Could your diet be making your menopausal symptoms worse?

During perimenopause – that time leading up to your menopause -you may experience adrenal fatigue. When you are younger, your ovaries produce most of the progesterone and estrogen in your body, but as you approach menopause, the adrenal glands increasingly produce these hormones. The adrenal glands are also responsible for producing cortisol and adrenaline in response to stress throughout your life. If you have experienced prolonged emotional or physical stress, your adrenal glands may become overworked and fatigued. Already tired, they’re asked to do more work at the time of the menopause. As a result, you may be tired and lethargic, even after sleep. You may feel anxious or depressed and have aching muscles. The food news is, you can do loads to help support your adrenal function simply by changing your diet.
Some foods – such as caffeine, alcohol and refined carbohydrates – put increasing stress on your adrenals and should be elimated or avoided.
Eating plenty of protein helps to support your adrenals and, in addition, the following supplements or foods containing the following vitamins can be taken to support your adrenal function.
Supplements to support your adrenal function
Upping your intake of certain vitamins and minerals can help support healthy adrenal function. Many of these can be sourced through food, but it may also be useful to take a supplement if you feel you’re not receiving sufficient amounts from your diet.
Vitamins B5, B6 & B12
These B vitamins are great for reducing the fatigue experienced with adrenal fatigue, as they play an important role in cell metabolism and – by improving metabolic pathways – help boost your energy levels. In addition to taking a good vitamin B complex supplement, the following foods will help you to increase your intake.
Mushrooms (especially shiitake)
Cheese (blue cheese, Camembert, feta)
Oily fish (trout, salmon, herring)
Whole cereals
Shellfish (crab, oysters and clams)
Nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts, peanuts, cashews)
soya beans
some fortified breakfast cereals
Vitamin C
Sufficient levels of Vitamin C are essential for the recovery of your adrenal glands. When the body is suffering from stress or infection, the demand for vitamin C is increased and studies have demonstrated that levels of ascorbic acid falls when stress or infection is experienced. Healthy adrenals depend on a continuous supply of vitamin C in order to produce cortisol and other adrenal hormones. As a supplement, 1000mg of vitamin C is recommended as a useful starting point. Vitamin C can be found in foods such as:
Peppers (bell and chilli)
When magnesium levels are too low in the body, the result can be increased levels of anxiety and depression. This means that the point at which your adrenals kick into action to produce cortisol and adrenaline is much lower than it should be and even the most minor event can cause you to have a fight or flight response. Having an Epsom salt bath is a great, and safe, way to increase magnesium levels. A couple of cups in a bath, two to three times a week, and a lovely excuse for a healthy soak (and rest – another way to support healthy adrenal function!).
Omega 3
Fish oil has been shown to reduce spikes in cortisol and epinephrine. In addition to 1000mg omega 3, foods which are high in Omega 3 include:
Oily fish
Leafy green vegetables
Nuts and seeds
1000mg omega 3 fish oil tablets


The (positive) change of life

There are times in life when we are forced to recognise that things are changing, regardless of whether or not we want things to change. Menstruation, pregnancy and motherhood often signify major alterations in a woman’s life and these life phases are closely associated with physical and hormonal changes. Life is constantly shifting and changing in other ways. Economic and health circumstances may shift, relationships may end and new ones begin, dearly loved friends and family members may die.
How we view and navigate change has a great impact on how we view and navigate menopause. Firstly, there is no denying that the menopause is a time of change. For many women, it is a gradual change taking place over many years in the run up to ‘menopause’ which is defined as being a year after your last menstrual period. For others, the menopausal process may be far more rapid, particularly where it has been artificially managed for health reasons.
Whilst the experience varies considerably, for all women it represents a time of change and a great opportunity to ask, ‘Who am I now?’.
Why is this such an important question? Why not simply continue with your life, in the same way that you have been doing for some time?
You may feel that the life you are leading during your menopausal years is right for you – that it is meeting your emotional and creative needs and nourishing you as you enter this new phase of your life. But you may have a feeling – anything from a gnawing doubt to a full on panic – that your situation is not supporting you as you change and develop. If this is the case you can decide whether you are content to sweep things under the carpet or whether these doubts and uncertainties need to be addressed.
Newer the following questions to help you identify some of the changes which have taken place over the years, and how you might manage these changes to create the future you want:
What are the three biggest changes between who you are at this point in time and who you were when you were thirty?
Is your current situation and way of being – relationships, career, your own way of acting and thinking – as supportive of you at this stage in life as it was when you were thirty?
(Close your eyes for this one!) Imagine that a miracle has take place overnight, and you wake up five years in the future. It is a future in which you are content and happy. What changes in your life have taken place – both in terms of how you feel and act and external changes such as new job or house – to create this supportive state for your future self?


