5 biggest myths about cervical screenings you shouldn’t believe 

Following on from our previous article around cervical cancer awareness, we got advice from Dr Tim Woodman, Medical Director at Bupa UK, who shared with us the following information about cervical screenings.

He says; ‘Regular health screenings have been neglected during the pandemic – there are currently 4.7 million people with cervixes in the UK who haven’t been adequately screened for cervical cancer. It’s more important than ever to book your smear test – and to encourage your friends to do the same.

Our previous research found that 1 in 5 women say they wouldn’t visit their doctor if they had pelvic pain or an unusual discharge or bleeding, and 1 in 3 women say they wouldn’t see a doctor if they had bleeding outside of their usual menstrual cycle. 41% of women wouldn’t go to a GP if they had an unusual discharge.’

From believing screening is painful, to the ‘embarrassment’ of seeing your doctor about gynaecological issues, there’s lots of common misconceptions about cervical screening that we shouldn’t believe. These myths could prevent you from attending your screening, or visiting a doctor for any unusual symptoms, such as abnormal bleeding or painful sex.

Here are the most common myths about smear tests you shouldn’t believe:

Myth 1: An abnormal smear test indicates a high risk of cancer

Cervical screening is not a test for cancer – it is used to help prevent cancer. A sample is checked for certain “high risk” types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). If these are not found, then nothing further is done, but if these types of HPV are present then the cells from the sample are checked for any changes. If any abnormal cells are found and these are left untreated, it could lead to cancer.

Having regular cervical screening will identify any abnormalities – these may not be cancerous, and mild abnormalities don’t always need to be treated.

Myth 2: A cervical screening test is painful

cervical screenings

It’s a common myth that a cervical screening test (previously known as a smear test) is a painful procedure. For some, it can be an uncomfortable procedure, especially if you have endometriosis, vaginismus (when your vagina suddenly becomes tight) or vaginal dryness.

Breathing exercises and distraction methods (listening to music or counting to 100 during the procedure) can help to calm your nerves. You can also ask your nurse about using a smaller speculum (the instrument used during the test) – they come in different sizes, and it can help to ease any discomfort you’re experiencing. 

It’s important to explain any worries you have to your healthcare professional, as they should take additional steps to make the experience less stressful. 

Myth 3: I don’t have any symptoms, so I don’t need to check my health

We have an excellent cervical cancer screening programme, which can detect early abnormalities which can lead to cervical cancer. 

Even if you’re showing no unusual symptoms, you must attend your checks as these can detect abnormalities before you start showing any symptoms. Early detection is key to effectively preventing and treating cancers; attending all appointments – even if you’re feeling well – is vital.

Myth 4: Seeing the doctor about gynaecological issues is embarrassing

cervical screenings

Do not worry – every doctor or nurse in your local clinic will have seen more vaginas and heard more intimate stories than you could ever believe! They understand that everyone is an individual and will not be uncomfortable or bothered by talking about sex, vaginal bleeding, discharge, or painful intercourse. 

Performing intimate examinations is part of their everyday activities, and they want to do this to the cause of the problem you’re having. Try and be as open and honest about your symptoms or concerns as you can, as this will enable your healthcare professional to give you the best care they can. 

Myth 5: If I am worried I can go for a smear test, which will rule out any cancer

No, this is not the case. The cervical screening test only looks for signs that you may be at risk of cervical cancer. It is not a cancer test, nor does it assess the health of your vulva, vagina, womb or ovaries.  A cervical screening test is only suitable if you have no symptoms of concern. 

If you have unusual bleeding, pain or other symptoms you should discuss this with a healthcare professional, who will decide with you what steps need to be taken to assess your gynaecological health.  

Are you up to date with your screenings? Comment below on your experiences or connect with us on Instagram

The importance of cervical cancer awareness

17th – 23rd January 2022 marks Cervical Cancer Prevention week. We’ve joined forces with the experts, bringing you this guide, to raise awareness of cervical screening. If you have a cervix, this one is for you.

Here, Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy talks about the importance of not delaying cervical screening when invited but also to see if there was anything we could be doing to avoid this type of cancer.

Did you know?

  • There are around 3,200 new cases of cervical cancer each year in the UK.
  • Cervical cancer is the 14th most common cancer in the UK.
  • Cervical cancer can be prevented by having regular cervical smears.
  • The most common age group for women to be diagnosed with cervical cancer is in women aged 30-34 years.
  • Since the 1990s, the incidence of cervical cancer has fallen by around 25%. This is likely to be due to the success of cervical screening.
  • The number of cases of cervical cancer is predicted to fall in the coming years due to the success of HPV vaccination.
  • Around 850 women still die each year in the UK from cervical cancer.
  • Since the 1970s, the death rate for cervical cancer has fallen by around 75%. Again, this is likely to be due to the advent of cervical screening.

Risk factors for cervical cancer

HPV – 99.8% of cervical cancers are due to infection with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). This is a sexually transmitted virus. There are over 100 subtypes. HPV 16 and 18 are high-risk subtypes, and these are the target of the current HPV vaccination campaign. Low-grade HPV subtypes, including those which cause many visible genital warts, are not a risk factor for cervical cancer.

Many women with HPV infection never develop cervical cancer, meaning other factors are also important for the infection to progress. Cervical cancer is more common in those who also had an early age of first sexual intercourse, before the age of 14, or who have had 6 or more sexual partners. Cervical cancer risk is lowered in women whose sexual partner has been circumcised.

Women with genital herpes are also at an increased risk of cervical cancer.

Smoking – 21% of cervical cancers are attributed to smoking. The risk of cervical cancer is increased by 46% in current smokers as compared to lifetime non-smokers.

HIV –  Cervical cancer is six times more common in those infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). However, this risk is significantly reduced in women who are taking highly active antiretroviral therapy (HART).

