Debunking the Myths around Menopause
and resolving your symptoms for a happy & fulfilled life!
Hello lovelies and welcome to our April blog instalment packed with advice, tips and links to help you or someone you care for make the most of the menopause and all the changes that come with it. With all our ‘bee-utiful’ customers being at different stages in their womanhood, we have delved into the inevitable perimenopause and menopause to share some common frustrations, bring you the most up to date information on what symptoms to expect, possible solutions and our top tips on how to cope with fluctuating hormones wreaking havoc with our skin.
1. BUT shouldn’t you wait for symptoms to become unbearable before taking HRT?
What is wrong with me? Misdiagnosis and the Menopause
Yes, progress has been made since times when women were expected to ‘shut up and put up’ with this change but much still needs to addressed by the medical profession and the media alike when it comes to the menopause.
Many women find themselves lost, feeling alone in a really dark place wondering, “Is it me? Am I going mad? What is wrong with me?”, when these feelings of concern are often brought about by natural hormonal changes during perimenopause and menopause.
Many of us women do not realise that our aching limbs, brain fog, low mood, anxiety, dry sensitive skin and sleep disruption are caused by the perimenopause and the menopause. Rather, we simply suffer with them, sometimes losing our ability to maintain our employment, relationships and our mental health, all when it is very possible that these issues could be alleviated with the right diagnosis and treatments - be that homeopathic, management techniques or medical such as HRT.
So many women find trying to seek confirmation of the onset of the perimenopause/menopause rife with challenges – blood tests are often inconclusive or simply do not work with women often being told by their GPs that their symptoms are not down to the menopause, often being told that they have mental health issues, leaving them confused, feeling unsupported, misdiagnosed amd left with a clear lack of guidance from their general health practitioners as they try to navigate what can be a rather difficult time.
This favoured ‘blood test diagnosis’ is problematic: more often than not menopausal women find themselves being told by their GP that their FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) levels are normal and therefore they are not menopausal. However, “evidence suggests that FHS testing does not reliably aid a diagnosis of menopause in women aged over 45 years because levels of this endocrine tend to fluctuate considerably” (www.guidelinesinpractice.co.uk).
Furthermore, hormones can vary wildly on a daily basis rendering this test inconclusive as a perimenopause or menopause indicator.
Anti-depressants are, similarly, not the answer for treating symptoms of menopause.
Do these experiences sound familiar? Please read on to arm yourself with helpful resources and for support on approaching your GP.
A case in point: our ‘bee-utiful’ customers and my sister.
When I consider the women in my life – close friends, the ladies making up our HBB family and, of course, my biggest female ally of all - my sister Libby- they have all corroborated similar experiences and outcomes when trying to seek help from their GPs. Libby had all of the ‘typical’ menopausal symptoms along with some of the extreme ones, even feeling suicidal at one stage. It was only as a result of us chatting when she was at her wits end, tearful at the kitchen table, that I managed to piece together what I had recently learned having myself gone through a chemically induced menopause whilst awaiting a hysterectomy.
I suddenly realised that her aching limbs, dermatitis, skin sensitivity, sleep disturbances and very low mood were connected and likely caused by a sudden drop in oestrogen from the menopause.
I was able to provide an easy way for her to piece together the information in an easily presentable app called the ‘The Menopause Tracker’; a handy tool where you can add your symptoms and it will spit out the results for you to take to your GP for quick and easy diagnosis and treatment. This made the whole process far less daunting and made it easy for her GP to diagnose and treat her. I am so pleased to say that within a matter of months, her symptoms have been transformed and she is a 'new' women, sleeping better with reduced aching, improved skin and balanced mood.
It does take around six weeks for HRT hormones to fully kick in and sometimes the levels will need some adjusting, so it is a process that sometimes needs patience but it is so worth persisting with.
Libby is not alone in reaping the benefits of using the menopause tracker, since using the Balance app, 64% of women said they have managed to obtain treatment for their perimenopause or menopause.
Often we expect out GPs to be menopause experts when they are not, so let’s help empower us all to take the lead and arm ourselves with the relevant information to present to our health practitioners – do not be afraid to stand up and ask your GP if they have a women's health expert you can be referred to or a member of staff available that is experienced in menopause diagnosis.