Skypenosis – what is it? And will it work for me?

‘Skypenosis’ is the neat title used to describe hypnotherapy which is conducted via Skype, instead of person to person. But, whilst the word ‘Skypenosis’ might sound a little gimmicky, there is nothing gimmicky about hypnotherapy sessions via Skype.

Skypenosis works in exactly the same way as face to face hypnotherapy. There are some hypnotherapists who use physical touch, but most simply talk you into a state of hypnosis by using soothing, relaxing techniques or confusion techniques – all of which can be done using Skype. It is important that the hypnotherapist has a two way communication with their client in order to ask for responses during the session and to gauge how their client is reacting to the session and Skype provides the perfect environment for the hypnotherapist to visually communicate with their client.

Many clients feel more relaxed in their home environment, where they can create a comfortable, safe place and Skypenosis can be very useful for clients suffering from anxiety or pain. It is also useful for those who might live in remote places or who simply don’t have the time to make an appointment! Imagine how pleasant it is to have a lovely hypnotherapy session after work and then not have to drive home. Skypenosis is also useful for clients who wish to work with a therapist who specialises in a particular area, such as working with children, fertility or pain, where no specialism is available to them locally.

From a therapist’s point of view, working via Skype allows me to provide a service to people from a much wider geographical area, including working with people internationally, and working in my chosen area of specialism. Because my costs are lower when I work via Skype, I also take the opportunity to pass these savings onto clients by offering reduced Skype prices. Skype has certainly opened up opportunities for both clients and therapists and is an example of technology working at its best.

What teenagers and menopausal women have in common (you’d be surprised!)

On the face of it, my teenage son and I don’t have that much in common. His idea of a fun night is staying up for most of it, hanging about with his gang of friends, no doubt getting hold of the odd can of beer when he can. Mine is curling up on top of my electric blanket with a good book. In a slow but very definite manner, he has moved away from me towards his peer group – just as he should. And whilst we still enjoy the odd film together and chat away, our roles have changed dramatically over the last couple of years. But watching his rapid development, I realised that teenagers and menopausal women share a whole load in common.

First, there are the hormones. Yes, we all know that teenagers are full to the brim with hormones raging through their body, which are changing their brain in a myriad of ways. Some of these changes are almost too much to keep up with for the average teenager, whose body and mind are changing quicker than their rate of knowledge and understanding. And it’s exactly the same for women going through the menopause.

So what does all this hormonal and neurological development actually mean? Firstly, it means that THINGS HAVE CHANGED. A menopausal woman is no more the same to her thirty year old self than a seventeen year old is to his or her eleven year old self. Child bearing years are characterised by what Christiane Northrup calls a veil of hormones – hormones which are designed to encourage women to care for others. When that veil is removed, and replaced by a new hormonal cocktail, the woman is changed.

How this change is perceived at a societal level in Western culture is very different between teenagers and menopausal women. Whilst it is generally agreed that teenagers can be ‘trying’, teenage years are viewed as a time of opportunity to pursue careers, go travelling and engage in creative pursuits. Menopause has traditionally been viewed as a time when women stop or slow down, relegated to the status of older women, portrayed as old crones and vicious mother in laws. In reality, hormonal changes prompt women at this time to a journey of self discovery, creative output and the pursuit of interests and careers which may have taken a back seat during the child bearing years.

Another thing which menopausal women and teenagers share in common is a questioning of their life, their surroundings, their role. In addition to life transitions – such as empty nest syndrome and career developments – hormonal developments encourage women to take stock at this time, much like the teenager who moves from accepting their childhood to a burgeoning adulthood full of questions and conflicts about their current role. Many women begin to question their role in life during the perimenopause, partly as a response to shifting circumstance and partly as a response to those hormonal shifts which act as reminders that some things need attending to. Often, women who experience difficult menopausal symptoms are those who have unfinished emotional business from the earlier part of their lives. If emotional issues have been buried and repressed, it is often during the menopause – and given a hard nudge by those hormones – that these issues are brought into sharp focus.

