Is dandruff seasonal? 

During the summer months, I don’t have an issue with dandruff but in the winter I have to be more careful about wearing black. I wondered is dandruff seasonal?

I asked Katrina, my hairdresser, about it and her answer was yes and no.  It isn’t seasonal as such, it has more to do with the temperature of the water we use to wash our hair.

According to Katrina, “Dandruff is just dry skin like anywhere else on your body but the hair traps the flakes and it can’t get away. In the winter, we use hotter water and this dries the skin more so you end up with more dandruff.”

People with oilier hair and hence less dry skin have less dandruff but are likely to use hotter water and wash their hair more frequently. Hormones can also affect the amount of dandruff a person has.  People with thick hair also tend to get more dandruff for two reasons – extra hair traps more flakes and there is also less airflow around the scalp.

To help with this type of dandruff you can try massaging your scalp. Massage stimulates the skin and increases blood flow and the secretion of natural oils which will moisturise your scalp. Using cooler water will also help.

For some people, dandruff is more than just dry skin. More serious forms of dandruff are caused by fungal infections, psoriasis or dermatitis. To deal with these issues you will need to use medicated shampoos. These shampoos can strip the colour from your hair so Katrina recommends you use them every second wash.

There are plenty of fancy treatments around but more natural ones include massaging small amounts of tea-tree oil or coconut oil into your scalp to improve hydration.

Here are a few websites that give you some ideas of how to deal with dandruff.

Nine home remedies to get rid of dandruff https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ways-to-treat-dandruff

If you’d prefer a more medical approach have a look at the video and information provided by the American Academy of Dermatology.

 

PS I warned you the Sunday Post was going to be a lucky dip of ideas!

Grey hair? Embrace it!

Every four weeks, I go to my lovely hairdresser, Katrina, and get my grey hair cut and coloured. I walk away feeling a million dollars with super sleek and shiny tresses. The greying temples and roots are successfully hidden once again and for a week or so can be completely forgotten.  While thankfully, it does not cost me a million to feel like a million – it is still a hefty commitment of money and time. For me, hairdressing is an essential service and my monthly trips have survived the budget cuts imposed by my  Year of Zero.

I am not really sure what my natural colour is. Neither can I remember when I began dying my hair. It’s something I have been doing in the salon or at home for, it seems, forever. I think the first time I changed my hair colour was back in high school, perhaps in Year 9? At that time, we used a product called Magic Silver Rose[1] or Magic Silver White undiluted. My bestie, Annette and I used to dip our fringes straight into the bottle to make it bright pink or purple. These products were initially designed for older women (“the blue rinse set“) to cover up the grey.

The bright hair trend is being repeated now. I giggle when I see young people with their hair dyed brilliant blue, green and pink thinking they are all original and rebellious. We did that – back in the ’70s.

I take my hat off to those women, like Helen Mirren, who wear their grey locks with style and elegance. Of course, being a celebrity and having a stylist on hand helps a little too! Some of my friends also have spectacular white or grey hair that looks very funky and they wear it with class. Perhaps it’s time for me to embrace the grey and stop dying my hair.

The question is, how do you go cold turkey on the dyeing front? Nothing says tacky quite like regrowth!

Step number one would be to move to a deserted island and come back in a year when your hair has grown enough so you can just cut it off in a cute little pixie style.

I chatted with Katrina about how to go about it. It is a long process, and once you start, you need to be committed. It combines cutting and colouring. Cutting off the previously dyed hair and re-colouring the new growth to match the grey coming through. After a year or so, voila – you have stunning grey hair that requires less maintenance. Or so the story goes.

And so far we a have only been speaking about head hair! (here’s a fun look at dyeing pubic hair!)

STOP! STOP! This is where you need to be able to insert sound effects in the written word.

Play the sound of a needle being scratched across a record as it is suddenly stopped.

SCREEEEETCHHHHHHHHHH……

This is not what my blog is about! This is not a representation of my values! Martha Stewart-like advice on how to change your hair colour! I feel like a fraud. Once again, I am drawn into this murky world of ageism and sexism. Where youth is queen, and older women become irrelevant and invisible. Where grey hair is synonymous with undesirable or unf@#kable.

