How to Survive the Menopause Years
How would you feel if I said that the Menopause years can be anything from two to three, up to ten and beyond? I first wrote about The Menopause four years ago, when I thought and hoped I was coming to the end of it. If you had asked me then, if I thought I would still be experiencing symptoms now, I would have been horrified. However, I have to report that although some of the symptoms have lessened, I am more resigned to the fact that some will probably be with me for the rest of my life.
Most of us are given very little information about what to expect, whether from our GP, Practice Nurses, or even Consultants. Most GPs and Consultants will offer anti-depressants, vaginal creams and of course HRT, without mentioning any of the alternatives. These can all help in the short-term, but as your GP will tell you, long-term use is not advisable, especially HRT, as the risks to health increase beyond 5 years use.
There is no doubt, that for a significant proportion of women, the Menopause can be with us for many years. Unfortunately, we can’t go back to how we used to be, much as we might like to. I still experience hot flushes, joint problems and fatigue amongst others and I work on managing the symptoms from day to day. I chose not to have HRT, as I knew I would worry too much about side effects, however some women find that it makes them feel so much better, that this outweighs the possible risks to health. I think it is important to be given a choice, so that we retain some element of control over our lives, when our bodies and minds can feel so out of control at times.
So, what do you do if you don’t want standard HRT (Body identical hormone replacement therapy)? You may have heard of Bio-identical hormone therapy, which also uses plant-based hormones, which mimic the natural hormones produced by our bodies. This is a relatively new form of treatment and as such is not well researched or proven. The BMS (British Medical Society), issued a statement in September 2017 questioning the claims which some private companies are making for this treatment.
The link below will take you to an article by NetDoctor, interviewing two doctors. They discuss the difference between body-identical and bio-identical hormone therapy. One of the most important thing you need to know is that although both are derived from plants, Body-Identical hormone therapy is regulated, researched and available on the NHS. Bio-identical is not regulated and is mostly available through private clinics. It is quite a complicated topic and needs careful research on your part.
Last week, Woman’s hour devoted part of their programme each day to discussing the Menopause years. It’s well worth listening to. See below the link to the last programme, discussing HRT and alternative treatments
No one can decide for you and I think in the end it is a case of weighing up the severity of your symptoms against the risks of HRT. If you feel safer managing your symptoms through diet and vitamin supplements, then peace of mind is perhaps more important for you. Diet is even more important from your 40’s onwards if you want to maintain good health into old age. Try to eat a diet which includes fresh fruit and vegetables on a daily basis. All the dark green leafy veg such as broccoli, kale, leafy greens, cabbage contain Magnesium which is good for skin, bones and reducing anxiety and stress. Oily fish or fish oil capsules provide Omega 3 which is vital for your cardiac health and healthy skin and hair. It goes without saying you need Vitamin C, so strawberries, grapefruit, blueberries, pineapple, peppers and would you believe brussel sprouts are all good sources of this vitamin. You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned oranges. They do contain Vitamin C, but not as much as the other fruit and veg I’ve just listed. The B Vitamins are very important for good mental health. If you’re not sure you are getting enough through your diet, then a good quality supplement is worth taking. Flax seed or flax seed oil is also recommended for several reasons: flax seed is high in Omega 3 oil, which as I’ve already mentioned is good for the heart. The seed also contains Lignans which have anti-oxidant and hormone balancing properties, meaning they may help to protect your body against diseases such as cancer and to balance the oestrogen in your body during and after the Menopause.
There are a number of herbal supplements available in healthfood stores which are thought to help hot flushes in particular. Red clover and Black Cohosh are the most well known of these. To find out more about herbal and dietary supplements, click on the link below.
Any discussion about the Menopause would not be complete without mentioning exercise. As we get older our bodies change and the form of exercise we need also changes. You may have a gym membership and be used to working out on a regular basis. From our teens to our forties, that is fine. From around the age of 50, it’s worth reviewing the type of exercise you take. Swimming, Yoga, Pilates and Walking are all good for you as they are not too strenuous and don’t put too much strain on joints and muscles. Another thing they all have in common is that they help you to de-stress and relax. A combination of swimming and Yoga or walking and Pilates is ideal, as swimming and walking are good cardiac exercise( good for the heart) and Yoga and Pilates work on your core strength, i.e. muscles. We all need to work harder to maintain muscle strength as we get older, which is important in protecting our joints.
Although I have left this topic until last, it’s not because I think it’s the least important. Your mental health is affected by numerous factors, including genetics, environment, relationships, work/life balance, health and diet. The Menopause years can also have a significant impact on your mental wellbeing and are not to be underestimated. It’s really important to talk to friends, family and work colleagues if you are struggling with symptoms which affect your ability to cope on a daily basis. If you don’t talk about it, then no one can help or support you. Although GPs often don’t have the time or expertise to listen and advise in depth, it’s always worth talking to your GP about the options available to you.
As a counsellor of a certain age, I am passionate about working with clients who are finding their mid-life years more difficult than expected. Talking to someone who understands how the Menopause impacts on our minds and bodies can make a difference and support you in finding ways to manage your symptoms.