Just like the teenager, this is a time of tumult and turmoil for many menopausal women. Change, self awareness and readjustment don’t happen easily. Most parents of teenagers accept that, although this is a difficult time for many, their child will emerge stronger at the other end. It is exactly the same for menopausal women. Trusting in the process of change, listening to those messages your mind and body are sending you and engaging in creative and fulfilling activities will ensure that ‘the change’ is one which takes you to new depths of self awareness and growth.

From frumpy to fabulous – the gift of menopause

When I was 10 – in 1981 – my mum went to work for the first time in my life. Mum and dad had owned a shop and the staff were robbing in blind (it was a jewellery shop – back in the days before electronic tagging and the like, so stealing was fairly easy). My dad never had a clue what to do with his staff, so mum was recruited to help deal with the business problems before the business went under completely.

‘What are you planning to do?’, scoffed my paternal grandfather, ‘Make the tea?’.

I missed having my mum around all the time and the hours were long – leaving the house about half seven in the morning and not returning until six. She hired a mother’s help to do the housework and cooking, but it wasn’t the same. But that’s from my perspective as a ten year old. Even as a self absorbed little girl, I noticed a change in her. She blossomed. She’d have been about 46 when she started work and suddenly she changed the way she dressed – from tweed skirts and jeans to boxy, sharp eighties suits and shoulder pads. She experimented with wearing her hair up or down and became a regular at Fraser’s Department store in Glasgow – treating herself to Clinique makeup and expensive tights. Admittedly, these are fairly superficial changes, but they represented changes that were taking place at a much deeper level.

Mum continued to work hard, throughout her forties and into her sixties. She used that time to keep growing as a person, building on that confidence she’d developed from working in a busy shop. For the first time, she had holidays on her own, staying with a small spiritual group on Iona. She made new friends. At the age of 54, she bought a house she had always dreamed of owning and turned it into a beautiful nursing home where she cared for her elderly relatives. The photos of her at that time show someone in her prime, someone at the peak of her self confidence.

Mum has never looked back. At 78 she is still going strong, staying positive despite several operations and ongoing health problems. Like mum, I feel I’m really coming into my own in my mid forties – and I’m inspired to keep pushing forwards and onwards from her example, and the example of the wonderful women I work with.

What happens to you when you limit your choices?

I don’t enjoy the winter. It doesn’t matter how positive I try and stay, how often I remind myself of how lucky I am or how many feeble attempts I make to volunteer or join a club in the evening – I still don’t like it. Like most winters, I’ve been in mini hibernation (which, short of moving to a warmer climate is one way I have found to make the best of itvember, waiting for the Spring to arrive. And now it has! Day 3 of sunshine, buds blooming in the garden and a happy sound to the birdsong.

Whilst waiting for this transformation of nature, I fantasised about lying on the grass, replenishing my sickly white body with a shot of Vitamin D, warming my muscles like a reptile soaking in the sun’s rays. The first two days were spent doing just that, ending the day with a woozy warmth which only comes after a day in the sun. But now it’s day 3 and…I’ve spent most of it inside. Through choice. Catching up on DIY and – considered sacrilegious by many on such a beautiful day – watching a film on telly.

And I remembered, like I do every year, that it’s not necessarily the sun I love, it’s simply having the choice of the sun. I’m not really a sun worshiper, not like those people who spend two weeks a year soaking it up. But I like to have the option. The option to go out in the evening when it’s light. To lie on the grass and be lovely and warm. To read outside. Most of the time I don’t do these things – but it’s great to know that I can indulge, or not indulge, in these lovely, life affirming pastimes if I choose to.

That’s why my spirits sink during the winter. Because I can’t do these things that I love. And it is this feeling of being trapped and having a lack of options which brings many of my clients to me. My job is to help them identify their options and often, as they continue their journey with me, they realise there is a reality out there which is far better suited to them than what they originally identified as an ideal or what society tells them they ‘should’ be doing. It’s all about identifying your choices and avoiding going from one trapped situation into another. Because, ultimately, the fences we set up – whether being in stifling relationships, unfulfilling jobs or living in a place we hate – are our own creations.

