Have you ever found yourself faced with something frightening and felt your heart race, your palms go sweaty, your breathing speed up, and your entire body get tense or shaky?
That’s exactly what happened to a friend of mine one day when she was running in her local park on a lovely summer’s day.
There she was, enjoying the freedom of being out in nature, feeling that gentle breeze blow through in her hair as her feet flew over the ground. She was running at a comfortable pace and the world felt great.
Then suddenly, out of nowhere, a deer came charging straight towards her.
Reacting instantly, she picked up her speed and ran like the clappers to get herself to safety. Her heart was pounding hard in her chest and she couldn't think about anything else apart from escaping that deer until she finally found safety.
What happened to my friend is called the ‘fight or flight’ response which helps us to face stressful situations and either rise to the challenge or flee in order to keep ourselves safe.
This week I’d like to talk more about stress, the fight or flight response and the effect it can have on your overall health.
We’ll also see how this relates to difficulty sleeping, racing thoughts and heart disease, learn the role that our thoughts play when it comes to our stress levels, and what we can do to help ourselves get our stress levels under control.
What is the fight or flight response?
When my friend encountered that deer, the fight or flight response, (also known as the acute stress response) kicked in to help her get away from the threat and get to safety. The same thing can happen when we’re faced with an important meeting at work, an examination, visiting the dentist or even speaking in public.
The fight or flight response happens when the body suddenly releases hormones such as cortisol, norepinephrine and epinephrine. These help the body react by increasing blood flow to the limbs, increasing blood pressure, and raising the breathing rate so that you can be ready for increased physical activity.
However, it’s important to note that this stress response isn’t only triggered by a physical threat.
You see, the part of your brain which first reacts to stress, your amygdala, can’t tell the difference between physical stresses such as a deer running through the park or a perceived danger such as worry, challenging beliefs, difficult feelings, and negative thoughts.
It will react just the same whether there is a physical or psychological threat and can have the same impact upon your overall health and happiness.
The risk of having high levels of stress hormones
Stress is much more than an irritation or issue that only makes you feel overwhelmed. It can also have a significant impact on your overall health.
When we are subjected to chronic stress, our body’s natural repair systems that help fight infection, repair injuries, fight cancer, slow ageing, balance our hormones and protect our cardiovascular health go offline.
They can’t work as efficiently as they normally do and we find ourselves vulnerable to health problems such as:
Raised blood pressure
Immune responses and inflammation
Mild anxiety/ depression
Hot flushes/night sweats
Increased vulnerability to addiction
But stress hormones aren’t always bad
It’s important to remember that our stress hormones are there for a reason and provide a valuable function in the body. Not only do they help us to escape a physical threat- they also help control our energy levels and bodily processes throughout the day.
For example, your levels of cortisol should be high in the morning and low at night, following our natural sleep patterns. If you struggle to drop off to sleep at night or you wake in the early hours with racing thoughts, you are likely to be suffering a dysregulation of the stress hormones.
The good news is that this is a problem that can be fixed. Firstly, we can test your hormone levels using the DUTCH test so we can paint a clearer picture of what is happening within your body.
Then we can work to minimise stresses in your life, build your stress-management skills and help you increase the amount of joy you experience so you feel lighter, calmer and find it much easier to fall asleep at night.
Here are seven things I love to do to stay calm and keep my stress levels in check.
1. Listen to music
Music helps lift our spirits, release stress and helps to simply be and enjoy being alive. So grab your favourite tunes that make you want to move, turn them up loud and dance if you feel like it. Don’t worry about your neighbours!
Humming or singing is one of the easiest ways to calm your nervous system and feel better.
This is because when you sing or hum, you naturally activate the vagus nerve and therefore help regulate your breathing, relax your digestive system, calm your mind and signals to the rest of your body that you’re safe from harm. So why not turn those tunes up and sing along or even consider joining a local singing group?
3. Check your antihistamines
If you’re taking antihistamines such as Sudafed for hay fever or other allergies, it can be a good idea to consider whether you could stop taking them altogether. This is because antihistamines can raise levels of norepinephrine and epinephrine, which increase the amount of stress your body experiences.
It’s true- laughter really is one of the best medicines because it releases a huge amount of endorphins which help you feel happier whilst also reducing your stress hormone level. It also gives your immune system a well-deserved boost and helps rebalance your hormones. What could be better?
Spend time with friends who make you laugh, enjoy watching comedies and try to see the lighter side to life whenever possible.
5. Check your adrenal health
To get an accurate picture of how much stress is taking a toll on your body, it’s always a good idea to get your hormone levels tested. I’d advise you check your adrenal health using the DUTCH test so we can develop a personalised plan that can help you combat stress and feel at your best.
6. Practice calming practices
There are many practices that can help you disconnect from the chaos of everyday life, reduce levels of those stress hormones and feel calmer and more centred. These include getting out into nature, having more organisms, practising yoga and mindfulness and learning the art of visualisation.[Download my free relaxation recording here]
7. Start a relaxing hobby
As you might have seen on Facebook, I’ve recently started life drawing and found it to be a very calming activity that helps me become more creative, whilst claiming vital ‘me time’, learning a new skill and helping myself to feel great. What hobby could you do that would provide you with the same benefits?
Take action to get your stress levels under control and you can make a massive difference to your health and happiness. Notice what makes you feel stressed, take time to practice self-care, laugh, explore new hobbies and take time to help yourself feel calmer and more in control of your life, instead of the other way around.
Do you feel like you’re constantly under stress or feeling overwhelmed by racing thoughts, worries or other health problems? Let me know in the comments section below.
If they gave out awards for being superwoman, they’d surely go to you.
