The Menopause, Cardigans And Me

Close up of black and white cardigan

For most women three things are certain: Taxes, death, and the menopause. At the moment I know which one I would give almost anything to avoid.

When I was young and foolish (I’m still one of those two things) I used to say that when I no longer needed my womb I’d get rid of it. I always assumed this would be straightforward. Particularly in Manhattan where I was living,when I determined that I was definitely ready to be rid of the thing that was facilitating my gruesome, long term menorrhagia.

When I put this suggestion to my OBGYN (American for someone who deals medically with everything vagina related), she looked horrified. ‘That’s a terrible idea’ she said. ‘The womb, as I’m sure you know is constantly in direct communication with the brain. Oestrogen is important to  almost all the tissues and cells in the body. We don’t want to stop that conversation unless we really have to’.  I had to concede that I hadn’t really thought about it that way. ‘No’ said the OBGYN grimly, ‘most women don’t until they get to menopause.’

In an ironic twist of fate, I didn’t reach menopause with my womb intact. It turned out there was a reason for all of that heavy bleeding (pre-cancerous cells). And so, aged 50 I was womb-less and staring down the barrel of early onset menopause. There was a hope that my limp ovaries which had been spared, would recover from the trauma and produce enough oestrogen and progesterone to keep my reproductive ‘female’ system ticking over. If this happened then my body would be fooled into thinking that I was still ‘viable’ and worthy of the kind of things that oestrogen and progesterone prompt and provide: sleep, the power of concentration, libido, skin elasticity, hair growth, metabolism stability and equanimity of mood.

At first it seemed that the trick had worked. Four months out of my hysterectomy  (for which read brutal, major surgery – that bit gets glossed over too by most gynaecologists male or female) I was, I thought back to normal. I was running again (not as fast as before), I was thinking again (though it was all a bit foggy) and my scar was healed.

But then I began to get sick. The jury will always remain out on whether or not the op kicked off my auto-immune disease, but alongside this development, my menopausal symptoms began to creep up on me. Because I was on huge doses of steroids for my autoimmune disease, it was at first hard to know what was causing what. But as the years have progressed I’ve come to understand which symptoms are menopause related – hot flushes and no sleep are definitely the menopause, foggy brain, fuzzy hair and osteopenia could be either, as could utter exhaustion, but more likely my AI.

My local GP was bent on prescribing me the dreaded menopause ‘tablet’, which I associated with non-bio identical hormones and a higher cancer risk (that theory as with so many others of mine turned out to be nonsense). But in those days I lacked perspective and frankly had more available cash than I do now, so I did what everyone else I knew was doing: I went to see one of only two Harley Street menopause ‘experts’ available at the time.

These ‘experts’ were making a name for themselves by prescribing so called ‘bio-identical hormones’ which were derived from plants and thus, it was assumed, better for you. The female was busy for months, so I reluctantly went to see ‘the bloke’, who talked to me as though he was fixing my car, not helping me through one of the most traumatic periods in a woman’s life. ‘It’s mud at a wall really this menopause stuff. We still don’t know very much,’ he said cheerfully (well, you would be cheerful given what he was charging).

What was true then and remains true today, is that every woman is different and we all have varying degrees of symptoms and react differently to the treatments on offer. In an ideal world, we would all have tailor made HRT prescriptions. But given that our hormone levels vary so radically at different times of the month, this, even if you have untold funds and are prepared for weekly blood tests, would be almost impossible.

For a while the treatment HRT man prescribed – oestrogen in the form of Estrogel applied topically – seemed to be working. Or maybe I was imagining it..? But three months later I found myself back where I had been, with all of my symptoms re-emerging. To cut a very long story, very short, after months of research and trialling various options, including additional progesterone, testosterone, oestrogen patches, various herbal remedies, folic acid,  (and another expert – this time a woman – new to the scene) I gave up. I began to grow worried about my already vulnerable body, which was by then undergoing chemotherapy for my AI, taking another hit with these hormones.

