Posts made in May, 2011

Wednesday Bubble: Be You Again

Posted by on May 18, 2011 in herbal medicine, Uncategorized | 1 comment

Want to beat the ‘menopause misery?’ Now you can with BeYouAgain.

Not only do I hate the name but I hate the concept that you ever stopped ‘being you’ and instead, became another ‘you’ because of menopause. And while I certainly don’t fault any woman for feeling differently when those damn mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats, headaches, bloating, insomnia or depression hits, I believe that the concept of losing ones soul in the depths of menopause hell is a bunch of hogwash. Trust me; I’ve seen the menopause devil and although she isn’t very pretty, she hasn’t yet robbed me of me.

According to the manufacturer, BetterYou™, BeYouAgain is a “premium sourced food supplement” that contains an “invigorating blend of herbal adaptogens, minerals and vitamins to nourish and revive a tired body.” Not only does it help to “encourage mood maintenance and reduce” axiety, but it also “promotes mental clarity and concentration, alleviates short-term fatigue and helps to maintain a healthy heart and normal blood pressure.” Wow! All these benefits in only two capsules daily.

BeYouAgain contains:

  • maca, to enhance energy, stamina and libido
  • magnesium, to help relax the body
  • milk thistle to protect the liver
  • agnus castus to balance hormones
  • Siberian ginseng to maintain energy
  • Cayenne pepper to enhance circulation and digestion

And, a host of other vitamins and minerals to boost these processes.

Stop. Really. Stop and think.

Two pills, one size fits all, menopause hype.

You’re not you but you can be you if you simply take “BeYouAgain” daily.

I don’t know what part of this story is more insulting. The fact that the manufacturers want you to believe that you’ve lost a part of you that can be regained with supplements. Or the story that menopause steals your soul in the first place.

The She Devil? I’d take a guess that she’s residing in Better You.

Bursting this one.

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To everything, there is a season

Posted by on May 16, 2011 in menopause | 1 comment


We know that certain aspects of the menopause, in particular hot flashes can be influenced by weather. But did you know that menopause onset may also be seasonal?

In my weekly scan of the news, I ran across an older but interesting study that had been published in Maturitas in 2005. In it, researchers discuss how human reproduction is seasonal in order to optimize fertility and tends to correlate to the most favourable environmental conditions, including light and temperature. This fact led them to evaluate the medical records of over 2,400 white women who had attended outpatient menopause services in order to determine if entering menopause is also a seasonal phenomenon. The following were taken into account:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Education
  • Weight/BMI
  • Smoking history
  • Major illnesses that may have required surgery or chemo
  • Number of pregnancies
  • Type of menopause, last menstrual period, years since menopause
  • Use of hormones
  • Occupation

On average, the majority of women were 52, had been in menopause for 2 years, weighed about 143 pounds and were right on the BMI cut off of normal and overweight. Amongst this group of women, onset of menopause occurred significantly more often in winter than in spring, summer or autumn, respectively (although a minor peak in onset of menopause was also observed in smaller numbers of women during summer). When the researchers compared this timing to reproduction, they found that it was concentrated between the highest and lowest points of reproduction. Moreover, none of the other factors appeared to influence this seasonal variance of menopause onset.

However, like all studies, there are limitations, such as the fact that the women were of one race and were evaluated retrospectively. Or, that only two other studies have had similar findings and both of these were in monkeys. Still, it is rather interesting and I’d love to take a poll with those of you readers who have fully entered menopause and whose period has stopped for at least 12 months. If you are willing, leave a comment as to which season your menopause started. Meanwhile, the intrigue remains: is menopause a seasonal phenomenon and are there factors other than environment that influence its start?

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The alternative alternative: physician-prescribed alternative medicine

Posted by on May 13, 2011 in Meditation/mindfulness therapy | 8 comments

In addition to exploring mid-life emotional, physical and social issues, Flashfree is about effective alternatives to hormone replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms. A huge challenge in this arena is that alternatives are often automatically dismissed as “woo woo” medicine, with naysayers claiming that there is little scientific evidence to support their use. Nevertheless, I have long believed that with the proper considerations and adjustments to the way that medical studies are conducted, findings might prove to be very different than they are. That’s why I’m heartened to read that  mind-body medicine, which includes yoga, tai chi, qi gong, meditation, guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation and deep breathing, comprises a large portion of the types of practices that are being incorporated into everyday life (and medicine).

Is the tide turning?

It may be, at least when it comes to mind-body strategies.

According to a study in this week’s Archives of Internal Medicine, over 41 million Americans report trying some sort mind-body strategy. More importantly? About 1/8th, or  6.36 million of these individuals are using these strategies on the recommendation of their healthcare providers, most of which involves deep breathing, meditation and yoga or a combination thereof. Moreover, complementary strategies are apparently suggested mostly in people who have chronic illness, such as pulmonary disease or anxiety. On a broader level, physicians are increasingly recommending mind-body therapy to individuals with neurological deficiencies including headaches, migraines, back pain with sciatica, strokes, dementia, seizures or memory loss.  Meanwhile, in so far as menopausally-related symptoms, there is evidence that mind-body medicine may ease hot flashes and promote overall wellbeing (which in turn, eases symptom severity).

For something that is as easy and safe as mind-body medicine, one has to wonder why it’s taking so long to catch on. And yet, the question remains: are physicians starting to turn to alternative or complementary strategies because conventional medicine isn’t working or has been just about exhausted for a particular condition or patient? Is it possible that physician recommended alternative strategies lead to better outcomes or declines in use of the healthcare system? Only time will tell.