Why is grey hair such an issue in the first place? I am reluctant to take the plunge and my own discourse around the whole grey issue is contradictory. I don’t think I should feel bad about being grey from a sociological standpoint, but I still have to live in this world!

We call men with greying temples distinguished. We call them silver foxes. Women are declared “brave” for letting their hair grey. Brave being code for “I wouldn’t do it”.

Why don’t women wear it as a badge of courage?

I got here! I survived! I didn’t do anything too stupid! I raised children!

The reasons are, of course, all tied up with marketing, consumerism and money. The hair dye industry is a multi-billion dollar industry globally. Seventy-five per cent of women colour their hair at some stage in their life. The number of men dying their hair is increasing.

Let’s not even get into a discussion about whether hair dye is toxic or harmful in any way to ourselves or to the environment. That’s a whole other ball game!

There is no way that sort of consumerist pressure is going to let us feel good about going grey. Not in my lifetime, anyway.

Let’s start chipping away at this ageism. One strand at a time!

 

Shampoo v Conditioner.

Bottles of Shampoo and conditioner on a supermarket shelf

A few weeks ago I posted a flippant comment on Facebook:

I doubt this is an original thought but: First World Problem 125: Why doesn’t the conditioner come in a bigger bottle compared to the matching shampoo?

One of my friends commented she runs out of shampoo first. I told her she was weird. That EVERYONE but her ran out of conditioner first. She thought I was weird. We bantered. Then the comments started coming thick and fast.  I posted a poll asking our combined friends which they finished first, shampoo or conditioner?

Image 2-1-19 at 20.01.jpg

The results were interesting with a 50:50 split. Being good scientists we understood we needed a bigger sample size, so I re-posted the poll to a bigger group (<30K members) and over the next weeks the poll received over 1000 votes and close to 50 comments.

It elicited some very interesting discussion… who’d of thought…

Tubes of hair products on supermaket shelf
Frizz-less, blonde more but still all the same size!

In the end the results were close.

Image 2-1-19 at 19.12

My friend’s hypothesis was supported and I had to agree she wasn’t weird.

It would seem the ratio of shampoo to conditioner use depends on a number of factors.

  1. Hair length which seems quite obvious. The longer the hair the more conditioner is needed.
  2. Curliness. One factor I didn’t know about is that a significant number of people (and we are talking mainly women here because they are the ones who responded) with curly hair do not use shampoo at all, only conditioner. There is in fact, a whole (secret to me) Curly Girl Method for looking after wavy/curly/coiled hair.

and an almost equal number of people

  1. Who have short, thin or oilier hair who don’t use conditioner at all that balances out the no shampoo people.
  2. Another new (to me) concept is the reverse shampoo method which uses conditioner first and then shampoo which is (apparently) good for fine hair.
Bottles of Shampoo and conditioner on a supermarket shelf
All the same size! We need a social movement here!

So there you have it. It would seem that my original sample size of 100% of the people in my household who finish the conditioner first was not supported. I can see the need for a whole new social movement. Hair Buddies: Those who finish the shampoo first need to be introduced to those who finish the conditioner first so they can swap their excess product!

Make your own Kombucha.

three bottles of kombucha

Kombucha is a refreshing, lightly effervescent drink made by fermenting sweetened black or green tea.

Right now it’s all the rage and there are many varieties of it on the shelf in the fridge section of the supermarket. It is pretty pricey at around $4 – 8 per bottle depending on size. The average price is around $12 per litre. Making your own kombucha is easy and it will cost you less than a dollar to make 2L and about $30 in start-up costs. Your start up costs will depend on whether you have to buy your own SCOBY or if you can source one from a friend and how much you spend on a wide open mouth glass jar.

Kombucha has lots of different reported health benefits particularly related to gut health and the gut microbiome. I like it because it is not alcoholic but still feels like a grown-up’s drink.

Fermentation has been around since before Adam was boy. Fermentation occurs when microorganisms turn the sugars in foods, into something else. In the case of kombucha, sugar is turned into acid (acetic and gluconic acid), carbon dioxide gas which gives it a bit of fizz and a TINY little bit of alcohol.

To make wine the microorganism is yeast. For kombucha, it is a SCOBY (which stands for a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.) You don’t really need to know what bacteria and yeast live together in a happy matrix of slime but if your into that sort of thing have a look at this article (it’s only the abstract but there is enough information).