Many of my clients have a good standard of living,financially, but live lives which have become constrained because they are fearful of widening their choices and are trapped by the status quo of what they know, although it is strangling them with its limitations. There’s are some things we can’t change – such as terminal illness, ageing and certain health conditions – but we always have a choice in how to deal with these things and that choice is limited only by our imagination.

How to tune into your body’s need for relaxation this Easter

What will you be doing this Easter? Will you be taking some time to simply slow down, rest, recuperate after a long winter in the sun’s rays (presuming you’re lucky enough to see some sun over the weekend). Or is it all about DIY, taking work home to meet a deadline or filling the entire weekend with ‘stuff’ that needs done?

Whilst there’s nothing at all wrong with fitting in a spot of DIY or doing of those any other jobs which need done, of all your holidays and days off are spent in a state of business ask yourself this – are you filling your time with these tasks because they need done and you’re enjoying doing them, or are you simply unable to stop and be with your thoughts?

So many people wear their inability to slow down and the fact that every second of their day is spent being ‘useful’ as a badge of honour and these are often the same people who become anxious if they are not doing something. They are scared of being with their own thoughts, frightened of what might surface and unable to spend time with themselves unless they’re accompanied by a few glasses of wine. The effect of all this activity is often burnout – people simply become exhausted, confused and lose their ability to enjoy anything. But this burnout often only comes after years of underlying anxiety – the mind and body permanently in a state of fight or flight, on standby, primed to respond to any situation with an over reaction. Sometimes the body responds with illnesses, or aches and pains, sore backs – finding a myriad of creative ways to tell its person to slow down.

So, once again, ask yourself whether you can slow down during these holidays. What happens if you think of taking some time out on your own? If you find that you’re anxious at the mere thought of doing so, and you want to do something to escape this busy trap you’ve created, take these steps:
Find a quiet spot, focus on breathing into your stomach, and ask your body if it is holding onto tension & anxiety. If it responds yes, identify where in your body this is. Instead of ignoring it or avoiding it by keeping busy, breathe into this source of tension, acknowledging its existence.
Taking some time by yourself, write a list of all those things which you feel you should be doing. Make it as long and inventive as you can. Now, go through that list and identify what is really important (cleaning the cat litter or emptying the nappy pail would probably come into this list!). What can be left with out causing you or anyone else any harm?
Finally, having released some time for yourself, how can you use this time to do something which is nurturing for you. Focus on something which gives your mind a total rest – whether it’s lying down and watching the clouds for five minutes, having a massage or going for a long walk. You decide and – if you can’t – check in with your body. It’s probably been trying to tell you for some time now!

Why menopausal women have more to do than swoon & sigh their way to a tea time gin & painkillers

I was recently looking for an image for my new women’s hypnotherapy & life coaching website to accompany the link to the section on my menopause page. I hadn’t been happy with the images my website designer had provided – the first one was just a bit too glam. The replacement was a woman who looked as though she was going to cry at any minute. Given that I’m constantly contacted by women who see the menopause as a time to re-evaluate, focus on their health and fitness and establish exactly what makes them happy and fulfilled – in short, taking control of this point in their life in a positive way – hunched-up-crying-lady didn’t sum the message I was trying to convey.

And so, I started my own search on one of the big ‘royalty free’ image sites by typing in ‘menopause’. What greeted me were images of middle aged women swooning and sighing; wiping sweat from their brow; looking pensively into the distance; holding their heads in angst and downing painkillers. It was like looking at a visual representation of a Victorian gothic novel – the horrors of menopause. Admittedly there were a few jolly looking ladies, but for every smiley face there were twenty women who looked as though they were unlikely to make it to lunchtime without a stiff gin to wash down their paracetamol.

Menopause is a natural change in a woman’s life. Yes, there are hormonal changes which need adapting to. And yes, these changes often coincide with big life events such as older children leaving the family home and pressures of coping with elderly parents. But at the end of the day, life is never easy. It’s always changing. There are always pressures to adapt to. Why is menopause portrayed so negatively in the media? I work with women every day who are menopausal and, although they may have difficult times, they see it as an opportunity to redress the imbalances in their lives, pursue their interests and actively pursue the second half of their lives.

In my continuing quest for an image which fitted the message of my website, I typed in ‘older woman’ and found a nice, healthy looking woman enjoying the outdoors. Let’s keep getting the message out there that menopause isn’t a guaranteed few years of angst and strife and celebrate this point in a woman’s life as a time of self awareness and development.