For all those extra hours you put in at your workplace, particularly when you were feeling less than great, but showed up and keep pushing on anyway.
For showing up at your child’s school governors meetings or community voluntary group that seemed like a good idea when you signed up but now just drains your time and energy.
For being there 100% when your children, friends, partner and ageing parents need you.
For doing the weekly shopping, cleaning the house, delivering a few gourmet meals, and somehow finding time to fit in a few gym sessions, run a 5k race just for the fun of it and been a sex kitten too...
Gosh, no wonder we feel exhausted by the time we get to menopause.
The problem is, in our modern culture, we’re rewarded with a badge of honour for being busy women and somehow juggling all these different roles and demands.
But we’re leading ourselves on a path closer to stress and burnout if we continue to push ourselves through the tiredness and overwhelm. We can’t ever enjoy optimal health and happiness if we continue to be ‘Burnt Out Barbaras.’
Today I’d like to talk to you about why it’s so bad for your health to stay busy all the time then share with you five easy tips that can help you find more time for yourself.
The dangers of being busy all the time
There are two main reasons why being busy is so bad for your health.
Constant busyness can lead to mental fatigue, overwhelm, depression and anxiety, and a sense that you can never escape from the merry-go-round of life.
Your body cannot keep you in optimal health when it doesn’t have time to rest so you start getting sick.
If you’re constantly putting much more out then you're putting in, then you're on the road to chronic stress which could harm your long-term health and also affect your experience of the menopause.
Whether you’re currently fighting your symptoms of the menopause or you’re yet to hit the perimenopause, you can still take action to reduce the impact of this stress and support your body and mind.
How to beat the overwhelm and busyness and rediscovering yourself
Here are five simple steps that can help you reclaim your time and start living life according to your own priorities, values and dreams.
1. Decide what’s important to you
In order to be truly happy and healthy, it’s vital that you understand what really matters to you and make these your priority. Make time for these things and enjoy every second as you do.
This helps you create the kind of life that you love and allows you to feel more in control, even when life gets busy. Remember- we all have limited time and energy so as much as we wish, we can’t do everything all the time.
For many people, family, friends and close relationships take the top spot, closely followed by work, or hobbies or education or something similar, but this might be completely different for you. Whatever you decide, it’s a good idea to pull out your journal or notebook and write down your priorities in order of importance to you. That way you can refer to them easily and check whether you’re on track.
A great way to do this is to use a vision board that can help keep your heart’s desires and priorities at the front of your mind. I’ll be running an online workshop in September that can help you create your vision board. More to follow on that soon.
2. Review your commitments
Do your commitments really light you up? Do they bring you joy? Are they priorities in your life?
If not, then it’s worth questioning whether it really deserves a place in your life. If yes, then that’s fantastic. Carry right on doing what you’re doing, perhaps finding ways you can make it even easier for yourself. If no, then you know what you need to do…
3. Lighten your load
Even if we can’t reduce our commitments and daily obligations, we can often find ways to make life easier and cut the amount of time and effort we need to invest in them.
Firstly consider if you can ask someone for help. Could you delegate more of your responsibilities in the office? Could you ask your partner to help more at home? Could you ask your retired neighbour to come and take your dog for a short walk during the day?
Secondly, consider whether you could find easier ways to do your chores. Could you do your grocery shopping online? Could you prepare your food in advance or batch cook so it’s ready throughout the week? Could you buy a cook box with the fresh ingredients you need then simply create the recipes they suggest? Could you even hire a local chef to help out? Or a cleaner?
Thirdly, work out how you can streamline your habits so any non-negotiable commitments become more manageable.
For instance, could you arrange days to work from home so you don’t have to commute and have more time to spend with the kids or your partner? Could you take public transport and free up your time to study that language you’ve always wanted to learn but never found time for? Could you walk to work?
These options might not be accessible to everyone, but they’re ideas which can help you get the ball rolling.
4. Fill your own tank first
You cannot offer support to others and be the ‘best’ wife, mother, friend or human being unless you first take care of yourself. It’s just like when they’re running through the safety information on the plane and they tell you to put your oxygen masks on before you help others. Self care is vital.
Again, knowing that you need to dedicate more time for self care and actually doing it are two different matters, especially when you live a very busy life. I suggest that you start small. Decide that you’ll start doing one thing for yourself and then commit to doing it regularly, for example, eating breakfast every day. Over time, you’ll notice how much better you feel and this small act of self care will become a habit.
Then once you’re happy with this, consider what else you can do. Perhaps start getting to bed earlier? Or drinking more water? Laughing more? Enjoying plenty of orgasms? Getting out into nature? Practicing yoga? Getting away from your desk to eat your lunch?
You’ll soon feel much calmer, more grounded and much more relaxed.
5. Find quiet time and space in your day
When we’re so busy, we often forget to listen to what we really want from life, or we simply can’t because of the noise and chaos.
That’s why it’s so important to find quiet time or ‘me time’ when you don’t have commitments and don’t have to do anything and simply be. By spending time in quietness and listening to your deepest thoughts, you can connect back to your female intuition and listen to what your heart most needs to tell you.
This will help guide you through the good times and the bad and help you live an authentic and fulfilling life.
Do you feel like you're constantly busy? Let me know in the comments below.
Most of us find it very hard to say ‘No.’ It often doesn’t sit well with us. It can feel negative. It can feel aggressive.
And besides, as women we want to be providing the best support possible to those around us. This includes family, friends, loved ones and even strangers in need.
However, unless we can say this magic word, we can find ourselves exhausted and overwhelmed with the demands of others. We spend so much time running around after other people that we just don’t have time for ourselves.