The kombucha you buy in the shops is highly flavoured and often has extra sugar. It’s really not much better than drinking soft drinks (soda) but homemade kombucha is milder in flavour, has a low kilojoule content and as I said is CHEAP to make.

I make about 2 – 3 L of kombucha each week. Less in winter, mainly because it takes longer to ferment and more in summer when you can turn around a batch in about 5-6 days.

It VERY simple to make. Have a look at my video here.

Your SCOBY may need replacing after a year or so and if the brew smells funny or gets contaminated by black mould don’t drink it and start again! You can get a free ebook from Cultures for Health which is full of great information and gives much more detail than I have here.

 

Kombucha

NOTE ABOUT THE VIDEO: Don’t be too worried about the continuity errors, I am no George Lucas! And don’t worry too much about the fact that I say at least three times don’t use metal utensils and then I use a metal strainer (ACKKK). In this case it was ok because it’s the SCOBY that is sensitive to metal and my SCOBY didn’t touch the metal.

In this video I was using some herbal tea as well, but I think one bad batch killed my SCOBY so I don’t use it anymore. These days I just use green tea.

 

A ten kilometre run

I took up running seriously a little over a year ago. I have written a bit about this in a few posts (here and here). I run to get some higher intensity exercise, and because once it’s over I feel like a bad-assed grandma! DAMN! I think to myself, I just ran a LONGGGGGG way! And I’m old! (ish!)

A faux-watercolour of a bike against a fence. The ocean is in the background.
One of the views on my run at around 4km

I am not super fit and I am a long way off breaking world records. The only person I am keen on competing against is my past-self.  My present-self sometimes needs a kick in that bad-ass to get it moving! My goal is to do 10km in 55 minutes. It’s not unrealistic. I can do 5km in 27 minutes so I should be able to do 10 in 55.

….Should…..

I try and train 6 days a week. Monday, Wednesday and Saturday are running days. Five km on Monday with sprints or hill runs; 7 – 8 km on Wednesday. Tuesdays and Thursdays are gym days for crossfit or cardio boxing, Fridays are yoga and Sunday is a rest day. I sometimes switch the rest day depending on my schedule and other commitments.

JFDI!

As I haul myself out of bed at 5:30 AM, I grumble that I should cut myself some slack, but I repeat to myself JFDI!!! (Just f@#$ do it!!)  A great mantra!  The self satisfaction I feel when I do get up and exercise lasts me all day. When I am travelling or it’s school holidays I am not nearly as disciplined.

My standard Saturday run is 10km. My best time so far is 56:05.

A man in a red bathing cap floating in teh ocean
The Towradgi Sea Pool offers a great view

I run on a nicely made bike path that hugs the coast. I can see and hear the ocean. I join the early morning bike riders, walkers and runners who share the path. Running gives me plenty of time to  think. I can live in my own head and burble out a stream of consciousness. Typically, my run sounds like this.

0 – 1 km OMG I can’t breath! I am so unfit! Why did I even think this was a good idea. Come on lungs get it together!
1- 2 km Oh there you go! My memory brings backs the good old days in the biochem lectures were I learnt about the anaerobic energy system. That’s right….it takes a little while to kick in.
2 – 4 km I’m hit a steady rhythm; my breathing is not laboured. I should probably go a bit faster. The beat of the music is urging me along. I match my stride to the music.  I start to get onto the flow…. I could do this forever! …. Marathon? Yeah, no worries! Easy!
4 – 5 km When is that bloody running app going to tell me I’m half way so I can turn around. These shoes need replacing! Are they actually any good?  I wonder about whether I’m hot or cold… I wonder about whether or not I’m breathing properly… my hip starts to give me a bit of a twinge. Great, I’ll be needing a hip replacement next!
5km Veronica (the voice on my GPS) tells me my current speed and distance every kilometre. But 5 km is the turning point – literally. If I am under 30 minutes I know I have  a good chance of reaching that elusive 55 minutes goal. If not, I may as well take it slowly.
6 – 7 km My gait has settled back into a good rhythm. Kenny Loggins’ Footloose is almost perfect for my stride (I know I know….) and I  pound my feet against the pavement with satisfying synchronised beats. I drift back into the flow and come up with all sorts of good ideas for stories.
7 – 8 km Veronica breaks into my train of thought unexpectedly…and sends me into a flurry of calculation…can I do it? Should I sprint to the end? No wait… I can’t sprint 3 km!
8 – 9 km Push it just a little bit harder, old chook. No pain, no gain! Oh no… here’s that little hill that’s always so welcome on the way out but not now that it’s facing up.
9 – 10 km I can see the car parked off in the distance! Come on! Come on! You can do it!