For the last two years I’ve been HRT free and in full-on menopause. I’m still being treated still for my AI, which has meant I’ve had to find alternative ways to cope. Here’s what I know.

It’s a cliché, but it’s true that if men had the menopause we’d be well on our way to effective treatment. We really are at the beginning of the research cycle on menopause, which needs greater funding and attention.

See a female doctor to discuss any symptoms or treatment: Men can’t, don’t and won’t know about how you are feeling and what you are experiencing. Even a young female doctor will have likely seen her mother go through the symptoms and will have a level of understanding and hopefully empathy, which a male doctor will be lacking.

Don’t take no for an answer: If you are experiencing symptoms, then you are entitled to HRT. The all-singing, all dancing HRT pill prescribed by most GP’s seems to be as safe as anything else out there and it also contains hormones which are identical to our own (and it’s regulated). But bio-identicals which are derived from plant oestrogens (and might make us feel better about taking the drugs) are also available on the NHS – ask your GP.

Don’t be embarrassed: Talk about menopause at every available opportunity. Without bringing it out into the open and making it part of everyday conversation the stigma and lack of research and empathy will continue.

Exercise: Even a little will help the symptoms. Walk, swim, jump up and down on the spot, lift cans of tomatoes instead of weights. Don’t feel bad about not getting to a class or the gym. The way menopause can make you feel it’s a miracle you got out of bed this morning.

Cardigans: People this is big. Cardigans are your best friend during menopause –  they can be swiftly and neatly discarded or buttoned up, depending upon your thermostat, without messing up your hair or causing a commotion in a meeting.

Always carry a handkerchief (see above): A swift mop of the brow can be reassuring. And sometimes even chic.

Fragrance: I’m going to recommend Chanel No 5 here. It’s not my favourite, but the aldehydes which make it fizz and sparkle when you first put it on may have a similar effect on you. I said may….

Lubricant: No, not for there, well alright also for there, but generally speaking your entire body is running out of moisture – apply liberally – everywhere. Obviously face cream should not be used below the neck…

Hair: I don’t care how much you have or if you don’t have any and are wearing a wig. Take care of it. Moisturise, cut, colour. I’ve tried the going total grey route. It didn’t work for me. I’m not saying it won’t work for you, but an hour spent at the hairdressers is an hour on your own without anyone bothering you.. You all know what I’m talking about.

Shabir And Trinny On The Best Supplements

Trinny and Shabir

If you find the world of supplements overwhelming then watching this 20 minute video will help. Shabir and Trinny explore the best supplements and explain what they’re good for and why you might benefit from taking them…

Read More…

The New Generation Of Gua Sha

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Chinese medicine has had a real resurgence this year with plenty of experts and beauty brands taking inspiration from the ancient ritualistic approach. It goes hand-in-hand with the modern concept of self-care and desire felt by many to strike the work/life balance and switch off.

If you follow Gill’s newsletters you’ll already be well-versed in the Hayo’u method and its authentic yet practical take on Chinese medicine and more specifically the Gua Sha massage technique. The skin-boosting Beauty Restorer has become a bestseller and offers a fool-proof approach to facial massage. This autumn, Hayo’u is launching three new tools. We caught up with the founder, Katie Brindle to find out more…

The hair reviver

For some, the idea that a piece of jade stone could in anyway help boost hair growth could be a bit far-fetched. Yet the Beauty Restorer Comb has been expertly cut and chiselled to do just that. Using the same approach as the original Beauty Restorer, the comb works by boosting your circulation to drive nutrients to the follicles in your scalp.

“It also massages the acupressure points of your head, regulating the meridians (energy channels) that flow through the scalp,” says Brindle. “This is great for your overall health.”

The inspiration behind the Beauty Restorer Comb was personal for Brindle. “I inherited thin hair from my mother and grandfather then endless dieting during my teens and early 20s resulted in anything remotely resembling a luscious head of hair,” she says. “Having tried everything on the market to no avail I gave up and resorted to extensions as it was so bad.”

