Sore, irritated or burning vagina
Falling levels of oestrogen decrease the protective mucus in the vagina, leaving it open to infection, irritation and weakening of the walls. This can cause all sorts of problems such as infection (often causing a smelly or coloured discharge), irritation such as itching and burning, and for those of you who are sexually active, it can cause dryness, soreness and tearing during sex, even resulting in bleeding afterwards.
Sea Buckthorn oil is one of the main supplements that may help with this, as it is known to re-establish a healthy mucus membrane. It can take a good few weeks to start showing benefits, though. The Kegel Exercises can help to improve circulation to the area and tone the muscles of the pelvic floor, keeping everything strong – just Google for instructions. Natural lubricants may be a good idea too. You can get these from most health shops. However, it is always best to get any discharge or pain checked out by your doctor. See my blog – ‘An intimate problem‘ – for more info on this.
Coming off HRT
HRT supplies the body with artificially high levels of hormones, whilst your own natural hormones will have levelled off. So if you come off HRT quickly there will be a huge gap between the hormones you had yesterday and what you have today – no wonder the body goes into shock. Like coming off anything quickly (try stopping tea or coffee and see how you feel after 24 hours!), if you rush coming off HRT you are likely to get withdrawal symptoms. And these symptoms tend to be very similar to menopause ones, as they are caused by the same problem – an absence of hormones!
If you are thinking of coming off HRT please do so with your doctor’s consent and ask them to help you do it really slowly. I would try for at least 6 months; that way you have time to support the body and the body has time to adjust. Anything you can do to make your body stronger and healthier will have a positive effect, so take a few months to prepare in advance for this.
Make sure that you have your 5 portions of fruit and veg daily and healthy grains and good quality protein. Avoid processed foods and those containing high levels of salt and sugar. Add in a good female multivitamin and mineral supplement with plenty of magnesium and keep stress to a minimum. Regular exercise is really important too. Acupuncture can often be effective at this point, so it is worth looking into as well.
If you do start to get withdrawal symptoms you can treat most of these individually with herbals or supplements.
Dealing with the menopause after a hysterectomy
Having a hysterectomy whilst quite young, especially if your ovaries were removed as well, often triggers a sudden menopause and in this case HRT is usually the best option to avoid severe symptoms. If you have a hysterectomy nearer your own natural menopause age you may get relatively few symptoms at the time until your body is ready for the change. You may then get the usual combination of symptoms depending on your general health. You can often treat these naturally without resorting to HRT, but if you are really struggling it is important to check with your doctor. Again, acupuncture can often help at this time.
Check out part 3 for advice on joint pain and itchy skin.