YOU DID IT!!!

I DID IT!

Darn: 57 minutes and 48 seconds. I begin the self-justification… don’t forget you stopped to do your shoelace up twice, you slowed down to blow your nose at least three times…that should take;  what; at least 30 seconds off the time…it’s really 57:18

I feel elated as I stretch on the grass. Not bad for an Old Chook!

I might have 2 minutes to cut off my time. I might need to increase my speed by a full kilometre per hour to average 11kph not 10.

But it’s not impossible.

It’s my goal and it’s just an few weeks away.

Be invincible. Not invisible!

Man fishing in a creek
Early morning runs means getting up before the sea breeze.

Eat food, mostly plants – not too much.

Sishi rolls

My sister found this pamphlet when she was going through a box of old papers with my mum a few weeks ago. It’s from a c1950 Westinghouse Refrigerator User Manual.

Fridge

The part that particularly grabbed my attention was last sentence – the bit about brown vs white sugar! It points out to me that poor dietary advice has been around forever!

What is a healthy diet?

When it comes to diets just exactly who should we believe? There’s such a variety with the claims often contradicting each other. We could try:

Vegan – strictly only plants

Vegetarian- plants but also sometimes honey, eggs and dairy

Paleo – the food Ugg the cave man would be able to source back in the day – like 40,000 + years ago and way before McDonalds.

Whole 30 – beware this one has lots of rules! Whole30 program website

FODMAP – designed to help those with irritable bowel syndrome

Mediterranean – rich in veggies, olive oil, and fish like the food traditionally eaten in Italy and Greece

Ketogenic – when I was at Uni ketosis was a BAD thing. This diet has no carbs, just lots of protein and fat. 

5:2 diet – based on intermittent fasting. Fast for two days then eat what you like the other days. Developed by Dr Michael Mosley

The Clever Guts diet – another from Dr Mosley

No sugar

No cabs after 5

Atkins – only Generation X’ers and before will remember this one!

There are so many variations on how to eat healthily!  The array of information available these days is overwhelming. Even with my background in food science I find it hard to keep up.

Porridge with walnuts and banana
Porridge (aka oatmeal) with banana and walnuts

Food as more than fuel

A healthy buffet selection
A healthy buffet selection from the Grand Hyatt, Incheon.

In my late teens and in my early 20’s, I was anorexic and for a short time bulimic. I ate very little. I weighed about 47 kg and got annoyed if I went over 50kg. My BMI was less than 17. (A Healthy BMI is between 19 an 24) I exercised hard and stayed very fit but perhaps not healthy. I used to replay the words from the Ford Pills Diet ad over and over in my head. It was on TV when I was only 7 but it obviously had left its mark!

Are you too fat, too fat,  too fat to fit in the Ford Pill Figure?

Before intermittent fasting was a “thing”, I used to fast all day Saturday, with the idea I could eat what I liked on Sunday. I remember waking up in the middle of the night, dizzy and light headed. I had frequent hypoglycaemic events not because I was diabetic but because I didn’t eat often enough. I was an absolute pain in the neck when it came to eating out!

Cup cakes
Definitely a sometimes food! (Molly’s Cupcakes, New York)

I did a Food Technology degree at University and on reflection, this was no doubt my way of becoming a “food expert” and validating what I was doing. After Uni, I went on to work in the food manufacturing industry for a few years before moving into laboratory equipment sales. It is not uncommon for people with eating disorders to work with food in one form or another[1]. Apart from my day job I had a side hustle – being a fitness instructor. More reasons to exercise and stay thin.

