Are you constantly exhausted and finding it hard to concentrate? Have you found yourself struggling to sleep at night and feeling hot and flushed at all the wrong times? Maybe your mood is low, you’re irritable and fed up, or your anxiety levels are off the chart…
Whatever your menopause symptoms are, did you know there are currently 13 million other women across the UK experiencing the same life change? In theory, you should never feel alone, but for so many, menopause remains taboo, too difficult, or embarrassing to talk about.
Davina McCall’s ground-breaking documentary on menopause last month aimed to change this. She didn’t shy away from discussing everything from vaginal dryness to poor mental health, low libido, memory loss, and fears about the safety of HRT. Nothing was off limits!
Davina’s experiences, and the accounts of the women interviewed, really struck a chord. Now it seems like EVERYONE is talking about the issues the show highlighted. Menopause has FINALLY become a nationwide conversation!
What exactly is menopause, and what happens to your body?
Menopause can begin at any age, with 1 in 100 women experiencing premature menopause. Most commonly though, menopause starts in your 40’s. It occurs when your ovaries stop producing eggs, causing your levels of the hormones oestrogen and testosterone to fall. These hormones can influence every cell in your body. So when your levels change, it can wreak havoc on your body and mind.
You might start to experience trouble sleeping, or ‘brain fog’, a vague term that describes that feeling you get when you walk into a room and forget what you came in for! Or feel unable to focus on your work. In a recent survey, 9 out of 10 women felt menopause had a negative impact on their working life.
Your hair and skin could feel dry, you could be putting on weight more easily, and you might feel hot and flushed, or get night sweats. Mental health can suffer because menopause can trigger depression and exacerbate anxiety in some women.
Did you know all menopausal women also have an increased risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, obesity, osteoarthritis, and dementia? This is because hormones have an impact on lots of different organs in our bodies.
With so many knock-on effects, it’s crucial you get the right support during menopause to take care of your future health.
So who should you speak to?
The first person you might consider consulting about menopause is your GP, but the help you’ll get there can be variable. A survey of healthcare professionals showed that 1 in 3 said they didn’t know how to treat menopause. In fact, menopause is a voluntary module for GPs, so they may not have learned ANYTHING about it.
If you feel you aren’t getting the help you need from your GP, don’t be afraid to ask to see another Doctor for a second opinion. Or you could ask to be referred to a Menopause clinic, where you can get specialist advice.
Don’t be fobbed off:
Vasomotor symptoms like hot sweats and flushes affect about 75% of women. As well as feeling unpleasant, they also disrupt the blood supply to the brain momentarily. Research has shown that those women who suffer these symptoms are more likely to develop heart disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes in the future, so these symptoms are definitely NOT something to be ignored or ‘put up with!’
If your quality of life has diminished due to menopause, there many treatments and therapies that can help you. Don’t be fobbed off if you need help to access them.
The cyber gurus:
The internet is full of menopause experts, with a wealth of knowledge to share with you. There are so many, it can be overwhelming to work out who to go to and what is useful!
Here at Patchworks, we love Dr. Mindy Pelz, a wellness doctor who has written extensively about how diet, exercise, and lifestyle can influence the effect of menopause on the body. She’s even come up with her very own menopause friendly diet, which you can read more about here. As a 49-year-old woman, she is currently living with menopause and is candid and upfront about her own experiences. We highly recommend.
Speaking of nutrition, we’d also suggest the always excellent nutritionist Tanya Borowski. Her blog is full of easy to understand menopause content, from an explanation of hormone mapping, to what the vaginal microbiome is, and the best herbal remedies to ease hot flushes and night sweats. It’s well worth checking out and is totally free – result!
Try topping up your hormones:
Hormone Replacement Therapy can be a game changer for many women during menopause. It works by using topical creams, or tablets, to replace the hormones you are losing and can help relieve many menopausal symptoms. There are lots of different types and doses of hormones, and you may have to try a few to find what suits you.
As Davina’s documentary showed, the risks associated with taking HRT are much lower than previously thought. In fact, there is little or no change in the risk of breast cancer if you take oestrogen-only HRT.
If you’d like to take a herbal, natural route to tackle your symptoms, give phyto-oestrogens a try. Plants such as red clover, dong quai, and black cohosh are all rich in these hormones. They mimic your body’s own oestrogen and provide relief from many menopause side effects. There is also some evidence that phtyo-oestrogens could also provide protection from breast and colorectal cancer.
Want all your phyto-oestrogens in one easy to take dose? The Menopause Day Relief and Night Relief topical patches contain all these goodies, plus many more symptom soothing ingredients. Simply slap on a patch in the morning and the evening for targeted, round-the-clock menopause support. And breathe!
Don’t feel ashamed:
Whatever aspect of menopause you’re grappling with, don’t feel ashamed to look for help. Vaginal dryness is often named as the menopause symptom women find most embarrassing to discuss. It is believed to affect up to 80% of women during menopause, yet only 8% seek treatment.
Vaginal dryness can cause discomfort and pain, lead to cystitis and have a devastating effect on your sex life. No woman should have to live with that, especially considering it can be treated!
Topical oestrogen cream (available on prescription) can help, and herbal remedies like black cohosh and red clover could also improve how you feel. Over the counter vaginal lubricants can also provide relief, just be sure to check the ingredients and ensure there are no perfumes or dyes, which can cause irritation.
Whatever your menopause story, one of the key takeaways from Davina’s show was that you should never feel embarrassed to talk about it. Open up a dialogue with friends, family, work colleagues, and your doctor. This will ensure you get the comprehensive support you need to feel your very best throughout this life stage and beyond. After all, life does begin at 40, or is that 50?!
For more tips on making menopause manageable, our blog on menopause-friendly diet and exercise is here.