Remember, it’s not that our doctors are negative people – far from it, they are members of the caring profession – but they often admit themselves to being inadequately informed when it comes to the menopause. In fact a 2019 Mayo Clinic survey of doctors and gynaecologists found that shockingly only 7% of them felt adequately informed to help women going through the menopause.
Consulting your doctor is a two way process and we can help them to help us by ensuring we have all the relevant facts at our disposal and by keeping a log of our specific symptoms – armed with the knowledge and confidence to push for the help we need and deserve will make for a more positive diagnosis experience.
The Menopause Muzzle - why don’t we talk about it?
Did you catch our open forum on ‘Making the Most of the Menopause?’ Not to worry if you missed it - you can watch it anytime by clicking HERE.
So, let’s talk Menopause
What about Perimenopause?
What are the symptoms of Perimenopause?
- Irregular or heavy periods. As levels of the female reproductive hormones oestrogen and progesterone fluctuate perimenopausal women may experience longer or shorter, heavier or lighter periods, spotting in between, or skipping periods altogether.
- Worse premenstrual syndrome (PMS) before periods
- Hair changes
- Muscle aches
- Concentration difficulties and forgetfulness
And, what about the symptoms of the Menopause?
As part of the same overall life transition menopause and perimenopause symptoms can and do overlap. As we go through perimenopause and our oestrogen levels continue to drop we will likely start to experience some of the common symptoms of menopause. These are:
Symptom 1: Night sweats, hot flushes or vasomotor symptoms (VMS)
Symptom 2: Insomnia
Did you know that over 60% of women report sleep problems during the menopause? With two of the most commonly experienced sleep issues being night sweats and hot flushes. Why is this happening? Sleep disturbances are caused by the fluctuations in progesterone and oestrogen during perimenopause and menopause which impacts the body’s ability to control heat. With hot flushes and insomnia ranking highly as common problems in a poll amongst our HBB family too, what can be done to help?
- Cool down your bedroom. Dr Heather Currie of Menopause Matters, recommends a bedroom temperature of around 17 degrees Celsius. Try opening windows or using a fan
- Wear nightwear made from light, natural breathable fabrics such as woven cotton, linen or silk
- Cool down with a shower before bed to help reduce your body temperature
- Choose your sheets carefully – consider investing in bedsheets spun from bamboo; with twice the absorbency of cotton, not only eco friendly and delightfully soft, these sheets will keep you cool whilst preventing any skin irritation. Or, why not try microfibre sheets that dry quicker than cotton or wool and are proven to wick away sweat helping to regulate your body temperature during the night. Check out a full range of sleep solution bedding especially designed with the menopause in mind HERE
- Consider natural supplements including Melatonin: the go-to sleep hormone, L-Theanine: the 'wakeful relaxation' enhancer, Magnesium: the vital-for-sleep-and-everything-else mineral, 5-HTP: the mood-and-sleep hormone elevator, CBD: the calming, sleep-promoting pain reliever, Magnolia Bark or Valarian
- Use aromatherapy prior to and/or during sleep to help increase the speed of going to sleep and the depth and quality of your sleep
Symptom 3: Weight gain
Tips to help
- Be sure to have your cholesterol levels measured at least one a year.
- Consider adjusting to a low sugar diet
- Try yoga and regular exercise to help keep a steady weight and release those ‘feel good’ endorphins.
- Try building in a step target to motivate you to keep moving on a daily basis
Symptom 4: Mood changes
Interestingly, did you know a study found that women who rarely had anxiety premenopause were more likely to experience high anxiety during perimenpause and after menopause? No wonder we can be left feeling ‘not ourselves’ and confused about mood changes. Sadly, another study found that perimenopausal women were two to four times more likely to experience a major depressive episode. My lovely sister fell into this category.
In a 2018 survey, 44% of women reported that menopause significantly affected their mood and mental health. For our customers mood changes and anxieties constituted the top category that they felt they would like help with, so here goes:
Try practising breathing techniques – look at the headspace app for help with this HERE
Be present - try daily mindfulness and meditation. Stress is a major contributor to hormonal imbalance, raiding our levels of cortisol at a time when our hormones are already off kilter during menopause, meaning that any stress can really hit you hard. Prior to perimenopause oestrogen helps to control our cortisol levels. However when we meditate there is a decrease in the volume of the area of the brain (amygdala) which is responsible for fear anxiety and stress which can only serve to help us feel calmer, and less anxious about the changes we are experiencing. For more information click HERE .
