And what we can all learn from Florence Boot.
‘I would like you all to know that in any time of serious difficulty or trouble I will always be your sincere friend’
Florence Boot, 1906
This week the MPowder Health Concierge team went on tour! Boots is at the forefront of encouraging responsible retail support for midlife - from its No7 range to its Menopause Bus and Health Hub, the company is committed to encouraging conversation and education. In fact, championing employee wellbeing has been at the heart of their business since day 1.
So it was a pinch-me moment for MPowder when we were invited to host a Hormone House Party at their Nottingham HQ. I have an easy job in these celebratory panel sessions, as I just ask the questions and then sit back and absorb the knowledge of our experts! Our resident naturopath and herbalist Dr Martins spoke inspiringly about the benefit of viewing midlife through the lens of naturopathy, with Dr Thomas, leading menopause specialist GP of Myla Health providing an equally holistic view of menopause as a biochemical lifestage.
Research last year by Think Tank Gen-M highlighted that the number of women who agree with the statement ‘menopause is a taboo topic’ has actually increased in the last 2 years.
But what was clear from our visit to Boots is that setting the right conditions for the conversation to take place can result in a surge in positivity alongside increased curiosity. After all, when we get past the bumpiness of the journey, we can start to explore the brilliance of our biology. Here are just a few of the more specific questions we explored:
What side effects should I expect when I begin a prescription of HRT?
Dr Thomas highlighted that, whilst every body is different, those that wake up after 2 weeks feeling ‘better’ on HRT are the exception rather than the norm. Most of us will need time as our bodies adjust to the new hormone levels we’re adding to the orchestra! This means we may experience very tender breasts, constipation, and bloating. We should also anticipate a little bleeding, even if it has been a long time since your last cycle. In fact, Dr Thomas advises all her patients to ensure they have a few tampons or pads to hand should spotting occur. She also flagged that we should feel able to talk to our doctors about side effects and concerns. HRT is far more complex than a standard antibiotic prescription. We should all feel our bodies settle after a maximum of 3 months. But please make sure you return to your surgery - and that you voice your concerns and discomfort - so that your doctor can provide the right support.
What’s the deal with testosterone?!
As testosterone gets its own moment in the media spotlight, many more women in midlife are curious to learn whether it may help with persistent menopause symptoms. Dr Thomas spoke to the fact that, currently, the only research that is available to medical practitioners has only looked at testosterone prescription for women for libido. Anecdotally, women prescribed testosterone are also reporting an improvement in energy levels and mood - but further research is needed to corroborate this - and that research is happening now. Dr Martins spoke to the fact that libido is far more complex than a hormone response. And that, in midlife, a decline in desire can be attributed to a number of factors - from lack of sleep to a loss of intimacy due to a loss in self confidence or even simply a loss of time (afterall, we are the ‘sandwich generation’ and that impacts both parties in a relationship). Their collective advice? Look to self care and self love initially. Talk to your doctor if you’d like to know more. But know that there are practices and off-the-shelf potions that may be able to coax you back to you and those you love.
How should we think about exercise in midlife?
We actually lose bone faster than we can make it from about the age of 30. But the sharp drop of oestrogen specifically around and immediately after our menopause anniversary makes us susceptible to fractures. The good news is that we can use exercise to build our bone bank. Dr Thomas spoke of the need to build weights and / or resistance training into our routines. From purchasing a few weights and following some simple routines (check out @yourfuturefit on instagram for accessible fail-safe sessions) to exploring body-bearing practices like pilates or yoga, the key is in finding something you enjoy as well as something that is good for you. Dr Martins spoke of the need to reframe exercise from something you have to ‘achieve’ to self care. She also encouraged us to think about whether, instead of doing ‘more’, our bodies are actually telling us to do less. If you’ve a HIIT routine that used to leave you buzzing but now leaves you on the floor…or a running schedule that used to guarantee you an endorphin hit, and now makes you feel exhausted…then listen to your body. Practise ‘radical rest’. Check out restorative yoga practices (I am a complete convert to Yoga Nidra). And, above all else, be kind to yourself.
Lastly - and perhaps most importantly - find the spaces you feel safe to share your stories and your experiences. Knowledge is power - but a shared moment with someone ‘like you’ has the ability to change everything.
With love, Rebekah & The MPowder Team.
Safety note: all advice outlined here is general. Please speak to your health professional before implementing any changes to your lifestyle or medication.