The BBC Programme aired last night appeared to be showing women how to manage their menopause, which has raised awareness with the public about this often taboo topic. Women are looking for answers and this programme provided some information but in my opinion, fell short in so many important ways. For example, not talking about nutritional deficiencies which cause so many of the symptoms at midlife and presenting a strong focus on HRT without talking about all the issues associated with taking this drug.
Feeling like you are losing your memory at midlife can be very scary, especially if women believe it’s a permanent situation. According to the recent survey of over 1100 women ‘Changing the Conversation about Menopause’, 96% of women said they were underprepared for menopause and over 2/3rds said they were shocked by their menopause symptoms, often feeling isolated and afraid of what the future holds for them. We would, therefore, have hoped that the BBC Programme broadcast on BBC last night, the ‘Truth About Menopause’ would provide comprehensive answers. But Mariella Frostrup, the presenter who claims ‘HRT gave me my life back and opened my eyes’ presented only a fraction of the real truth about menopause, with a biased view on HRT, making it sound almost safe. It was good that the programme featured ‘natural’ help in the form of diet, exercise, supplements which when used in the right combination can result in women being symptom free. Over 90% of the women I work with are symptom free using a combination of these elements. Plus, it was good to highlight the effectiveness of the CBT in changing mindset and reducing symptoms such as hot flushes. But that alone isn’t going to manage menopause.
There continues to be considerable controversy about HRT, with the Pharma industry kicking back, swearing it’s safe to take as a lifelong treatment. Why then do numerous published medical studies highlight the dangers of HRT and why aren’t women being informed about the many non-drug options that are detailed in research journals? Perhaps it’s because most doctors are almost completely uneducated and are unaware that a wealth of alternative research exists.
Losing your brain with HRT a study published this year in the Neurology Journal, reported that HRT potentially decreases the risk of dementia in women taking HRT, would understandably make the ears of many menopausal women prick up enthusiastically, but what’s most infuriating is that it’s only half the story. When I read the publication, I was astonished to discover that these findings only related to HRT patches and that those on oral HRT had a greater rate of decline in whole brain volume year on year of this study; and it took time after the study for the brain volume to adjust. Even more horrifying, they found an increase in white matter lesions in the brain in the oral therapy group which persisted during the active part of the study and this didn’t appear to correct itself after the study. I was shocked to discover that these lesions are also associated with an increased risk of stroke, dementia, and death.
Women also aren’t understandably being told by the Pharmaceutical industry, or any of its spokespeople, that science also clearly shows that we can prevent dementia naturally, without having to resort to drugs or hormones. They are presenting rose coloured information, understating the risks associated with HRT including the rising risk of breast cancer, stroke and blood clots.
Feeling Depressed on HRT – some studies have also found that hormone therapy is associated with depression in post-menopausal women; post-menopause begins on the anniversary of your last period and lasts for the rest of your life. One study on over two thousand women concluded that the proportion of participants with depressive mood and suicidal thoughts was significantly higher in the HRT group. More than ten years of HRT treatment, for example, was linked with a doubling of suicidal thoughts when comparing the hormone users with women who hadn’t taken hormones to manage their menopause.
And then there are the additional 5+ women in 1000 who get breast cancer whilst taking HRT which is made light of. But in all truth, if you were one of those 5 women, or it was your mother, wouldn’t you be feeling angry about being duped? I know that Jenny Murray regrets taking HRT as she associates it with her breast cancer.
According to recent surveys The X Generation and Baby Boomers want to know their options at menopause. They admit to lacking knowledge with over 71% of them trawling the internet looking for solutions and only 11.5% consulting their doctor for help with their menopause.
Menopause is often a time when nutritional deficiencies start to become apparent, studies show that billions of women experience them, yet no mention was made during the hour long ‘The Truth About Menopause’. A combination of years of wear and tear, pregnancy and breastfeeding can all challenge our nutrient stores, while our lack of knowledge of how to replace what time and nature have taken away leaves many of us in a nutritionally depleted state, which can affect our brain chemistry and our hormonal balance.
There are so many changes in the body at this time in our lives, it makes sense that it would take a multi-pronged approach to go from feeling like a shadow of your former self to feeling better than you can remember. To overcome symptoms including memory loss and brain fog and improve wellbeing at the time of the perimenopause and menopause, women need to make a number of dietary and lifestyle changes during their recovery journey. Taking supplements that boost nutrient levels and normalise hormone function has been shown to be an effective approach, and even gets a special mention in the Health Economics Appendix of the current NICE guidelines highlight the natural approach to menopause as being a cost-effective approach.
Whilst CBT is undoubtedly a valuable tool and so too is exercise, mindset and physical activity are never going to address nutritional deficiencies or falling levels of oestrogen. Surely women have a right to know about the rest of the research showing they can reclaim their wellbeing without having to use HRT? I was left wondering why Mariella was being persuaded by the end of the programme to take HRT for more than 5 years when the direction from the medical profession is to take the lowest possible dose for the shortest possible time?
You only need to spend a day looking through medical publications to know there is far more to the real truth about menopause. This BBC programme was very well made but instead of talking about research that might apply 5 or 10 years down the line and male menopause, in my opinion, it would have been better to take this opportunity to really provide women with the tools they need to self-help so they could end the misery of menopause and reclaim their wellbeing. Based on published medical research, I have been helping tens of thousands of women to do just this for over 27 years with excellent results.
Last night’s programme was a good start to breaking down taboos and exploring options, however, women deserve better advice and information on all fronts about menopause. Let’s face it if men went through menopause there would be a solution by now and no one would be suffering from hot flushes!