In recent months there has been a rise in the media attention given to the menopause. This was highlighted by the difficulties in accessing HRT preparations during the early months of the covid phenomenon, but has revealed a wealth of unmet need in women. The obvious solution and the one most promoted in the mainstream is the simple replacement of female hormones with either synthetic or bioidentical ones. But is this approach too simplistic?
There is a long history in our culture of a dismissive approach to women and their perceived ‘feminine complaints’. One might associate this with a misogynistic culture.
First we have the witch burnings and the persecution of midwives (Women Healers Through History, Elisabeth Brooke) and then we have the masculinisation of medicine and the rise of modern medicine, which can, at its worst be domineering, overbearing, perhaps even tyrannical in its professed omniscience. Looking deeper we have extensive evidence of revisions to Christian teaching to progressively write women out of the history of the church (Mary and Early Christian Women, Hidden Leadership, by Ally Kateusz) and downplay the huge significance of the roles they played.
The female hormonal cycle is complex and reflects cycles in nature including the lunar cycle and the turn of the seasons. Modern day society tends to ignore these cycles and march on with blatant disregard of their importance, overriding them with its rigid timetables that make no allowance for the natural ebb and flow of life. This is beautifully described in herbalist Amaia Dadachanji’s book ‘Wild Apothecary’.
Some years ago the term hysteria was commonly used for any woman suffering from complaints that did not fit the rigid materialist medical view. The term hysteria comes from the idea that women’s irrational behaviour was attributable to the errant wanderings of the womb around the body giving rise to myriad complaints. These women were often treated with sedative and addictive drugs such as benzodiazepines and barbiturates. These drugs doubtless stopped women complaining and kept them quiet. However perhaps the complaints were a result of trying to bring up children in a fundamentally unsuitable environment without the support of the extended family and with a total lack of understanding from their husbands. Surely it should have been the dysfunctional situation that was addressed, not the women medicated?
Whilst women’s situation in society has dramatically altered since that time I would argue that the demands on women have in fact escalated. She is expected to be a devoted mother and run her home efficiently, be a productive career woman, whilst supporting her husband in his career and be a liberated woman in the bedroom. So what gives? Because let’s face it that is an impossible ask!
The female hormonal axis is closely tied in with the axis of the stress hormones and therefore they are intrinsically linked. One affects the other. With a lack of respect for this close interplay and an overriding of a woman’s natural needs during both her menstrual cycles and hormonal transitions we are asking for trouble. As with any other bodily complaint symptoms relating to the female hormonal system are attempting to re-dress an imbalance and asking us to look at this imbalance and work out where it has gone wrong. Is the body struggling to deal with toxins? Is the body not getting what it needs in terms of both dietary nutrients and love and support? Is the body and mind too stressed to be putting energy into the normal functioning of the female hormonal axis?
So next time you are tempted to say. ‘It’s just my hormones’, may be, but maybe not. We are a far more complex creature than that. Let’s respect and honour that and dig a little deeper to look at the root cause.