Menopause – life’s biggest wake-up call for women

Jane Midwinter is the founder of HotWomenAtMenopause, an associate trainer with Henpicked: Menopause in the Workplace and is a menopause coach. 

She writes articles on menopause for women and their employers and is a member of the British Menopause Society.

Jane’s monthly column, specially written for Hastings in Focus, offers accurate information and support for women and a better understanding of menopause for all.

When our hormones are in balance we feel well – generally speaking; when they’re not, we don’t.

Hot flushes and night sweats are two of the most common and more visible symptoms of menopause which can start in perimenopause and sometimes last for years if not addressed.  Seventy-five per cent of women are affected, so if you’re one of the 75 per cent, or you want to support a woman who is, then read on …

Women have choices about how to balance their hormones.

Six facts about hot flushes and night sweats:

  • Oestrogen has hundreds of functions in our bodies, including the regulation of body temperature.  As oestrogen levels change during menopause, our body’s thermostat simply doesn’t work quite as well.  
  • As progesterone levels decline, which can affect sleep and mood, hot flushes and night sweats can feel overwhelming.
  • Sweating, palpitations and shivering often accompany hot flushes which can cause embarrassment and anxiety.
  • When we’re stressed, we release cortisol and adrenaline. Stress can therefore affect our adrenal glands and as they boost oestrogen production during menopause, we need them to be functioning well.
  • Smoking, alcohol, spicy foods, caffeine and even some medicines can trigger hot flushes.
  • Hot flushes can be managed and usually eliminated.  

FAQs

“I found a massive lack of understanding and support for women; nothing in place to educate and prepare younger women, and few policies and guidelines to support working women and their employers.”

Jane Midwinter, Founder of HotWomenAtMenopause

When a hot flush starts, what I can do to stop it from getting worse?

These quick fixes may help:

  • Wear layered clothing so that top layers can be quickly removed.
  • Use a fan – there are some which plug into your phone.
  • Layer sheets and covers instead of a duvet at night.
  • Slow down – rushing can make them worse.
  • Drink cold water.
  • Relax.

Does HRT stop hot flushes and is it safe to take?

The most effective treatment for hot flushes is hormone replacement therapy.  HRT is considered to be low risk for most women under 60. If you are considering HRT, discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor. It’s not suitable for all women. Most forms of HRT combine different amounts of oestrogen and progesterone. HRT can be taken in tablet form, transdermally – through the skin in the form of patches or gel – or as an injection beneath the skin.  

What if I can’t take HRT?

If you cannot take HRT – and there are some women who can’t – your GP will be able to advise you about other options. 

What about herbal remedies?

Some women prefer to manage their hot flushes and night sweats with complementary therapies, such as black cohosh and sage.  It’s wise to speak with a qualified herbalist or nutrition therapist if possible, but ALWAYS check with your GP at the very least, as remedies can interfere with prescription drugs and some can have side effects.  

What else can I do?

Many women take this time to look at their lifestyle and then make some small changes to improve their health and wellbeing. Every woman is unique, as is her menopause, so it’s about finding what works for you. 

Here are some suggestions:

  • Relaxation techniques: Now we know that stress can make hot flushes worse, you might want to consider some techniques to help with this. Many women find Yoga and/or meditation helpful. 
  • CBT, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy: This can be very effective in helping us develop practical ways to manage stressful situations.  CBT can help to reduce anxiety and improve wellbeing.  
  • Nutrition and diet: Including phytoestrogens in your diet and increasing your intake of fruit and vegetables are both worth considering.  Phytoestrogens are plant foods which have an oestrogenic effect on our bodies and can help reduce flushes and sweats.  They can be found in foods such as chickpeas and lentils, flaxseeds, sesame and sunflower seeds, oats and broccoli.  
  • Weight gain:  Studies show that we are more likely to suffer with hot flushes and night sweats when we are overweight. Choose a regular exercise that you enjoy, and which will help with excess weight loss if that’s an issue.
  • Sleep:  Lack of sleep makes everything so much worse. Keep your bedroom cool, use a free-standing fan at night, avoid stimulants before bedtime and try practising calm breathing techniques.

And finally … 

Hot flushes and night sweats are visible symptoms of menopause which can be reduced or even eliminated, but it’s often the unseen effects of menopause that can catch up with us later on in life, if not addressed now. Menopause is life’s biggest wake-up call for women. Let’s make the most of it!

Recipe:  Golden Dahl Soup

Red lentils, cumin seeds, turmeric, tomato purée, vegetable stock.  Visit my website for the full recipe and nutrition information.

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