Or we’re so ambitious and driven, that we find ourselves taking on far more than we can handle, just so we can achieve our goals.
So for the sake of our long-term health and happiness, it’s important that we learn to say no in a positive and loving way so we can take better care of ourselves.
In this week’s podcast, Kathryn shares more on how we can tweak our lives by making space for ourselves and learning how to say no.
Listen to this episode to find out…
How your emotional resilience affects your ability to heal
Feeling overwhelmed, and how to manage it all!
The real reasons why we find ourselves says ‘Yes’ all the time
Putting yourself first, and what that really means
Why saying ‘Yes’ to yourself should always be your priority
How to say ‘No’ and get a better reaction from others
How to choose your words to soften the impact of a ‘No’ (useful for cold callers!)
Saying ‘No’ to your own ‘bad behaviours’ and what doesn’t serve you anymore
What’s a ‘Reverse List Day’ and how you can use them to boost your self care habits
Holding space for someone, or someone holding space for you is the way we deepen our relationships and feel valued and loved as part of a community.
It’s a willingness to sit with a person, be present and listen with your heart as another person shares their journey, no matter how hard it might be.
It’s unconditional support.
It’s listening mindfully without trying to fix anything, without judgement and without trying to shape the outcome. It’s being there when someone needs you the most.
But sadly, in our modern world, we don’t live in the same kind of communities that we used to. We don’t have the chance to hold space for others or share our own deepest thoughts, feelings and emotions because we’re too busy getting on with the rest of our lives.
We don’t sit and talk as often as we should. We don’t listen. We struggle to be ‘present’.
Today I’d like to talk to you about the value of holding space for someone and allowing others to hold space for you, and help you understand how you can start listening with your heart too.
Support isn’t always easy to find
We might not notice a lack of support too much when we’re younger. We’re often much to busy.
But as we grow older, our kids start growing their own wings and flying the nest and we notice those changes that the perimenopause and menopause can bring, our hearts start calling to us.
We start craving to be listened to. We want to be heard. We need it to feel complete, supported and understood by those around us.
The only trouble is, the people we think we can turn to for support often can’t or won’t do it
You’ve probably experienced it for yourself. You start opening up to someone about something and the other person look like they’re listening, but deep down you know that they’re really not.
They don’t want to talk at all. They’re not fully present. They’re checking their phone or scrolling social media whilst you’re there opening your heart. Or they interrupt you mid-sentence to tell you something completely unrelated.
You might visit your GP, believing that we’ll get sympathy and understanding there. But you only have a ten-minute window to say what’s on your mind. But before long your time is up and their eyes are back on their computer screens, ready for the next patient.
I don’t mean to sound like I’m being harsh on these people.
We all have busy lives and millions of obligations that pull us in millions of different directions throughout the course of the day. We all have our own stresses and challenges, so we can’t always be there when we’re needed the most.
But that’s difficult to understand when you’re most in need of support.
We all want to be heard- not just with people’s ears, but with their hearts too.
Holding space isn’t about problem-solving
You might be thinking, “But Pamela, I’m a great listener.”
But think about it for a second.
Do you really keep judgement at bay when someone gets vulnerable and shares their thoughts, feelings or emotions with you?
Are you really present or thinking about what you’re going to make for tea?
Do you find yourself problem-solving and offering solutions?
If you’re completely honest, you’re probably aren’t holding space as effectively as you could be.
In order to be heard as an individual; as the strong and powerful woman you are, you also need to be able to hold space for others too. It’s not a one-way street.
Do this and together we can create that great community that society is missing these days.
We can hold space for each other, listen with our hearts and not just our heads and show our unconditional love for each other.
How to get the support you need and learn how to do the same for others
None of us are born knowing how to hold space for a person, but with a little practice, we can soon learn how to become better listeners and help the people we care about to be heard exactly as they need.
Here are some ways that you can learn how to hold space for others and ask for the same for yourself whenever you need it.
1. Ask for what you want
Often, the only way to get what we want is to ask for it, no matter how hard this can be.
...If you want your partner to switch off their phone and listen to you, ask them.
...If you don’t want your best friend to try to solve your problems, ask them (nicely!).
...If you want someone you trust to lend a listening ear, pick up that phone and ask.
You’ll often discover that this person didn’t realise that you wanted them to hold space for you. They didn’t realise that you felt that way. No amount of hints would ever have helped them to work it out for themselves. The only way is to ask.
Yes, it can feel difficult. Reaching out and asking for help often is.
But the initial discomfort is usually very much worth it and can help build stronger and more meaningful relationships with those around you.
2. Be present
You can only hold space for someone if you are 100% present with them. However, this often doesn’t happen.
How often are you having a conversation with someone whilst simultaneously thinking about what you’re going to cook for dinner, whether the postman delivered that important document you’re waiting for, whether you need to schedule vaccinations for your next holidays, and so on?
Or you hear the familiar ‘ping’ of a notification and so pull your phone from your pocket and start scrolling through Instagram whilst your friend is telling you about her pig of a husband?
Please stop! Get present.
Put your phone back into your pocket, make eye contact with the person you’re speaking to and simply listen to their words. Resist the urge to interrupt or ask questions whilst they’re mid-flow and allow them to speak.
Learn to better hold space for people by practising as often as you can, whether it means listening more closely to your friends, loved ones and colleagues, or even becoming more present when that little old lady at the supermarket shares her thoughts with you.
Here are a few tips that can help:
First, put your phone away and allow yourself to be present.
Pay attention to the people around you and their words, body language and energy.
Encourage them to open up and share whatever they need to.
