Menopause – Changing Perceptions About ‘The Change’
Menopause is an important natural process in a woman’s life. It usually starts between the ages of 45 and 55 but certain health issues can cause early menopause. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy can also result in premature ovarian failure.
What is Menopause?
Hormonal changes cause menstruation to eventually cease, marking the end of the reproductive phase of a woman’s life. Sounds simple doesn’t it? The problem is that the declining hormones involved, oestrogen and progesterone, play a big part in keeping us healthy! They contribute towards bone health, cognitive and cardiovascular function, maintenance of blood sugar levels and muscle mass, to name but a few of the benefits. The loss of such essential hormones is a big deal!
Attitudes Towards Menopause
Menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, low mood and poor sleep, are well documented but often trivialised and disregarded, especially in the workplace. Historically, menopause has been viewed as a shaming disease. Victorians were deeply suspicious of women’s reproductive health and bizarre remedies were used in an attempt to ‘cure’ those suffering from severe symptoms. Sedatives, cold baths, leeches and even a spell in an asylum have been prescribed!
Thankfully, social attitudes are improving, shaped by changing perspectives about gender and age. Once a taboo subject, leading women to opt for the ‘keep calm and carry on’ approach; it is now becoming a normalised, accepted natural event.
Menopause is a time of physical, psychological and social change. It has been described as the adolescence of older age. Women experience a range of feelings, both positive and negative. There can be a newfound sense of freedom and confidence, valuing the aging process and looking towards the future. Conversely, hormone fluctuations in the body can lead women to experience psychological and emotional symptoms such as anxiety, poor concentration and irritability. Physical symptoms, primarily hot flushes, may lead some to avoid social interactions because of embarrassment and feelings of being unattractive and a loss of sexuality. Overtime this can result in depression and low self-esteem.
This phase of life often coincides with external stressors such as concerns about elderly parents, grown children leaving home and financial or career changes. Add menopause into the mix and the result can feel overwhelming.
How Can Reflexology Support Women Through Menopause?
Firstly, the safe space of the treatment room provides a relaxing environment in which clients can be totally self-focused. Reflexologists provide empathetic support of the physical and emotional consequences of menopause. Reflexology can be effective in reducing symptoms by balancing hormones through a variety of techniques working the reflexes of the endocrine system. A treatment releases tension, enhances relaxation and sleep, and improves mood and well-being.
Scientific research into the effects of reflexology is scant but there have been two randomised controlled trials looking at how the therapy supports menopause. One trial concluded that reflexology decreased hot flushes and improved quality of life for women in the study. (Gozuyesil & Baser, 2016). Another study evaluated reflexology’s effectiveness for sleep disorder in women during menopause. (Asltoghiri & Ghodsi, 2012)
5 Natural Ways to Reduce Menopausal Symptoms
A healthy diet of foods rich in calcium and vitamin D will help bone health. Including plenty of fruit and vegetables will guard against weight-gain and heart disease.
Exercise regularly to improve metabolism, aid better sleep and mood. It will also keep joints healthy and help the bones.
Drink plenty of water to maintain a healthy digestive system, help with dryness and have a cooling effect during hot flushes.
Avoid stimulants such as tea, coffee and alcohol which may trigger hot flushes.
Get out in the sunlight which promotes the production of vitamin D to keep bones strong.
During menopausal transition, self-care is paramount.