Since you are here, you are probably already aware that the time prior to menopause is a struggle for many women. There is a long list of possible “symptoms” you may experience. I place quotes around symptoms, because usually that would mean there is a disease. But, although it feels like the opposite of ease, menopause is a natural part of life.
In fact, in much of the world menopause is viewed very different than we see it here in the Western world.
I did a bit of research to find out how ladies in other countries handle their midlife. You may be surprised at what I discovered.
In 1980 Margaret Lock studied Japanese women, and their experience of menopause.
It turns out, Asian women have few complaints during midlife. In fact the Japanese do not have a word for menopause, and it was difficult for Mrs Lock to express to them what hot flashes are. Some women reported a sensation of hot flashes, but they were much milder than what women speak of here. The complaints that were more common in Asia include shoulder stiffness, muscle and joint pains, memory loss, and boredom.
Instead of concern, women anticipate their midlife as a time when they are viewed with more worth and honor.
Mayan women were also studied by Lock. They too look forward to menopause as a time of increased status and a time of freedom. Although they experience symptoms similar to our society, they do not view them as burdensome and don’t seek treatment. Instead, the symptoms are accepted as a normal part of the transition. It isn’t stated in the report, but I have to assume that they too experience milder hot flashes than the more severe experiences of Western cultures.
Menopause is known as the Third Age in Italy, which is viewed very positively.
An anthropologist, Marsha Flint, studied women in India. She found that after menopause, the women can visit and joke with men publicly. Also they no longer need to guard themselves with modesty, as they are not considered sexual beings any longer. That seems rather sad to me, but in their culture it is a privilege. In addition, Indian women reported having no physical complaints.
On the other hand, in 2005 a European Menopause survey revealed that nearly all women experienced symptoms to some degree. (reference from IMSociety.org) And, according to PCRM.org, 75% of women in the US complained of hot flashes.
What we know is that the traditional Japanese and Mayan diets are high in vegetables, legumes, and rice, and they are low in animal products. Japanese are especially vigilant about their health because they do not want to be a burden to anyone. Few ever smoked, they drink little caffeine, and they exercise quite a lot. Also, in India, the diet is strongly plant based.
It is never too late to adopt a low fat, heavily plant based diet. It appears to have good effects on the menopause symptoms. No one can argue that smoking is contrary to a healthy lifestyle, but you may not have realized that it can effect your menopause.
As for caffeine, I'm going with cutting back. Let's not get crazy here!
We should share this wisdom with our daughters to help them experience a gentler menopause, since the effect will be greater over many years.
It should be noted that the majority of American women report having had no troublesome hot flashes and 40% state they have never had one. (nwhn.org) The media may be to blame in playing up the concern. However, a minority can be as many as 49.9%, and that is a lot of women who are having a very uncomfortable midlife.
Still, it appears to be true that the idea of menopause being a condition to be fretted over and prepared for is unique to our modern Western society. With positive expectations, a woman’s midlife can truly be embraced as a time of releasing the past and moving into the “third age”. Recall the wisdom that is stored up for all your life’s experiences. There is much to be gained in the future ahead.