Health: Help for women going through the menopause

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Women going through the menopause can seek help. Eileen Durwad and Alison Cullen explain.

The menopause is often portrayed as a bit of a ‘joke’ topic, but for many women experiencing it, it’s anything but.

A physically and emotionally challenging time, it can also be quite isolating, with many admitting to feeling confused about their symptoms and unsure what to do about them.

A recent survey by herbal remedies manufacturer A.Vogel reveals that the majority of menopausal women feel unsupported, 20 per cent feel lonely, nearly 40 per cent feel that experiencing symptoms is not a reason to visit their GP, while almost 30 per cent believe little can be done to relieve it anyway.

The findings come as no surprise to menopause expert Eileen Durward.

She said: “There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the menopause, though most women will begin to experience some symptoms from 45 onwards.

“The frequency and severity of these will vary widely – with some women experiencing every symptom going and others seeming to sail through.

“Itchiness, or formication, is a common symptom that often surprises people.

“There’s rarely a rash but it may be uncomfortable and creams and lotions may not help. The cause is often lowered oestrogen levels and other factors, like stress, dehydration and even constipation, can all contribute.”

Oestrogen levels begin to decrease in the lead up to the menopause.

But how long this process takes and when it starts – though 51 is the average age, some women go through premature menopause in their 20s or 30s – again varies.

Fluctuating hormone levels can also cause night sweats, vaginal dryness, muscle and joint paint, headaches, memory lapses and digestive problems.

The menopause can also affect women psychologically and emotionally.

“Mood swings, irritability, feeling weepy and not like your usual self often occur,” says Durward.

“I started writing my blog to talk about my own experiences and show women that there is life beyond the menopause,” she said.

“It’s worth remembering that it can be a positive change too and many women feel liberated afterwards.”

Many people may not think it’s worth going to their GP, but for anybody experiencing significant changes should visit their doctor.

Firstly, symptoms may be due to another cause, in which case they’ll need to be checked out. Secondly, treatments, like Hormone Replacement Therapy may be suitable.

Perhaps most importantly, taking care of yourself through healthy eating, being active and relaxing, can make a big difference.

Food containing phyto-oestrogens could also help, such as wholegrains, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, garlic, red lentils and leafy greens.

“The menopause can be a time of significant physical and emotional upheaval and women can and should be seeking support,” says Cullen.

“Talking to family and friends or other women going through the same thing can be a great stress reliever.”

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