Menopause is not optional, but how you navigate your hormone highway is.
I have recently added Hormone Replacement Therapy to my personal health strategy for long term health benefits. Incidentally, I was not experiencing any particular symptoms. I chose to do so as a result of understanding the benefits versus risks to me. It’s called having an informed choice. Working alongside a wide range of menopause related professionals in the last 2 years has truly opened my eyes. The decisions I have made about what goes in, on and around my body have allowed it to do some rather impressive things – physically and emotionally.
The symptoms you may experience during menopause are well documented, but still very misunderstood. The general dialogue we use when talking about them is in reference to struggling, coping and getting on with it. A fairly negative tone in real terms. Much of the symptom discussion overlooks the many beautiful positives that occur to us and, from my experience, amplify the very essence of being a woman. However, there is a much bigger picture also well documented, but based on the number of times I find my self in discussion with others who are not aware of the significance of hormonal decline and the resulting deficiency, it is hidden in plain sight.
In this article I aim to draw back the curtain just a little on what we already know to be true.
My latest video and podcast series explores some of the areas we need be addressing during conversations we should be having on a daily basis, with some formidable women – catch up here1
In my first eBook on the topic I cover the consequences of menopause very briefly in chapter 9. You can download it for FREE here.2
I too was a menopause skeptic at one time. I thought managing the symptoms was the only challenge and once you had a handle on that and reached a certain point – not sure where and when – you’d be fine. Even my light bulb moment diagram showing when and why the symptoms may start and finish didn’t help me understand the bigger picture.
So, what was I missing? Oestrogen – quite literally. I had my compass sorted for managing the declining pathway, but what were my plans when I got to the bottom of that decline, where it flat lines to levels of 1% of our pre-menopausal levels. Pretty much like most women I guess, I hadn’t really thought about it. I didn’t know it was important and had no idea about the monumental significance of living 30-40 years after ‘menopause day’ at 51 on average, when periods stop. That moment in time marks the final retirement of your ovaries and minimal levels of oestrogen thereafter.
The bigger picture I was missing is the fact that oestrogen is a vital hormone, not just for reproduction but also the integrity of numerous systems in our minds & bodies. Oestrogen is fundamental to effective functioning of our cardio vascular system, bones, brain, digestive system, respiratory system and skin. Experts have been telling us for years, the evidenced based research and documentation is there, but somehow we have missed the menopause-memo on oestrogen deficiency … BIG TIME.
Much has been written about the benefits of Hormone Replacement Therapy 3 and you will find huge amounts of amazing information on websites such as My Menopause Doctor. But what if we turn this around and consider the risks of NOT having our own endogenous supply of oestrogen. Sure, we can cope, millions of women before us have done, but things aren’t quite the same these days. Read on if you need more convincing.
In this video I recorded with Dr Joanne Hobson4 she talks about protecting your bones, heart and brain, which are suddenly unprotected when we don’t have oestrogen in the same way we did pre-menopause. Watch HERE.
And then of course a must listen to series of videos featuring Dr Avrum Bluming with The Latte Lounge’s Katie Taylor5, when he revealed research which shows that taking hormones in menopause can improve well-being and lengthen lives – without raising the risk of breast cancer. In his book Oestrogen Matters,Dr Bluming highlights the vital role that oestrogen plays in bone formation and resilience, and that osteoporosis is not just down to calcium deficiency. You can watch him explain that point HERE6
When it comes to the heart, oestrogen is particularly important for arterial function as explained here7 by John Stevenson, Consultant Metabolic Physician, Royal Brompton Hospital, Trustee of the British Menopause Society, and Chairman of Women’s Health Concern. Another favourite of mine, whilst sightly off the core topic of consequences, explains HRT and breast cancer: overall risks and benefits, by Michael Baum, Professor Emeritus of Surgery and visiting Professor of Medical Humanities, University College London HERE.8 Both of those resources can be found on the British Menopause Society YouTube Channel.
Resource after resource, and evidence based scientific results points to oestrogen levels fundamentally keeping us moving, with a lower risk of literally breaking or cracking; our hearts beating well, reduced risk of bowel cancer and diabetes, with an overwhelming number of medical experts who agree. In fact so far in my studies I have not found anyone who disagrees with these findings. Yet this information does not appear to be mainstream. If we are therefore to be enabled to make an informed choice, we should at least be provided with all the details. One thing is certainly clear – with postmenopausal levels of 1% oestrogen, you need to be working really hard on your lifestyle choices, nutrition and mobility strategy to minimise your risk of osteoporosis, cardio vascular disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
I’m not saying every woman should take HRT. Like I said in the beginning I saw absolutely no reason why I should, having navigated my symptoms using non-medical resources. But when you know what they have been providing for you and what could happen without them, you really have to think of reason why you shouldn’t take them. I found the introduction of them made an incredible difference to my energy and sleeping among other things. I did have a few months where the transition was not as comfortable as I hoped, but a total of 9 months now and I am feeling fantastic and hope that I continue to do so, but still I layer in all the components of a healthy postmenopausal lifestyle that works for me.
My final piece of evidence to support the proposal of making an informed choice, comes from Lisa Mosconi. Her Ted Talk description reads – “Many of the symptoms of menopause — hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, memory lapses, depression and anxiety — start in the brain. How exactly does menopause impact cognitive health? Sharing groundbreaking findings from her research, neuroscientist Lisa Mosconi reveals how decreasing hormonal levels affect brain aging — and shares simple lifestyle changes you can make to support lifelong brain health.” If you have any doubt about the protective layer oestrogen gives us you should watch her talk HERE11
Women are more likely than men to have Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia on the planet. Women’s brains age differently and menopause plays a key role in this.
In summary there is no single solution to a completely flawless menopause transition, and beyond. However, there are many layers and small action steps you can take, to ultimately engineer a menopause pathway that will be energetic, full of clarity and create long-term health benefits. What you do next is a decision only you can make. My one request is that you choose to start a conversation with the next younger female you meet and tell her about menopause. Let’s end the confusion. Pass it on.
LINK REFERENCE LIST
- The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Menopause ebook
- The Benefits of HRT by Dr Louise Newson
- Talking Menopause with Dr Jo Hobson
- Oestrogen Matters – Dr Avrum Bluming
- How can HRT protect against osteoporosis?
- Coronary heart disease (CHD)
- HRT and breast cancer: overall risks and benefits
- My Menopausal Vagina
- Liz Earle
- Lisa Mosconi