Once I was married, I would cook hugely elaborate meals. My husband also enjoyed cooking and we would often spend almost the entire weekend planning, shopping, preparing and cooking fabulous menus which I didn’t eat much of. Food was always on the agenda as a hobby, and as a fuel.

I am pleased to say that as I have gotten older I have become more sensible with my diet although it is still a balancing act of energy in vs energy out.

A bowl of yogurt with blueberries and banana
Homemade yogurt with blueberries, granola and banana.

I still enjoy cooking and now that I am cooking only for myself (and I’m past the wine and wedges phase) I make it an intentional act to cook a decent meal a few times a week. There are always leftovers, so I have enough for those nights when I have less time.  I plan my weekly meals (let’s say that again:  I aim to plan my weekly meals because sometimes I don’t!!) – mainly because it means I don’t waste so much food or have to face the decision of what to cook each night.

I remain interested in nutrition and have considered returning to study in this field. When I was doing my first degree, issues like antioxidants and gut bacteria weren’t even on the horizon. Coconut oil was a BAD thing!

Nowadays, I also look out for foods that will have a protective factor against the diseases of older age.  There is some talk (but little evidence) that turmeric will reduce the inflammation that contributes to arthritis and dementia. I am now taking turmeric tablets. It can’t hurt, and it might help. In a previous post I spoke about good mood food,  food that feeds your gut bacteria and is thought to contribute to positive physical and mental health.

Snapseed 13

Finding the right food balance.

In the end I think we all know that no fad diet will work. There is no magic bullet. If you want to lose weight you need to use more energy than you consume. If you want to be healthy you need variety. You need to be flexible and not place any unnecessary restrictions on what you can and can’t eat. Get your advice from reputable sources that don’t have a vested interest and are not trying to sell you something. I have not fact checked any of the websites I have linked to in the above list – so do your own research. I think you need to be careful if someone is making money out of selling you a fad diet.

The best dietary advice I have heard recently is summed up in seven words from Michael Pollan:

“eat food, mostly plants – not too much”

The eat food part is the trickiest part to decipher. By this he means eat real food, not processed; food your great grandma would recognise as food.

[1] https://patient.info/health/eating-disorders/features/working-with-food-when-you-have-an-eating-disorder

The little imaginary fellow on my other shoulder keeps telling me how bourgeois this line of reasoning is.  A great many people on our Earth will find this concern about he best way to eat to stay healthy ridiculous because they have NO food.. We should be grateful we have the food in the first place and do our best not to waste it and distribute it more equitably – but that’s a whole other topic for a different blog post!

Getting richer!

A blurry image of grass blowing in the ewind

You all know by now that I am no spring chicken and I  joyfully refer to myself as an Old Chook. I categorise Old Chooks as women over 55. That is, women like me. I want to be a fabulous Old Chook!  I want to stay healthy. I want to be productive and fulfilled and I want to make a difference. As I get older, I worry about the health issues that will raise their ugly heads – those diseases or problems where just being old is a risk factor.

Like arthritis and dementia.

A woman with a red bag and shoes walking toward a very grand chateau in Chambord, France
Dementia can be a lonely journey.

Dementia, in particular, has  been on my mind lately because I have been noticing a few changes in my cognitive patterns that are a bit scary. For instance when I am typing, and especially when I am trying to type quickly, I will get homonyms mixed up.  For instance, I will be thinking “sure thing” but look up at the screen and see that I have typed “shore thing”. Once, I was just a bad typist but now I have begun to select the entirely wrong word. It’s OK, because I realise immediately it’s incorrect when I read it back over. Still, I am interested in the process of why my fingers are not doing what my brain is telling it to.

a brown coloured leaf surrounded by black and white leaves.

I thought I would do a bit of study about dementia, its causes and its prevention. I recently completed a MOOC (a massive open online course) run by the University of Tasmania.  (You can see details for that course here Wicking Institute )

In VERY simple terms dementia is a progressive disorder that leads to cognitive decline. Loss of memory is only part of the problem. There is currently no cure for dementia. The biggest risk factor is age. If you live long enough you will end up with some form of dementia. There are, however, some modifiable risk factors. That is, if you modify the factor you can change the risk.  The trouble is, like with most health issues, you need to start doing the modification WAY before you are going to see the benefits.

You need to live well in your early life to ensure you have a good older life!

