As part of World Menopause Day on 18th October, we discuss the many varied, and sometimes worrying symptoms of menopause with Jane Atherton, founder of The Menopause Room a platform which has garnered a loyal fanbase of over 16,300 followers and Phytomone skincare products.
Jane has researched hormonal changes in women in their 30s and over and the effect it has on skin health for over 10 years, whilst her career has straddled both the healthcare sector and beauty industry for over 30 years. Seeing a gap in the market for specialised skincare, Jane founded the Phytomone skincare range which uses natural ingredients and is based on the science of phytoestrogen technology. Here, she answers our burning questions about how to deal with menopause and its many symptoms as well as why we need to open up the discussion around the topic of menopause…
Why did you set up the Menopause Room?
The Menopause Room came about several years ago when I was running my Menopause Clinic in Hong Kong. It was a way of connecting women to each other who were feeling isolated and alone as they transited through menopause. It took off almost immediately and is still just as popular today.
As a slightly taboo topic, why are you trying to create more discussion around Menopause and what benefit is it for women going through menopause?
To be honest, I’m not the one trying to create more discussions around menopause, it’s the women themselves who want it. I just provide the platforms and discussion ideas for them to talk about things with each other and offer advice when necessary. These women are hungry for information and they want to engage with others who are experiencing the same symptoms and emotional turmoil. Sometimes connecting with each other like this really can be the best type of therapy.
What are the most shocking symptoms of menopause for women?
It’s such an individual journey and each woman will experience it her own way. I think one of the biggest surprises for many women is how long menopause lasts and how many different symptoms are connected to hormone loss. Those who think its just a few hot flushes and it will all be over in a couple of years might be in for a bit of a surprise! Though saying that, there are a lucky few who sail through it with no effects at all!
How important is nutrition in supporting your system during menopause?
I think we are all more in tune with healthy eating these days, but it can also be quite overwhelming, especially when you see all the delicious images popping up on social media sites. I would always say, keep it simple and fresh. We don’t need to be following any fad diets or cutting out any major food groups. Keep foods as close to their natural state as possible, such as grilled fish and lightly steamed vegetables. Save the calorie laden sauces for occasional treats. We also need to watch portion sizes, we don’t need to eat so much as we age, so try using smaller plates, that way it wont look like you don’t have very much on your plate. Remember, our metabolism slows down with age too, so we won’t be as efficient at burning off those calories - another reason to exercise regularly!
Dryness is a common complaint of menopause, what skincare routines/regimes can help support this?
Yes, oestrogen is responsible for many things in the body, including the production of natural oils in the sebaceous glands, collagen production, saliva and mucous membranes. So we really do dry out in menopause.
Internally, look at increasing omegas in your diet, sea buckthorn supplements can also help with dry eyes and internal dryness, We all know water is a great source of hydration too, but you may find drinking more electrolyte drinks far more beneficial, as they help maintain fluid in the cells for longer, rather than just flushing out your system. Try making your own with a little Himalayan salt, lime juice, water and honey to sweeten if you prefer. Coconut water is also a good source of potassium and magnesium, to help replenish our electrolytes. I would stay away from store bought electrolyte drinks as they tend to be very high in sugar. If you google electrolyte recipes you will get a good selection to choose from and they really are simple and quick to make.
Women may also find the skin care products they have been using are no longer effective for their changing menopausal skin, this is because they are not formulated to deal with the effects hormone deficiency has on skin health.
Skin still has the ability to look radiant and youthful during menopause, if you use the right products. Phytomone London specialise in quality menopausal skin care and offer a range of creams and natural beauty oils based on phytoestrogen technology to address all skin care concerns caused by oestrogen loss.
As many women complain about weight gain, how important is exercise during menopause and can it help?
This is one of the top complaints we hear. Women often say, I’m exercising, eating less but still gaining or not losing weight. It can be very frustrating and demoralising, but it’s not their fault.
The shift in hormones does mean fat is redistributed to our midsection, rather than our hips and thighs, so we lose that hourglass shape and our waistline becomes thicker. Fat cells also contain small amounts of oestrogen, which the body is now very keen to hold on to, making losing weight harder and slower, and of course our metabolism slows down too. So all in all it is much harder to shed those extra pounds.
Exercise is imperative during menopause, not only to build strong muscles to increase the metabolism, but to also strengthen bones and improve heart health, which are the two main areas of concern in post menopause years due to women living for much longer without the beneficial effects of oestrogen.
What is a good way to find your new "normal" whilst going through menopause?
Recognise that your body and mind are going through a change and don’t expect the same behaviour from them! You have to learn to adjust. You may need to change your exercise routine slightly, [and] if your not exercising, you need to! Tweak your diet, eat clean and include lots of fresh vegetables, oily fish, wholegrains, nuts and seeds. Include relaxation techniques such as meditation, breathing exercises and yoga into your day. Learn to say “No” more often (without feeling guilty) and make time for yourself. Do things you enjoy, self-care isn’t selfish!
By Hannah Shakir
Photo credit: Emma Simpson on Unsplash