Ever since I started menopause and the subsequent issue with histamine intolerance, I’ve wondered if women really need to suffer through menopause. The question comes to me as my body is now healing from the histamine intolerance and because I have not had hot flashes and mood swings or any other “symptom” for quite some time.
As women age, I think it seems almost a given that you are going to face challenges. Most women are familiar with what happens to their bodies their whole life dealing with the hormonal fluctuations from your period: migraines and cramps, mood swings, fatigue and, in the early days for me, acne. So when you approach menopause, based on the stories you hear and everything you read, you think you’re really in for it! I almost feel like this natural process is vilified and made to sound like something is wrong with your body that needs correcting.
So what do most women do when they enter this period of their lives? They seek out “treatment.” There seems to be two distinct paths to take. Either you go the natural way and take herbs, or you go the allopathic way and take HRT, hormone replacement therapy. I have problems with both.
Just this past weekend there was an article in the Washington Post and other news outlets reporting about the dangers of HRT. It’s not really new information. What is new is that along with the news that HRT did increase the risk of getting breast cancer in women who took it, if you got breast cancer it was as bad as had you not taken the HRT at all. The flawed thinking was that it protected you somehow, and the breast cancer was more curable and less virulent.
From the article:
Though it was generally agreed that women who took the two hormones to curb their hot flashes and night sweats upped their chances of developing the disease, many studies suggested that the cancers the women developed were less likely to be deadly.
A new analysis of data from the Women’s Health Initiative now casts doubt on those findings. The study, published Friday by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, concludes that the prognosis for cancers related to hormone replacement therapy is just as dire as for other breast cancers. As a result, women who turn to the treatment are more likely to die of breast cancer than their non-hormone-taking peers.
Women get desperate for relief. But at what cost? I can’t fault a woman suffering from mood swings and hot flashes and anything else that manifests for looking for something that will relieve them of their suffering. But isn’t it the responsibility of the medical profession to help without hurting? Isn’t the first sentence of the Hypocratic Oath “first do no harm?” Knowing that HRT causes breast cancer and still prescribing it to desperate women seems quite harmful. Many women are educated about HRT. They, even though they understand the risks, are still willing to take the chance and take it. They weigh the risk of getting breast cancer in the future against their need for a better quality of life. Although I think the risks are too great, I understand why some women make that choice. But even if you know the risks, should HRT still be available? I guess it’s a similar argument to the ones going on about restricting smoking and eliminating junk food. What is the ultimate responsibility society has to protect it’s people from known harms?
And what of the others of us who decide to forgo the risks of HRT for the other heavily touted direction of taking herbs? Many don’t realize there are risks. Evening Primrose Oil for example, is one of the herbs that is popular to take to minimize the symptoms of menopause. Yet after so much research, I am convinced that I was causing a great deal of my own problem by taking the Evening Primrose Oil. The imbalance to my omegas was so great that my body reacted with inflammation and histamine intolerance. Maybe I’m wrong, but what if women who take Evening Primrose Oil or Borage or Black Current Oil are flooding their bodies with high doses of inflammatory Omega 6? What if adrenal fatigue and the cortisol/DHEA balance is key to understanding the symptoms of menopause?
And then there’s soy and flax seeds. They are often cited in articles as being a healthy alternative to taking HRT, yet you can read one article arguing that soy is the devil for every article you read telling you it’s the best thing ever. It’s a maze of confusion.
I am now three weeks itch free. I am maintaining my low histamine diet and still supplementing with vitamins and olive oil, and still applying olive oil to my skin. I’m not sure the histamine intolerance is completely resolved, but I’m not actually sure it’s not. And I’m still free of hot flashes and mood swings. I am no longer restless, I sleep well at night and I don’t have that crashing fatigue that often befell me. I also no longer feel like an alien in my own body.
It’s funny, but now I feel as if on some level the histamine intolerance was a blessing. If a fairy god mother happened along and said, hey, I can make it so you can eat anything you’d like but you’ll have six hot flashes a night, I’d stick with the histamine intolerance.
I wish I were a scientist or someone who had enough influence in this world to really make a change to women’s thinking that they either have to risk their lives and their breast health using HRT, or suffer with a raft of symptoms from a naturally occurring change to their bodies. I believe that my menopause has been eased by balancing my omega 3/omega 6 ratio, thereby balancing the cortisol/DHEA hormones and their effect on inflammation. I believe it, but I can’t prove it. But I can tell you, my transition through menopause, now that my histamine intolerance has been minimized if not yet eradicated, has been, so far, a peaceful one.
Edit: Sunday, July 21, 2013- it is now four months since I’ve had a hot flash, insomnia, mood swings or any major reactive itching.