Since I first realised I’d hit the menopause I must have spent 100 hours searching online to make some sense of the changes which were happening in my mind and body.
Like many women I have spoken to and helped I was firmly in denial when it came to anything to do with ageing, especially the menopause. I’ve spent all my working life in male dominated environments where I believed any sign of weakness was career limiting to say the least.
When I became moody and irritable, started gaining weight around my middle, had aching joints, had a raging inner furnace at night and forgetfulness made me doubt myself constantly I was totally unprepared.
So what did I learn from my 100 hours on-line?
1.Just because something works for someone else doesn’t mean it will work for you.
Every woman’s body, mind, history and experiences are completely unique and all of these play a part in your menopause. If you try something and it doesn’t work don’t blame yourself, criticize yourself or assume you will have a worse menopause than others, you just need to find the things which work for you.
2. Sharing Experiences is Key
The menopause is still a taboo topic to a large extent but having someone to talk to makes a huge difference. If you have family and friends at a similar stage in life do talk to them but if this feels a bit awkward there are facebook groups such as MenopausesupportUKROI are very active and lots of women share experience and remedies.
3. Hormones – The Three Musketeers
There are three key hormones produced by the ovaries and changes in each have an impact although research to fully understand this is still ongoing and the dependence between them and other hormones is very complex. Estrogen, Progesterone and Testosterone are all produced primarily by the ovaries. These decline in menopause and can result in hot flushes, reduced bone density, reduced hair growth, reduced serotonin level, brain fog, reduced libido, mood swings and anxiety.
4. Cortisol – The Fourth Musketeer
Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands and acts as our stress hormone, helping us survive in desperate situations. Cortisol naturally fluctuates in a curve during the day, being higher in the morning to help get us going and then lower at night so we can sleep. If we believe we are in a stressful situation cortisol kicks in to help us react quickly and think clearly. But this is not a good state to be in for extended periods. Sadly it is a situation many of us find ourselves in. This is made worse during the menopause as our lower estrogen and progesterone no longer act as a cortisol buffer and balancer. For many women this creates a cycle of anxiety and stress which can be hard to break. Add to that the theory that cortisol increases weight gain around the middle!! Regaining that natural cortisol curve is key so watch caffeine and sugar intake, take gentle exercise such as yoga or walking, take time out.
5. Coffee – Menopausal Mayhem
Caffeine levels need to be kept low during the menopause. While it is said women at the peri-menopause can benefit from the lift you get from a shot of caffeine that changes once the menopause really kicks in. First of all, caffeine messes with the natural curve of cortisol levels. While it does not raise cortisol it makes it hard for the body to naturally lower it, this in turn increases anxiety, sleeplessness, etc. Caffeine is also a key trigger for hot flushes so keeping intake to just a few cups a week instead of several a day will give many women relief.
6. HRT – Doctors Don’t Agree (With Each Other)
Whether you choose to go down the HRT route is entirely your choice, providing there are no specific health reasons why you should not, for example, if you have had breast cancer. Accessing HRT may not be quite so straight forward. Some doctors are very concerned about the risks associated with it and may discourage you. Others have more positive views and have a different perspective about the level of risk. There are different types of HRT and different dosages. It may take a while to find the right balance for you and it will take a while for your system to adjust. Some women have amazing success with it and see it as a way to delay the impact of menopause while they are still in demanding jobs, others do not take to it and experience symptoms which are equivalent to the menopause symptoms they were trying to fix. The Menopause Doctor is a great source of information about HRT.
7. Weight Gain – Why, Oh Why?
OK – You’ve kept yourself fit and healthy for years, you regularly exercise and watch what you eat. All of a sudden you start putting on weight and your body shape changes. This is common for many women. During menopause the drop in our estrogen and progesterone levels are the first thing to impact our weight. Unbalanced cortisol adds to the problem and comfort eating as a result of anxiety and low self confidence completes the weight gain trinity. Some women found their ability to control their eating and avoid temptation goes out of the window during the menopause. This can be due to negative beliefs which are re-triggered during the menopause. The good news is that it is possible to manage your weight and fitness but there is some re-learning to do. A good diet of unprocessed food with plenty of vitamins and minerals is essential but also is the way you eat those foods. The type of exercise also needs to be reviewed with gentler exercise rather than frenzied cardio working best alongside strength building work. Belinda Benn’s Get Lean Programme has lots of information on this. Plenty of protein is suggested in a lot of the menopause diets, including Belinda’s. I’ve started using Herbalife nutrition shakes for the first time ever feel so much better with less fatigue, better control of my weight, better skin and hair.
8. Vitamins and Minerals
Making sure you are getting the right levels of vitamins and minerals is absolutely key to helping avoid some of the menopause symptoms. If you have a fantastic diet you may well get them from your food but if you don’t always manage a good diet vitamin supplements can make a real difference. I take a vitamin supplement every day.
9. Other Remedies
Many women try other remedies with some success. These include things like Black Cohosh which is said to help with hot flushes. I analysed the conversations on some of the menopause facebook groups and there was around a 60% success rate from people using that (this was just based on conversations and was not scientific research). Other people have had success with Sage Leaf, Red Clover, CBD Oil, Magnesium Oil Spray (to help aching joints) and Red Maca amongst others. Look out for another blog with more info and analysis on the various remedies soon.
10. Managing Anxiety
One of the first symptoms many women are aware of is an increase in anxiety, lost confidence and low mood. It can be truly miserable and debilitating. Once women realise it is the menopause this can lower their mood even more as menopause is still seen as negative and a sign of ageing in many circles. If friends and relatives have struggled with the menopause it can set and expectation that it will be a horrible, depressing experience. I work with lots of ladies who are trying to deal with this anxiety and the impact it has on their work, home life and relationships. Women who were previously confident and strong find themselves doubting themselves and constantly anxious. Much of this can be dealt with really effectively by uncovering and eradicating negative beliefs and emotions. I’ve helped many women do this through rapid transformational therapy so they can feel normal, confident and capable again and have a good menopause.