Dealing with menopause in addiction recovery
Not so long ago, the menopause and peri menopause wasn't something that was openly talked about, despite it being a major life event.
The reality is that this is something nearly every woman goes through. The symptoms of both peri menopause and menopause, which affect 75% of all women, can be devastating if not treated.
Thankfully, women now have a voice and menopause is something that is being taken much more seriously across the board; even extending into the workplace.
Being in recovery from addiction, the menopause can add an additional complex layer of symptoms, that affect the mind, body and soul. These symptoms could even threaten a womans recovery. For this reason, we feel it is important to cover it.
At Recoverlution we have the benefit of our Wellness Hub team of professionals. We asked Melissa Kuman (a nutritionist and mindset coach) and Tara Walsh (a meditation, breath work and yoga teacher) for some helpful hints and tips for our affected members.
Read on to discover our best menopause tips and find out what might work for you.
Menopause or mental health?
One of the main symptoms of perimenopause and menopause is increased anxiety. For a woman in recovery, this can be particularly difficult to deal with, especially if you do not realise that it may be related to hormonal imbalances.
Increased anxiety can make you really question yourself and your recovery. You may feel that you are doing something wrong, or that you shouldn't be feeling this way. These are both common concerns.
Firstly, the menopause can happen in a woman anywhere between the ages of 45 and 55. Menopause happens when a woman’s periods have stopped for 12 months. Peri menopause symptoms can start up to 10 years prior to this. This is the average age. Of course, some woman can start before or after this age range.
Experiencing mood swings and low mood, which are common during peri and menopause, can be attributed to hormonal imbalances. It can be difficult to separate peri menopause symptoms from mental health illness. However, establishing the cause of your symptoms is important as this will affect the course of treatment.
This is where it is helpful to watch out for other peri menopausal symptoms; symptoms that are separate from mental health issues. It may help throw some much needed light on the way you are feeling.
Symptoms of peri menopause and menopause include:
- Aches and pains
- Low mood
- Poor memory
- Uncontrollable weight gain
- Sleep difficulties
- Difficulty in regulating body temperature - Hot flushes
- Concentration difficulties
- Erratic or ceased periods
- Brain fog
- Hot flushes
- Mood swings
- Night sweats
- Changes in skin, nails and hair
- Changes in sex drive
- Vaginal dryness
These symptoms can last for a number of years. This can cause women to experience difficulties in the work place, in their general wellbeing and in their personal relationships.
Happily, there are medicines and things you can do to improve your menopausal symptoms. Your doctor can advise you on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and diagnose your condition. We can advise you on a more natural approach that compliments traditional medicines and therapies, or can be tried alone.
It is important to recognise that whilst some women may breeze through the menopause, others can be seriously impacted. Everyone is different. You know your body better than anyone else.
Tara’s advice on treating menopause symptoms
Tara is a very experienced yoga, meditation and breath work teacher. Having helped many women through their menopausal years, her experience is that increased anxiety can be one of the primary and overriding symptoms.
For reducing symptoms of anxiety, Tara recommends “box breathing” a form of breath work. Box breathing helps to regulate the breath and calm the mind.
You can sample our box breathing exercise for free here
Tara promotes meditation for helping the body to come back to centre and calm an overactive brain and nervous system.
You can access Tara’s online classes on meditation within our Wellness Hub which you can subscribe to. In addition to having full access to all of Tara's meditations, you can benefit from all of our professional Wellness content delivered on breath work, nutrition, exercise, mindfulness, yoga and mind set coaching.
Tara further advises that all chemical products should be avoided where possible. Many synthetic ingredients found in perfumes, lotions, make-up, suncream and repellants can actually cause even higher disturbance to already fluctuating hormone levels. They mimic hormones and interrupt normal hormone functioning.
Lastly, she encourages you to use herbs and essential oils, which are a great tools to help balance many aspects of menopause, from mood, to sleep, to cravings, to anxiety and depression.
