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Menopause: Understanding it and the Role of Reflexology


Menopause is described as the cessation of the menstrual cycle and it marks a significant transition in a woman’s life.  While the medical definition indicates a year without menstruation, its impact extends far beyond a single day, encompassing a continuum of changes that accompany this natural process.


In the UK, the average age of menopause for British nationals is around 51, though variations exist among different cultures.  Peri-menopause, the period leading up to menopause typically begins around the age of 45.  However, it can commence earlier, with 1 in 100 women experiencing premature Menopause before the age of 40 a condition known as Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI) and 1 in 1000 under the age of 30.


Women experience hormonal fluctuations throughout their lives starting during puberty, influencing various aspects of their physical and mental well-being.  Understanding these normal cycles is key, especially during Menopause when hormone levels decline.


While men experience relatively constant hormone levels throughout their lives women undergo normal fluctuations that profoundly influence their daily lives.  On days when our hormone levels are high, we may find ourselves effortlessly accomplishing tasks and even exceeding exceptions.  However, on days when our hormone levels are low, even the simplest of tasks can feel daunting and productively may seem out of reach.  These fluctuations are intricately linked to our hormone cycle and play a significant role in shaping our experiences and capabilities.  Understanding these hormonal dynamics is crucial to understanding ourselves particularly as hormone levels decline during Menopause.


Hormones aren’t just relevant to women going through Menopause; they affect all women, including our daughters.  Teaching them to understand their menstrual cycles can be part of our ongoing learning as Menopausal women. This empowers us to share knowledge and encourage them to comprehend and harness their cycles - knowing the right time to discuss a pay rise, for instance, or when to hold off.  


Reflecting on my younger days, I wish I had possessed more knowledge about how to utilise my natural hormonal rhythm to support my physical and mental health.  While this topic diverges into a broader discussion it’s fascinating to note that research indicates how exercise timing during the menstrual cycle can reduce the risk of injury and enhance performance.  


Returning to the topic of Menopause, one of the most significant dis-services to women has been the historical lack of discussion and openness surrounding it.  Fortunately, this has changed over the last five years with increased sharing and learning, albeit at a slow pace.  However, in any area of emerging knowledge, it is essential to verify your sources given the abundance of misinformation available.


Despite having spent 20+ years working in healthcare my understanding of Menopause was minimal.  I had been blissfully navigating through life, assuming that at some point in the distant future, my periods would cease and I might experience some hot flushes.  It wasn't until I started Reflexology training for Menopause and researching further that I became aware of the myriad of other symptoms, with anxiety and brain fog now recognised as some early symptoms of peri-menopause.


The symptoms of Menopause are diverse and while not all women experience all symptoms, being aware of the potential list is crucial for recognising and managing them effectively as well as supporting our peers through the sisterhood that we are.  


Symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, difficulty sleeping, low mood, anxiety, reduced libido (sex drive), memory problems, palpitations (heart beating strongly or quickly), feelings of nervousness, tiredness or lack of energy, crying spells, irritability, feeling dizzy or faint, pressure or tightness in the head, tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ear), headaches, muscle & joint pains, pins and needles, breathing difficulties, urinary symptoms.  It’s an extensive and varied list.


Additionally, managing stress levels is essential during menopause, as stress can exacerbate symptoms and impact overall well-being.  Reflexology can help reduce stress and promote relaxation, enabling the body to function optimally.  High cortisol levels will impact all of the above Menopausal symptoms heightening them, and making them harder to manage.


Reflexology provides valuable support during the Menopausal transition by fostering overall balance and well-being.  Through targeted stimulation of reflex points linked to the endocrine system, which governs hormone production, Reflexology works to restore equilibrium in the body and alleviate associated symptoms.  While it may not prevent Menopause, Reflexology can help support the mind and body through this natural process.


As a Reflexologist, I aim to provide support and knowledge to my clients, helping them navigate the Menopausal journey with greater ease.  While this blog focuses on Reflexology it is important to remember that a holistic approach to health including healthy eating, exercise, good sleep habits and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is essential for overall well-being during Menopause.


In conclusion, Menopause is a time of change, and understanding its impact on both physical and mental health is crucial.  Reflexology along with other lifestyle measures can play a valuable role in supporting women through this transitional phase of life.


 



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