Menopause is universal, all women have a limited number of eggs and when they fall below a certain level, ovulation stops, and menstruation disappear. This happens somewhere between 40 and 55 years of age with a statistical average of 51 years. Menopause is defined by the absence of menstruation for more than one year. But before that, women will go through a transitional period that can start in their forties with the appearance of longer, shorter and more irregular menstrual cycles. In addition to this change in menstruation, there is a hormonal imbalance, especially in estrogen and progesterone. It is estimated that only 20% of Western women experience this transition with few symptoms, 60% experience some symptoms and for 20% of women, it is hell.
All women go through this stage. What is special about Japanese women is that:
- Hot flashes and night sweats are felt by 75% of Western women, compared with only 10% of Japanese women;
- Osteoporosis, heart disease, and breast cancer incidences are much less common among Japanese women.
It was Margaret Lock, an anthropology researcher at the Université de Montréal who made this discovery in the 1980s. Several factors are responsible for this difference.
A different attitude towards menopause
In the West, women see menopause as a decline and it is feared. In Japan, they hardly talk about it. There is no word in the vocabulary for menopause. In its place, they speak of a change in life (the word used is “konenki”). Their view of the change in women emphasizes the importance of psychology in accepting this life transition. On one side, we dread its arrival and on the other, we accept it with serenity.
Diet is also responsible for this difference, more specifically, the consumption of soy. In Asian countries where 2 to 3 portions a day are consumed, there is a low rate of prostate and breast cancer. The same thing with hot flashes, vaginal dryness, cardiovascular disease, and the consumption of soy helps protect against osteoporosis. However, the effectiveness of soy depends on the composition of your intestinal flora. In which foods do you find soy? Miso, tempeh, tamari sauce, or shoyu. There is also milk, yogurt, soy dessert cream, and tofu.
But are these the only things that can help menopause? No, and several other recommendations are within your reach.
If the onset of menopause is synonymous with hormonal changes, especially at the estrogen and progesterone levels, it would be natural to think that compensating for this decline by the absorption of synthetic hormones would offset the problems associated with it. And that’s what the scientific community tried to do between the 1960s and today. But many health problems came with the use of one or another hormone. So much so that today the motto is to avoid treating symptoms with hormones unless they are too disabling. In such cases, try to have the lowest doses possible.
One factor that is often associated with the onset of menopause is weight gain. Although the decline in estrogen causes the extra weight to become concentrated and more noticeable in the abdominal area, the weight gain, as such, has less to do with menopause than with a slowing down of your metabolism, dietary changes, and a more sedentary lifestyle. Take this opportunity to make healthy changes in your lifestyle. What do you eat? Do you have coffee and alcohol in large quantities? Do you eat processed foods? Do you include fruits, vegetables, and grains in your diet? Do you eat more than you need? Are you physically active? In addition to increasing your caloric expenditure and fortifying your cardiovascular system, regular exercise is a great way to prevent osteoporosis and it has an impact on hot flashes. To counter osteoporosis, would it be a good idea to consume more dairy products? According to research conducted in Finland, Sweden and Denmark, three countries with a very high consumption of dairy products, they found there were many more cases of hip fractures than in Japan or India where the consumption of dairy products is significantly lower. In addition, calcium from cow’s milk is thought to be more difficult to absorb than calcium from green vegetables, fresh and dried fruits, oilseeds (almonds, sesame, etc.), legumes, cereals and eggs.
How to control hot flashes with food?
Three foods could be beneficial for reducing hot flashes: Sage taken as an infusion three times a day (1 teaspoonful of dry leaves). Black cohosh is another plant that is effective against hot flashes, as well as for insomnia, mood disorders, anxiety, and depression. The last food which is more accessible: tomato juice. Taken twice daily, this juice can reduce hot flashes, anxiety and mood disorders.
For hot flashes, clary sage essential oil is excellent, but it is contraindicated for women who have had mastosis or have a history of hormone-dependent cancer. How to take it? Orally, two drops on a neutral tablet to be taken in the morning, at noon and at night for a week. Or dilute three drops in a teaspoon of vegetable oil. Massage on the lower abdominal area in the morning and evening for 20 days. For anxiety, neroli essential oil extracted from bitter orange flowers is excellent. When you feel the need, put two drops on the inside of your wrist, rub them together and take deep breaths.
This article is based on the article by Annie Casamayou, naturopath, reflexologist and yoga teacher, entitled « Ménopause : faites comme les Japonaises! », Published in the journal « Révélations Santé et bien-être » January 16, 2018.
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