When I learnt that women from different cultures experience menopause in different ways in terms of symptoms, I was curious. Women living in Western countries report more symptoms than those from non-Western cultures. Understanding this when I was so confused about my own menopause mayhem, left me wondering what menopause is and how the way we live our life and have lived our life in the past might impact on our symptoms. I’m so pleased I looked into it!
When I was trying to understand why I wasn’t sleeping, why I was experiencing hot flushes, why my body-shape was changing rapidly and why, oh why, I was suddenly feeling that my muscles and joints were aching and my moods were all over the place, I turned to menopause and healthy ageing research. I felt ‘old’ before my time and as I was in my early 50’s, this did not seem to add up at all.
Why are we all so different when it comes to how we transition through menopause?
I’m so pleased that I asked myself this question. Studying women’s healthy ageing as part of my doctoral studies and reading numerous articles about the differences between women’s healthy ageing in different cultures changed my life, as well as women who are now doing my menopause symptom reduction programmes – one is for weight management and one if for thinner/ leaner women struggling with their symptoms. Both online programmes are scientifically evidenced and step women through exactly what to do to change their lifestyle to allow their body to reset their hormones to adjust to menopause or to lose the weight that has been going on as menopause arrives. Achieving this starts with sleep management, liver health management and other strategies which prevent the body over-heating. The results are powerful and their are numerous success stories that women have kindly shared.
As I untangled all of my own symptoms in menopause and looked at the pathology, or physiological causes and pathways, of each one, what I soon realised was that there was one common thread in all the symptoms.
Menopause symptoms when un-resolved, are the ticking time-bomb for our health as we age and when women aren’t sleeping and develop fibro-myalgia, high cholesterol, poor insulin regulation, high blood pressure, sore joints, sore muscles, arthritis, migraines, depression, gut problems and more, then these all have links to ‘INFLAMMATION’ deep in our cells. When inflammation is present, our stress hormone called cortisol increases, and during peri-menopause, this causes progesterone to go too low in relation to oestrogen.
Armed with this knowledge, I realised that with new science over the years, comes new knowledge. Especially so for us in menopause. For too long, we have been told that our menopause symptoms ‘are just our lot in life’, or can be ‘treated’ with oestrogen hormone therapies, supplements, exercise programmes, various diets and more. Sure some of these remedies work in the short term, but many are a band-aid, and don’t get to the heart of the underlying inflammation which has been accumulating for decades. Think about it. We are the first generation of women to go into menopause having lived through the past 4 decades which has seen the incredible growth in industries related to food processing, marketing, medicines, hormone therapies, supplements, exercise, environmental chemicals and alcohol consumption.
When I was desperate to understand and untangle my own symptoms (which were still present even though I was on HRT), I was 52 years old. The average age of menopause. I had teenage kids at home, was working full time and not sleeping, having endless hot flushes and sore joints left me feeling exhausted, frustrated, bloated and worried about my future health. At the time, I was immersed in reading scientific articles about women’s health as they aged. I had just read The China Study by Colin Campbell, and was immersed in the Blue Zones research about populations around the world who had reached 100 years+ and did not have the health problems that are seen in the western world. The readings I was doing and the ‘truth’ I was seeking and the interviews I was doing with mid-life women made me question how we manage our menopause transition.
Feeling better during menopause isn’t about oestrogen – our body is naturally trying to get rid of oestrogen. It’s about balancing oestrogen with progesterone as both these hormones decline naturally as we age.
If our two reproductive hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, are un-balanced, then as women on the MyMT programmes discover, other hormones such as our thyroid, adrenal and pituitary hormones get out of balance too. When all of these hormones are out of balance, then this manifests as poor sleep, changing joint health, feeling bloated, feeling stressed, headaches and low energy. On top of this, when we aren’t eating well, or have lots of old injuries, or we have experienced changes to our gut-health, liver, joints etc then, inside our cells and tissues, there are pockets of inflammation that just build up inside our body. The relatively new science of epigenetics tells us that the way we live our lives and have lived them in the past, can have an enormous impact on inflammatory changes in cells and tissues. Yes, our past does matter!
