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Ellen Sarver Dolgen

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A Menopause Carol

Posted: 12/21/11 11:38 AM ET

It's a cold winter night and the town is buzzing with holiday cheer. The lamp posts are decorated with wreaths and red bows, doorways are adorned with just a bit of mistletoe, and the smell of pine trees and cinnamon fills the air. If, as the saying goes, this is the most wonderful time of the year, why are you feeling like Scrooge?

Could it be because your hot flashes make you hate fireplaces, your brain replays "Jingle Bell Rock" when you can't sleep at night, and your irritability makes you want to punch anyone who has the nerve to wear any shade of red or green? Don't let your menopause chain you down (the Marley brothers will tell you it's not worth it)! Three ghosts will visit you -- the Ghost of Menopause Past, the Ghost of Menopause Present, and the Ghost of Menopause Yet to Come.

The Ghost of Menopause Past: Welcome to your memory. If you're going through perimenopause or menopause, odds are you've been missing it! Over the holidays, lucky families will reunite to spend quality time together, baking cookies, going on walks, and sharing memories. It's the perfect time for the different generations in your family to talk about how to deal with your body's changes during menopause. The Ghost of Menopause Past can be anyone who has already gone through it and with whom you feel comfortable talking about your experiences. Talk to your mother or your aunts. Though every woman's experience is different, it is comforting to be able to share with your family.

Most women have never talked with their moms about menopause because menopause has always been taboo and it can be an awkward thing to bring up ("So, I've been experiencing memory loss lately and I can't remember your name... Remind me?"). Baby boomer parents often aren't used to discussing such personal matters. The best advice: Jump right in. This woman had you in her womb for nine months, changed your diapers, and may have helped you with some really awkward situations while you were going through puberty. She knows you, she knows her body best, and knowing the history women in your family have with bodily changes like menopause will help you perfect your path to hormone happiness.

The Ghost of Menopause Present: How do you feel? No, really! How do you feel? Listen to what your body is telling you. We have the tendency, especially over the holidays, to lose ourselves in the hustle and bustle. So many women are used to operating at feeling 80% or less that they forget 100% is possible. You can achieve 100% a number of ways now. Step one is tracking your symptoms so you can detect patterns. Finding a doctor that specializes in perimenopause and menopause is the next step. Ask your doctor about tests you should consider taking. With those results and your symptoms chart, you may decide, with the help of your menopause doctor, that you'd like to try using hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Bioidentical HRT is a great way to ease menopause symptoms. Here is a great list of questions to ask your provider if that's the route you want to take.

Some women are looking to herbal remedies as alternatives or complements to treatment. These may or may not be beneficial and I urge you to be guided by a qualified menopause specialist when trying them, with your symptoms chart and blood tests in mind. Some integrated medicine specialists recommend trying soy products for their potential to ease some of the common menopause symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats or vaginal dryness. Dr. Gordon Saxe, Director of Research and an integrative physician at the UC San Diego Center for Integrative Medicine, explains the difference between healthy soy products and soy products to avoid. It is important to understand the difference (read the article about it here).

Whatever path(s) you choose, consider throwing a Menopause Party. Women across the country are hosting parties because it's a fun, easy way to share information and resources. Moreover, you will leave with a wonderful new support system to help you on your individual path to hormone happiness.

The Ghost of Menopause Yet to Come: This ghost (think Casper) embodies the great life you can have when you're proactive about seeking the help you deserve. This is a game-changer! It's your self-empowered future as well as the future of the next generation of perimenopausal women. We've come a long way from girdles and curlers. It's time to educate young women so they have it easier than we might have. Being prepared and communicating are the keys to breaking the taboo that has loomed over perimenopause and menopause. Remember talking to your kids about sex? This is way less awkward than that!

By taking steps toward hormone happiness, you will take the "Bah! Humbug!" right out of your life. Live your life in the past, present and future. Learn from your past and use the resources you have available, ask a menopause specialist anything and everything, and prepare your daughter, daughters-in-law, and nieces for what they may experience. Then smile, open the window to the snow (or the sunshine if you are in the Sunbelt), buy a huge turkey, step up and speak up. You are not alone. There are 50 million women in the United States in menopause (not to mention all of those in perimenopause). Remember: Reaching out is IN. Suffering in silence is OUT!

Celebrate yourself along with the holidays!

 

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