Written by Milly D.
Art by Hazel Evans.
It may be less of a taboo topic these days, but menopause still has a stigma attached to it. People feel that it’s an ending; something to be ashamed of, or to resign themselves to — but why? Having spoken to friends and family members experiencing menopause, it became apparent that there are many things we aren’t aware of when reaching this point in our lives, as we simply don’t talk about it enough.
As a 31-year-old, I find it hard to think about preparing for menopause. It’s just not exactly on my radar. But I am trying to view this stage of my life as a window of opportunity to enter midlife in the best possible shape. I stopped drinking alcohol some time ago, and limit myself to one coffee a day because caffeine has been said to worsen menopausal symptoms. I am a massive stress head, but knowing that stress has such a negative impact on hormone health, I am embracing all the stress management techniques in the book: breathwork, meditation, yoga, tai chi, talking therapy, equine therapy… you name it, I’ve tried it!
”The thing I regret is not loving my premenopausal self and my body more.”
Although symptoms of perimenopause can start appearing somewhere between the ages of 45 and 55, it is possible to experience them as early as 40, or even earlier in those who undergo premature menopause. I spoke to my mum about when she first experienced these symptoms, as the age you begin menopause is often hereditary. After hearing a bit about what she had to say, I thought I’d ask her and three others close to me about getting prepared for “The Change” ahead of time. Here’s what they told me they wish they’d done:
Recognize the emotional symptoms of menopause.
“I didn’t really suffer with the physical symptoms of menopause, but I certainly did suffer with emotional symptoms. At the time, I didn’t realise my mental breakdown was hormonal and menopausal, but my life changed magnificently when a brilliant doctor prescribed an antidepressant called Citalopram. This totally rebalanced my serotonin levels and gave me back what felt like my life, and my smile. Reaching menopause is not all bad though. In fact, there’s much to celebrate — namely, not having periods! Whilst it may be the end of something, it is also the beginning of a new life. The thing I regret is not loving my premenopausal self and my body more.” –Darian (my mum)
Focus on gut health, since it’s connected to your hormones.
“Whilst I initially had some customised hormone therapy, I’ve since been able to manage my symptoms through a radical overhaul of my diet. My doctor explained to me the intrinsic connection between gut health and hormone balance, and…we were able to identify the foods and supplements that would help me sleep, boost my energy, and improve production of neurotransmitters (depression and anxiety are major symptoms of perimenopause). I was majorly deficient in vitamin D, my cortisol levels were high, and my body wasn’t adequately processing the oestrogen that it produced. I switched to a high-fat, low-carb diet, cut out all processed foods and sugar, and began eating more oily fish, pulses [legumes], and a rainbow of vegetables. Over the last three years, my symptoms have markedly improved. If I had known the significance that gut health has on my symptoms, I would have overhauled my diet in my thirties to give myself the best chance of supporting my hormone balance before perimenopause [began].” –Helen
”My next port of call [once HRT stopped working] was a herbalist, and I cannot recommend this highly enough.”
Seek out a herbalist for customized tinctures and oils.
“For the first two years I took HRT, which worked wonders. My periods became regular and light, rather than the irregular heavy menstruation I had experienced for around a year before. The hot flashes disappeared and I was able to sleep well again. However, after a couple of years on HRT, I found its effects to be waning. My periods slowly faded away and I felt it was time to stop taking it and let nature take its course.
My next port of call was a herbalist, and I cannot recommend this highly enough. You can get a concentrated and powerful dose, and they will tailor the prescription to your individual needs. I used a tincture and an oil infusion for down below (which I continue to use). Over time, the tincture was modified and helped so much to maintain my skin, sleep patterns, energy levels and general mood throughout the next three years.” –Sally
Make lifestyle changes that can alleviate the symptoms of menopause.
“Symptoms of menopause often creep up on you; sometimes earlier rather than later…. When I exercise — running, walking, playing tennis, table tennis, cycling — I do not suffer from any symptoms. If, in my 30s, I had known what I know now, I would have tried to cut my alcohol intake right down, changed my diet completely, and made absolutely sure that no weight crept on before I was 40. It sounds, a, simple and, b, as though you have to lead a boring regimented life. This isn’t the case; it’s more a matter of a bit of forward planning, vigilance, and taking advantage of the wide variety of foods available.” –Margaret
About the Author
Milly is a thirty-something trainee psychotherapist, sober raver, avid hiker and part-time writer. Take a look at her Medium page for articles on addiction, self-development and conscious living: https://medium.com/@millyd
Follow on Twitter: @recoverytrekker