Stay tuned.

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Wednesday Bubble: 10 is the loneliest number…

Posted by on May 11, 2011 in hot flash | 0 comments


I’m using this Bubble to burst a few illusions, such as hot flashes during menopause don’t actually last very long.

How about 10 years?!

Right now, one year for hot flashes to come and then go sounds pretty tempting, doesn’t it?

A few years ago, I wrote about a study in the journal Menopause that alluded to the fact that hot flashes were likely to last for five years or more. Just this week, I ran across another study in Obstetrics & Gynecology that adds another 5 years to the evidence. Yikes!

How long is long enough?

Clinical Guidelines suggest that hot flashes peak one year into menopause and for most women, last anywhere from six months to two years. So, why is popular opinion, if you will, being challenged in research circles?

Using data from the Penn Ovarian Aging Study, which followed and monitored women over a 13-year period, researchers evaluated moderate-to-severe hot flashes on average, every 9 months. The women did not report having hot flashes at the study’s start, but developed them between the first year and near the study’s end. During each assessment, interviews were conducted on overall health, height, weight, hip and waist measures were taken and blood samples collected (to evaluate hormone levels).  Menopausal status was also delineated by  five stages:

  • premenopausal (regular menstrual periods)
  • late premenopausal (cycle change of 7 days or more in either direction observed one time)
  • early transition (change of 7 days or more observed at least twice in a row)
  •  late transition (three to 11 months without a menstrual cycle)
  • postmenopausal

More than 90% of women in the study were pre or late premenopausal at the study’s start.

Unfortunately, the results of the study are not very promising. On average, the median duration of moderate to severe hot flashes was 10.2 years, with only 37% of women reporting that their hot flashes stopped during the study. However, researchers found a relationship between length of time and when hot flashes began. For example. hot flashes tended to last longer (i.e. more than 11 years) in women who reported their hot flashes started in the premenopausal or late premenopausal stage compared to women whose hot flashes began in the early transition (average 7 years) and late transition (average 4 years).

Age was also a factor as the median duration of hot flashes tended to be longest in women who started flashing before the age of 40. Most commonly, however, more than a third of women tended to have the worst flashes when they were between the ages of 45 and 49.  Other factors such as African American race and a body mass index less than 30 were also associated with having hot flashes for longer periods of time.

If you are wondering about the silver lining in this story, there actually is one. The researchers say that it may be a good idea to start addressing vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes in younger women who are starting to have irregular menstrual periods.  Because “traditional hormonal therapy may not be the ideal choice for this population, given, for example, the problems with breakthrough bleeding and the need for contraception,” other treatments need to be evaluated.

I’ve long espoused the value of taking steps to shut symptoms down sooner rather than later, which is why alternative strategies may be so useful. If duration of hot flashes last longer when they start a younger age, and it is recommended that hormonal therapy be used for the shortest period of time possible, it’s not a bad idea to speak to a health practitioner about incorporating things like black cohosh into a daily routine. As always, there’s no time like the present to start taking charge of your health and get ahead of the change.

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Creativity and the menopause

Posted by on May 9, 2011 in Inspiration | 1 comment

I happened upon a tweet by my friend Amy Palko over the weekend:

“What effect does menopause have on our perception of ourselves as intrinsically creative beings?”

For those of you who don’t know Amy, she is a writer, educator and creator of a wonderful site called Bloom by Moon, where she explores the moon cycles and the goddess narratives in order to help women reconnect with their sacred feminine. Those of you who are regular readers of this blog may recall that Amy graced the pages of Flashfree last year and contributed a beautiful piece on acknowledging our inner dark goddesses, a piece that remains close to my heart.

So, back to Amy’s question on creativity and menopause.

Menopause, as those of you who are in the throes, are swirling around the “peri” or fully past it know, is time of great change, not only in women’s reproductive systems but also in their lives. Although Western society in particular uses menopause as an overall characterization of an aging woman, it actually goes much deeper than surface and physical changes. In fact, it is possible that the emotional changes that coincide with the transition may be what fuels creativity, particularly as a woman moves deeper into her life and her ‘self.’

Consider that creativity is not an easily defined construct, nor does does it manifest the same in everyone. Just like menopause.

Consequently, perhaps we should change the paradigm, shake up the system, shake up our systems, our beliefs, our viewpoints and our “selves.” Isn’t it time to view the transition the start of the second half of a life’s journey, where the lines that have been etched over the time period leading up to menopause become more jagged, looser and flexible, and where women finally start to allow themselves to “be” who they are rather than who and how others define them? Is it possible that menopause is an opportunity to expand how women view the world and their roles as opposed to shrinking into a self-imposed myopic state of nothing? Can hormone-driven mood swings and depression be spun into threads of passion, ink on paper, colours on a canvas, wherever and whenever the creative impulse strikes? Can we take the anger we feel as parts our bodies betray us and use that anger to fight harder for better, less dangerous menopausal remedies?

As I said, creativity takes many forms.

The opportunities are endless.

I am literally standing on the precipice of age 50 and swirling in the ‘peri’ of the menopause. I have made a promise to myself to take the reins and to stop asking for permission. I am ready to control as much of my journey as I can. My creativity may ebb and flow but at the end of the day, I’d like to believe that it is what I will use to guide the rest of my life’s journey.

You too, have a creative self and a creative soul just ready to emerge. What is it telling you? Moreover, when are you going to take charge of it and allow it unleash its beauty on the world?

Let it out. There really is no other choice.

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