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Menopause Has A Purpose

Menopause Has a Purpose

Menopause is the 3rd phase of womanhood, and overuse of hormones may disrupt it.

Suzanne Somers and other thought-leaders in the medicalization of menopause movement have, whether purposely or not, promoted the idea that menopause is unnatural, an evolutionary oversight born of the overdeveloped human lifespan. The underlying assumption is that after a woman has reproduced, her role in society and to her own DNA has been eliminated. Grandmothers are optional.

Another line of thought proposed by anthropologists who study woman’s role in human culture over a lifespan suggests otherwise. Grandmothers are essential leaders in the family politic, the key to raising healthy, stable, balanced children.

Anthropolgists studying the Hazda, a herder gatherer tripe in Africa find that grandmothers play a unique role in rearing children by:

  • Tending to weaned children and making sure they are fed and looked after
  • Foraging for food while mom breastfeeds
  • Fairly allocating food resources

Researchers living among the Nestilik and Inuit while the societies were relatively intact in the 1920s noticed that when a hunter brings back a large animal such as a seal or a moose, it was the matriarch who wielded all the political power in determining how to divvy up the animal between brothers. Other anthropologists cite similar examples of grandmothers’ role in food-portioning and other power structures. I worry that having an excessive dose of sex hormones swirling around a sixty-something year old brain just might get in the way of the reasoned judgement required to maintain these leadership roles.

My own experience living and working among multi-generation families in rural Hawaii jives with the idea that grandmothers serve a stabilizing role in family life. They baby sat. They fixed things. I could see, when grandma brought the children, that they were getting a different kind of love, a non-judgmental everlasting sort of thing, that busy, working mom’s and dads just can’t provide. And when the going gets really rough for teens, those with close relationships to grandma have somewhere to go besides the streets.

In their film “A Good Uplift” Jewish documentary filmmakers portray Grandma Magda in her Lower East Side Lingerie shop. Lady Gaga prefers her own designs

So It Was with Pop Icon Lady Gaga

In the latest issue of Vanity Fair, Lady Gaga talks about her close relationship with Grand-dame Gaga

Instead of rehab, though, when disaster struck, Gaga “went home.” She tells journalist Lisa Robinson, “All I will say is I hit rock bottom, and it was enough to send a person over the edge. My mother knew the truth about that day, and she screamed so loud on the other end of the phone, I’ll never forget it. And she said, ‘I’m coming to get you.’” Gaga says they went to her 82-year-old grandmother’s house in West Virginia. “I cried. I told her I thought my life was over and I have no hope and I’ve worked so hard, and I knew I was good. What would I do now?

And she said, ‘I’m gonna let you cry for a few more hours. And then after those few hours are up, you’re gonna stop crying, you’re gonna pick yourself up, you’re gonna go back to New York, and you’re gonna kick some ass.’”

Grandmothers are love, wisdom, and ego-lessness rolled into one leathery package. My thinking on the medicalization of menopause is that if a woman is having uncomfortable hot flashes and can’t sleep, then hormones are likely to help and should be used (preferably natural hormones). But to suggest that to experience your post-menopausal years fully you must inject high-doses of estrogen and progesterone into your body, as many new-wave health practitioners do, seems a failure to understand aging, and a rejection of the institution of grandmotherdom.

Dr. Cate

With over two decades of clinical experience and expertise in genetic and biochemical research, Dr. Cate can help you to reverse metabolic disease and reshape your body.

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. But what if….
    you entered menopause early, like I did, because of chemo from breast cancer.
    My children are children; far too young to get married or have children of their own.
    I feel like a freak, like I have no place in society. I look “old” with wrinkles and weight gain, and despite my former athletic life, lymphedema has made even housework and childcare almost impossible. I still want to be pretty….
    Where do we go, those of us who should still be young maidens, but are now old maids raising our babies?

  2. Quick question as I have not seen it discussed. Benign uterine fibroids. I have been taking a low dose (<1 tsp) of high vitamin cod liver oil for 4 years and that has alleviated the symptom of heavy bleeding. Glad for that! But the fibroids themselves are still good sized. Gyn and Internist both advise having them removed, but they are not symptomatic and I am not a fan of surgery. Recently increased CLO. Can diet + CLO shrink them? Just turned 55 and not yet in menopause; no hot flashes either!

