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What Really Happens at Menopause?

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The fifth chapter of Dr. Robert A. Wilson’s book called Feminine Forever, written in 1966, is titled “Menopause—the Loss of Womanhood and the Loss of Good Health.” Yup, go ahead, re-read it…that is what it is titled.

You see, at the time, Dr. Wilson, a New York gynecologist, was hired by three of the largest pharmaceutical companies to write this book, which has a blatant take-home message—if women don’t take synthetic estrogen after menopause they are doomed to become unattractive hags and die prematurely. These companies then donated $1.3 million to set up the Wilson Foundation for the sole purpose of developing and promoting synthetic estrogen drugs. It was a marketing tool.

We’ll delve deeper into the topic of hormone therapy in future posts. What I want to touch on here is the message that this best-selling book sent to women across the country. It was a harmful message—and it reverberates to this day.

What happens at menopause? Well, I can tell you, you don’t lose your “womanhood” nor your “good health.”

The term menopause is derived from meno (month, menses) and pausis (pause, cessation). So basically, it means a pause in menstruation. It marks the transition from the reproductive years to the post-menopause years. Natural menopause should most definitely be regarded as a normal event—not a disease process associated with pending fragility, disability and death. I can tell you from my experience in my clinical practice, and from my own process, that no two women’s menopause transition is alike. The ultimate reason why menopause occurs is the loss of eggs in the ovaries, leading to the loss of progesterone and declining estrogen.

This is what really goes on physiologically as you enter into perimenopause and the transition to menopause:

  • The number of eggs you have begin to diminish.
  • Your monthly menstrual cycle begins to vary and become more irregular. Dr. Susan Love calls this period “puberty in reverse.”
  • The levels of a hormone called follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) begin to increase.
  • The ability of your ovaries to produce estrogen, progesterone and testosterone decreases.

Now, I am not saying that this normal, natural and once-celebrated transition happens without its bumps and wrinkles. It actually can be quite uncomfortable and symptomatic for some women. But unless it was caused by drugs, illness or surgery, this is a natural transition. We can’t chalk up all our various symptoms during this time to just “menopause.” That perpetuates the notion that this is a disease process. The key is to look closely and truly identify and treat the cause of any symptom you’re experiencing. That, as a naturopathic doctor, is one of my key tenants. Any transition yields us the opportunity to understand underlying imbalances and areas to focus where our health is concerned. Don’t believe me? Well, in my over 16 years of clinical practice I have had many women who go through menopause without a blip on their radar, except of course that their period has stopped, and they are living lovely, full, sexy and healthy lives.

Want to learn how? Stay tuned……….

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