Hold their hand.
Sit with them in the hard stuff without trying to change or control anything.
Provide the unconditional love and support they need to feel heard and make their own choices, whether or not you agree with their choices.
Don’t take their sorrow or anxiety on board or try to ‘fix’ them
4. Be mindful of your own feelings
When you hold space for someone, it’s equally important that you’re aware of how you feel. This is because your thoughts, emotions and feelings can sometimes stand between you and the person you’re trying to hold space for.
If they’re sharing a conflict or a challenge that you feel strongly about, it’s too easy to allow your feelings to prevent you from holding space for a person. Equally so if you’re struggling with your own issues and your thoughts are elsewhere.
You shouldn’t allow these to interfere when you’re holding space for someone. Of course, if you have your own struggles, you will be able to share them. But whilst that person you’re holding space for is taking centre stage, your focus should only be on him or her.
5. Get grounded
You can only hold space for someone if you first feel safe, comfortable and free from fears or worries. Some great ways to get grounded and feel better include:
Getting outside for fresh air
Eating more fresh, colourful produce and reducing your intake of processed foods
Getting some exercise
Doing some grounding meditation
Coming to one of our Heal Her retreats!
6. Find a therapist
You can find the support you need by coming along to my clinic or finding a therapist that can hold space for you and allow you to work through your thoughts, feelings and emotions.
We all need to be heard and understood. It helps us to feel supported and valued, it helps us feel happier and it even helps to boost our health. Just to have someone hold space for you can make you feel a million times better, no matter what challenge you’re facing.
Are you a good listener? Do you hold space for the people who count? Let me know in the comments!
The Mediterranean diet. Weight Watchers. Slimming World. The vegan diet. Keto-Alkaline. Paleo. The Cabbage Soup diet….
If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you’ve probably heard about all of these slimming diets and probably even tried a fair few of them too.
Speak to anyone who has successfully lost weight with any of them, and you’ll be enthusiastically told that the diet in question is ‘the best diet ever’ and ‘the only diet you’ll ever need’ or even ‘the only diet that works!’
You might have noticed that it doesn’t matter which of these diets the person is talking about, their claims are the same; this diet is the perfect solution for weight loss.
So today I’d like to take a look at slimming diets in general and help you understand the truth behind the myths. Which of these is the best diet for you during the menopause?
Let’s take a look.
The problem with diets
Before we go much further, it’s important to first to mention what most of these diets have in common and what the pros and cons of this can be.
Firstly, many of these diets can be quite restrictive and ask you to remove foods from your diet and start eating others instead. Quite often, this includes foods which have a positive effect on your health and are highly unlikely to impact upon your weight at all and could potentially limit your nutrition and harm your health.
This is a big negative to many diets, which is why I’d recommend that you avoid following any fad diet whatsoever.
Having said that, the majority of these diets do emphasise eating an abundance of unprocessed wholefoods and steering clear of potentially harmful foods such as processed sugars, processed carbs and unhealthy trans fats.
This is brilliant and a big plus for these kinds of well-balanced and sensible eating plans.
How to lose weight during the menopausal years
Many women come to my clinic when they hit the perimenopause or menopause, complaining that it’s harder than ever to lose weight and telling me that they’ve reached the end of their tether.
They want a straightforward eat-this-and-this solution that is guaranteed to shift pounds.
Whilst I can certainly help them and I do help them achieve weight loss through a carefully designed series of diet and lifestyle tweaks, my advice isn’t exactly as they envisioned. You see, there isn’t one solution to weight loss at the menopause.
It depends on your unique biological makeup, your eating philosophy, your menopause symptoms, your health symptoms and much more besides.
The key to healthy and lasting weight loss is to find the diet that best supports your body so you can effortlessly lose weight, get more energy to run around with your kids and grandkids and feel better than ever. Here’s how to do just that.
How to find the right diet for you during the perimenopause or menopause
There’s a place for many of the diets out there, including the Mediterranean diet, vegan diet, Keto-Alkaline diet or Paleo, but that doesn’t mean that it’s right for you at all.
Even if it is, it might not be right for you at this phase of your life. It might be necessary to avoid certain foods temporarily whilst we focus on healing. This might include following the FODMAP diet or Low Oxalate diet.
What do I mean by that?
The truth is, we are constantly changing both inside and out. The diet you’ve been following loyally for many years might not be the best for effectively managing your menopause symptoms or helping you to cope with the hormonal changes that are happening.
However, this can be a difficult pill to swallow, especially if you love the way you eat or believe that your diet doesn’t affect your body. The truth is, what you eat strongly influences every single aspect of your health.
So even if you’re a dedicated fan of a particular diet or you don’t want to change your current diet, I’d highly advise that you reconsider what you’re eating to help you feel better than ever. It might not mean changing much, or anything at all, but it’s certainly a step worth taking.
To find out what’s right for you, it’s important to start listening to your body and make some general dietary tweaks that can help guide you in the right direction. Here’s how you can do that.
1. Keep a food diary
Whatever diet you’re currently following, it’s important to ask yourself how you’re really feeling.
Are you sleeping as soundly as you could be? How are your energy levels? Are you happy with your libido? How about your mood? And your weight?
If the answer to any of these questions is ‘No’, then it’s time to start investigating what could be the root cause.
One of the best ways to do this is to keep a food diary.
Simply write down (in as much detail as you can manage) exactly what you’re eating, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks and those snacks or nibbles throughout the day that it’s easy to forget.
Also, include what time you ate, and for maximum brownie points, be sure to include how you were feeling when you ate.
This can help uncover the relationship you have with food and highlight any potential issues you could be having, or if anything isn’t working optimally for you and your body.