Risk factors for dementia

The modifiable risk factors for vascular dementia (a common form of dementia)  are:

  1. Midlife hypertension (high blood pressure)
  2. Midlife obesity
  3. Diabetes
  4. Physical activity (lack thereof)
  5. Smoking
  6. Diet
  7. Alcohol. Although with this one there is a caveat.  It seems that low to moderate consumption of alcohol may have a protective effect. Whereas high consumption will have a negative effect.

A glass of red wine with a veil of white light made with a torch and slow shutter speed

Looking at this list you might think it’s identical to a list you would see for heart disease – and it is.

Some non-modifiable factors include

  1. Age
  2. Brain injury
  3. Genetic predisposition
a group of intergenrational photos on a wall in a house. Light shines across the frames
Dementia has a genetic component

Some other factors which can affect your risk include things like

  1. Social isolation. Isolated people are more likely to develop dementia
  2. Vision and hearing loss will lead to greater risk – possibly because they can increase social isolation.
  3. Higher education will lead to reduced risk. This is thought to be because of the potential for cognitive reserves. People who have had more education have more in reserve. They have more ways to solve problems. Crudely, if they forget how to do it one way they will work out another.
  4. Depression – successive bouts of depression over your lifetime will increase your risk.
  5. Living a rich cognitive lifestyle will decrease your risk.

 

A woman in a black and white top sitting on the sand facing away fromt he camera. It is very early morning and the sun has not yet risen. The waves are in the background.
Morning musings. Low tide, late sunrise.

Don’t you like the sound of that?! A rich cognitive lifestyle!

A rich cognitive lifestyle is one where you are learning new things all the time. The learning should be sustained, complex and preferably include a physical and social aspect as well. Learning a new language, for instance, is a great activity.

I am thinking writing a weekly blog post and traipsing around the countryside taking photos is also contributing to my cognitive lifestyle! I sure hope it’s making my brain rich!

A woman sitting on a park bench. The photo is blacka nd white excpet for the woman's red jumper and dress. It is a dark and desolate scene with the sea in the backgrond.
Social isolation is a big risk factor.

This post, of course, does not constitute medical advice in any way shape or form and you should see your own doctor if you are worried. There are plenty of places to get good information on dementia  like here, Dementia Australia and I would recommend the course mentioned above

These images don’t have much to do with dementia per se but are simply here to break up the text!

 

 

A run in the Park.

The “Park Run” is a free event that happens in lots of different places world-wide on Saturday mornings. It’s a 5km timed run/walk organised by volunteers. There are three park runs near where I live in Wollongong, but strangely there wasn’t one in New York.

This weekend I am in Old Bar on the Mid North Coast of NSW, Australia for a 40th School Reunion. That in itself is a scary concept which I will write more about later for my regular Friday post.

In the meantime here is a little CHOOKUMENTARY about the Park Run in Taree. Today I ran the course in just over 27 minutes. The course is relatively flat and follows along a footpath on the foreshore of the Manning River.

Check out Park Run’s Website for more information. This link is for their Australian chapter but there are others in other countries. Park Run Australia

Personal Summer

Earlier this year I was sitting in a writing class in Sydney. It was winter, the room was not over-heated but comfortable, say 19 – 20oC. I was trying to listen to the presenter but the woman next to me was a festival of distraction. She had a very slight build and was well rugged up. I watched as she repeatedly followed a sequence of moves

  • Fingerless gloves off
  • Socks off
  • Jumper off
  • Long sleeve T-shirt off
  • Pull out remaining T-shirt at neckline and fan vigorously with a paper fan for 2 minutes
  • Sit quietly for 10 minutes then
  • Long sleeve T-shirt on
  • Jumper on
  • Socks on
  • Fingerless gloves on
  • Wait and repeat!

All friggen day! Jeez! She was driving me crazy!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Invisible woman: Taken in New York in 2009

I looked on with a condescending smile which masked the burning desire to shout, “Would you just stop fidgeting!”

My impatient self was smacked down when I belatedly realised the poor woman was obviously suffering from frequent and acute temperature fluctuations – she was ‘going through the change.’