Family history – The risk of cervical cancer is 74%-80% higher in women with a first degree relative, such as a mother or a sister who has had cervical cancer, suggesting there may be some genetic susceptibility.

Oral contraceptives – Up to 10% of cervical cancers are thought to be associated with the use of oral contraceptives. However, the risk is only attributable after five years or more of use. There is no need to panic and stop taking the pill. The benefits of taking the pill are considerable and should not be underestimated. Pill users should not be unduly concerned but are strongly advised to attend for their cervical smears regularly, and to try not to smoke.

Ethnicity – Cervical cancers are more common in ethnic groups who are reluctant to come forward for screening. This means cervical cancer is more common in women who are Black, Hispanic, Asian or from low-income households.

Women who were given diethylstilbestrol (DES) – Some women were given DES, a potent synthetic estrogen, between 1940-1970,  to try and prevent miscarriage. This is known to increase the risk of cervical and vaginal cancers.

The UK Cervical Cancer Screening Programme

One important aspect of cervical cancer is that it has a very long premalignant phase, during which it is possible to identify abnormal cells – by having a cervical smear. These abnormal cells can then be treated. Doing this prevents these cells from transforming into cervical cancer cells.

The NHS Cervical Cancer Screening Programme was started in 1988, and since then there has been a dramatic fall in the number of cases of cervical cancer.

Adult women aged 25-64 years are invited to have a cervical smear once every 3-5 years in the UK. Those aged under 50 are asked to come once every 3 years, and those aged over 50, every 5 years. Trans men (who were female at birth) are not automatically invited but can request a cervical smear if they still have a cervix.

The smear itself is also tested for the presence of HPV. If HPV is present, you will be invited to have smears more often, or referred to colposcopy, where your cervix can be examined more closely with the aid of a special instrument called a colposcope. This gives magnified images of the cervix.

What is a cervical smear?

cervical smear

A cervical smear is a simple test, in which a plastic spatula is gently rubbed over your cervix (the neck of the womb) to collect some cervical cells. These are then sent to the lab to be looked at down the microscope.

To be able to do this, the doctor or nurse taking the smear, needs to see your cervix. This means you do have to remove your underwear, lie on the couch, and allow them to insert a vaginal speculum. This is an instrument, made of plastic or metal, which looks like a duck’s beak.

The secret is to try and relax as much as you can. This helps the smear taker to be able to manoeuvre the speculum as they need to, to get a good view of the cervix. Try not to get too anxious. Doctors and nurses who do smears are very well trained and will do all they can to put you at your ease. It can be uncomfortable having a smear, but it shouldn’t be painful. It usually only lasts – perhaps 30-60 seconds. This is a very short inconvenience for a test that could save your life. You can watch a video of how a cervical smear is taken here.

How many women have not had a cervical smear?

It is very worrying that in 2019, 1 in 3 women aged 25-64 had not had a cervical smear. In a survey conducted by Jo’s Cancer Trust, 2000 women were asked about their experiences of having a cervical smear. An incredible 915 had either never had a smear or had delayed an appointment to have one. 71% said they felt scared, 75% felt vulnerable, 81% were embarrassed, and 67% said having a smear would make them feel out of control. 58% were scared it would be painful.

Having taken cervical smears for over 30 years, I can tell you, taking a smear is a straightforward process, that for the vast majority of women, is easy, quick, and almost painless. The smear taker will respect your dignity, cover you with a blanket, ask permission to start the procedure and stop at any time if you ask them to stop. You do not need to feel out of control. Doctors and nurses who work in sexual health or GP surgeries, spend all day looking at female vulvas and vaginas – they are perfectly used to it, and nothing will surprise or shock them. You can feel completely at ease with these medical practitioners. Any female doctors or nurses will no doubt have had a smear test themselves and know how it feels.

What is far more of a worry, is not attending for your smear, but having to come to the clinic in the future, with a possible undiagnosed cervical cancer.

Getting your smear results

cervical cancer

You should get a letter in the post about your results, usually within 4 weeks. If your smear is normal, you will be told to have another smear in 3-5 years depending on your age. Sometimes, there may have been difficulty interpreting the smear, and it just needs repeating in 3 to 6 months. If you do have abnormal cells, you will be referred to the Colposcopy clinic so a Gynaecologist can take a closer look at your cervix. If HPV is present, but your cells look normal, you will simply be asked to have another smear in 12 months. The important thing is to follow instructions and attend for your subsequent visit as requested.

How accurate are cervical smears?

It’s important to remember that no tests are ever 100% accurate. There is always a small chance the smear could show an abnormality that isn’t cancer, or, could be wrongly classed as negative, meaning something abnormal was missed. In between smear tests, if you have any symptoms such as bleeding in between your periods or after sex, or abnormal vaginal discharge, it’s important to see your GP or go to the Sexual Health clinic without delay.

Prevention is better than cure

After a detailed look at the statistics, experts believe that for a woman aged 33 – 64, attending for cervical screening will reduce her chance of developing cervical cancer over the following five years, by 60-80%, and reduce her chance of advanced cervical cancer by 90%. However, cervical screening is less effective in younger age groups. In general, doing cervical smears in women under the age of 25 has not been found to be beneficial.

If you have any concerns about your smear test, you could book an appointment with your GP or practice nurse, just to discuss the situation and take a list of written questions. They will be happy to help you. You can take a friend or relative to your smear appointment with you.

You can also ask for a doctor or nurse of the sex of your choice to take your smear, although you may be asked to come back on another day if this can’t be actioned at the same visit.

You will also be offered a chaperone when you have your smear. You can accept or refuse – some people prefer another person there to hold their hand, while others prefer as few other people in the room as possible.

Try and find out all you can about having you smear before you get to the clinic. Knowledge is power, and it will help you feel more confident. For example, take a look at Jo’s Trust – Cervical Screening.

