On a recent weekend away, a group of girls were deciding what to wear out to dinner when one commented: “Well I was going to wear that new summer dress … but now my period is due and I feel all bloated, so I can’t wear that.” … As we grow up, we girls learn to incorporate monthly hormonal swings and roundabouts into our agendas, vaguely begrudging them as we go.
When they stop however, a whole new category of issues has the capacity to be unleashed. Menopause is something that we all accept will happen one day, but there is still an element of mystery, or worse, stigma attached to it according to specialist Maryon Stewart.
Having started the Women’s Natural Advisory Service in 1984, Stewart is an expert in all things concerned with female hormones, and for more than 20 years has been giving women the tools to overcome unwanted symptoms by helping the body to support itself.
“Menopause is a major time for women – you become vulnerable to osteoporosis, dementia, and heart disease, and additionally women can suffer from severe night sweats, a lost libido, they can put on weight, some even become violent or suicidal, and many simply lose themselves.” she says: “It can wreck self esteem and relationships, people have panic attacks and feel like shadows of their former selves. We can change that.”
Key to Stewart’s approach is this notion of helping the body to support itself, and the lack of widely disseminated knowledge in this area she deems to be at the route of a lot of unnecessary suffering: “HRT is no longer really recommended and my team and I don’t resort to it. The beauty of the programme that we offer is that we use nutrition to balance the hormones and help you and your body get through that time. You have oestrogen receptor sites in cells which protect your body against dementia, heart disease, and help your bones to grow. During the menopause they become deficient, but we can replicate the hormone with diet – foods such as Soya and gold linseeds; and symptoms can disappear almost completely! Avoiding foods that prevent the body absorbing nutrients is also recommended. It’s easy when you know how, but not knowing is a disaster!”
Still working with women she treated 20 years ago for PMS, and in addition to her television programme – The really Useful Health Show, and 26 books she has written, Stewart now works to make her advice more accessible, not least of all by offering her programme at Grayshott Spa Hotel: “The retreat at Grayshott is very much a life transformation. It puts your life under a microscope – diet and exercise as well as looking at how you want to spend your time going forward. We live so much longer than 50 now, and it is important to make the most of your health – Grayshott is a great environment to explore that because they have so many facilities.”
Of course, while 25% of people have few or no symptoms when it comes to the menopause, the warning signs could appear at a much earlier stage: “If you don’t correct PMS and then you bump into the perimenopause, all hell breaks loose. Learning to meet your body’s needs at an earlier point will make it easier. You can come and seek help at any time.” A realisation which will no doubt come as a great comfort to anyone who is suffering more than a little adverse bloating each month.
Ultimately Maryon’s very practical approach (“in our programmes we always do what science shows works”) is compounded by her sympathetic understanding of what women are going through both physically and psychologically, and her matter of fact certainty that a manageable solution is ready and waiting to be seized with both hands: “The major misconception about the menopause is that it’s the beginning of the end – it’s not, it’s an exciting new chapter!”
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