Don’t mention the menopause!
Women’s health expert Maryon Stewart helps OLIVIA BENJAMIN regain her “pzizz” during her Midlife Transformation Retreat at Grayshott Spa
Images courtesy Grayshott Spa
At the tender age of 46 I am apparently “warming up” for the change of life and that unmentionable word… the menopause.
However, I would never have admitted this if it had not been for my weekend with women’s health expert, Maryon Stewart, during her illuminating Midlife Transformation Retreat at leafy Grayshott Spa in Surrey (The next retreat will be held July 9 - 14, 2012).
My first reaction to receiving an invitation to learn more about beating the menopause the natural way was, “I’m too young to start thinking about all that” – after all I had only had a baby three years ago!’ Like many women my age I was in denial!
But the peri-menopause creeps up on the best of us and often clashes with late-motherhood (and even during a time when career women are still trying for their first child) or during a time in your life when you have reached the peak of your profession.
So, sudden changes in the body such as heavier periods, loss of concentration, hot flushes, weight gain and lack of energy can have a profound effect on this crucial time in our lives.
Did you know, the menopause officially starts exactly one year after the day of your last period? And the peri-menopause is considered the warming up time when periods begin to get erratic and you start to feel the first symptoms of hot flushes, gain weight, have problems sleeping or feel more anxious and suffer manic attacks.
With more than 467 million women around the world over the age of 50 and with predictions we will now live on average 30 years it’s vital we regain our zest for life during mid-life.
With this in mind I checked into Grayshott Spa, which used to be home to the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, determined to get back into the driving seat again and banish those early peri-menopausal symptoms.
My first consultation with Maryon Stewart made me realise that prevention is better than cure and it’s wise to prepare your body for the imminent arrival of the menopause in a bid to avoid taking Hormone Replacement Therapy (which is actually derived from a horse hormone) and should not be taken for more than five years.
“This is a treatment for life,” said Maryon who is the author of Beat Menopause Naturally. “Whereas taking HRT to relieve menopausal symptoms is a band-aid approach and prescribed by many doctors as a quick fix.
“Baby boomers don’t want to grow old gracefully, or put up with a template of negative expectations, feeling like it’s the beginning of the end, but instead they want to hear about the many science-based health and lifestyle possibilities that can lead to a happy and fulfilling midlife.
“I want women to gain sufficient knowledge to improve their health prospects so that they feel fit, attractive, sexy and maintain their zest for life and my retreat with Grayshott Spa has been specially designed to teach them how to achieve this in safe, natural and fun way.”
Interestingly, there is no word for the menopause in Japan due to the high Omega 3 diet enjoyed by women in that part of the world.
Maryon’s retreat was about to teach us how to replenish our bodies at this time in our lives through diet, exercise and relaxation.
At the age of 50 plus we must protect our heart, bones and memory if we want to enjoy the next chapter of our life and, as Maryon, says we should aim to “regain our zest for life and feel ageless and the same every day”.
My first step toward preparing my body was to cut wheat, bran, chocolate and caffeine out of my diet for the next couple of months and boost the amount of soya I eat each day. Maryon also recommended supplements which included Premtesse, B Complex, Cardiozen, OsteoCare, Zinc and Iron. Many people are also prescribed Red Clover as this has proved very beneficial reducing hot flushes and other symptoms.
During the menopause the supply of oestrogen levels start to diminish so it’s important to boost these levels which are found in isoflave-rich foods such as soya, tofu, linseeds/flaxseeds, chickpeas and lentils.
But the message from Maryon was try to eat these soya based products little and often. “We need to consume three servings a day of 100mg of soya as this cons the brain into thinking there is naturally-occurring oestrogen circulating around the body.
Relaxation and exercise are also crucial so my next appointment was with former Olympian Ravi who carried out a Body Composition Analysis which allowed us to focus on those important health concerns such as bone density and weight – looking at both the fat and muscle content of your body.
His recommendations included weight-bearing exercises (which can include yoga or press ups) - as we can lose 10 per cent of bone mass per year after the menopause compared to just three per cent before.
My programme was starting to come together with diet and excerise. Relaxation came in the form of a pzizz machine which has quite a hypnotic effect and allows you to relax almost anywhere allowing you to take time out from life for 20 minutes per day.
The retreat was also peppered with a facial, two aqua fitness sessions, group fitness class and yoga plus the opportunity to meet and talk with other women facing the same challenges.
As they say knowledge is power. Despite my reservations, I am so pleased I took a couple of days out of my hectic life to learn how to navigate through the choppy waters known as the menopause.
So far, it has all been plain sailing – it has become habit to buy my soya milk, I sprinkle crispy linseeds over my muesli at breakfast, nibble on Brazil nuts, pop down to the gym and top-up each day with my supplements.
Am I feeling the benefits? One month later I can honestly say yes. I have more energy, lost weight, and feel more productive in work but most importantly of all when the real menopause hits me, I know feel armed and ready!
· Try to exclude all gluten, coffee and alcohol from your diet for a couple of months as this can prevent absorption
· Aim to eat an oestrogen-rich diet including 100 mg of soya which should be ate little and often through the day
· Aim to eat a protein-rich diet – especially after exercise
· Try to exercise at least five times a week – weight bearing – get out of comfort zone - breathlessness
· Get your serum ferotin checked as you may need iron supplements to boost your energy levels
· Avoid hot drinks such as coffee and spices as they don’t help hot flushes
· Add supplements to your diet including Red Clover, Black Cohash, Evening Primrose Oil, iron and Omega 3– check out www.revital.co.uk
The Real Life Diet
Foods to ease your menopause symptoms:
Soya – milk and yoghurt
Replace salt with Sea Greens sprinkles
Soya and linseed loaf
The power of phytoestrogen
Phytoestrogens are plant chemicals that are similar in structure to human oestrogen. They have been hailed by many as the natural alternative to HRT.
Although they are only about 1/1,000th as potent as animal-based oestrogen, research shows they can help soothe menopausal symptoms and also protect against heart disease and osteoporosis. They may also help lower your risk of hormone-related cancers and block the uptake of excess oestrogen by the cells in your body.
Here’s how they work. When oestrogen is in oversupply in the body, as can happen before the menopause, isoflavones play musical chairs with oestrogen, competing for the receptor sites in cells (receptors are the structure found on the surface of cells that allow hormones and other chemicals into cells, rather like a key in a lock).
Some of the isoflavones inevitably displace oestrogen and, being so much weaker in effect, can help reduce the cancer –promoting effects of the hormone.
On the other hand as oestrogen levels start to drop around the time of menopause and beyond, isoflavones can give our levels a natural boost. Combined with supplements and regular relaxation, this can help ease hot flushes and night sweats, and protect against osteoporosis, memory loss and heart disease in the long term.
Extract from 'Beat Menopause Naturally' by Maryon Stewart
Did you know?
A hot flush is the brain trying to kick-start the ovaries into action!
Midlife Transformation Retreat
Dates in 2012:
· July 9-14
· September 30 – October 5
· November 18 – 23
Price per person for five night starts at £1,490 (based on two sharing)