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Was it really the truth about Menopause?

So, last week in the UK Mariella Frostrop and the BBC aired a programme called “The Truth About the Menopause”. There’s been lots of feedback and discussion about the contents of the programme so I wanted to share my thoughts.

BBC Menopause

(Picture Courtesy of the BBC)

Firstly, on the positive, it’s great that Mariella and the producers managed to convince the BBC to cover menopause on prime-time TV. I’m sure it took a lot of battling and I believe many of the topics they wanted to cover like “low libido” were cut from the final programme.

I think it’s great opening up the conversation and reassuring women that it’s ok to talk. It still surprises me so much that we don’t talk about it enough. My world and my job are focused around supporting women through menopause so it’s part of my daily life. It’s easy to forget that many women still feel really isolated and unable to share.

This programme has really helped to make the conversation mainstream and I love that Mariella was so honest about her choices and experiences. Too many women feel judged for taking HRT and they shouldn’t. Menopause treatment is all about personal choice and what is right for you.

 

I loved the section on CBT and the positive impact this had on the women involved. I think we need to be careful that this isn’t misinterpreted that symptoms are in our heads, as we all know this is not true. CBT takes work to implement strategies over time and it is not the right solution for every woman.

 

I loved the focus on bone density. This is something we should all be thinking about as we get older. Women are four times more likely to develop Osteoporosis and Mariella sharing her experience of DEXA scanning was great. The message about impact-based exercise improving bone density is really important. It would have been good to have included the positive impact of strength based training as well.

running size

 

These are some of my concerns around what should have been covered:

NHS treatment of the menopause

doctor

This was not even discussed and this is most women in the UK’s “truth about the menopause”. The way menopause is supported through the NHS is inconsistent and often lacking. GPs are often ill-informed and dismissive and the experience of many women leaves them feeling more isolated and desperate.

There are also some GPs who are amazing and offer a great support to women. If these were explored it could have helped in highlighting and issue and educating both women and medical practitioners.

Symptoms

Hot flushes seemed to be the main focus. I partly understand this as they are incredibly debilitating and they are the symptom that HRT has been proven time and time again to have a positive effect on. It’s also the focus of new drug development. However, as we all know, there are many other symptoms that really weren’t discussed in any detail if at all …

  • Aches and pains
  • Low libido
  • Itchy skin
  • Mood swings
  • Brain fog
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

… to name just a few.

Surgical Menopause

I found the science development work on reversing menopause for women going through cancer treatment or forced into menopause through surgery very interesting. It would be amazing to think in the future that we can support a woman in having children after they’ve been through such a traumatic ordeal.

I don’t think the programme addressed how bad surgical menopause can be but maybe that’s another programme that should be commissioned.

I’m not sure how I feel about using the scientific breakthrough to reverse menopause in women reaching menopause naturally. To me this is reinforcing the value that we attach to being young. Why do we want to reverse a process that’s completely natural?

Diet

They talked about Soy but some of this is misleading, the soy products they were seen eating are exactly what we should be eating but not all soy is the same.

The soya bean is made up of amino acids, minerals and isoflavones, which also belong to the family of phytoestrogens. Isoflavones have been found to help prevent cancer, heart disease and menopausal symptoms. However, it is also well documented, that large quantities of soya can increase the risk of breast cancer, because of the oestrogenic action in the body isoflavones may have. Far from balancing hormone levels, the isoflavones and other toxic substances found in soya, may actually disrupt the endocrine system leading to problems with infertility, thyroid disorders, early onset of puberty in children and a depletion of vital nutrients such as zinc, iodine and calcium.

The focus should be on adding less processed soy into your diet and focusing on fermented soy i.e. miso, tempeh or tamari.

They mentioned obesity as a cause of worsened menopause symptoms but didn’t really focus on this when they talked about diet. They also didn’t talk about vitamin and mineral deficiencies which are so vital in managing symptoms.

Impact of the Menopause

For many women, their truth about the menopause, is how much of an impact it has on their life. It affects our work and home life, relationships, confidence and how we see ourselves. The programmes focused on all of the negative connotations associated with the word menopause and to me this is the main thing we need to change. The menopause is natural, it’s a transition and it can be a chance to prioritise yourself, focus on what you want from the rest of your life and to get excited about the future. Now that’s not easy when you’re in your 3rd year of struggling with symptoms but it is possible. I’m running a free “Positive Menopause Advent Challenge” throughout December to see if we can change how we’re all thinking about this time of our lives. I hope you can join us. Positive Menopause Advent Challenge Facebook Group 

Overall, I’m so pleased this was aired when it was. Any focus and coverage that opens up the conversation on menopause has to be a good thing. Was it really the “Truth About The Menopause”? To me and our members, generally not but it’s a start.

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