2. Eat regularly & don’t skip meals!
Even if you can’t bear the thought of food in the morning, it’s important that you eat at least something within an hour of waking.
This will help kick-start your metabolism, boost your energy and help you feel much better. It’s especially important if you struggle with low energy, low mood or poor sleep.
After breakfast, aim to eat at least 3-4 hours to allow your blood sugar levels to remain constant throughout the day and provide you with a steady flow of fuel that will help beat brain fog, maintain optimal hormone balance and prevent you from succumbing to food cravings.
Once your blood sugar levels feel more settled and you’re enjoying more energy, you can start to increase the gaps between meals.
3. Enjoy a nutrient-dense diet
If you only do one thing to improve your diet, make sure it’s this: get more nutrients onto your plate!
Make sure you’re eating plenty of wholefoods, aiming for around 7-10 portions of fresh produce per day, more if you can. Include lots of red foods such as red peppers, tomatoes and cherries as they’re particularly high in phytochemicals such vitamins, minerals and cancer-fighting antioxidants.
Also eat plenty of good quality proteins such as beans, pulses, meat, fish, nuts and seeds and reduce your intake of simple carbs like bread, pasta and white rice.
Finally, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water as many menopause symptoms can be worsened if you’re suffering from dehydration.
4. Use food as fuel and pleasure
Just because you’re tweaking your diet to help you feel better, that doesn’t mean you have to simply ‘live to eat’.
That can be utterly joyless and altogether boring. There are still millions of recipes you can create and thousands of new foods you can taste and enjoy that will hit that pleasure button in your brain just as much as the foods you’re used to eating right now. It’s simply a case of finding them!
Open your mind to the different foods that exist. Explore different cuisines from around the world. Treat yourself to some healthy cookery classes or a shiny new cookery book. Enjoy every single bite of food you eat and you will never ever feel deprived.
My favourite not-so-guilty pleasure is a sugar-free flapjack or posh fish and chips. What’s yours?
5. Love your body 100%
The only problem about many diets (especially the fad diets) is that they lead you to see yourself as somehow ‘flawed’. You can’t help but believe their claims, wishing that you had a different body shape and believing that the fact that you don’t yet means that your body is imperfect.
I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that this simply isn’t true. You’re beautiful.
You aren’t flawed. Your body is absolutely amazing- it does so many incredible things to keep you alive every single day. If you have children, it also helped to conceive, protect and deliver that whole new human being into the world. It’s amazing.
So please, forget about disliking your love handles or wishing your tummy was flatter and love yourself entirely from head to toe.
To recap, there really isn’t such thing as the perfect diet for the menopause. It’s all about finding the right diet for your unique body; understanding which foods help you feel energetic, think clearly and feel wonderful.
Which foods make you feel amazing? Let me know in the comments!
Imagine if you could just walk into your doctor's surgery and know exactly what you need to say to get the help you need.
You’d understand what your hormones do, you’d understand how they work together and you’d feel empowered to stand up and make positive changes in your life to feel better.
That’s exactly what functional medicine women’s health and hormone doctor, Dr Carrie Jones sets out to do through her practice and her current position as Medical Director for Position Analytics- the makers of the trusted DUTCH test.
I’ve been ‘stalking’ her on Instagram for a while now, so I couldn’t wait to get talking with her about many areas of women’s hormonal health. It was an in-depth and highly informative conversation and I’m sure that you’ll feel much more enlightened about your hormones when you listen.
Listen to this podcast to find out…
Should you fast for hormonal health (and if so, when?)
Why morning fatigue can often be a sign of autoimmune problems
How an imbalance in your thyroid can contribute to heavy bleeding
Why those ‘full blood tests’ you often get from the GP doesn’t provide much insight into your hormonal health
The difference between cortisol and cortisone and how it influences your body
Melatonin and how it influences your sleep patterns
How you can improve your hormonal health with a change of lifestyle habits
HRT: Is synthetic or bioidentical best?
The factors to consider with hysterectomy
What role oestrogen plays in your body (clue: it’s not just about making babies)
The positive side of cortisol
What to do if you struggle to get up in the morning
The best ways to promote optimal brain health (prepare to be surprised)
Why perimenopause is a window of opportunity
Which supplements are the best to take for optimal hormone health and balance
Many of my perimenopausal and menopausal clients find that they can happily make many of the lifestyle changes that I suggest, and notice a significant improvement in their menopausal symptoms.
They fill their plates with a wide range of plant-based foods, they include plenty of healthy, hormone-friendly fats, they start exercising sensibility, prioritising sleep and including self-care as part of their daily lives.
But when it comes to alcohol, it’s often a different matter altogether.
They love nothing better than enjoying a ‘nice glass of wine’ when they want to relax, unwind, to temporarily escape from their lives or even to use as self-medication.
They tell me they need their glass of wine. There’s no way they can make it through the week without their glass of wine. Surely one glass every now and again won’t make too much of a difference?...
Sadly, they’re wrong.
Drinking that glass of wine is one of the worst things you can do for your body and mind, especially at the menopause. Let me tell you why.
Alcohol can worsen your symptoms of the menopause
When it comes to the perimenopause and menopause, drinking that innocent-looking alcoholic beverage can be a disaster. Not only can it actually trigger hot flushes, but it can also rob you of your sleep and cause you to feel more anxious, depressed and ‘low’ than before.
It’s also a source of empty calories which work just like processed sugar in your body and contain no nourishment whatsoever.
This is likely to cause you to gain weight, cause you to suffer from a range of food cravings, affect your energy levels and, again, make your menopause symptoms even worse.