“By supporting good sleep, a clean-toxin free lifestyle, regular movement, mental and emotion wellness, we can make going through perimenopause and menopause much easier and symptom-free. (I personally know many women leading this lifestyle and it works!)”
Melissa’s advice on treating menopause symptoms - Good nutrition
As Recoverlution’s Nutritionist, Melissa has a wealth of experience to share in treating menopause symptoms the natural way with food.
Effects of menopause on the body include:
- Increased blood pressure
- Changes in cholesterol levels
- Muscle mass reduction
- Calcium depletion in the bones
- Depletion of vitamin D due to reduced absorption
To combat these worrying symptoms and reduce the risks of osteoarthritis and heart disease, Melissa recommends :
- Consuming 5 prunes each day (this slows down the ageing of bones due to their rich vitamin K content)
- Eating foods that are high in calcium 2-3 times a day, such as milk, yoghurts, flaxseeds, carrots, broccoli, soya, lentils and edamame beans.
- Opting for low fat, low cholesterol foods
- Eating foods that are naturally rich in healthy fats such as vegetable oils - (olive, canola, sunflower, soy, and corn), eating nuts, seeds, and oily fish.
- Taking calcium supplements if you are unable to meet dietary requirements
- Making simple swaps such as having tinned sardines or pilchards (with the bones) instead of tuna in a sandwich or on toast.
- Taking a strong vitamin D supplement, especially if you do not get out doors much.
During menopause a woman’s oestrogen levels decline. Melissa advises to help combat this decline it is important to consume plant phytoestrogens regularly.
Plant phytoestrogens are similar to human oestrogen and can help to reduce the symptoms of hot flushes, amongst other symptoms.
Melissa suggests consuming small and regular quantities of the following Plant phytoestrogens throughout the day for at least two months before the full benefits can be felt.
Best foods to eat to balance hormones include:
- Edamame beans
- Dried prunes
“Hot flushes usually affect women who are approaching the menopause and are thought to be caused by changes in your hormone levels affecting your body's temperature control”
Whilst hot flushes can happen at any time of day or night during peri menopause, there are some things you can do to reduce their frequency and severity.
Try to avoid the following during menopause:
- Spicy foods
- High blood sugar from processed and added sugar foods like white bread, pasta and rice, pastries and sugary biscuits
- Caffeine and alcohol
- Wearing thick clothing
- High temperatures (a cooling fan or face spritz can help you to feel more comfortable in hotter temperatures)
“As a general lifestyle, the mediterranean diet is very high in antioxidants due to the large amount of vegetables” - Melissa Kuman
A troubling time?
The main thing, we feel, is to talk to others and your doctor about any menopause symptoms that are troubling you. By discussing the subject with other women of a similar age, you are likely to find that their experiences are similar. This can help you to not feel so alone.
Addiction recovery can be challenging enough. Being able to understand the cause of such symptoms and natural ways of reducing them can make the transition so much easier. You can also discuss your options regarding HRT with your doctor.
Another suggestion is to set up a group of your own in the Recoverlution Community for other women in recovery. This way, you can easily and conveniently support each other.
It can be helpful to also write down all of your symptoms and remind yourself which symptoms are due to peri or menopause. This can be helpful to reflect on if you feel yourself spiralling out of control.
The menopause doesn't have to be this big scary and impending thing. The more we talk about it, the more we normalise it. Lets face it, it is a very normal process that most of us face or are currently going through.
- NHS Menopause - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/
- The British Menopause Society - https://thebms.org.uk/2021/08/the-british-menopause-society-response-to-the-department-of-health-and-social-cares-call-for-evidence-to-help-inform-the-development-of-the-governments-womens-health-strateg/
- 12 Hormone-Altering Chemicals and How to Avoid Them - https://www.ewg.org/consumer-guides/dirty-dozen-endocrine-disruptors
- The essential oils menopause solution book - https://www.drmariza.com
- Essential Oils for Menopause: How Natural Remedies Can Benefit You -https://flo.health/menstrual-cycle/menopause/essential-oils-for-menopause
- Fats and cholesterol - https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/