Menopause is a significant life transition that all women experience as they age. It's a natural biological process marking the end of the reproductive years and the beginning of a new phase in a woman's life. Whilst menopause is a universal experience, its symptoms and impact can vary greatly from one individual to another. Fortunately, there are many very effective options for women, to not only help them manage their symptoms, but also to optimise their health now and in the future.
Health coaching has emerged as an effective tool to help women navigate this life stage, manage symptoms, and improve overall health outcomes. In this post, we will explore what menopause is and how health coaching can help women thrive in this phase of their life.
The word menopause is made up of two words – ‘meno’ meaning menstrual cycle and ‘pause’ meaning to stop. Technically menopause is just one day in time, and that is, the day after you have not had a period in the previous 12 months. The time leading up to menopause, is called perimenopause and this is when hormone levels (estrogen and progesterone) start to decline and can fluctuate wildly (particularly estrogen), as ovarian function declines. The initiation and duration of perimenopause will differ for everyone, but it can happen months, years or even more than a decade before menopause itself. The time after menopause has occurred, is termed post menopause during which sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone) will remain low.
The average age menopause occurs in the UK and Ireland is 51 years, with an average age range of 45-55 years, so it is very common for women to start noticing and experiencing symptoms related to menopause in their early forties and it is not impossible that women may also notice symptoms in their mid-late thirties. An early menopause is classed as menopause that occurs in women before the age of 45 years and Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI) is the term used when menopause occurs before the age of 40 years. POI occurs in approximately 1/100 women under the age of 40 years and approximately 1/1000 women under the age of 30 years. Women may also experience menopause symptoms if they have had an oophorectomy (surgery to remove their ovaries), this is known as a surgical menopause or if they are taking medication that suppresses hormone production, this is known as a chemical menopause.
Symptoms associated with perimenopause/menopause:
Each woman’s experience of menopause will be very individual. However, it is reported that approximately 75% of women experience symptoms, with 25% of women experiencing severe symptoms. The following are some of the most widely reported symptoms of peri/menopause:
· Hot flushes
· Night sweats
· Heavy/light periods
· Worsening PMS
· Poor sleep
· Weight gain
· Low/loss of libido
· Heart palpitations
· Headaches/worsening migraine
· Head pressure
· Muscle and joint pain/stiffness
· Poor memory, poor concentration
· Brain fog
· Itchy skin
· Hair/skin changes
· Loss of sense of self, self-confidence
· Mood Swings
· Cryng spells
· Anxiety, panic attacks
· Low mood, depression
· Vaginal Dryness
· Frequent urination
· Frequent urinary tract infections
Menopause Support Options:
Treatment options for menopause symptoms vary depending on the type and severity of symptoms and a woman's individual health profile and preferences. Treatment options for menopause symptoms can include lifestyle medicine and lifestyle changes (good nutrition, regular physical activity, quality sleep and stress management), hormone replacement therapy, non-hormonal medications and complementary therapies e.g acupuncture, herbal, yoga etc. It is very important for women to work closely with their healthcare providers to determine the most suitable treatment options based on their specific needs and preferences.
The Role of Health Coaching
Health coaching is a collaborative, client-centered approach that supports clients to make meaningful, individualised, and achievable lifestyle changes, that will not only help clients improve menopause symptoms now but will also help clients to enhance their current and future health and well-being. Throughout the coaching process clients will learn exactly how to optimise their nutrition, how to increase their physical activity from their current level of fitness, how to optimise sleep and how to build meaningful stress management/relaxation practices into their day. The coaching process supports clients to implement these lifestyle changes step-by-step, to achieve lasting behaviour change that goes beyond the coaching process. This is hugely important as we know menopause is associated with increased health risks, in particular increased risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and cognitive decline. Health coaching also focuses on long-term health outcomes, helping women transition into post-menopausal life with an emphasis on disease risk reduction/prevention.
Yes, menopause is a natural and inevitable part of a woman's life journey and while it can bring challenges, it can also offer an opportunity for personal growth, self-discovery, and renewed health. Health coaching is an invaluable resource during this transition, offering personalised support and guidance to manage symptoms and improve overall well-being. By embracing the changes that come with menopause and leveraging the expertise of a health coach, women can absolutely navigate this phase of life and thrive, with improved health outcomes and future health and longevity.
Here are some of Dr Jen’s Health Coaching Case Studies:
Client A, age 45, perimenopause
Symptoms: bloating, weight gain, headaches, hip pain, no energy, irritability, poor sleep
Medication: body identical hormone replacement therapy (started prior to health coaching)
Health coaching programme: 12-weeks and 6 follow-up sessions over 6 months
Main Lifestyle changes:
Nutrition – optimise gut health by increasing fibre intake, plant diversity, colourful plants, introduce fermented food, reduce alcohol and ultra processed foods, increase home cooking, increase water intake
Movement – client already had a good level of physical activity. We increased daily step count, worked on consistently strength training 2-3 times per week, introduced running 1-2 times per week
Sleep – regular sleep routine, evening wind down routine, breathwork
Stress management – regular breathwork/meditation and weekly yoga
Outcomes: No more bloating, weight loss, no more hip pain, reduced headaches, improved mood and energy levels, improved sleep
Client B, age 55, post menopause
Symptoms: Weight gain, bloating, joint pain/stiffness, low mood, loss of sense of self, no energy, poor sleep, cravings, felt stuck in a rut and not doing any exercise.
Health coaching programme: 12-weeks
Main Lifestyle changes:
Nutrition – optimise gut health by increasing fibre intake, plant diversity, colourful plants, introduce fermented food, reduce alcohol, reduce snacking, reduce sugar intake, overnight fast 12-14 hours
Movement –increase daily step count and time in nature, started strength training and increased this to 3 days per week. Started weekly yoga.
Stress management – started regular breathwork throughout the working day and every night before bedtime, yoga.
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