Before you reach for the HRT you need to try this

When you’re struggling with poor sleep, hot flushes, night sweats, brain fog, anxiety, sudden creeping weight gain (bye bye favourite outfit, hello trusty Sweaty Betty leggings) and erratic menstrual cycles (you’re seeing months without a period now), it’s very likely you’re in Perimenopause – and that you’re not too happy about it.

All of these symptoms add up to you feeling less and less like yourself, they impact on your work, your creative flair and cause you to doubt yourself in every area of your life. You’re sure that if you could just get some proper sleep and regain your clarity, your old self would re-emerge. So you find yourself late at night, plumbing the depths of the internet to find a magical quick-fix cure. And, lo and behold, HRT keeps cropping up over and over again. You get to wondering if HRT is the ultimate fix for your Perimenopause symptoms and will get you back to YOU again. But you also see that along with the hype, there are plenty of horror stories about HRT and wonder if there’s an alternative you need to try before reaching for the HRT. In this blog post, you’ll get a deeper look at why women turn to HRT, what the drawbacks are and 3 things you can try BEFORE taking that step.

Cathriona Hodgins Nutrition Perimenopause HRT Ireland

Why do women turn to HRT?

The ongoing drudgery and intense overwhelm of constantly feeling “flat”, unenthusiastic about life, and hubby oh-so-helpfully asking, “how long will this go on for?” leaves women like you pondering “should I go on HRT”. Especially when you’ve heard how it has changed women’s lives (did you see the recent Davina McCall documentary ^ ?)

HRT does seem like the ideal cure-all – take a pill, oh look, hot flushes and night sweats be gone! When you’re already swamped with kids, work and life, it can feel like too big an ask to make any more substantial change than taking a pill each day. And for many women, this is their ideal solution to getting back on track and cracking on with life again.

It’s great to have it as an option now as, for so many years, it wasn’t an option because of a flawed clinical study published in 2002 that highlighted risks and spread unnecessary fear study details here #. Although, when deciding whether HRT is right for you, it is important to balance the drawbacks with the positives.

What are the drawbacks of HRT?

Look, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all cure all. HRT doesn’t work for everyone and isn’t suitable for all women – there are some situations where you would be unable to take HRT. More importantly, there are so many different HRT options that it can take time to find the right version for you – and that requires careful monitoring and expert support – which is currently sorely lacking.

In terms of risks they are small but worth knowing:

  • Combined HRT can be associated with a small increase in the risk of breast cancer.*
  • Taking HRT tablets can increase your risk of blood clots – but this risk is still small.*
  • Taking HRT tablets is associated with a small increase in the risk of stroke, but the risk of stroke for women under age 60 is generally very low, so the overall risk is still small.*

If you’re concerned about the drawbacks and/or have established that HRT isn’t right for you, right now, what should you do instead? Well, there are things you can do TODAY to help manage your Perimenopause symptoms that don’t require a prescription.

3 things to try BEFORE the HRT

HRT is a game changer for some and a challenging time for others. It’s not a quick-fix or a cure all and there are other things you can do to support your Perimenopause journey and regain your sparkle.

1. Build your own Perimenopause toolkit

Building your own treasure chest of tools and remedies that work for YOU and support YOUR Perimenopause symptoms is advisable, with or without the HRT. Your toolkit may look a bit different to mine, but my own Perimenopause toolkit included:

  • Essential oils
  • Supplements (By the way, the supplement pack included in the Prepared and (em)powered for Perimenopause programme is handpicked and tried and tested to support the hormonal rollercoaster that is the Perimenopause.)
  • Complementary therapies such as acupuncture
  • A fan (yes !)
  • Delegation of the housework and shopping to reduce overwhelm

There are lots of ways to recalibrate the hormones, stay calm and cut through the daily fog – and they don’t have to involve a prescription. With your own at-home toolkit, you’ll feel prepared and empowered to handle those Perimenopause moments.

2. Focus on rest and relaxation

I can see you rolling your eyes at this one and appreciate that you have a lot on your plate – there’s work, kids, activities, managing aging parents etc. – but if you want to soothe your hormones and gain more clarity, then you need to focus on rest and relaxation. Your body needs it now more than ever, so make it a priority in your week.

Practising good sleep hygiene is the simplest first step to this. How do your evenings look before bed? How can you bring more calm to them? Cut down on the screen time, light yourself a scented candle and switch to flicking through a lovely mindful magazine or trashy novel. Make sure you get to bed before 12 after all, “an hour before 12 is worth 2 after” is not just an old saying; there is biological grounding to it.

Reflect on when the last time was that you really relaxed. And try and pepper more of those moments throughout your week. That may even look like pencilling in more coffee dates with your girlfriends so you can vent about what you’re going through and swap Perimenopause stories.

3. Make dietary tweaks

Does future-proofing seem like a leap right now? OK let’s start from, are you still eating the same way you did 10 years ago? If so, it’s time to make some small tweaks as your dietary needs have shifted slightly. You need to focus on eating more protein, more calcium and more Omega 3 fats now. All of this will support brain, bone and heart health both now and beyond Perimenopause. And it’ll keep you energised and able to maintain your favourite form of movement.

Alongside your Perimenopause toolkit, it’s important that you get a deeper understanding of your symptoms by tracking them – as well as connecting the dots with your triggers. This will make talking to your GP much easier as you’ll be able to shed some light for them on what your experience is like – is it all physical symptoms, such as aches, pains and hot flushes or is it more psychological
symptoms such as low mood and poor cognitive function – so they’ll be better placed to support you.

It’s clear that there are lots of good news stories about HRT and many women refer to it as “a life saver”. But it’s not a silver bullet cure nor is it suitable for everyone. There are reasons that HRT might not be suitable for you and there are things you can do to alleviate your Perimenopause symptoms without turning to HRT, such as building your own Perimenopause toolkit, focusing on rest and relaxation and making dietary tweaks. If this sounds like your cup of tea and you feel like you’d benefit from having support in making these changes, then you’ll LOVE the Prepared and (em)powered for Perimenopause programme. This 4 week online group experience starts on 26th September and places are limited to make sure that every woman taking parts gets the absolute most out of the process. Take a look at the full details and secure your spot today.