It's one of those words that makes me want to stick my head firmly in the sand. You know it's coming, but there's not a lot you can do about it, so best to not think about it, right?
Well, I've been forced to think about it recently, as the side effects of the breast cancer wonder drug, Tamoxifen, (which I have to take for ten years) mimic the menopause. Plus there's been a bit of chat on here about menopause recently. So I did some research.
And it's fascinating.....
Many women start drinking more during menopause. Menopause is hard. It comes with symptoms that range from annoying to debilitating, it's a reminder of the ageing process and our own mortality, it can cause/worsen anxiety and depression, and it coincides with a time when, often, our children are leaving home and our parents are in need of serious help.
Even writing that list makes me want a large drink.
The problem is, drinking during menopause is the last thing you should do!
Here's a list of reasons why quitting alcohol is a very good idea for any women approaching the change (don't you just love that euphemism?)
As you get older, your tolerance for alcohol drops off, because the proportion of water in your body decreases, and you become less efficient at metabolising ethanol.
This means that a few glasses of wine get you more drunk, more quickly, than they used to. Which means worse behaviour, worse hangovers, more self hatred....you get the picture....
2. Weight gain
One of the most pissy offy menopausal (and Tamoxifen) side effects, is weight gain. Not all over, in a Jessica Rabbit kind of way, but around the middle - like a child wearing a blow up rubber ring in the swimming pool.
Sound familiar? That's exactly what drinking wine does for you too! So if you're menopausal and drinking, you're getting a double whammy! Before you know it, you'll be looking down and there'll be no sign of your feet!
Don't panic. Quitting drinking is one of the most effective ways to lose that belly fat.
(See my post: Reasons to Quit Drinking #1: Weight Loss)
Osteoporosis is one of the more dangerous side effects of menopause. It's a thinning of the bones which can lead to fractures and complications. And it's irreversible.
Guess what one of the other main causes of osteoporosis is?
Yup, you got it: heavy drinking.
Say no more.
Many women find that menopause causes, or exacerbates, depression. All those fluctuating hormones, on top of everything else.
But using alcohol as a prop does not help. Because alcohol makes depression worse. It gives you an immediate dopamine high, followed by an inevitable crash.
(For more on alcohol and depression read: Depression and Blackberries)
5. Mood swings
Why do we women have to live with these accursed hormones?
I feel hugely sorry for Mr SM, as in our household my menopause is going to coincide with two girls going through puberty. Oh merry hell.
I'm sure you know by now that hormonal mood swings and alcohol are a lethal cocktail. Right?
(For more on rage, read: Alcohol Induced Rage)
6. Sleep and Night Sweats
Menopause messes around with our sleep. As does (are you seeing the theme here?) alcohol. Enough said, I think, but if you'd like to find out more then read: Sleep, Glorious Sleep.
7. Hot flushes
(Known, by our American friends as hot flashes)
One of the more weird and debilitating effects of the menopause.
But, you know what the first suggestion most doctors give for dealing with hot flushes? QUIT DRINKING! (Cutting down on caffeine also helps).
So, there you have it. Seven good reasons why going sober will make The Change less of a trauma.
And, if you're looking for more help and don't want to resort to HRT, then think about this:
Many breast cancer survivors have terrible menopausal symptoms as a result of chemo and hormonal therapies, yet they are not able to use HRT. So what do many of them swear by?
Acupuncture. Don't ask me how it works, but it does.
So far, with a combination of not drinking and monthly acupuncture sessions, I've managed to avoid any hot flushes, night sweats, major mood swings or weight gain. Keeping fingers and toes crossed.
Love to you all,