What can you do to reduce your risk of cervical cancer?

You can have a smear at any time so long as you are not bleeding. In the past, smears were preferable around midcycle – on day 14 – but these days this is rarely needed. If you are on a form of hormonal contraception, you will not be ovulating anyway, and will not have a day 14. This might be needed in older women, who are having natural cycles, if it has been hard to get enough cells on the smear in the past. But don’t let the day 14 issue confuse the situation.

If you are aged 40 plus, and find smears uncomfortable, you might benefit from using some topical estrogen in the vagina for 4 -6 weeks before your smear test. Ask your GP or the sexual health doctor or nurse about this. You do need to stop using the cream or pessaries at least 2 days before the smear test.

HPV vaccination

In the UK, HPV vaccinations are offered to girls and boys aged 12 and 13, when they are in year 8. They then have a second dose 6 -24 months later. The idea is to create HPV antibodies before they become sexually active and encounter the HPV virus through normal sexual activity. HPV causes cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, anus, penis, as well as some head and neck cancers.

Between 2009 and 2018, over 10 million doses of the HPV vaccines were administered. The vaccines have been proven to be safe and highly effective. In a recent 2019 study, which included over 66 million young men and women, HPV vaccination showed an 83% reduction in high-risk HPV in teenage girls and a 66% reduction in women aged 20-24. There was also a 51% reduction in precancerous changes to the cervix in teenage girls and a 31% reduction in women aged 20-24.

Don’t smoke

cervical cancer

Some studies suggest the viral load of HPV is higher in the cervix of women who smoke than in non-smokers. The reasons for this are not well understood, however, a toxin in cigarette smoke known as Benzo[a]pyren has been shown to stimulate HPV multiplication.

Protect yourself from HPV by using a condom

Consistent and careful use of condoms can help prevent the acquisition, not just of HPV infection, but also other STIs. It can also help cause regression of abnormal cells if they are present on the cervix. However, having sex with an HPV  infected partner, even once,  without a condom, is likely to result in the transmission of infection. Most UK adults will be infected with HPV at least once in a lifetime.

The best sexual health advice at present is that women should use a condom for STI protection as well as, not instead of, a reliable method of contraception to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. If a male partner will not use a condom, women do have the option of using the female condom, the Femidom.

Cervical cancer is linked to an increased number of lifetime sexual partners. For good sexual health, you should try to avoid multiple partners , or overlapping partners, as this is associated with increased risk.

References:

Gov. UK

Cervical screening NHS

HPV NHS

The Guardian

University of Oxford

US National Library of Medicine (National Institutes of Health)

National library of medicine

Helen Baker founded and runs  We Are All Smear Ready, a craftivism campaign to raise awareness of the importance of cervical screening and addressing the barriers of body image and embarrassment, two of the main barriers to attending appointments. She says;

‘With body image and embarrassment being two of the main barriers to attending a smear test, this Craftivist campaign spreads the message that you don’t have to be beach ready to be smear ready, we are all smear ready. It really doesn’t matter how your lady garden looks, nurses have seen all varieties and don’t care what yours looks like.

With so much focus on the external aspect of our bodies we can often overlook how important it is to look after our bodies internally but these mini handcrafted pants as a gentle reminder that cervical screening and HPV vaccines are the best ways to protect yourself from cervical cancer. By making and sharing mini pants and boxers during Cervical Cancer Prevention Week, we can help to spread this important and potentially life-saving message to anyone with a cervix.’ 

You can follow her campaign here

When was your last screening? Join in the conversation by commenting below or following us on Instagram.

Fun with social media (when you’re not a teenager)

Some people can think of social media as something that’s for younger people. Even if you use some social media, you might feel like some apps are meant for young people while others are more suited to people over 30 or 40. Maybe you shy away from TikTok because it seems like it’s for teenagers and you can’t let go of Facebook because all of your family and friends are on there. Social media can be a lot of fun but it can also be a pain if you’re not using it in the right way. If you want to use social media more, there are a few rules for having fun.

Find Which Apps Are for You

social media

Not everyone will find every social media app or site enjoyable. You might think Facebook is too full of older relatives with terrible opinions or that Twitter is far too shouty. But most people can find a social media app that they do like. Think about what sort of thing you’re looking for and why you want to use social media. Is it to view and share funny videos and images? Do you want to have conversations with other people or engage in a community relating to your interests?

Learn to Find the Content You Like

Once you’ve got started on your chosen platform, you need to know how to get the best from it. If you’re not using it in the right way, you might just find it boring or annoying. Being able to find the content that you want will help you to make your experience better. Depending on the platform, this might involve following the right people, following hashtags or topics, or searching for the right things. As you engage with different people and topics, you’ll also be presented with new content through the platform’s algorithm.

Play with Ways to Post

Creating your own content is part of the fun of using social media, but it’s something a lot of people might feel unsure about. You’re not a teenager posting about your day, so what are you meant to post? But there are lots of things you can do, whether you want to document your life or make funny or interesting content for entertainment. Try exploring different ways to post, such as how to do voice effects on TikTok or using different filters on Instagram. There are different post types you can explore or ways to engage with people, such as stories or live streaming too.

Find Your Community

social media

One of the best things about social media is that it allows you to engage and connect with other people. It can be a great way to find new friends and discover a community based on your interests. Whether you’re obsessed with a TV show, you love to knit, or you’re a history nerd, you can find other people with shared interests who can help you have even more fun.

Discover all of the fun you can have with social media by finding your space and all the ways you can use it. Follow us on Instagram to see how we are trying to get down with the kids and make fun reels!

Feel at ease with your body with these top tips

At the end of the day, every single person on the planet wants to be the best possible version of themselves. In order to be the best version, we need to feel at ease with ourselves first. We need to look at ourselves and know that we’re confident. If you feel good in life, then you’re going to be able to perform better in whatever you do.

