Do women really need to suffer through menopause?

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.

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Posted in Women's health
6 comments on “Do women really need to suffer through menopause?
  1. Tricia Keller says:

    Hi,

    thanks so much for your research! I too am wondering about primrose oil. I am peri-menopausal, and started taking it for hormone balance. It was amazing in eliminating cramps and breast soreness, and helping with hot flashes. About 6 months after starting it and a number of other things, I begin to get puffy eyes and face which I traced to histamine. I’ve never had HIT before and am trying to figure out if this is a new peri-menopausal effect, or if something I am taking has triggered too much histamine. I do think I am estrogen dominant, which leads to excess kinans and thus to excess histamine.

    But, I am wondering about the primrose oil. Much of the literature says that it creates healthy prostaglandins, and this is how it helps with PMS. But I am wondering if it also affects unhealthy prostaglandins and histamine. I haven’t found much in the literature about this.

    I was wondering if you might be able to elaborate on your findings about primrose, histamine and the omega 3 & 6 balance. (I do take borage oil for rosacea as well.)

    I would so much appreciate your input on this!

    Tricia

    • Thanks for writing!

      This is the post where I explained why I thought Evening Primrose Oil should be avoided:
      https://themenopausehistamineconnection.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/omegas/

      I am also estrogen dominant as was evidenced by years of PMS, mood swings, and migraines. I used herbal supplementation for years to try to minimize, never could control, my issues. After stopping the herbs, I used soy for a few years and then felt that was no longer a good choice so started the evening primrose.

      My theory is about the omega 6/ inflammation connection rather than prostaglandins. I discuss it at length in that post.

      I can tell you that I am no longer on any kind of herb or supplement that is basically touted to be good for menopause. I take only the supplements I talk about on my supplements page to control the intolerance, and happily have discovered that they also control the hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. I’ve come to realize,and I’m working on a new post, that vitamin C and magnesium are key to reducing hot flashes and insomnia.

      I’m not too keen on borage either, as it has similar issues to the evening primrose if I remember correctly. And it’s interesting you mention rosacea. I found when I was doing all this research, I fell over dozens of forums about it that echoed the histamine intolerance forums. I think there’s a real similar thread running though those two things, as well as eczema. Foods can trigger all of that.

      I hope I’ve answered your question. Take a look at that post. I think it answers your question better and I couldn’t recreate the answer here as it is a rather long explanation. Also, if you search evening primrose on my site other posts will pop up where I talk about it.

      Hope to hear back from you.

      DLB

      • Tricia Keller says:

        Hi DLB,

        Thanks so much for your thoughts on the subject. I’ve been reading a lot the past couple days, a number of your posts, Yasmina’s at Low Histamine Chef, as well as others on the net. From what I can understand, EPO releases prostaglandins which increase histamine. This is the inflammatory effect of Omega 6. Low levels of the prostaglandins help with PMS, but beyond a certain point they are inflammatory. Yasmina cites a reference where prostaglandins potentiate histamine by 400%! And prostaglandins are responsible for hair loss – I’ve lost probably 1/3 of my hair in the last few years. The part that is confusing is that it seems there are healthy prostaglandins (PG1) and bad prostaglandins (PG2). Similar to what I’ve understood to be healthy Omega 6 – EPO and Borage, and unhealthy – meat, processed foods, corn soy. But it seems it may simply be an issue of levels, a little is helpful and anti-inflammatory, a lot is inflammatory. By way of example moderate exercise is anti-inflammatory, extreme exercise is inflammatory.

        At any rate, I found that midwives use EPO to thin the cervix. Doctor use PG2 to induce labor. So EPO must have PG2 which is the “bad” prostaglandin series.

        Last year I took 1300 mg of primrose / day. After a few months, I had puffy eyes and swollen face in the morning. I did not connect it to the EPO, thought it was another peri-meno challenge. A few years ago, I started the borage for rosacea, and it did lessen the redness markedly. This is also the time my hair began to fall out. Needless to say I am now wondering if the primrose and borage are responsible for the HIT and hair loss, rather than the peri-menopause itself!

        It is confusing because I understood that Borage and Primrose contained “good Omega 6” and there was no need to worry about inflammation. That seems to be incorrect.

        I am going to stop the Primrose and cut the Borage to 1 per week, and see if the HIT ceases and the hair loss can reverse. I also eat a good amount of olive oil, take Vitamin C, and am experimenting with types of magnesium. These seem to be solutions with less potential for side effects.

        I would really appreciate your input and further ideas regarding EPO & Omega 6. And, it is so nice to have a sounding board for all this! Who knew we’d have to become our own doctors, and what an undertaking it is!!

        Patricia

      • Hey I’m so glad you’ve come back. This is a great conversation to have. I can see you’re doing a lot of reading and I do have some thoughts, but I am short on time today…actually more accurately short on energy…and can’t really put a cohesive thought together so I’m going to sit down tomorrow and comment.

        I did want to get back to you though so you know I want to keep this dialog going!

  2. mLove Miss says:

    I’ve had pesky skin from puberty onward and it has become increasingly challenging with the onset of peri-menopause. I’ve used expensive retail products and Proactiv for approximately 6 month intervals, but found it would stop working for me and leave me with eruptions that it could no longer control.

    I tried Clinique, DHC, Tea Tree products etc. during those times when Proactiv was not working for me. FINALLY, I tried this natural brand called Citrus Clear after researching online – this was 2 years ago when I had a major eruption. I’ve been using Citrus Clear products ever since. In addition to Citrus Clears ability to CONTROL my acne, it also has an option to help MAINTAIN my clear face. And its all natural and doesnt burn. I love that I have an option of which face wash to use, depending on the day.

    • Thank you so much for sharing that. I’m curious to take a look at the product.

      I had terrible skin until my early thirties. I had tried everything too. And then one day it stopped on its own. Maybe because I switched to a vegetarian diet.

      I only use water on my face now, but I’m sure there are others who will be happy to know about that product.

      Thanks again!

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