Alcohol also affects your hormonal balance. When you drink, your body finds it harder to process and eliminate excess levels of oestrogen which can lead to oestrogen dominance and poor health.
It also reduces your testosterone levels which can cause your sex drive to decline and disrupts your overall hormone balance.
Alcohol increases your risk of breast cancer
Breast cancer is an increased worry at the menopause because thanks to lower levels of oestrogen, a woman is already at an increased risk of developing the disease. Drinking alcohol only adds to the risk.
The increased risk of developing breast cancer is confirmed by Breast Cancer UK:
Research consistently shows that drinking alcoholic beverages -- beer, wine, and liquor -- increases a woman's risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer.
Again, it doesn’t matter whether you binge drink or drink occasionally- the increased risk is the same. Just one drink per day is enough to negatively affect your health and potentially reduce your lifespan in this way.
Alcohol increases your risk of heart attack and stroke
This risk increases even further if we drink alcohol on a regular basis. Alcohol can cause abnormal heart rhythms, increase your heart rate, trigger high blood pressure and cause damage to your heart muscle.
Alcohol affects your bones and increases your risk of osteoporosis
Alcohol also strips calcium and magnesium from your bones which increases your risk of osteoporosis and cause weaker bones that are more prone to fracture. This is even worse if you drank heavily during your teenage years or early adulthood or suffered from an eating disorder.
As you are already at increased risk during the menopause, any alcohol you drink only makes the problem worse.
Bone health is an issue I’m extremely passionate about because if you don’t have healthy bones, you’re much more likely to lose your independence and end up needing 24-7 care.
Alcohol can make you feel terrible
Although it can feel like you ‘deserve’ a nice glass of wine or that it’s helping you to deal with your stress or drop off to sleep, nothing could be further from the truth. Alcohol is a depressant and triggers lower levels of serotonin- the happy hormone- in the brain. This can trigger or worsen depression, anxiety and other forms of stress.
If you are using alcohol as a temporary escape or as a form of self-medication, please do contact me for help or speak to your GP.
Alcohol is awful for your gut health
Great gut health is important because it helps ensure we can efficiently absorb nutrition from our food, have a healthy immune system, detoxify the body and eliminate excess oestrogen.
It’s one of the first things I work on with my clients as it also contributes significantly to the symptoms of the menopause.
The bad news is that regular alcohol consumption reduces all of our hard work. It reduces the population of healthy bacteria in your gut, making any digestive symptoms such as IBS worse.
It can also damage the wall of your gut and lead to chronic health issues such as leaky gut and chronic inflammation.
As you can see, even one drink can affect your body during the menopause and increase the risks of you suffering from a wide range of chronic and even life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, heart attacks, strokes, osteoporosis and more.
That’s why I urge you to get your drinking under control, even if that means slowly cutting back.
Find healthier alternatives that allow you to socialise and relax without harming your health and you can still have fun!
Do you like to have an occasional drink? Is alcohol a crutch that helps you get through the tough days? Let me know in the comments below.
AD: This content has been created as part of PAID PARTNERSHIP with Shionogi B.V. for the UK launch of Femal.
I was recently invited to work with Femal, a once-daily, hormone-free food supplement that contributes to wellbeing during the menopause. So I joined them for their launch campaign, #ExpressYourFemal, which aims to tackle the taboo of menopause and encourage women to have frank and honest conversations about their own experiences.
I spent a day in London with an amazing group of women: Vicki from Lifestyle Maven, Amanda from Online Stylist, Ashley from Lazy Daisy Jones and Sally Akins. We discussed their experiences of the peri-menopause and menopause, which got me thinking about one of the questions I frequently get asked by the women I work with; “what is the difference between the peri-menopause and menopause?”
Many women don’t realise there is a difference between the two until we get chatting, they read my blog, or they start searching for alternative solutions to their menopause symptoms.
They just associate the menopause with something to dread—a life event that brings with it a host of unwanted and debilitating symptoms. They don’t realise that it’s a gradual transition over the course of many years that takes them from their childbearing years through to the post-menopause.
So I thought I’d take some time to explain the differences between the peri-menopause and menopause. I’ll also share which tests you should ask your doctor for in order to get to the bottom of your menopausal symptoms.
What is the peri-menopause?
The peri-menopause is the period leading up to the menopause itself when your hormones start to shift.
This transition usually lasts for anywhere between a few months to several years before your periods finally stop. For most women, these changes can happen anywhere between the ages of 35 to around 50.
During the peri-menopause, you might still have a period of some sort, it might not look the same as it did before. You might notice long gaps between your periods, for example, your cycle might last 40 days whereas before it was a regular-as-clockwork 27 days. Or you might skip the occasional period altogether for a month or two.
On the other hand, you might still have a very regular cycle, but have started to experience those menopausal symptoms and so suspect that you might be peri-menopausal.
This is the time when you’re most likely to start experiencing those tell-tale hormonal symptoms that we usually associate with the menopause. This includes those dreaded hot flushes, night sweats, heavy or light bleeding, menstrual headaches, fatigue, insomnia, mood swings, mood problems, such as anxiety, depression and panic attacks, suffering from brain fog and feeling bloated.
Symptoms of the menopause can last anywhere from a few months before you stop your periods until several years after your final period has happened.
During the peri-menopause, you can ease many of your symptoms by making small lifestyle changes which will support your body to feel at its best. This includes what you put on your fork, what you put in your mind, what you put on your body and how you move your body.
It is also really important to know your options because choosing a treatment to support you is a personal decision—what suits one woman might not suit another as everyone’s experience is different.