One thing that a lot of people – especially women – do in this life is worry about their bodies. The good thing is that we can all put our minds in better places regarding our physical selves. We can also put in the work to put ourselves in better positions. If you’re willing to alter your mindset and adopt new habits, you can achieve anything – and this is just another one of those challenges. Here are a few top tips so you can start to really feel more at ease with your body: 

Recognise That You Are Beautiful As You Are

top tips

You don’t really need to make huge changes to your life or to your body. You need to know that you’re wonderful as you are. One huge change will be to your mind. You’ll want to do all you can to boost your confidence and your self-esteem. If you do look to mate improvements, know that they’re for you and not imperative in order to achieve anything. 

Put Effort Into Your Physical Fitness

This helps your physical side and your mental side. You deserve to be happy and comfortable in many different ways, and exercising will put you in an amazing position. You’ll get to a point where not exercising feels a little wrong. Before you know it, you could be looking into the likes of DSIP and all kinds of other supplements to make yourself into a finely tuned athlete. 

Date!

If you want to feel better about the way you look, then dating is a genuinely fantastic idea. You’ll head out and meet people that find you attractive. You’ll get to know people who might want to spend a lot of time around you. These people will lift you over time. They’ll respect your boundaries while wanting to see you more and more. And, hey, they might even want to hop into a bed with you and see that wonderful body in all its glory!

Learn How To Cook And Figure Out Nutritional Tips 

top tips

Learning how to cook prepares you for life in a much better way. You’ll be more competent in the kitchen, which is such a confidence booster. It makes you feel so much more useful and attractive. The more you learn about food, the more clued in you become in terms of what’s good for you and what certain meals do for certain parts of you. 

Surround Yourself With People Who Lift You

We touched on this previously when talking about dating, but you just have to be around people that make your life so much easier. If you’re with positive people who say wonderful things about you and push you to be even better, then life becomes a lot better and so much more fun. Don’t surround yourself with negativity. 

Are you more comfortable with your body in your 40s? Let us know by dropping a comment below or connecting with us on Instagram.

Are there benefits to tracking your menstrual cycle in your 40s?

When was your last period? Do you know? Have you ever tracked your menstrual cycle? Have you ever wondered why some months it’s like a crime scene and others it’s just funny brown sludge (Or is that just me!) I called in the experts to find out what benefits there are to tracking your cycle.

Women’s therapist, menstrual cycle & menopause educator Susanna Guest, (50) has helped hundreds of clients to live a life more in tune with their natural cycle through a combination of coaching, retreats and workshops. Now, she has collaborated with her friend and client, Liz Berwick (41) to create The Wild Wisdom Journal and raise awareness of emotions, creativity and energy throughout the menstrual cycle, menopause, seasons and lunar phases.

It is beautiful. The illustrations are stunning and it’s a very gorgeous journal to read through. It has been designed to be a space to gather your insights whilst keeping an eye on the phases of the moon. This journal is for anyone who wants to track their cyclical ways. If you menstruate, you can chart your moods and tendencies according to your cycle. If you no longer menstruate, have very long cycles, or do not have a womb, then you can use the moon cycle as your guide. What a fantastic gift for Christmas huh?

Intruiged

I’ve always tracked my cycle since coming off birth control five years ago and was hugely intrigued to see how my cycle was synced to the moon phases and, blow me down, it was spot on. I’ve realised that’s where the discrepancies have been. The odd month where things weren’t quite right, they actually coincided with a full moon. Absolute game changer for me to monitor my feelings and hormonal well-being. Especially in the run up to the big M!

So what’s the deal with menstrual cycles? I reached out to my friend and soul sista, Katherine Crawley who runs the AllWoman mentorship program.

Internal feminine compasses

menstrual cycle

‘As women in our 40s, we are the daughters of a career and success-orientated society. We were raised to believe that happiness means adopting a persona of charismatic success, that we must seamlessly integrate motherhood and work all while flitting from one social gathering to another.

Not an easy persona to uphold is it?

And when the cracks start to show – usually around 40 – sometimes through mental breakdowns, but equally simply via an overwhelm of stress and anxiety, aches and pains, illnesses and even serious disease, the question is, where do we turn?

Well it all starts here, with our menstrual cycles. Our cycles are like our internal feminine compasses. They are the foundations of who we are, as women. They enable us to really know ourselves.

We are nature

Tracking our menstrual cycles and reconnecting to the natural cycles of our bodies is deeply healing. It centres us, it grounds us. We remember that we are not separate from nature, but that we are nature. As we know our own cycles, we have a deeper understanding of the Earth’s cycles; our seasons mirror Her seasons; our moon mirrors Her Moon.

This process of ‘remembering’ gives us a newfound sense of wholeness. We reconnect to our intuitive wisdom and from a place deep in our wombs, we feel the power of our Womanhood rising.

So are our 40s going to see us continue to dogmatically search for internal fulfilment outside of ourselves? Or are we going to realise that our real embodied health and empowerment comes from taking time to understand who we truly are, as women? If we have the wisdom and courage to follow the latter, then cultivating an intimate and loving relationship with our menstrual cycles is the way in.’

Why can tracking our menstrual cycle be beneficial?

Cosmetic doctor and intimate health expert, Dr Shirin Lakhani says:

‘The menstrual cycle is a complex journey of the hormones. Estrogen levels rise and fall twice during the menstrual cycle. Estrogen levels rise during the mid-follicular phase and then drop precipitously after ovulation. This is followed by a secondary rise in estrogen levels during the mid-luteal phase with a decrease at the end of the menstrual cycle. But technically there is no stage during the cycle when the hormone levels aren’t surging or plunging in some way; In the first week estrogen starts out low and begins to rise, with it you become more optimistic and positive, in the second week estrogen and testosterone rise until they peak – making you braver and ready for a challenge, the third week is more complex because for the first half the progesterone rises while the estrogen and testosterone drop – this is when you experience a mood drop, but by the second half of the week estrogen rises again putting a stop to the PMS symptoms. The fourth and final week of the cycle sees the estrogen and progesterone plunge, dragging your mood down with it.