For those who know this feeling all too well, Brindle recommends sweeping the comb across your scalp from your forehead down to your neck. While this can be done at any time of the day, on wet or dry hair, Brindle stresses that it should be done daily for the best results.

The eye brightener

Also known as the Beauty Restorer Precision, this small paddle wand has the potential to magically brighten and smooth your eye and lip areas. “It’s really simple to use, letting you get even closer to fine lines and wrinkles, particularly around the eyes and lips,” says Brindle.

Unlike the other Hayo’u tools, you need to use small ‘flick’ movements when you use this one and use your natural facial contours as a guide. For example, trace your eye socket with small flicks to boost and lift your eye area. Like with the comb, you do need to use the Beauty Restorer Precision regularly to see any difference.

While it was designed for the eyes and lips, you can use this tool all over your body. “The fine tip means you can use it for longer and with pinpoint accuracy to reach every contour, line and wrinkle around your whole face,” says Brindle. “It can also be used on specific areas of muscular tension and joint pain to clear inflammation and stagnation.” If you spend too much time sat at a desk or on your phone, you might find it helpful in treating carpal tunnel syndrome and RSI.

The skin booster

At first glance the Beauty Restorer Lite looks exactly the same as the original. But, upon closer inspection you’ll notice that it is much slimmer and lighter. Brindle designed it for those with more delicate skin. “The older we get, the thinner and more delicate our skin gets – due to the natural loss of elastin and collagen over time, as well as hormonal changes, which weaken it,” she explains.

“Children also need a gentler tool as each layer of their skin is only around one fifth of the thickness of adults.  thinner and more delicate. Each layer of young children’s skin is around one fifth as thick as adult skin,” Brindle adds. The Beauty Restorer Lite can be used in the same way as the original tool, following the traditional Gua Sha method, to help boost circulation and reduce inflammation. It’s also particularly good at helping to clear up teenage acne and breakouts.

For more information on Hayo’u and the Gua Sha rituals, click here.

Victoria meets Dr Joe Cincotta

Dream Coat For Curly Hair

Color Wow is one of those incredibly rare hair care brands that doesn’t offer endless product ranges targeting every hair type and concern. Instead, it offers just one shampoo that cleanses every hair type effectively, two types of conditioner, several nourishing treatments and a handful of game-changing styling products. With the innovative entrepreneur Gail Federici at the helm, Color Wow prides itself on only launching products that are truly unique and those that deliver on their results. While Federici comes up with the ideas, it is Dr Joe Cincotta who actions them and creates Color Wow’s noteworthy products. As the brand unveils the latest product, Dream Coat for Curls, we caught up with Cincotta to find out more… Read More…

Iron Tablets – Who Needs Them?

iron rich vegetable leaves

There are approximately six million prescriptions for iron tablets being issued each year in England and Wales. This does not surprise me because iron is essential to life as it plays a key role in the manufacture of proteins and enzymes; is required for the formation of haemoglobin, which is the oxygen carrier within the body, and iron also regulates cell growth. Iron and life are inseparable! With the exception of lactic acid bacteria found in the gut, every living organism requires iron as an essential nutrient for growth and development.

Iron tablets

Iron tablets for the majority are the first line of defence when we are feeling tired or fatigued. Iron tablets are often prescribed for a lack of energy however iron tablets are also prescribed for a host of other reasons including anaemia. The most common types of iron tablets prescribed are ferrous sulphate, ferrous fumarate and ferrous gluconate. There are of course many iron supplements available as tablets, liquids and tonics. Read More…

Using Condition for Total Hair Health

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We need to condition because winter is just around the corner. This is the time of the year when our hair tends to get drier and thinner and begins its seasonal shed. Like plants, our hair and body’s respond to the cycles of the season, and as the days grow shorter and the nights get cooler, our hair responds with added shedding and the occasional split end.

Dry indoor heat and harsh windy days can combine to make your hair and scalp flakier and more fly-away, than usual. One way to combat these signs of the season is to use CONDITION formula regularly and to leave this rich, nurturing hair treatment on for a bit longer than usual, before rinsing. Read More…