Hi, I'm Maryon Stewart, a world-renowned healthcare expert who has been working hard to pioneer 'The Natural Menopause Movement'. I am delighted to sit on Become's panel of experts.
According to my latest survey over two-thirds of women feel completely unprepared for menopause. Even larger numbers of women are taken by surprise by the perimenopause in their early forties and sometimes even earlier following surgery. They are often completely confused and alarmed by the sudden onset of a variety of symptoms leaving them feeling like a shadow of their former selves and totally clueless about their increased risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and dementia as a result. Women often complain they feel too young to be menopausal and robbed of their reproductive potential. It can be a source of huge emotional distress and even depression. But the good news is that we don’t need to fall down a rabbit hole at midlife if you are armed with sufficient knowledge, in fact, it can be an empowering time of life and a whole new beginning.
As you go through your 40s, the supply of eggs you were born with starts to run out and your ovaries stop releasing an egg each month. This means you no longer produce so much progesterone and oestrogen. Eventually, your ovaries run out of eggs altogether, progesterone production ceases and oestrogen levels fall. Oestrogen is required for many bodily functions – not just for reproduction – including strong bones, a sharp mind and a healthy heart, so it is inevitable that you will feel the effects of this change.
What is perimenopause?
‘Peri’ means around the time of, and perimenopause can begin about five years before the actual menopause. Whilst it may simply bring a degree of unpredictability into your life initially, since periods become irregular and it seems like you have PMS for longer, other less fortunate women will feel like they have PMS all the time, noticeable mood swings and more black days than they care to count.
The first sign that things are on the move is usually a change in the pattern of your periods. They may become irregular, longer or shorter, as well as heavier or in some cases lighter. Other perimenopausal symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, loss of libido, loss of energy, sleepless nights and not being able to concentrate – at first just occasionally, but as time goes by, more and more frequently.
Fluctuating hormone levels may not be the only trigger of menopausal symptoms. The many surveys and studies carried out at the Natural Health Advisory Service suggest that dietary and lifestyle factors at this time of life can also play a significant part. Pregnancy, breastfeeding, as well as nutritional imbalances that may have developed over the years as a result of dieting, skipping meals or malabsorption, often take their toll, leaving many of us in a nutritionally depleted state as we approach the menopause. More recent studies from around the world have found that literally billions of women have low levels of important nutrients, making it difficult for their hormones to function normally.
Perimenopause also tends to hit most of us at a psychological turning point, when natural fears about ageing and what the future may hold start weighing on our minds. You may be overloaded with other problems, such as juggling your way through the ups and downs of life with teenage children, what seem like ever increasing demands in your workplace, caring for elderly relatives, changes in your relationship with yourself and your partner. It’s not surprising that you feel challenged and even scared about whether you will cope.
Fiona began her perimenopause at 37, but it was misdiagnosed for many years. “I started to lose myself at the age of 37. For the last 10 years I have felt progressively worse before I realised it was due to the menopause. My memory went blank and I couldn’t sleep. I had terrible aches and pains and body stiffness. I suffered palpitations, sometimes up to five in an hour, and the heat permeating from my body made me feel unattractive and claustrophobic. My periods suddenly became a major disruption on my life and I felt anxious and irritable most of the time. My confidence was very low, and I felt confused and afraid when my mind failed me, as it did on many occasions, plus I had severe constipation and bloating”.
Despite all the changes you may be experiencing, it is important to keep things in perspective. The menopause need not be the end of life as you once knew it, but rather the beginning of a new phase that can be just as exciting and rewarding as your earlier years. As long as you focus on restoring balance in your body, there is every chance of having a smooth transition. Getting nutrient levels back into an optimum range, consuming foods and science-based supplements containing naturally occurring oestrogen and making some simple lifestyle changes can help you to feel better than you can remember.
Understanding your own body
What seems like midlife mayhem can turn into the beginning of a wonderful new phase in your life. You just need to know how to meet the needs of your body. At the age of 47 Fiona eventually found out how to get her body back into balance naturally. “I enrolled on Maryon Stewart’s 6-week Boot Camp in June, made the changes she suggested to my diet and lifestyle and took some of her recommended supplements. I now feel like a different person. I feel like me again. I sleep. I wake up feeling refreshed. I can think. I’m clear headed and no longer have brain fog. I am able to work, and I’m even managing a house move now which I couldn’t have even thought about before. I no longer have bloating or constipation and am in the process of weaning off HRT which gave me headaches, non-stop bleeding and made me put on masses of weight”.
Find out more about Maryon Stewart and how she has helped thousands of women beat the menopause at http://maryonstewart.com/masterclass.