Back in 2014 when I started out, menopause was not something that was spoken about, let alone all over the newspapers and magazines!
Despite so much more information and advice out there about menopause, there are STILL a lot of misconceptions and menopause myths that are confusing women today.
So I thought I’d share with you my top 10 menopause myths, because this is what I would have loved to have known when I was going through my issues in my early 40's.
Menopause happens in your 50’s
You may think you’re too young to think about menopause (I certainly did!). Officially menopause is classified as one year after your last period, and on average this happens at age 51-52. But hormones start to decline and fluctuate from the age of 35 onwards (and often earlier!).
These years are known as the peri-menopausal years, and this long transition period can cause havoc for many women. Because the hormone changes are so gradual, you may not notice any symptoms until you’re well into your 40’s (or even 50’s). By being aware of this, you can start to focus on looking after your hormones now.
It’s just about hot flushes
Hot flushes (or flashes) and night sweats are the most well-known (and horrible) symptoms of menopause, and are generally thought to be caused by oestrogen fluctuations in the thermoregulation part of the brain.
However there are so many more symptoms that you might not be aware are hormone-related, including weight gain, low energy, mood swings, depression, brain fog, memory loss, insomnia, stress and anxiety, low sex drive and joint pain – to name a few! You can have some or all of these with or without hot flushes, every woman is different.
It’s all about oestrogen and progesterone
Oestrogen and progesterone decline and fluctuate during perimenopause, and it’s these changes that can cause quite a few symptoms. However, there are many other hormones that can play up at this time, making it hard to know which hormones are causing what symptoms.
The most common ones I find when I’m testing clients are the Feisty 4; as well as oestrogen, you also need to consider cortisol, your stress hormone (this one can cause havoc), insulin your blood sugar hormone and thyroid, your metabolism regulator. They all interconnect and when one is out, the others can follow.
So when you take HRT as a treatment, it may resolve the oestrogen/progesterone issue, but it won't do anything for your other hormones. That’s why I always recommend you get properly tested so that you know which hormones are out of balance.
HRT is not safe
On the other hand, if you are taking HRT, you may be worried that it’s not safe, or your doctor may have told you that you can’t stay on it for longer than 5 years, or you’re worried about the recent headlines about the risks of cancer and stroke.
If you are on the right type of HRT, it's perfectly safe. The type that is associated with all the risks and side effects is synthetic oestrogen and synthetic progestins. These are in combined treatments or oral formats. If you are taking body identical hormones that your Doctor can prescribe (oestrogen gel or patch, plus oral progesterone), there are no studies to date to suggest they carry increased health risks.
Your diet doesn’t make any difference
Well, it might seem that way if you’ve gone to your Doctor and they have told you that your only solution is HRT (this happens A LOT!).
Having a healthy diet with all the right nutrients to help your hormones work properly makes a huge difference not only to your symptoms but also for your future health risks.
Dieting will help with weight gain
The minute you hit 40 it seems like your metabolism dies a death and you have to literally starve to lose weight. And then it comes right back on again (and more) once you start eating again!
One of the biggest menopause myths is ‘eat less, move more'! Low calorie and low-fat diets are the worst things for women over 40. You may lose a few pounds in the beginning, but it won’t last and you’ll just be mal-nourished – and your hormones will be all over the place.
Get away from low calorie, deprivation diets, anything ‘diet’ or ‘low fat’ – and start thinking about foods that nourish your hormones. It’s your hormones that control your weight, so if you look after them, it makes sense that they will look after you back!
There’s no point having your hormones tested
Many doctors will test your FSH and LH to see if you’re peri-menopausal, and for me, that’s not particularly helpful, as you can tell that from your age and symptoms! They often won’t test your sex hormones as they say there's no point due to the fact that they fluctuate so much. The only testing available to them is blood tests, which aren’t that helpful with hormones as it's just a snapshot of your hormone levels at that moment.
However, there is an amazing hormone test that we use to identify any imbalances. It’s a urine test taken over 4 points of a 24 hour day. This not only shows your hormone levels but also how they are behaving and metabolising over the course of a whole day. It’s also done in the luteal phase of your cycle where we know where your hormones should be so it’s more accurate.
It covers adrenal stress hormones as well as all your sex hormones, so it’s a very comprehensive picture and enables us to quickly identify any imbalances and put In the nutrients your body needs to get back into balance. Obviously, these tests are only available privately, but if you can afford to get them done, they can save a lot of time and effort and are often the missing piece of the jigsaw when you have tried everything!
Menopause supplements will help
Many women I see in clinic are taking an over the counter ‘menopause’ formula that is usually heavily marketed at women who are suffering. Unfortunately, they very rarely help, as they are often cheaply made, full of artificial fillers and additives, and very low in the actual vitamins and minerals that you need.
There are lots of very helpful quality supplements that a qualified health practitioner can recommend for you, safely and personalised to your own individual needs.
Do visit my collection at Live Better With Menopause for quality products and supplements that can support you.
Your periods will be lighter
The one good thing you think might happen as you approach menopause is that your periods will be less often and a lot lighter. WRONG! This is another of the menopause myths. It can often be the opposite – PMS or heavy painful periods, even if you may never have suffered before. What’s that all about? It’s that oestrogen dominance from declining progesterone.
It’s like being a teenager again, without the raging sex drive!
There’s nothing you can do about it – You just have to get on with it
NOT TRUE! There are so many things you can do. From cleaning up your diet, to minimising your exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals, to better managing your stress, to getting the right exercise, to taking the right supplements…some simple tweaks to your diet and lifestyle (that are pleasurable not difficult) can make all the difference to your symptoms.
If you are suffering from peri or post-menopausal symptoms, then please ASK FOR HELP. I really don’t want any woman suffering in silence because either they don’t know how to get help or they have been told to get on with it by the help they have already sought.
Woman are so critical to everyone around them. We support and juggle like crazy to make sure everyone else is OK. Isn’t it time you put your oxygen mask on first?
Please contact me at [email protected] and I can tell you how to get properly tested and what your options are for a better quality of life.
Listen to the podcast episode on this topic;