I didn’t know this until I began to understand that many diseases of ‘older age’ that our parents’ generation have experienced are due to the build-up of inflammation. When inflammation is present, the body goes into survival mode and our hormones try to re-adjust the internal balance to help us survive. The more I read about menopause symptoms and connected this stage of our life with our reproductive ageing, the more I realised that we are the first generation of women to come through the rapid increase of changes to food, manufacturing, chemicals, plastics, exercise, sports and medicines over the decades. So it’s no surprise that by the time we get to menopause, our body has acquired some inflammatory changes that make our symptoms worse. On top of this, we also have the effect of low oestrogen and progesterone as we transition into post-menopause which changes the structure and function of some of our organs too.
When our symptoms overwhelm us and we aren’t sleeping, or having relentless hot flushes, sore joints and we experience fatigue and mood swings like we haven’t known before, then these are signs that our ageing female body is going into survival mode. That’s when other hormones that control our metabolism, immune system and health can get out of balance too. And getting our hormones back into balance requires some adjustments to our lifestyle that are specific to our ageing. This is especially important if women are overweight, because when adjustments aren’t made in menopause, the route to unhealthy ageing and obesity-related metabolic changes is a lot faster.
When I began to view menopause, through the lens of ageing and inflammation, it made so much sense.
Looking at my menopause symptoms from the lens of ‘healthy ageing’, not only changed my life, but the programmes that have evolved out of my studies are now changing the lives of other women too. This is because the MyMT programmes are designed from the perspective of our healthy ageing and using recently emerging research on populations around the world who are known to experience a healthy, long life, I learnt that lifestyle change in and after menopause, requires a whole new way of thinking.
I know that questioning how we approach menopause and why we may have menopause management all wrong, is now helping women on the MyMT programmes too.
So, how do we get back to re-building ‘us’?
How do we live our life in a way that undoes all the inflammation, allowing our hormones to balance our health?
How do we change our way of living?
Well, I believe the first thing we do is stop and reflect on why what you may have been doing to manage your health and symptoms, including your weight, may not be working for you any more. The new year is a good time for this. As I said to the new ladies who have joined me on my January intake already, my purpose with the step-by-step Transform Me programme is for them to reflect on HOW to change their lifestyle behaviour with my strategies and most importantly, WHY it matters.
I also want you to consider coming on board with me for 12 weeks so you learn specifically what to do and why you are doing it. If you are overweight and have been putting on weight, then please have a listen to this video and take up my January promotional offer too. I would love you on the 12 week, online Transform Me programme if you can. I have your back every step of the way.
When you come into the MyMT programmes (Circuit-Breaker for thinner/ leaner women and Transform Me for overweight women), then I will step you through:
- How to sleep all night.
- How to reduce your hot flushes and if you are overweight, how to reduce your oestrogen dominance and get losing body fat.
- How to re-vamp your liver which changes in menopause.
- How to regain your energy and restore nutrients that your body needs during menopause.
- How to improve your mood and motivation.
- How to turn around the inflammation that has been building up for years.
- How to get exercise and movement that is specific to menopause into your life.
- How to look after you, when you are so busy at this time of life.
Menopause is a transition time. It’s a transition of your body into the next phase of your life. It’s a time when we need to make changes to our lifestyle that reduce the effects of our symptoms allowing us to reduce the effects of a modern lifestyle clashing with our ancient [ageing] biology.
How to do this is with me by your side. Hundreds of women around the world are experiencing their menopause transformation. I now want you to as well, so you get ready for the next 25-30 years of living ahead!
Wendy Sweet, PhD/ Women’s Healthy Ageing Researcher & MyMT Wellness Coach.