I have recently been reading a lot in menopause support groups and Instagram groups, about women asking for advice about their symptoms. I like to gain an insight into what woman use to alleviate their symptoms so that I can help women that come on to my habit changing programmes. But I am shocked and saddened by a lot of advice that is given to these women, and sometimes from medical professionals. Why aren’t woman encouraged to proactively find the “root cause” of the problem rather than given a generic solution that is just like sticking a plaster over it? The problem is not solved, the ‘plaster’ just hides it.
Everyday ‘problems’ which are normal and part of ageing could incorrectly be being blamed on menopause. Let me give you some examples:
- Weight gain. This doesn’t happen overnight. Our metabolism’s start to slow down as we age so if we are eating the same amount as we did in our 20’s, we will put weight on. It’s not necessarily just because of menopause, it’s also because of our AGE (so yes, it will happen to men too!). We cannot expect our bodies and minds to to react the same way in our 40’s as it did in our 20’s. We have to start making lifestyle changes to adapt to ageing. This includes dietary and exercise changes amongst others.
- Bloating and belly fat. Time and time again, I see that a lot of symptoms are due to high levels of stress and increasing levels of cortisol plus women not sleeping well. Once the stress and sleep issues are dealt with, some symptoms are alleviated.
- Irritability and headaches. I think as much as us ladies would love to blame being irritable on the big M, sometimes it’s not just this that is causing the issue. It’s a lack of sleep. One of the first thing that I ask my clients is about their sleep patterns and a lot of the time THIS is the area they need to start focusing on.
If you look at the support groups, these symptoms have been blamed on the menopause or perimenopause, all of which can, apparently, be fixed by hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or menopause hormone therapy (MHT) as it’s being re branded. But what happens if you take HRT and the symptoms are still there?
HRT can only alleviate issues which are caused by low levels of oestrogen (and/or progesterone). Now, don’t get me wrong. I am NOT anti HRT, and in some cases, women NEED it especially in cases of:
- early menopause (age 45 or less)
- medically induced menopause (due to treatments for cancer, for example)
But it is not a MAGIC FORMULA that will fix all of your symptoms, especially if those symptoms are a result of something else and not depleting hormones. You need to do some detective work and find the root cause of your symptoms.
Let me share with you some examples from some of the menopause groups:
- “Morning, any runners on this page? I’m 54, never been a fast runner but just lately I’ve been really struggling with running and seem to run out of energy so quickly. I used to be able to run for miles without stopping now I even want to stop at 5k. Is it Menopause related and can anyone relate?” This lady had 60 comments on her post, most of which said it was menopause related as the same things was happening to them. I asked about her sleep. She said “I don’t sleep very well as a rule as I suffer from night sweats so I’m always tired”. How can anyone expect to train and perform well if your sleep is compromised? The root cause of the lack of energy for running is the lack of sleep, so what needs to be dealt with is the night sweats.
- “I have been taking HRT tablets for the past 2 months and I have been getting a lot of acid re-flux. I have been to the GP about it as this can be one of the side effects. She prescribed Omeprazole for it but it’s not helping. Has anyone suffered with the same?” This lady had 26 comments on her post, including one who said love heart sweeties are good to prevent acid reflux!!! The Omeprazole tablet is a proton pump inhibitor which suppresses stomach acid. We need stomach acid to digest our food properly and absorb nutrients. Omeprazole can also cause osteoarthritis (which is prevalent in women over 50 due to lack of oestrogen). I suggested that she came off both, addressed her diet and timings of eating and maybe speak to her GP about gel or patches rather than taking a tablet.
- “Many women tell me that they feel like an ‘old lady’ when they get up in the mornings as their joints are so sore and stiff.” Yes, oestrogen affects our joints as oestrogen helps to produce antioxidants and is anti inflammatory. The synovial fluid in our joints becomes thicker and more gluey as we get older, so moving them (in the right way) is the best way to prevent this. Menopause related insomnia also causes joint and muscle aches. Women are being told to do high intensity exercises which don’t allow the joints and tendons to heal. Our lifestyle over the decades has increased inflammation on the body and so does ageing. So taking HRT may help, but why not try tweaking your diet and lifestyle first and see what improvements you can make before medicating?
So ladies, what is it to be? Find the root cause or stick a plaster over it? It’s your choice.