      1. Thank you. I hope that is what will happen. They have told me they would probably not shrink “enough.” Wondered if there was anything else in particular I should be doing. Thanks.

  3. I’ve been following a paleo diet since realizing my vegetarian diet was making me miserable. My biggest concern though? I am almost 50 and seemed to have jumped right over any sort of peri or menopause. My doc said I shouldn’t worry, my daughter is positive it is hormones in foods I consumed, and I though I do love being free of my periods, etc. (3 years!) I do want to know WHY this happened, and wonder if I can find the answer? My two older sisters did not experience this at all. Thanks.

    1. Assuming you mean you no longer have periods? The average age is 51, but there is a wide range and any time after 45 is fair game and considered normal.

  4. Debbie
    In my experience, cutting carbs may actually worsen hot flashes for some women, as well as lead to heavier bleeding and more breast tenderness. I think this reaction, which is not common and so far seems temporary, is due to increased hormone sensitivity. It’s not something I tell people to worry about, that is, I don’t think it can lead to anything bad. To alleviate hot flashes that have been so bad they’ve been keeping people up, I’ve recommended high doses of cod liver oil. So far, it’s worked.

  5. Great article. What about the transition into menopause? Right now I am dealing with mennoraghia. I am almost finished chapter 9 and I am loving your book. So far, perimenopause/menopause hasn’t beend discussed. I have been gluten-free due to celiac for almost a year (just 2 weeks until that anniversary). I started with issues surrounding perimenopause last July. Does sugar play a role here too? I am cutting out any excess as of today. I hope it helps in this department too. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and wisdom. Deep Nutrition is definitely a book I wish I had 18 -20 years ago before having my first child. He is 17// (6’2″ so he must have revceived some good nutrition 🙂 )

  6. while i agree with the idea that it’s unnatural to follow what suzanne somers does, i have found at age 54, and post-menopausal, that it is so much more challenging to continue to work full time at a job that requires multi-tasking. i feel my brain is functioning at so much lower of a level than when i was younger that i now make mistakes at work and get behind. any suggestions on how to maintain a vital brain at my age?

    1. Susan, these tips are key to avoiding “brain fog” at every age
      1. Get at least 8 hours of sleep. Even people who think they don’t need that much sleep perform poorly on learning tests when compared to people who get 8 hours per night.
      2. If you have not yet read Deep Nutrition, I’d suggest starting with chapters Eight and Nine. The idea is to help you understand the common foods that impair brain function so you can avoid them.
      3. Make sure you get adequate magnesium, vitamin D, and healthy fats including omega-3.
      Finally, if you feel your sleep quality has declined since menopause, it’s a good idea to see a doctor who can help you with replacement hormones, preferably “bioidentical” (it’s in quotes b/c there’s actually no such thing, but hormones labeled bioidentical are closer to the real thing than synthetics.)

  7. Except there is no great medical movement to make men not-grandfathers. Society seems hellbent on making every single part of femaleness pathological and therefore in need of surgical or pharmaceutical intervention.

  8. Women should be designed to live at least as long as their youngest child is not an adult. Moreover, children in their 20’s and even 30’s can still benefit from advice from a wise mother. The grandmother’s help in raising her grandchildren can only increase their chance of survival to adulthood.

  9. Hi Gina,
    I like your style. Great website and I will keep your consultations in mind for possible referrals.

  10. Aloha Dr Cate!
    I am thrilled that I found you…(through Jimmy Moore’s site…great interview BTW)! I only wish you were still in Hawaii. Thanks for this amazing post. I have so many clients who I think may be on HRT forever -if they have anything to say about it. I know they are missing the transition to the 3rd stage…the wonderful Crone years (I can say this as I am fully there!). Our culture has us thinking we need to be Maidens or Mothers forever…how exhausting.
    Mahalo nui loa for all you do….I’m adding you to my blog as a medical voice of sanity.

    A hui ho!

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