Tracking your menstrual cycle in the 20s and 30s is common because it’s often used as a way to either get pregnant or to avoid pregnancy.  Traditionally tracking menstrual cycle in the 40s probably isn’t as common, however it can be beneficial for a number of reasons and is certainly becoming more popular as a result.

It can help to prepare and plan for when mood changes are likely to occur and spot patterns in this. It can also be helpful for exercise. For example the follicular phase change in hormone levels that often results in a boost of energy and can see mood improve. Some people find strength training more effective at this time of the month. 

Tracking the menstrual cycle in the 40s is also an effective way of identifying changes in cycle lengths and regularity which may be indicators of the peri-menopause.’

Indicators for the Peri-menopause

menstrual cycle

At 41 I’ve already started to notice some slight irregularities thanks to tracking that may well be indicators for the peri-menopause. Dr Ghazala Aziz-Scott, specialist in integrative women’s health and bioidentical hormone balancing for the Marion Gluck Clinic highlights why this might be:

‘In our 40s, most women are going through the perimenopause, a period of several years leading up to the actual menopause (classified as an absence of periods for 12 months) and during this transition, women can experience a myriad of symptoms of hormonal imbalance. The perimenopause often results in anovulatory cycles, where the monthly egg is not released from the ovary and this results in a decrease in the hormone progesterone. Progesterone is our natural calming hormone, hence the happy mood of pregnancy where it is elevated, and leads to insomnia and heightened anxiety. Tracking your menstrual cycle will help you assess if your cycle pattern has changed and understand any symptoms you may be experiencing. There are many apps that can assist with this and in our busy lives, it is easy to lose track.

It is a time in life filled with other responsibilities, juggling careers and domestic life so insomnia and anxiety can often be attributed to life stressors when it is in fact hormonal imbalance. Other symptoms of the perimenopause include hot flushes, brain fog, memory changes and very heavy periods. The hormone estrogen can often be higher in perimenopause causing symptoms of estrogen dominance such as weight gain, migraines and breast tenderness.

If you notice any changes, seek appropriate medical advice as assessment- testing can be done and you can get the support you need. Too many women are put on conventional HRT which has both estrogen and progesterone and can therefore feel worse as it is only the progesterone they need. Progesterone support in perimenopause can make a great difference to quality of life through this change.

Don’t forget to maintain a healthy diet rich in vegetables and fruit, minimise stress, take regular exercise and get a good 7 to 8 hours of restful sleep – lifestyle also influences our hormone balance.’

Do you track your cycles? Let us know what you do by commenting below. Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram here

The ultimate guide to trusting your instincts

Have you ever had that feeling when you just KNOW something isn’t right? That distinct feeling deep in your gut telling you that you should be trusting your instincts? Rewind to the middle of summer. Hubby was in the shower and I noticed a red mark (I regularly perve on hubby in the shower. Jokes, I was having a wee as we only have one bathroom).

Anywho, he said he’d noticed it too but it wasn’t hot, itchy or doing anything. Over the next week, it got bigger. He filled in an e-consult form and after sending in pictures, was advised by the GP to use a steroid based cream. It actually worked for about a week and the redness was fading. And then it wasn’t. In fact, it had doubled in size. It was baffling us. Mainly because it was just a big red mark.

Baffled

Over the next 6 weeks it grew to a massive 12 inches across his back. Like a port stain. He had various Push Dr appointments, he spoke to many pharmacists, he tried all the recommended lotions and potions. Eventually the GP agreed to see him. Away he came with yet another potion. Frustratingly, it didn’t work. Finally he was referred to a dermatologist but I realised the waiting list would be lllloooonnnnng and at this point I’d had enough. I KNEW something wasn’t right.

I called the GP and insisted, while we were waiting for the dermatologist, that blood tests needed to be done. Thankfully, he agreed. Less than a week later, we had a text message at 8pm on a Monday night informing us there was an urgent prescription waiting for us at the local chemist which must be taken immediately. The blood test was positive for Borrelia Burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. The rash alone should have triggered the prescription for antibiotics and blood tests aren’t reliable when it comes to this disease.

You can only imagine my f*cked off-ness. I pretty much sprinted to the chemist in an exasperated panicked and stressed-out fashion. Meanwhile I started researching Lyme disease. The worrying thing is, it’s such a complicated disease and is regularly misdiagnosed.

I was talking to Nutritional Therapist, Karen Preece Smith, about the impact of Lyme disease as she works with many clients with long term illnesses. Karen sent me some resources to help me research the treatment plans in case the initial dose of antibiotics didn’t work. The scary thing was, the rash disappeared BEFORE hubby started the antibiotics so by the time we’d have gotten to the dermatologist, there wouldn’t have been any reason to test for Lyme and it would have gone undetected for years. At which point, the effects could have been devastating.

trusting your instincts

Pushing back

I KNEW when to push back at my GP and I’m comfortable doing so. I know how important it is trusting your instincts. But what if you’re not? Who better to talk to than my favourite NHS GP, Dr Sarah Yelland, who is passionate about evidence based lifestyle medicine and informing and empowering others to live their healthiest lives.

‘How do I feel about patients coming back for a second opinion?- honestly I’m good with that, in fact I am more than happy, because it probably means there’s something that hasn’t been addressed, hasn’t been disclosed or has been overlooked. After all the few minutes you get with your doctor is pretty limited and the possibilities are enormous. So, of course, there will always be times when taking a second look could lead to a more accurate diagnosis, a better treatment or improved outcome. It’s not just the patient who wants this, but doctors too, because really that is the heart of medicine- we want to help, heal, serve and do our very best along the way.

