by Lynette Sadler, MSc. Dip. HE Wellness Coach, Natural Chef
Early spring this year I visited your wonderful island of Grenada. It was my first holiday to the Caribbean and it turned out to be a dream holiday, basking in the beautiful scenery, mouth-watering cuisine and meeting kind-hearted people as I travelled around the island made for a pleasurable experience.
I enjoyed my vacation here that I pledge to return in 2020 to experience this beautiful island again. Conversating with people I met about the nutritional contents of spices and herbs was edifying because as a Wellness Coach, nutrition is a subject that I am passionate about, particularly women’s health and I was able to share some of my knowledge on how these could be used to manage symptoms of the menopause as well as learn a few beneficial tips from local women.
However, it did sadden me that the stigma around the menopause that women experience in England and in America was also witnessed in Grenada. Instead of celebrating this transition many women felt embarrassed that they were either going through or had been through the menopause.
Why is this so?
I am of the opinion that one of the reasons why the menopause is still a subject that is kept hush-hush by many women, is because it signals the end of youth and the beginning of getting old. In many cultures ageing is not viewed in a positive light and not wanting to be seen as old women, some women choose not to disclose their menopause ‘status’. In our youth idolising culture, the menopause can be seen as an ending. Women are often mocked by their partners, female co-workers or friends when they experience hot flashes, memory loss, brain fog, verbal slips, or other obvious cognitive effects of the perimenopause and menopause. The lack of social acceptance of the menopause devalues this experience and keeps women to some extent suffering in silence to the point that many do not even discuss the menopause with their doctor. This is quite serious as there are many studies that suggest that black women are more likely to experience intense symptoms related to their menopause than their white counterparts, primarily due to their diet. Therefore, it is important that you speak to your doctor if you are experiencing worrying symptoms so that you can get the support you need.
The International Menopause Society, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation, has designated 18 October as World Menopause Day to bring awareness and educate women on the menopause. The menopause is a natural transition.
The age of onset for menopause is typically between 45 and 55 when oestrogen levels start to decline. However, some women can start the menopause earlier if they have received medical treatment such as a full hysterectomy or chemotherapy and perimenopause can begin as early as 15 years before natural menopause. During this transition, women experience symptoms at varying degrees. Irritable bowel, nausea, aching joints, cracking or peeling skin, depression, vaginal atrophy and dryness, lowered libido, memory loss, sleep disorders, osteoporosis, flat feet and mood swings are just some of the symptoms you may experience. Blood pressure can increase during and post-menopause.
Men you are not off the hook. You too can go through The Change, Andropause. Men can suffer from the andropause/male menopause symptoms are not too dissimilar from those symptoms experienced by women going through menopause; joint pain, low sex drive, low mood, depression, poor concentration, irritability, weight gain, hot flashes, loss of muscle mass, fatigue and osteoporosis. Osteoporosis can shorten the spinal column. Like menopause, andropause is caused by hormonal imbalance or deficiency. Focussing on restoring and maintaining hormonal imbalance is paramount at this juncture of your life as breast, ovarian and prostate cancer is escalated during and post-menopause and andropause.
How can you help yourself during this transition?
Firstly, it is important to understand that what you consume can either increase or reduce symptoms during the Change, if you consume a diet rich in animal products and limited fibre. We need fibre to cleanse the liver of excessive hormones. You can take more control of your wellbeing by consuming more wholesome foods and reduce the amount of seasoning used in meal preparation.
Grenada the Spice Island is blessed with so many spices and herbs that can help women and men during this transition. Turmeric can lower inflammation and cholesterol. Cinnamon, Garlic, Ginger, Oregano, Cloves, Dill, Sweet Basil, Turmeric have anti-inflammatory properties. Flaxseed/linseed is high in oestrogen-like phytoestrogens, particularly lignans, beneficial for alleviating hot flashes, sweating, low mood, joint pain and cholesterol levels. Herbs such as Black Cohosh can relieve menstrual cramps and symptoms of menopause and dandelion for hot flashes. Supplements such as Vitamin B is beneficial for energy and the nervous system as well as Omega 3. Men should eat more foods containing zinc such as shellfish to improve prostate health.
Try to reduce the amount of process foods you eat, as a diet high in fat, sugars and processed foods will not only increase your waist size but can lead to insulin resistance or sensitivity. Unbalanced insulin levels will make it nearly impossible to manage your symptoms, particularly hot flashes and weight gain. Staples such as yam and sweet potato are beneficial during the menopause as these foods can reduce hot flashes and night sweats. Look to nature for the answer as many plants resemble parts of the body and are beneficial for boosting health in those areas. It is advisable to speak to your doctor if you are taking medication when considering natural ways of managing the change.
My book called ‘Change is Coming’ provides more information on managing symptoms of the menopause and andropause naturally through nutrition and include tasty recipes. It is available at Art and Soul Bookstore, Spiceland Mall, Grand Anse. In my book I show you how you can start to manage symptoms of the menopause holistically.
Take control of your health and future.