Menopause in not a disease

Published 8.31.2016; updated 9.19.2016

Per the New York Times, people are rethinking hormone replacement therapy. I'm going to comment on the topic because I went through early menopause shortly after the results of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) were announced. With a history of breast cancer in my family, hormones were never a consideration.

It would be dishonest though not to admit that my inclination would be to avoid taking hormones anyway. I think mucking around with hormones is one of the most dangerous things a woman (or man) can do to themselves. Mucking with hormones is much worse than slamming supplements down your gob, which I am also against.

Menopause is not a disease, it is part of the natural aging process. I did have hot flashes for over a decade, and for a few years some were pretty intense, especially at night. My solution was to keep ice water on my nightstand to drink when I woke up sweating. Drinking a bit of iced water seemed to shorten the duration of the flash, and certainly allowed me to recover more quickly.

However, my attitude was that there was nothing abnormal about the process or the changes that were happening to me— at least once they were defined. I had a very years of odd symptoms that I only realized after being diagnosed were actually related to menopause. I am convinced that attitude towards the process affects the course of a woman's menopause. Yes, I realize that people have different discomfort levels (I almost put the word pain there, but menopause isn't really painful), but frankly seeing menopause as just under step along the path of life makes the discomfort easier to bear.

Aging is not a disease. Hormone replacement promises (as noted in the article) went well beyond mitigating hot flashes— hormone replacement was supposed to stop the aging process. AGING IS NOT A DISEASE! The female body changes as it ages, there is no safe way to stop that process. I worry that in trying to slow the aging process, unintended consequences occur. So now they've decided that the WHI just shows that post menopausal women don't benefit from the hormones their body no longer expects to deal with. (And yes, I know that's not very "sciencey." I still think it's the correct way to view it.)

So older female bodies definitely can't handle hormones that no longer belong there, so let's lower the age at which we add them into the mix. What will be the side effects of forcing the body to handle more of a hormone than it "expects" while going through menopause— which again is a natural part of female aging. (i put "expects" because, non-doctor that I am, even I realize that the body doesn't "expect" anything. There are reactions that occur and that alter with time. Hormone replacement therapy is messing with the reaction.

Please note: My argument does not relate to drugs or hormones given in treatment of any disease. My point isn't to say that there is never a reason to muck around with the body's natural chemistry or rhythms, my point is menopause is not a disease.

I’ve written previously about my pique that women (and in some cases men) just can’t affect the reality of the passage of time. Hair can’t be allowed to gray, or heaven forfend whiten— no, it must be painted to maintain a patina of youth. The two major candidates for US president this season are both about 70 years old. Yet neither shows a bit of white hair— or balding dome in the case of the elderly man. it’s ludicrous.

Yet, I understand why both make that choice. Even for folks who aren’t politicians, I understand why they make the choice, I just wish they wouldn’t. Or rather, I wish the consequences wouldn’t be the loss or diminishment of a career. Would it really so terrible if Trump and Clinton had white hair? Clearly the answer for them and many others is yes, it would.


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