We are generally perfectionists don’t you know!

Absolutely- there will be times when more tests or medicines are simply not helpful or more importantly can be harmful, and times when patient expectations are not within the realms of reality…. But if you have left a consulting room without a reason or explanation that you understand or accept then ask again (nicely) and don’t be afraid to share your why.

Understanding needs to work both ways. Health is a partnership- and health improvement needs both parties to do their bit. 

This is why one of the skills doctors are increasingly taught is to identify the patients ideas, concerns and expectations:

Ideas

What YOU think is going on- because believe it or not most of us are fairly intuitive when it comes to our own bodies.

Concerns

What you are especially worried it could be, and even though you may be thinking it’s highly unlikely (because it probably is highly unlikely), its that niggling worry that just won’t let you settle.

Expectations

What you think the doctor should be doing- whether it’s tests or referrals or medicines.  I know you may not feel confident to share these thoughts, many feel they can’t because I’m not the Doctor’ or feel silly for suggesting something they saw on Casualty. However, we are influenced by what we see or read or hear. And how do you know the doctor didn’t consider it, maybe it’s a totally bonkers idea but what if it was brilliant one that the Doc just hadn’t thought of yet.

When it comes to medicine YOUR story is the most vital- diagnosis is 80% history, 15% examination and only 5% testing- or something like that.

So it’s less about being a good or bad doctor, or a good or bad patient- mostly its about getting your doctor on the same page as you, or you on the same page as your doctor- because that is usually where the best medicine happens.’ 

Trust in your gut

Ray Sadoun is a mental health and addiction recovery specialist for OK Rehab. I asked for his thoughts on instincts and here’s what he had to say:

Why you should trust your instincts

‘As much as it’s important to logically work through our issues, sometimes we get a powerful intuition about something and we should not ignore it. For example, you may get an instinct to call a friend you haven’t seen in a while, only to discover upon calling that they are in a very bad way. Sometimes, I get this instinct with my clients; recently, I felt as though one of my clients wasn’t opening up to me properly, and after some respectful probing, they revealed that they were battling a huge issue they hadn’t yet brought up in therapy. It’s important to trust these instincts as it is often our subconscious warning us about something.’

The importance of practising caution when trusting your instinct

‘As much as I advocate for trusting your instincts, it’s always important to practise caution as your intuition can be wrong. This is particularly true for people with anxiety, as their fear of a certain situation can deceive them into thinking the situation should be avoided. For example, one of my clients with social anxiety often reports a sort of premonition before every social event; she feels as though she shouldn’t attend as something bad is going to happen. However, this is her anxiety playing tricks on her as her fight and flight mode is often in overdrive and wants to protect her from the perceived danger. This is an example of why we should carefully consider our intuition and not make any hasty decisions based on it.’

trusting your instincts

Knowing how to push back and ask difficult questions 

‘If you trust your intuition and you believe you need to act on it, communicate it with people around you. This can be particularly difficult in the workplace as you may fear judgement, but I would always recommend being open and honest in this situation. You don’t have to make any exaggerated comments, but simply saying something like ‘I don’t have a great feeling about this’ will help people to understand that you aren’t comfortable.’

So how can you communicate confidently and graciously in situations when you feel uncomfortable pushing back, either personally or professionally?

Janie Van Hool is a communication expert and author of The Listening Shift: Transform your organisation by listening to your people and helping your people listen to you (Practical Inspiration, 2021). She was happy to offer these very helpful tips:

‘Firstly, take space… breathe out, count to 5, look them straight in the eye and acknowledge or appreciate their view, or perspective. Use phrases like ‘I can see the sense in your point of view…’.

State your case

‘On this occasion, I’m going to have to disagree and here’s why…’. Share your reason for disputing their position. 

Offer choice

Finish with a question that starts with ‘Would you be willing… (e.g., ‘to consider this as a route forward?’) This inquiry offers choice – and because most people want to be seen as agreeable, they’ll most likely agree!’

Finally I reached out to very awesome Joanna Howes. She is an award-winning performance and leadership coach who we’ve worked with before on our article about imposter syndrome. Here she’s offered her brilliant insight for this piece,

‘In my work I’ve definitely agreed to things when I knew my gut said no and I ended up kicking myself. The reason I said yes was that I felt uncomfortable challenging and didn’t want the other person to think I didn’t trust them.’ 

Be true to yourself

‘I have also interviewed many leaders who say you need to learn to trust your instincts and then also be okay if it doesn’t work out but at least you followed your path.  It’s about being true to yourself. There is a balance between checking in with your analytical mind and not just relying on feelings alone, it’s about accessing all parts to drive great decision making.’ 

Have you ever been in a situation where you KNEW something wasn’t right? Tell us about it by commenting below or reaching out to us over at Instagram.

Fitness after 40 and motivational activewear

I’m very much a work in progress when it comes to getting fitter in my 40s! I know how important it is to put the work in now. Because if I do, surely my 50s will be less painful? Who knows. But what I do know is this: When I exercise, I feel happier. I love running but have noticed my knees are starting to creak. I talked to Nick Swettenham, a personal trainer since 2014. He has helped hundreds of clients reach their fitness goals, through one on one coaching as well as group fitness classes. I asked him to offer his top tips for fitness after 40.

