Posts made in December, 2010

Wishing You the Best for 2011

Posted by on Dec 31, 2010 in Uncategorized | 5 comments

Here’s to a new year and a new decade! Cheers! And thanks for another great year at Flashfree!

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The Top Ten Wednesday Bubbles of 2010

Posted by on Dec 29, 2010 in Inspiration | 0 comments

Anyone who knows me knows that I really dislike ‘top ten’ lists. So, for the final Wednesday of 2010, I decided to ‘punk’ myself and go back through the year’s Bubble archives. Here are my favourites but hey, don’t take my word for it; 2010 provided a lot of menopause fodder and folly and I encourage you to select (and comment) on your favs.

Without further ado, I give you…The Top Ten Wednesday Bubbles of 2010

10.  This is your brain on midlfe. This one needs no explanation. Just fill in the blank lingering over your head.

9. The Mommy Factor? It’s Personal. Not everyone is suitable for parenthood, i.e. just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

8. Is Weight Loss All in Your Head? Brain enzymes and brown fat and research, oh my. How do we get here from there?

7. Bisphosphonates…Enough to Make Your Jaw Drop. Essential information about osteoporosis drugs that you can’t afford to miss. Enough to make your draw drop, literally.

6. Ask the Hard Questions. If there’s one overriding theme of Flashfree, this is it. Especially when it comes to hormone replacement therapy.

5. HRT & the Window Hypothesis. The mother of all inventions is the Window Hypothesis. Brought to you by big pharma…

4. Time to Debunk the Myths About Traditional Chinese Medicine. The title says it all. Isn’t it time we stop trying to unravel the mystery and just accept?

3. Playing Russian Roulette – Hormone Replacement & Ovarian Cancer. Still believe that HRT is safe? You might want to take a look at this link to ovarian cancer.

2. Good Girls & Inner Hags – A Journey to Self. Inside every woman lurks a dark goddess. Amy Palko asks if you are embracing her.

1. A Doc and a Diva Walk Up to the Rooftop. Okay, this isn’t a Bubble but it should have been. And it is, by far, my favourite post of the year just because it is so absurd. Move on over Red Hot Mamas! There’s a new world order in town and we’re taking back our menopause. One rooftop at a time.

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Looking through the window: depression and menopause

Posted by on Dec 27, 2010 in depression | 2 comments

There’s a new term that’s being kicked around in medical circles: ‘windows of vulnerability.’

It appears that a growing body of evidence supports the fact that during times of hormonal flux or reproductive cycle “events,” women become increasingly vulnerable to mood swings, anxiety and depression. And while this is certainly not news for many women, it still requires some attention because among the many windows that women may go through, the menopausal transition is evidently one of the most complex. The reason? This is a time when hormones interact with aging, sexuality, life stressors, self-esteem and general health issues.

The subject of depression and menopause is not new to this blog, nor are statistics suggesting that as many as 20% to 40% of women are believed to suffer major depression or at the very least, depressive symptoms during the peri/postmenopausal years. Moreover, women may have as much as a two- to four-times increased risk of developing depression as they transition from pre- to perimenopausal status. Among the multiple factors at play, estrogen is one of the most important; estrogen has been shown to promote the amount of the mood neurotransmitter serotonin available to the body, thereby providing an important antidepressant effect. However, a recent review suggests that the role that hormones like estrogen play in depression is directly related to their wide fluctuations rather than the fact that they are becoming deficient.

So, why is this important? For one, it highlights that hormone replacement is not the only answer for depression during menopause but rather, that it’s critical to pay attention to timing, i.e. when preventive strategies, including exercise, behavioral therapy and antidepressants might yield the greatest long-term benefits. Yet, it also suggests that estrogen-based therapies may indeed have a role in depression during menopause. And, since estrogen alone therapy has been shown to up the risk for ovarian cancer except for in women who’ve had hysterectomies, it also helps supports the need to explore the role plant-based estrogens in treating menopausal depression; fortunately, S-equol has already shown promise in this regard.

Feeling the window of vulnerability? There’s no time like the present to insure that you aren’t simply looking through the window but actually seeing that there’s hope and help on the other side. There are a lot of resources and strategies available to address depression during this time of life. While depression may be a “menopause-associated risk,” like others, it can be successfully ameliorated.


Thank you to Dr. Claudio Soares from McMaster University for an excellent review of depression in menopause and the inspiring, succinct “windows of vulnerability” terminology.

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Seasons Greetings

Posted by on Dec 24, 2010 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Whether you’ve been naughty or nice…hoping that you have a beautiful holiday weekend. Back on Monday with musings for the last week of the year.


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Wednesday Bubble: Are you dazed and confused?

Posted by on Dec 22, 2010 in women's health | 6 comments

Every now and then I like to reach into the Flashfree archives and repost a piece that either has lasting relevance or is a must-read for those of you who are new to the blog. This post originally ran in May of 2008 but continues to occupy the top ten list of importance in my mind. The topic? How do you discern information in a study and what do you need to look for. Plus, there’s an added bonus for all you Led Zeppelin fans.

Today’s Bubble – are you dazed and confused?


A gal pal mentioned to me this morning that she often feels so confused about study findings proving or disproving the value of certain medications or herbs that she often just throws up her hands and does nothing. Many of us are as dazed and confused as she is so that I thought that a few key points about clinical studies might help.

Mike Clarke from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Trinity College in Dublin wrote a great article last year about the need to standardize results of studies for a specific disease ( in this case, rheumatoid arthritis). He defined the problem as follows:

“Every year, millions of journal articles are added to the tens of millions that already exist in the health literature, and tens of millions of web pages are added to the hundreds of millions currently available. Within these, there are many tens of thousands of research studies which might provide the evidence needed to make well-informed decisions about healthcare. The task of working through all this material is overwhelming enough without then finding the studies of relevance to the decision you wish to make…”

So what do you do? A few key points:

  • Consider that every study has the potential for bias. Perhaps researchers are using 7 instruments to measure depression and only highlight findings from 3 of these in order to preserve the most positive or significant results. Clearly, the reader is being led towards certain outcomes and away from others.
  • Study designs, types of patients studied, age of patients studied, gender, you name, can differ so it’s difficult, if not impossible to draw definitive conclusions when comparing results of one to another.
  • Another issue of great interest to practitioner of Western medicine is whether or not a study is controlled. This means that two groups are compared that are identical in every way except one group is given an experimental treatment and the other, a placebo or standardized treatment. Note that often, real world conditions are often recreated rather than conducted in a real world setting and many studies are not controlled, meaning that the science behind the findings is questionable.
  • Alternative and complementary medicines are still incompletely understood among many practitioners of Western medicine. What’s more, products are not regulated as carefully as medicinal agents and manufacturing practices vary. Consequently, studies of these agents or modalities are often inconclusive. And of course, often underfunded and under-appreciated.

No wonder we all feel so dazed and confused!

I’ve written several times about the importance of consulting a practitioner or medical expert before embarking on any regimen for perimenopausal symptoms. Even if you only see someone once, at least that dialogue may be useful for defining a regimen that may work best for you and what you’re going through. And if you live off the beaten track without access toa good practitioner, well then excellent resources like Medline or the American Botanical Council may be be of help in discerning what’s what.

The short answer is that there are no short answers. But with careful guidance and a bit of prudence, you may just be able see the light and smooth out the bumps on this rollercoaster ride we’re all on.

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