Practice kindness and self- affirmations. There is actually MRI evidence suggesting that practicing self-affirmation tasks activate the areas of the brain that make you feel happy and positive, mentally stronger and more able to cope with life’s challenges.
Did you know that watching, engaging or even imagining an act of kindness can lower your cortisol levels reducing both stress and blood pressure.
Create a distraction – try baking something you enjoy, phone a friend, tend to your garden or binge watch your favourite tv programmes.
Venture outdoors - did you know that people who spend time in green spaces have less of the stress hormone cortisol than those who don’t? For more info click HERE .
Aromatherapy can help you through this stage in your life – pure essential oils have been known and used for years to balance and regulate emotions naturally helping us with anxiety, sleep and mood. Some key oils to try are lavender to relax, rose geranium to uplift, clary sage to bust stress and cedarwood to ease tension. Unwind with our all natural Bathing Bee Bath & Body Oil with rose geranium, lavender & chamomile followed by our mood lifting Honey Bee Body Cream with rose and frankincense and try diffusing our Sleepy Bee oil with clary sage & valarian for the ultimate evening de-stress. For pure indulgence why not treat yourself to a the warm comforting scents of our cedarwood blend Cwtch Bee bath melts – can be used in the bath or in a hand or foot spa for their aromatherapeutic benefits and deeply moisturising properties.
Symptom 5: Vaginal Atrophy (dryness)
This is a common symptom for many women as oestrogen levels drop, less natural lubrication is produced and vaginal tissue becomes thinner and drier, causing discomfort that can often impact our sex lives in menopause and post menopause. When I was in my chemically induced menopause, I even found that washing would sting because of the dryness of the tissues.
Experienced by so many women this is still one of the lesser talked about problems, remaining taboo as it seems we are still too embarrassed to talk about it, report it to our GP or summon up the courage seek any treatment . In fact a study shows that more than half of women develop vaginal dryness as they progress through the menopause, yet more than 50% do not report it to their healthcare providers, with less than 4% of these women actively using any of the proven easily available treatment options and instead suffering with the burning, itching discomfort in silence.
Tips to help
- If you feel awkward talking about it with your GP, try writing down succinctly beforehand what you want to say and read it through a couple of times so that you will feel more prepared, relaxed and familiar with what you want to say to your doctor.
- Avoid bath products and soaps containing chemicals or synthetic fragrances that can irritate
- Try applying a water-based, glycerine-free lubricant which can help reduce discomfort during sex. Avoid using oil based ones which may cause further irritation
- Apply water-based vaginal moisturisers every 2 to 3 days. Their effect lasts longer than a lubricant. These are widely available online without prescription or from your chemist
- Applying topical oestrogen cream directly to the vagina relieves symptoms quickly and effectively. It also reduces the exposure of the bloodstream to oestrogen creating an extremely safe treatment. Oral oestrogen is also an option.
- An oestrogen-releasing ring can remain in the vagina and release hormones to address the changes.
- Systemic oestrogen therapy is available as a skin patch, an implant under the skin, tablets or a topical gel. Speak to your GP about these options
- Opt for supplements like vitamin E, vitamin D, sea buckthorn oil and fish oil to help increase vaginal lubrication naturally
Symptom 6.Brain Fog
Tips to help
- Eat foods that have been proven to help beat menopause brain fog- click HERE to read about them in Lisa’s health blog.
- Up your water intake – since 75% of the brain is comprised of water, even the slightest level of dehydration may compromise cognitive functions and lead to memory-related issues and poor concentration. (naturesbest.co.uk). I have found that I need to drink much more water now otherwise I am almost certain to get a headache.
- Try London Nootropics for their delicious coffee blends which make use of the highest quality natural nootropics from around the world. What are these? Nootropics are natural brain boosters (banish that menopausal brain fog!), being known to enhance memory, focus, motivation and verbal fluency. These nootropics have adaptogenic properties, meaning they help your mind and body adapt to physical, mental and emotional stressors and find balance – cuppa anyone? Oh, and we have teamed up with these lovely people to secure you a 10% discount – just pop in the code ‘nourished’ at their checkout!