For example, Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is one route you can take to deal with your symptoms, and if this interests you, it is important that you make an appointment to discuss it with your GP. However, not all women need medical treatment, and some prefer to take an alternative or hormone-free approach, such as Femal.
Femal has been shown to support women through different phases of the menopause, which may include hot flushes, night sweats, irritability, low mood and insomnia. It is also hormone-free and its active ingredient consists of PureCyTonin® complexes (purified pollen extract), sourced from natural origins.
What is the menopause?
Somewhat confusingly, the word ‘menopause’ is often used to describe the hormonal symptoms that occur when women transition into menopause.
However, medically speaking it’s defined as the time when your periods stop altogether. This has to occur for a period of 12 months before you can be considered to be ‘post-menopause’.
Once you reach menopause, some symptoms may decline and disappear completely, or as mentioned earlier, they might stick around for a few years to come. The only difference is that you’ll no longer have a period.
Additional risk factors post-menopause
However, even when these menopausal symptoms do eventually ease, you will need to continue taking great care of yourself post-menopause and for the rest of your life. This is because your hormones gave your bones, your brain and your cardiovascular system a level of protection during your fertile years which is no longer as effective post-menopause.
Again, you can take many natural steps to support your bones and promote optimal cardiovascular and bone health post-menopause. This includes eating well, staying active and paying attention to your thought processes.
Peri-menopause vs menopause
As you can see, the symptoms of the peri-menopause are very similar to the post-menopausal symptoms.
The only difference is that during the peri-menopause you’ll still have a period of some sort, whereas post-menopause you won’t.
Ask your GP for these tests and health checks during the peri-menopause or post-menopause
If you’re suffering from health problems and symptoms which you think could be associated with the menopause, it’s important to visit your doctor to get to the bottom of it.
He or she can then order some tests which can help you work out exactly what is the root cause of your problems so you can take steps to reduce or eliminate your symptoms naturally.
These will differ according to where you are in your menopausal journey.
For the peri-menopause
1. FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinising hormone)
This test will help you understand if there are any changes or abnormalities with your menstrual cycle. You need to be specific when you have this test done to get a correct picture of what is happening with your hormones—it must be between five and nine days after ovulation.
However, you can only have this tested if you are under 45. Current guidelines from The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommend that GPs don’t test hormones for the over 45s unless there are extreme circumstances. Obviously, this totally depends on your relationship with your GP, and there’s no harm in asking.
2. A full thyroid test
Your symptoms might actually be related to an undiagnosed thyroid issue, so it’s worth getting these tested too. Ask for a test of THS (thyroid stimulating hormone), T4 and T3.
3. Your Vitamin D levels
Vitamin D is the backbone of your hormones and they’re so important for balancing your mood, giving you energy, protecting your bones and supporting your immune system. Get them tested!
4. Your iron and ferritin levels
Low iron levels can be associated with a range of health issues including thyroid problems, heavy bleeding, energy problems, brain fog and sleep issues too.
A blood test for iron measures the amount of iron in your bloodstream and the test for ferritin tells you how much stored iron you have. By testing both, you get a comprehensive view of what is happening in your body.
Post-menopause, it’s often worth asking for the thyroid, Vitamin D and iron/ferritin blood tests I’ve mentioned above. It’s also worth asking for the following tests:
1. Your cholesterol levels (including HDL, LDL, and triglycerides)
Our cholesterol levels tend to rise after the menopause, so it’s a good idea to have them checked. This helps make sure they’re not getting too high and leaving us at risk of developing other health problems such as cardiovascular disease.
2. Your C-reactive Protein (hs-CRP) levels
C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) is a protein in your blood which increases when you have inflammation in your body. Testing this protein will help you get to the bottom of your joint issues and see if they are actually inflamed.
3. Your bone density and bone quality check
It’s important that we all have healthy bones if we want to avoid fractures and stay independent for as long as possible. This test will help you do just that.
4. Your blood pressure
Many women’s blood pressure increases post-menopause so it’s important to make sure that it’s still within a healthy range to protect you from potential health problems. Whilst you’re at your GP surgery, it’s also worth asking your GP to outline some of the signs and symptoms of heart disease, so you can take control of your heart health.
Whatever age we are, our hormones still have a huge influence on how we look, how we feel and our overall health too. That’s why it’s so important to take care of ourselves whether we’re in the peri-menopause, we’ve hit the menopause or we’re post-menopausal.
So don’t sit in silence and do your best to ‘cope’ with these changes. Ask for help. Reach out. Make friends with your GP and get those tests you need to understand the root cause of your symptoms. You can take control of your hormones, your health and your wellness.
Now I want to hear from you. Where are you in your menopause journey? What is your biggest struggle?
Let us know in the comments below.
For more information on Femal and the #ExpressYourFemal campaign visit www.femal.co.uk
I didn’t think that I’d ever share this. But I’ve decided that today is the day.
I’m finally coming out about my difficult relationship with food.
You see, when it comes to trying to keep my weight under control, I think I’ve done it all!
I’ve binged on sugar.
I’ve taken laxatives.
I’ve raided Nicole’s treat jar and left her with nothing for snack time at school.
I’ve tried to make myself sick after eating ‘unhealthy foods’.
I’ve signed up to a slimming club and had them tell me I had 101 lb. to lose (despite the fact I wasn’t overweight at all!)
I’m sure that if I sat down and asked one hundred women if they’ve tried any of the above, the numbers would be fairly high. Most of us have a story to tell about our unhealthy relationship with food and body image, although we don’t often share it.
That’s why today I’d like to come clean about my relationship with food and tell you how I stopped seeing food as the enemy, to understanding the positive influence it could have on my life.
