Image of Pills from Toronto Thermography Centre

What we don’t know, can hurt us. We want to believe that the medical profession has the knowledge necessary to make truly important decisions when it comes to our health, like whether or not exposing us to a particular drug is safe and effective. The truth is, there is a lot we don’t know about the medications we are prescribed, and which we take out of blind faith. And a new study on the effects of a particular menopause drug is the latest proof of that.

A new report released by the Canadian Cancer Society’s top epidemiologist alleges that popular menopause drugs containing estrogen from the urine of pregnant horses has caused breast cancer in thousands of Canadian women. This reports finds overwhelming evidence of a causal link between invasive breast cancer and the drug Premplus, manufactured by Wyeth Canada. The drug is meant to address symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness, and much of the literature aimed at persuading women to take the drug focuses on how youthful they will feel with regular doses. Some women, now involved in a class action lawsuit against the drug manufacturer, took this hormone replacement drug for ten years or longer.

The body’s shift into menopause is a difficult time for many women; there is no downplaying the disruption hormones create in how your body and mind function through this physiologically, and emotionally, challenging time. The promise of relief is an attractive one for many women, as is the idea that a drug can offer a tool for achieving the feelings of “youthfulness.” We live in a society, after all, that prizes youth and associates growing older with many negative things. There is so much that needs to change about our culture, to make space for loving ourselves, and our bodies, through natural and holistic means. We need an emphasis on prevention and lifestyle management, not bandaids and drugs meant to silence symptoms. A large part of a woman’s experience through menopause has to do with the stress she may feel in her life, both as a consequence of the many social demands placed on her as a woman of middle age, and as a consequence of her experience with her changing body. Instead of covering up those symptoms, why don’t we dig deeper to the source and teach women how to manage stress, how to eat healthy foods that nourish and even soothe; why don’t we change the conversation from the dysfunction of this natural life change, to the beauty and complexity of the human body?

There is so much money tied up in drug trials and drug marketing. Have you ever stopped to consider why that is? Because companies are profiting (big time) from your perceived need – of course they want to convince you that popping a pill will change your life! They want you to believe in the “easy way” and not to know about the impact changing your lifestyle – managing your mood, diet, fitness and stress – can actually have on the big picture. It is time to shift our focus from band-aid solutions to holistic health practices that are aimed at prevention and whole body change. Many doctors want to “fix” the problem, because they subscribe to a sick care model. Drugs seem to provide a quick fix, but in fact what they do is cover up the symptoms, and in this case, they can create greater damage.

I am not writing to get you to stop taking medication, or to point a nasty finger at people that have made a terrible mistake. But I do feel passionately about the need to educate people about the importance of taking hold of their own health, being proactive and preventative, and always, always, always asking more and more questions. And finally, we must consider the consequences in trying to alter the natural course of our bodies. Menopause symptoms are by-products of our bodies natural change. Rather than masking or “correcting” them, we need to learn tools for coping and embracing the way in which our body is running along a natural course of development.

Menopause is a time when the female body relinquishes its role in reproduction, creating shifts in our natural state of hormonal equilibrium. Some symptoms such as hot flashes, mood disorder, vaginal dryness and difficulty having intercourse can be troublesome for women. There are natural herbs and supplements that can help ease these symptoms, as can stress management and adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes nourishing foods and plenty of exercise. Exercise is a natural stress-buster. It also elevates the mood by releasing good hormones. It can ease tired muscles, burn fat and help to regulate the body’s temperature.

Hormone replacement therapy became popular as a means of replacing some of the hormones the body no longer produces in menopause. It is thought that this application of synthetic hormones relieves the uncomfortable symptoms of the body’s drop in specific hormones; it creates an artificial equilibrium.

Breast Cancer has no known origin, but lifestyle is the number one contributor. Eating well, exercising, avoiding unnecessary medication and limiting our exposure to environmental toxins are amongst the important practices towards prevention.

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