As an Old Chook, I am in peak menopause territory. I have been fortunate to sail through these potentially rough waters; smoothly, with very few issues. I can only remember having one full-blown “hot flush” and that was in Officeworks about 4 years ago. I had just picked up some photos, opened the packet to have a peek and the smell of the ink wafted up and made me gag. Simultaneously, I felt like I was about to explode as the rising tide of heat travelled from my belly up to my head. I was sweating, I felt faint. I thought I had been poisoned by the ink. I drove home in a panic and laid down. It dawned on me about 2 hours later that this was, perhaps, a hot flush and the ink smell trigger just a co-incidence. Who knows, I am just pleased I have never had a repeat. Sure, I have had some sweaty nights but nothing major. I had a strategy for smooth sailing, to stay on the Pill for as long a possible. My GP was sceptical and finally talked me into giving it a break. “It’s no fountain of youth,” she said. So I quit. I didn’t fall apart.

After some quick research on the interwebs, it appears that I am one of the lucky 20% of women who do not experience menopausal symptoms. Namely, vasomotor changes that lead to hot flushes, night sweats and a general inability to regulate temperature and vaginal dryness. Then there are the mood swings, depression and anxiety which some women experience.  After menopause, the rate of somatic (cell) ageing increases. Women will become less healthy after menopause compared to before menopause.  Not to mention the fact that we live in a culture where older women tend to become invisible. Something to look forward to heh, younger sisters?

P1650768
Taken in Ottawa – the original work by Daphne Odjig.

The age of onset of menopause is on average 45 – 55. Back in the days of Ugg the Cave Woman, you didn’t usually make it this far. You had likely already died during childbirth or had been eaten by a sabre tooth before the big 4-0.  Early humans, therefore, probably never experienced menopause because they died of acute causes before its onset. For those women who did survive, it is posited that menopause inferred some evolutionary advantage, not to themselves per se, but through the grandmother effect[1]. By having females who were no longer reproductively active themselves but able to assist younger women in childbirth and lactation, an advantage was conferred to the whole group. Childbearing uses a lot of energy; post-menopausal women could use their energy for the benefit of the group rather than making babies. Even so, Grandma probably didn’t make it past 60.

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Hungry lions and tigers: Taken in 2009 in New York

Did Grandma Ugg have her own personal summer happening? Maybe – maybe not. Studies have shown that menopausal symptoms are greatly reduced in women who are very physically active[2]. Grandma Ugg was very active. The hunter-gatherer lifestyle was not a sedentary one, so perhaps these older Palaeolithic women were not too bothered by menopause.

Our genome evolved a long, long time ago. In modern times, cultural evolution moves at a pace that outstrips any possible changes to our genome.  Our genes can’t keep up with changes in our culture and lifestyle and therefore the age of onset of menopause has not changed significantly. Average life expectancy, has, however, increased dramatically – at least in the developed world. The average life expectancy for women in Australia is 82. This means we now live for 30 years beyond menopause. It’s unlikely that our genes know how to deal with this.

The symptoms of menopause are very real and for some women, debilitating. Our attitudes to menopause play a big role in how we manage and cope with it and our attitude towards “women’s problems” have a lot to do with Big Pharma.

Is menopause a disease?

In the developed world, we[3] have medicalised women’s biology to the extent that menopause is seen as a deficiency DISEASE that needs to be treated with hormone replacement therapy rather than something that just happens naturally, as is the case in other cultures, such as in India.  (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15981376)

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I have always thought Indian sculptors were much better at breasts than those from Italy and Greece

So, what point am I trying to make here? I think there is a lot more to say about this topic so I plan to do some more research over the next few months and re-post. So for the time being, I will leave it here:  Our genetic makeup has not prepared us for living this long beyond menopause. To reduce the symptoms of menopause you should maintain a healthy weight and be physically active. But most of all you should keep in mind that menopause is a natural event that is not a disease,  it may bring health issues but you’re not abnormal.

As to the photos,  I didn’t really know what to post, what photos depict menopause?  These are just some random ones I liked from my collection. So I will have to work on that too. Perhaps it’s good inspiration for some portraits of post-menopausal women being fantabulous?

[1]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3433273/

[2] another good reason for being a Tough Grandmudder!

[3] definitely using the royal ‘we’ here! The ‘we’ of course means the THEY who control everything. The ones with the money, power and penises.