It’s a hand…tendrils…reaching inside my body…taking it over

‘It’s a hand…tendrils…reaching inside my body…taking it over.’

No, this isn’t a line from a horror movie. Instead, it was how one client described her anxiety to me. The first time I met this woman, she was severely debilitated by anxiety – unable to work, barely able to talk. Her partner brought her to our first consultation and did the talking for her.

When I asked her about her anxiety, this was how she expressed it. And so we worked with that.

Some things are too horrible to talk about. There is shame and fear associated with revealing the horrors within. Some things cannot be expressed – the words don’t exist. Other things have been so deeply hidden and repressed that people don’t know where to start the process of untangling and articulating.

But what they do have is feelings stored within their body and vivid, deeply rooted metaphors of their experience. As a therapist, instead of trying to uncover what is ‘really going on’ for your client – underneath the metaphor – try working with the metaphor instead. David Grove developed clean language in the 1980s to stay with the client’s experience and to use the metaphor to describe their experience but also to transform their experience. The metaphor contains the means to change – at a pace and rate which is right for your client – using resources and language which is meaningful for them.

Back to my client who was being taken over physically and mentally by this horrendous hand of anxiety. We worked with this metaphor for six sessions, and during each session it changed slightly, lessening its grip and gradually leaving her body. When I asked her where her anxiety was during his last session, she replied, ‘It’s here’. She reached her hand out from her body, reaching into the thin air. Looking at her hand, she continued, ‘It’s feathers. Just sort of moving a bit. It feels fine, quite nice really. I can definitely live with that.’

“All that matters is having a healthy baby” – or is it?

“All that matters is that you have a healthy baby at the end of it all” is a response I received recently when I mentioned my work as a HypnoBirthing practitioner – a similar response to those I’ve heard often and to how I might have thought myself, in the past. It got me thinking though. Is that really all that matters? Obviously, birthing a healthy baby is the most important thing, but – if there are no special circumstances which require interventions of drugs, manual extraction, caesarians and episiotomies – is bringing a physically alive baby into the world really all that matters? Or can things be a whole lot more fulfilling for mums and babies?

To me, this statement reflects the fact that women have become entirely disengaged and disempowered from their role as mothers. To just accept that it’s ok to be a passive recipient of medical treatment, to take what’s on offer, to assume that birth is just something to be “got through” to produce a baby – as opposed to something which can be a wonderful, empowering and transformative experience – portrays a limited view of pregnancy and birth in which the mother’s true needs and capacities are unrealised.
Research increasingly shows that babies are influenced by their experiences in the womb prenatally and at the time of their birth. A baby which has been unnecessarily subjected to drugs, trauma and prolonged labour, amongst other things, may be “healthy”, but may also have been affected by the nature of its birth.
The “All that matters is a healthy baby” type comments seem to regard programmes which empower and educate parents, which encourage them to make safer choices, to work with mum’s body and to avoid unnecessary interventions as “nice extras” – hippy dippy ideas to do with scented candles. In fact, these programmes enable parents to take control, to avoid unnecessary medical interventions and to ensure that their babies are given the best possible start in life. Of course, there are special circumstances and thank goodness that we have a health care system which can respond to these with interventions if required – but, for normal, healthy births, the techniques which parents learn through HypnoBirthing can allow them to have a wonderful birth experience – private, intimate, calm and with as little intervention as possible.

I knew very little about natural childbirth before having my two sons. The first, sixteen years ago, was a very “managed” birth which I just accepted as necessary. The second, five years ago, could have been a wonderful experience if I had known what I know now. I had hired a doula early in in my pregnancy, but she failed to explain to me why natural birth was desirable and the whole idea just scared me. I went into labour scared. The labour went on and on. I became more and more tense and exhausted which led to extreme pain. An epidural, episiotomy and a baby born with GroupB Strep (which may be linked to waters breaking 18 hours or more before birth, as it did during my long labour), in intensive care for over a week and on antibiotics. Luckily my little boy is perfectly healthy now, but I believe that all the trauma of that birth could have been avoided if I had known how to work with my body.

Having a healthy baby is not all that matters. Not if we feel that ourselves and our babies should be treated with the ultimate level of respect and care which we deserve.