Symptom 7: Skin Issues
What about the less common symtoms?
What about Postmenopause?
To HRT or Not to HRT
In fact, studies show the body-identical HRT- now favoured by the NHS and menopause specialists - actually shows positive effects on preventing age-related deterioration of the brain after hormones drain away and many argue that even without symptoms, all menopausal women should be taking HRT to protect their future health from things like osteoporosis, dementia and heart disease.
HRT generally works effectively to relieve the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause by replacing the oestrogen which your body stops making at this time – it readdresses the hormone fluctuation that have been giving rise to all the symptoms and issues we have mentioned. Some types of HRT also contain progesterone and you can also take testosterone if you need to.
For more current information surrounding HRT, follow the menopause doctor on Instagram.
HRT isn’t for me - what are the alternatives?
- CBT – a type of talking therapy that can help with low mood and anxiety. Find more info HERE
- A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D
- Gabapentin or Clonidine for hot flushes
- St John’s wort for hot flushes and night sweats - for more info see HERE
- Red clover plant supplement for mimicking oestrogen - click HERE for further info
- A diet rich in phytoestrogens - naturally occurring plant compounds that mimic the effects of oestrogen in the body . Examples are: soy products, tofu, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, linseed, beans.
- One of our ladies also swears by evening primrose and starflower oil for calming hormones
It's a Skin Thing...
A well documented symptom of menopause is the onset of skin problems. In our HBB poll, you ranked skin frustrations as one of your top three concerns during the menopause, which isn’t surprising given that as expert dermatologist Joshua Zeichner explains, “Oestrogen is pretty much everything. Not only does the hormone fuel all things, but it also supports healthy skin functioning.
So, when oestrogen levels plummet during menopause, skin can’t protect itself, maintain hydration, or produce strong collagen the way it once could.” This is something we can help with here at HBB, so, read on to find out how to get your glow back!
Does this sound like what your skin is going through? You are not alone! In fact, a recent survey of 3,875 menopausal women over 40 showed that 36.2% suffered from extremely dry skin.
Perimenpause and menopause signal a decrease in the production of sebum so protecting the skin barrier and stopping moisture loss is critical. Avoid skincare with harsh chemicals that further strip the skin of moisture and invest in products that contain natural humectants that will provide the dual action of sealing in moisture and drawing moisture in from the air.
Did you know beeswax and raw honey are naturally excellent humectants to nourish and protect your skin? Check out our best-selling Bumble Bee face cream for dry skin which is packed full of these humectants - beeswax, raw honey- and omega rich rapeseed oil to help minimise the signs of ageing caused by decreased level of skin fatty acids during menopause which are responsible for flexibility and skin barrier functioning.
Consider gently sloughing away dead skin and encouraging skin renewal by using a natural, deeply exfoliating and moisturising hand scrub such as our Garden Bee scrub. For cracked skin follow up with our naturally antibacterial, soothing Garden bee balm containing raw honey, pure beeswax and the healing hero bee propolis.
For extra nourishment before bed use a natural, easily absorbed Honey Bee hand cream followed by a smoothing of calming, cooling Sleepy Bee balm
Common complaints during menopause according to dermatologist Ronald May are “bags under the eyes and sagging neck skin”
To tackle fine lines and puffy under eyes natural skincare guru and formulator Lisa Lise recommends trying rice bran oil as its jam packed with anti ageing and anti -puffiness goodness of omega-6, omega-9 , co-enzymes Q10 for anti ageing action making it a natural free radical fighting ingredient.
For improving sagging neck skin the natural way you could try our
For an all natural spritz option have a look at our Bumble Bee facial mist with brightening, refreshing organic orange flower water and aloe vera to soothe and depuff hot skin. Try popping it in the fridge for an extra cooling treatment!
Have a look at our Busy Bee range HERE formulated specifically with for the needs of skins prone to breakouts. Our customer have found our Rescue Bee Remedy to work well as a natural targeted solution for hormonal acne – have a read of their reviews HERE.
