‘If a man had a period they would be on medication for it,’ says Dr Jan Toledano, co-founder of the London Hormone Clinic. Women put up with mind-shifting, mood-altering, relationship-ruining hormonal issues and yet are meant to just take it on the chin (along
with a few hormone-induced hairs). ‘Ah, it’s just your hormones,’ the doctors will say. ‘It’s all part of being a woman!’
But is it? Is it normal to feel so irrationally angry that you want to scream at the poor postman for knocking on the door too loudly? To feel your mood nosedive just before your period begins? To feel the anxiety rise as a hot sweat courses through your veins? For many it’s not until things get really bad that we seek help. But even then, many still suffer in silence.
The reason I’m saying all this is because I’m definitely experiencing a hormonal shift. It’s a big concern of mine that our hormones are like puppet masters and yet few of us know anything about them. At 45, my cycle is irregular for the first time and last year I didn’t have a period for four months, but recently they have been back-to-back. Concerned I may be experiencing perimenopause, I contacted the knowledgeable Dr Toledano.
First she wanted me to take a blood test to find out if I am low in progesterone, which she says ‘protects your breasts from breast cancer, is anti-anxiety, helps us sleep and keeps the womb’s lining healthy’.
I want to know everything about my hormonal state so I can do something when I head into the menopause. She tells me many women don’t speak up. ‘There is a stigma that people shouldn’t complain, and if they do they’re made to feel like they’ve done something wrong,’ she says. There is also the outdated belief that HRT is incredibly dangerous.
But there is help available. Dr Laila Kaikavoosi has been a GP for 20 years and specialises in hormonal health. Recently she launched the UK’s first online menopause clinic, onlinemenopausecentre.com, offering one-to-one consultations (£195 for an initial consultation). She is passionate about helping women through this universal stage of our lives.
For younger women, the hormonal conversation is beginning to wake up, too. Last month, former athlete Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill launched CycleMapping, for women in the premenopausal years, on her fitness app Jennis (£14.99 a month). It opens up a whole new conversation about how exercise affects us according to the four different stages of our cycles.
Jessica says, ‘It was only towards the latter part of my career that the science of matching workouts to your menstrual cycle got touched upon. Even then, it felt taboo. Making this knowledge accessible is something I’m passionate about.’ Created with physiologist Dr Emma Ross, the programme is designed to improve hormone imbalances, increase energy, reduce PMT and provide better fitness gains.
It is my belief that in 20 years’ time, monitoring our hormones will be as normal as brushing our teeth. Until then it’s important we educate ourselves. I will do my best to help – I am currently waiting for the results of my blood tests and will report back on the next stages of my treatment.
What Tina can teach us
It is well documented that Tina Turner has overcome many challenges in her 81 years on this planet, from childhood abandonment to an abusive marriage, financial ruin and severe illness. Her book Happiness Becomes You is a fascinating read about the spiritual practices – specifically Buddhism – that have helped her through the toughest of times.
Exercising outside? You need this…
It’s great that the gyms have opened up, but for me nothing beats exercising in the great outdoors. Nature + exercise = a double endorphin hit. As the weather warms, my newest essential is Ultra Violette SkinScreen in SPF 30 or 50+, a broad-spectrum sunscreen that is unbelievably lightweight, with zero oil slick or white residue but maximum coverage. Frankly, SPF perfection.