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Let's talk about taboos: hormone health

H&B Breaks the taboo
Bladder leaks, thinning hair and other hormonal symptoms used to be too embarrassing to discuss, but these women are sharing their experiences to help empower others
Bladder leaks, thinning hair and other hormonal symptoms used to be too embarrassing to discuss, but these women are sharing their experiences to help empower others.

Sinnead Ali talks period pain

Sinnead Ali, 34, is a yoga teacher who makes time for self-care whenever her body needs it.

"When I was in my 20s, I really suffered during my periods and around that time. For the first two days of my period I'd be bed-bound, my back would be very stiff, and I'd have pains in my legs and hips. I would also experience a really low mood beforehand.

"Now I've adapted my lifestyle - this includes what I eat, and how I practise yoga to help ease the pain of my periods." "In particular, I do poses that connect to the feminine - goddess pose is a wide-leg squat that's good for opening your hips and anchoring you to the earth. I also practise moon salutations, which are a sequence of movements that can be soothing for period pain.
"I'm learning more about yoga nidra, which includes visualisation, intention-setting and self-awareness, because it helps me relax and reset - I need that quietening down at certain times of the month. "I use an app to track my cycle and that's great for my partner, because he likes meal prepping. It sends notifications to let him know, for example, when I'm in my luteal phase - root vegetables are good at this time as they give sustained energy to help balance mood.

"Halfway through your cycle is a nice time to check in with how you feel as your hormones fluctuate. It helps me plan ahead. For example, I find I'm more sociable during ovulation, so that's a good time to meet up with friends."

Kelly Newton opens up the conversation around incontinence

Kelly Newton, 52, wants to open up the conversation around incontinence.

"I had a hysterectomy in my 40s, and the surgeon left my ovaries in so I didn't go into early menopause. But, within a few years, I was having symptoms. The first signs were anxiety and rage, but then the physical symptoms started and that's when I noticed bladder leakage.

"I played hockey and every time I stretched for the ball, a little bit of wee came out. I saw a women's health specialist and learned what works for me to keep my bladder healthy.  
"I've done yoga and Pilates and that's probably helped strengthen my pelvic floor. Breathwork is key, too. I do it every morning: breathing in through my nose, holding and breathing out - it helps me connect with my core. I've also switched to decaf coffee because caffeine, like alcohol, irritates my bladder. "Bladder leaks are embarrassing, but a lot of my friends get them. "My experience inspired me to set up a company that makes leakproof underwear, to help women feel confident. The more we share what works, the more it helps others."

Florence Henderson and sudden hair loss

When Florence Henderson, 59, noticed sudden hair loss, she was worried it could be a symptom of serious illness.

"Growing up, my mum told me: 'Your hair is your beauty.' So hair has always been important to me and part of how I present myself. "My hair was absolutely fine until I was 48. That's when I noticed it had started to thin, so I thought I'd cut it short and it would grow back. The sides grew, but the front didn't get any longer, no matter how it was cut. Now, I realise I was in perimenopause.

"When I started HRT, my hair started to grow back and I felt great. In terms of hot flushes and sleep, the change was so quick, and I walked out of the hairdressers with my hair bouncing, thinking: 'I'm back!' But a few months later, during a business trip to New York, I was combing my hair one morning and found a short patch at the side. I started to worry there was something wrong.
"It's all down to hormones. My hair will never be as it was in my 20s or 30s, but I just have to get on with it and embrace it. I know hair thinning affects a lot of women during menopause and is still seen as a taboo, but we should talk about it more. "I have a Pinterest board called 'But Short Hair Suits You', because that's what people say to me. And, in the words of my hairdresser, you have to work with what you've got, but do what's best for you."

Vanessa Sturman beats bloat

Vanessa Sturman, 36, nourishes herself with foods that help to reduce her period pain and bloating

"Bloating around my period was always a real problem for me. There were points where I almost looked like I was pregnant, so the baggy tops would come out. "I started eating a plant-based diet eight years ago, so I have a lot of wholefoods, fibre and anti-inflammatory foods, and it's made a real difference to how I feel on my period. "Reducing sugar, ditching alcohol and upping the amount of wholegrains and vegetables I eat has really helped with my bloating.
Now it's rare for me to get bloated on my period and I no longer lose a couple of days to period pains. It's not perfect, but I definitely feel the difference. Beans and lentils have fibre and protein, so they fill you up more. I used to have horrendous cravings before my period - I was so hungry, I called it the bottomless pit! Eating balanced, filling meals has really helped.

"Another thing I do is take rest when I'm on my period. I think that women feel pressure to carry on doing everything during menstruation, but I don't push myself to keep running around on those days. I have more energy on my period than I used to, but it's also good to listen to your body and slow down.''

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