Many women find that the trusted products they have used for years are no longer suitable for their changing skin and begin suffering from sudden sensitivities or developing irritations from fragrances and perfumes. This increased skin sensitivity happens as the natural lipids in our skin diminish triggered by the fluctuating hormones of menopause. To help, plump for natural ingredients where possible, avoid synthetic chemicals and fragrances altogether and opt for skincare free of essential oils.
Are you familiar with our wide range specifically designed to cater for the needs of sensitive skin? Have a look HERE for natural skincare free of fragrance, chemicals and essential oils to help nourish and hydrate the most delicate, easily irritated skins.
Menopause can also stimulate sensitivity in the hair and scalp and you may find that you need to switch to gentler, more moisturising options for shampooing such as our Gentle Bee shampoo and conditioner bar, or our completely fragrance free Sensitive Bee shampoo bar – in fact our customer Tanya has now found this is the only bar she can happily use- thanks Tanya for sharing.
What can help is tracking what you are eating as trigger foods could be antagonising the problem. I know that a few of our customers have found cutting back on sugar and increasing water intake useful for helping dry, flaky, irritated skin along with helping to alleviate many of the other perimenopause and menopausal symptoms too.
In a bid to take the stress out of your menopausal skincare woes we have specifically put together a range to address many of the skin concerns mentioned above. Our ‘M’ bundles contain our top picks of natural honey and beeswax products to help alleviate dry, sensitive, sore, itchy skin. Available in a full or ‘mini’ travel size bundle and in fragrance free options for skin sensitivities, our bundles contain a cleansing balm, face cream, award winning nurse bee beeswax balm and a nourishing all natural lip balm with sweet almond oil to help keep those delicate lips hydrated and plump. Check them out HERE.
Menopause and Men
However it would be helpful for us if our men could learn a little more of what it involves and are clued up on the discomforts surrounding the whole process so that they can impart to us some much needed empathy. As a customer pointed out, it can be especially tough for them to to try to help and check we are ok when we don’t know what is wrong or the answer to that ourselves! So, if you are one of our ‘man’ newsletter followers or customers (I imagine you look just like the photo above) and are wondering how you can help the women in your life during this transition, have a look at some of the resources below:
Power to the Bee!
Packed with antioxidants that can help prevent cellular damage loss to the brain a study has shown raw honey to be effective in boosting postmenopausal women’s memory. How amazing!
A BBC survey found 70% of respondents did not tell their bosses they were experiencing symptoms. In fact Professor Amanda Griffiths, psychologist and specialist in wellbeing at work has “heard of many cases where women have not admitted the cause of their problems until matters have reached disciplinary stages at work.” Menopausal women are in fact the fastest growing demographic in the workforce and yet despite this the vast majority of UK companies do not have a menopause work policy in place to support their female employees. Not only impacting on our women workers but this lack of support also hits companies right where it hurts – finanacially- due to a loss of output and employee retention.
Emma Persand, a registered nurse and founder of ‘Working with Menopause’ explains: “the society we live in and culture we have been brought up with influences a menopause experience. This includes the workplace which generally does not cater for gender specific health issues other than pregnancy.”
Balance App Symptom Checker
The M Word - The BRAND new Menopause wellbeing online group programme
The Little Book of Ikigai by Ken Mogi - Mental health tool
The Hormone Balance Clinic - Dr Hannah Watson
My Menopause Doctor set up by Louise Newson, GP and menopause specialist
The Lessons From Loss Podcast - Losing and re-emerging from the menopause with Emma Lewis
We really hope whether you are premenopausal, premenopausal, menopausal or postmenopausal then you have found some empowering inspiration and practical help here on how to navigate these stages of life. Or, if you are a man, colleague or employer caring about someone who is going through these changes, then you have found this blog resourceful for helping support your team, wife, sister or mum.
Every woman has a different experience of the menopause and we would love you to share your own coping strategies or any advice/resources of your own that you think would help ? Or, perhaps some of the common symptoms did not apply to you, nor did any of the suggested solutions work for you? Simply click reply to this email and let us know of your experiences which could help others.
Here’s to taking control of our bodies and making it over the menopause mountain and beyond!
P.s We really love your input so please let us know what topic you would love us to blog about and we’ll see what we can do!