5 Tips for fitness after 40

Tip 1: Strength training

At any age, strength training should be one of your top priorities for total fitness after 40, but it’s also vital in the fight to shed body fat. You’ll find it’s one of the best ways to burn calories both during and after your workouts. With consistent training you will gain some muscle – as muscle is heavier than fat, you might notice that there is no change on the scales. To get around this, focus more on circumference measurements and body composition (i.e. fat vs. muscle mass) rather than just emphasising your overall weight, which will give you a better overall picture of your body’s changes. Always do your measurements at the same time of the day, preferably in the morning before you eat. If your body fat starts to drop and muscle mass increases consistently, that’s a good sign you’re on the right track.

Tip 2: Hydrate

Hydration is everything. It helps brain function to keep you focused on your training as well as everyday tasks. Being dehydrated by as little as just 2% can significantly impact exercise performance. Plus, when you are well hydrated you are more flexible which will also help exercise performance and avoid injuries . Drink up to a pint of water as soon as you wake up. If you drink a small glass of water before meals it will also make you feel fuller quicker so you don’t need to eat as much.

Tip 3: Move

Up your movement. If you do 45-60 minutes exercise a day but then spend the rest sitting at a desk, car or sofa, you simply haven’t moved enough. Going for an extra run – or even just a walk – can make all the difference. Try and get up a few times a day to walk around briefly and do some quick mobility exercises like leg swings, trunk rotation or cat-cows. The key is to move at every opportunity you have.

fitness after 40

Tip 4: Control

Portion control and mindful eating is essential for fitness after 40. When you eat, turn the TV off. Really take the time to sit with your meal at the table and actually think about each bite. Take the time to enjoy your food properly and not rush through it. I know this isn’t always possible but try to do this for at least one meal a day without excuses!  Buying smaller plates is also a neat psychological trick to make your brain into thinking you have more food than you do. Finally, if you’re making bulk meals for lunches the next day, portion them up before you eat so you cannot go back for seconds.

Tip 5: Fuel

You should still keep track of your calorie intake but do not deprive yourself of vital nutrients. Don’t think of it as “how little can I eat?” but “what’s the best thing I can eat?”, particularly if you exercise regularly. A good example are carbohydrates. Remember, carbohydrates are not the enemy but it’s the right carbs that matter (and of course how much of them). Try to avoid those that are high on the Glycaemic Index. These will raise and lower your blood sugar quickly so you will more likely feel tired through the day. Eating lower GI carbs cause your blood sugar to rise and fall slowly which will keep you fuller for longer and help control your appetite. Get to know the Glycaemic Index so you know what to cut down on. Replacing certain foods with healthier alternatives is also a great way to help not only in keeping your nutrients high, but also in losing weight.

Bonus tip: Obvious but very important!

Alcohol. All I need to say on this is that alcohol contains 7 calories per gram but with zero nutritional value. And when you drink you are more likely to make poor food choices .

Motivational Activewear Reviews

During lockdown, hubby and I had a fantastic fitness regime and we were probably the fittest we’d ever been. During the day from 12-5, we set an alarm every hour and for one minute had to perform a HIIT workout. It was really fun and the kids loved it too. As things started going back to ‘normal’ our enthusiasm wained and we stopped. We had a fantastic summer and I started feeling really blue. I really do rely on those endorphins to get me through. I knew I needed to do something and after reading Nick’s book, I decided to take action. I’ve joined an online community for accountability and every morning at 6am, we log onto zoom and workout together. It is fantastic. The one thing I noticed was seeing other people’s activewear and how motivating it was to look fabulous. So I decided to get reviewing some cool brands and here’s what I found.

Lucy Locket Loves

Their mantra is; Be Happy, Be Healthy, Be Strong. Just looking at their website makes me happy and entices me to get into the gear and get busy. This bright, funky range had my 6am ladies cooing with envy. The material is so soft and stroke-able. It stayed in place throughout my workouts and it genuinely made me feel happy and fun. At that time of the morning you need all the motivation you can get! These threads will 100% boost your mood and make you feel fantastic. I particularly love the leopard print ranges as that’s my jam, but there is literally something for everyone. Take a look and get their Christmas prints ordered before they all sell out!

Crop Tops £17, Rainbow Casual Leggings £16, Wild Spots Active Leggings £33 From Lucy Locket Loves

Badass Mother Runners

I can’t stand boring black running leggings so when I heard from Bev, who set up this company three years ago, my prayers had been answered. Feeling fabulous in running gear is not something I’ve experienced…. until now. Such funky colours and patterns to choose from. The fit is perfect and it absolutely gave me that extra pep as I ran. The top kept me warm while keeping the sweat (I mean glow obvs) at bay and the little thumb loops are an added bonus. I particularly loved the running buff. Mainly because I didn’t know what a running buff was so I was delighted to discover it was a really cool headband that kept my wispy, thinning locks out of my peepers! I am now a bonafide, Badass Mother Runner!

fitness after 40
Hoody £32.50, Leggings £29.95 From Badass Mother Runners

Tentree in Motion

Tentree in Motion is sustainable activewear which plants 10 trees for every item bought…seemingly a poignant choice in light of Cop26. Made from recycled polyester using discarded plastic bottles and Tencel which is a wood pulp fibre. There is a four way stretch for easy movement. I put it to the test that’s for sure. Not sure my boys knew what on earth their mummy was up to mind! This set is beautiful. I felt like a chic ballerina and it totally enhanced my workout. I wanted to keep my posture and stand tall. The fabric certainly does not feel like recycled plastic and just knowing that it is, and the ethics of the company, I enjoyed my workout that little bit more.

In Motion Longline Active Bra £40, In Motion 7/8 Legging in Grey £50 From Tentree

GiJ Fitness Apparel

With the shop recently launched on Facebook, I got to review this fantastic brand and new small business, GiJ Fitness Apparel. I literally felt ready for action when I donned my Dark Camo Set. I felt strong, sturdy and quite frankly sexy as it gave me a cleavage I haven’t seen since 1999! GiJ are passionate about activewear and have created a brand that is fit for purpose. Squat with pride, jump for joy and you will feel strong. I just LOVED the GiJ Original Cap. It’s awesome. So many prints and colours to choose from, you’ll be bootcamp ready before Christmas.