Being a personal trainer didn’t help
You’d think that once I became a personal trainer, my relationship with food and my self-image would improve, but that wasn’t the case.
Instead of having an unhealthy relationship with food, I started to use exercise to keep my weight under control. (even though I never was overweight - it was all in my mind!)
While I did genuinely love exercising, I found myself running three times per week, taking eight exercise classes, teaching spin….you name it- I did it.
Even though I was a size 10 at the time, I think that perhaps I did this out of fear of gaining weight. Quite frankly, over-exercising is just as bad as having an unhealthy relationship with food.
But it wasn’t until I changed the way I thought about food that I freed myself from that difficult relationship I had with it and changed those unhealthy eating habits.
How I took back control over my eating habits
Don’t get me wrong- these changes didn’t happen overnight. It was a gradual process which started because my health took a turn for the worse and I became unwell with CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome).
I started to reassess everything in my life and do everything I could to help my body to heal naturally.
That’s when my relationship with food shifted. I stopped seeing it as the enemy and started seeing it as a dear friend instead.
It was no longer something I’d stuff into my body in an attempt to make me feel better but something I could use to nourish my body and soul and help me to feel at my best.
By embracing those nourishing foods, and paying attention to how they make me feel, instead of worrying how I would look or whether I’d fit into those jeans, I could relax.
I could help my body to heal.
I could feel better.
I could eat the foods that I loved without feeling guilty.
And yes, I could also maintain my personal ideal body shape without making too much of an effort.
I can honestly say that now I don't crave sugars at all and I finally have a healthy relationship with food and my body. I don't punish her. I don’t beat her up with iron bars or spin classes.
Instead, I use food (and exercise) for the reasons they exist; to nourish and support my body.
How to heal your relationship with food...
In my clinical practice, many women come and tell me they struggle with trying to lose weight especially over the age of 40.
They notice that it’s particularly hard to shift weight around the waistline and feel like they’re losing their youth, sex appeal and themselves.
Here are a few suggestions I share with them.
1. Use Craving Buster
Craving Buster is a tool which helps you develop a healthier relationship with food by switching your thought processes.
By linking the food you hate to the food you crave, your mind gets ‘mixed up’ and those cravings don’t feel quite so appealing anymore
2. Look at your gut health, your history of taking antibiotics and whether you take the pill
Each of these things can cause an imbalance in the levels of healthy bacteria in your gut.
They affect everything from how your body processes excess hormones, whether you can absorb nutrients from your food effectively and whether you crave certain foods.
3. Are you deficient?
Several nutrient deficiencies can also lead to food cravings and overeating, so it’s worth getting these checked out with your GP.
4. What are your stress levels like?
Excess levels of stress can cause us to reach for those ‘comfort foods’ more than we normally would. They also leave us feeling terrible, affect our body’s ability to work optimally and can potentially cause you to gain more weight.
I always recommend that my clients find healthy ways of managing their stress such as yoga, meditation, visualisation or listening to one of my relaxation recordings.
5. Are you feeling happy?
Suffering from depression, anxiety or a low mood can also cause you to reach for those unhealthy foods in an attempt to feel better. Sometimes your subconscious can try to ‘keep you safe’ by keeping you away from your ideal body shape.
We dig into this deeper in our coaching sessions.
I’m sharing this with you today because I want you to know that food isn’t the enemy. Your body is not your enemy.
You don’t have to achieve an ideal body shape to be beautiful or have value in this world, because you are already these things. It’s time to change your mind about your weight and your relationship with food and develop a healthier and happier you.
Want more support to lose weight and transform your relationship with food?
Sign up for my three-month test programme. Get in touch and I’ll send you more details.
Rosalyn Palmer is a Rapid Transformation coach and hypnotherapist who specialises in helping men and women stop self-sabotaging and achieve greater freedom, balance and joy in their lives.
But she’s also a woman who knows exactly how it feels to struggle with long-term health problems (including breast cancer in her early 40s), to battle constant overwhelm and fatigue and to do her best to keep moving forward even when life throws a surprise her way.
The host of a Sunday morning radio show on Radio Newark and author of a top-rated book called “Reset!: A blueprint for a better life”, she’s a wonderful woman who really understands how to use hypnotherapy and NLP to help foster healing and transformation in all areas of life.
So as you can imagine, I was very excited to sit down with her and find out more about what makes this lovely lady ‘tick’.
We talked about a variety of topics, including how she has made it through some really tough challenges in life, and most importantly, how we can all focus on ‘the five fs’ to feel happier and more fulfilled in life.
Listen to this podcast to find out…
How she narrowly escaped death when she was just 18 months old
How taking antibiotics for so long affected her entire body
Why far too many of us are ‘Burnt out Barbara’ and what we can do about it
What she did when she started suffering from all kinds of illnesses, including an eating disorder
How getting breast cancer made her reassess her life and start living off the land!
The effect that a lack of social support had on her battle with cancer
How she faced numerous life challenges and changes (including the menopause) and triumphed
Why she hid the menopause from her work colleagues and how she got through
The story of how she accidentally became a hypnotherapist
How many of us fix that empty feeling inside with negative lifestyle habits
The surprising truth about disconnection from your true self and loneliness
Why greater support and social connection can make a difference to your life
How your subconscious thought patterns can affect your behaviour with you even knowing it
How you can use ‘the five fs’ to bring more joy, happiness, health and fulfilment to your life
Plus much more!
Grab yourself a cuppa and hit the play button below to enjoy :)
How I Took Control Of My Health With Rosalyn Palmer - SoundCloud (4259 secs long, 1 plays)Play in SoundCloud