility to vaginitis
A conscious decision to have fun
This knowledge that I was into my menopause alleviated my worst fears of possible cancer. You would have heard my sigh of relief. "So my body is starting to show signs of age. Come to think of it, shortly after I turned 40, my eyesight took a turn for the worse, a sure sign of aging. No I didn't have to use reading glasses even now at 54, but my distance lenses had to change from a grade of 125, to 250."
Once I realized that my body was starting to deteriorate, I made a resolute decision to keep alive, in all aspects. I took up regular exercise again, by dancing 3x a week for up to 5 hours each at a dance hall. I gradually changed my wardrobe to reflect my determination, and get a better figure as I Iost some weight and fat from my regular very enjoyable exercise.
As an aside, I had studied dance for 15 years, in my youth, and had started teaching when I decided to get married. That started a new phase in my life. But when I resumed dancing in my 40s, I rediscovered my talents and skills, which made dancing much more fun. Eventually, I opened a dance school, but that's for another hub.
In addition to dancing, I also decided to semi-retire from my Public Relations counseling, and started to turn my attention to other interests and types of jobs, including campaign management for a senatorial candidate. I researched on spirituality, and tried a few groups until I decided to join Eckankar in 1999. I dabbled with web design and created my very first website in 1997 on the one activity that interested me. The Dance Addict's Guide (unfortunately lost when Yahoo bought and then killed Geocities.com) dealt with social dancing in the Philippines. It created so much following that eventually led to my own dance book, Victoria's Dance Secrets -- to Ballroom Dancing in the Philippines.
But why am I talking about all this?
This was how I enjoyably coped with my menopause. I indulged in things that I've always wanted to do. "You are where you attention is." My attention was definitely not on my menopause, but on enjoying my new experiences, talents and skills. Fact is, I hardly noticed this menopause stage, and learned to live with the inconvenience of having to bring lots of fresh pads and underpants in my purse, just in case. I carried a bigger bag, which also included my dance shoes. I also got used to those little mishaps when I'd rise up from my seat in a meeting with a golf-ball-size stain on my skirt. Fortunately, even my male colleagues were quite forgiving and respectful.
A no-guilt diet
Meanwhile, I kept my body healthy with good nutrition with natural foods, and the occasional junk food too. I had quite a good appetite resulting from so much dance exercise, yet I had regained my post-teen weight of 120 lbs.
I'd rather not take any synthetic drugs if I can help it, thus my motivation to learn more about natural remedies. My food intake and diet mostly consisted of anything I wanted to eat, but with some attention to
- soy protein in the form of bite-size cubes of tokwa (soy bean cake) or warm taho. I heard that 60 or so grams of soy protein reduces the hot flashes experienced by women during menopause.
- Vitamin E supplement in capsules at last once a day, to alleviate hot flashes. I also believe, rightly or wrongly, that Vitamin E would keep the elasticity of my skin.
- proteins from meats and balut (a really tasty Filipino delicacy)
- lots of calcium from nilagang baka (beef stew), milk, yogurt.
- lots of fresh fruits, salads, and vegetable dishes
- some enjoyable, though not necessarilly healthy foods, every now and then -- lechon balat (very crispy skin of pig roasted on an open fire), sapin-sapin, ice cream and cake
At 48, I had totally lost my menses (careful with the spelling). Hurray, no more little mishaps, unpleasant odor, pads that itch and cause rashes. I don't remember any of those discomforts now, instead I appreciate all the opportunities that come my way -- rediscovering my passion for dance, a new book, a new business, news computer skills, many new friends, creating wireart jewelry, many new things learned, a totally new attitude and outlook to life. The five menopause years have come and gone, highlighting the start of a new phase of freedom in my life.
I am now 54 years old. I know I've taken good care of myself, and can confidently look forward to many many years of enjoyable healthy living with a loving family, watching and experience life with our daughters as they build their own families and lives.