Forest Green & Vivid Red Set £60 From GiJ Fitness Apparel

Fairlie Curved

Stretchy and seamless, this is the perfect work out top for the fuller busted girl. With thick straps and a wider racer back, you can hit your workout routine in confidence knowing that your favourite sports bra is well hidden. The silhouette-shaping style comes in a tubular knit fabric to give you maximum flexibility, performance and comfort. In the same fabric as the vest, these leggings are the stylish but comfortable way to do your workout. The silhouette-shaping style will give you flexibility whether you are running, jogging at the gym or doing a fitness class. Now I am FAR from the fuller busted girl but I felt so supported in this set I didn’t even wear a bra underneath. Quite the juxtaposition yet this brand clearly got it right.

Seamless Ombre Workout Vest £24.99, Seamless Ombre Workout Legging £29.99 From Fairlie Curved

Peachylean

This brand’s message is to empower all women to redefine what being healthy and fit means for them, both physically and emotionally. Their soft-as-butter leggings are high waisted and made with high compression to ensure you feel snug from waist down to hem. Double lined at the bum and tummy to ensure they are squat proof and engineered to support any wobbles! The bralets are double layered with double adjustable shoulder straps, ensuring that you are supported and ready for action. Peachylean teamed up with a partner to work on sustainable, eco-friendly scent to eradicate odours in clothes and that are sensitive to women’s needs. This nano tech – Mica Nanotech Ltd – are disrupting the textile market by providing innovative finishing techniques with high durability and environmental sustainability on performance textiles. You all know I love a bit of animal print. My absolute favourite thing about these leggings is the heart your bum makes when you put your legs together!

Leggings £65, Bralet £34.99 From Peachylean

Dagsmejan

Sleep is proven to play a major role in athletic performance. Dagsmejan and its revolutionary new Recovery Sleepwear line will apparently help you become a better sportsman overnight. They use a breakthrough fabric technology that is scientifically proven to help muscles recover faster & to perform better. I was day eight into my workout program and at the stage where I felt like I’d been kicked in the kidneys when I tried these out. What I liked about this range was all it require me to do was to sleep and I’m actually really good at that. (really not looking forward to those bastard night sweats!). These are honestly the most comfortable sleepwear. I know what’s on my Christmas list this year!

The Dagsmejan recovery line includes t-shirts and shorts for both men & women with sizes ranging from S – 2XL.

fitness after 40
Sleep T-Shirt £73.99, Sleep Shorts £73.99 From Dagsmejan

Modibodi

I was super intrigued to try period pants and was thrilled to trial a pair during my workout. There’s nothing more annoying than a turtle heading tampon or a sliding pad that leaves trails of blood at the sides of your knickers. In full flow, I donned the classic full brief which claims to be pee and period proof. I was concerned about feeling like I was wearing a giant nappy but these thoughts were immediately expunged and I was pleasantly surprised. I felt supported, safe and really comfy. Although nervous for the ‘flood,’ I finished the workout feeling clean, fresh and comfortable. I shower straight after my workout so I rinsed them as directed. At this point, I did feel like a suspect at a crime scene but I knew how much happier the planet would be without all that extra plastic floating around so it was 100% worth it and I would totally recommend giving these a try.

Modibodi®, is modern, protective apparel created to give all bodies more confidence and comfort, and a more sustainable solution to disposable hygiene. Prices ranging from £15.50 to £25 for underwear collections and the swimwear starting at £72.

fitness after 40
Classic Full Brief £25 From Modibodi

I fully concur that there is such a thing as motivational activewear and I’m loving hearing my tribe on the morning zoom coo over all my latest fashions. Who would have thunk such a thing was so exciting! What is your go to fitness attire? What can you see yourself wearing from all the above? Let us know by leaving a comment below or connecting with us on Instagram.

Why am I so stiff and achy in the morning?

Waking up should be a time that’s filled with light and the sound of bird song, but for so many women over 40, the reality is far from this! Indeed, if you’re noticing more and more aches and pains after rolling out of bed, it’s time to do something about them. 
You don’t deserve to feel stiff and achy and like you can’t walk first thing in the morning – you deserve to get out of bed with all the energy you feel inside. To ensure you can live life to the full as you get older, here are some little ways you can reduce stiffness and aching from laying in the same position for 8 hours on end.

Get a Better Mattress and Pillow

stiff and achy

If you’re worried about the way you sleep causing you to feel stiff and achy, it might be time to look into swapping out your mattress and pillows. If you want more support during the night, you may need firmer versions than what you’ve already got. Even if you invest in memory foam, you can still get that bounce from the bed that you really need.

Or maybe you need something a bit softer, or with a few less springs? Take advantage of those 100 day free trials from major mattress companies and see which type works best for you.

See an Osteopath 

stiff and achy

Talking to an Osteopath can do wonders for your sleep/wake cycle. If you experience pain after waking up, but if you tend to wake up throughout the night as well, visiting an Osteopathic Consultancy could be the next best step for you. 

After all, Osteopaths treat joint problems, including pain, to help the body function normally. In doing so, they promote healing, and that can help your whole body to feel more supple, less stiff and achy and more like you! 

And if you want to do away with the stiffness as much as possible, talking to a professional about what treatments would work best for you is a smart move. Better sleep equals more energy, which can lead to a whole host of benefits, and that can all start right here.

Learn to Stretch Properly

stiff and achy

Stretching can do wonders for muscle aches, and they can help your body to loosen up when done regularly. So, after waking up, think about doing about 10 to 15 minutes of stretching every morning and see how you feel. Or even just 5 if you’ve got little time.

You don’t even need to get out of bed! You can do a stretch routine even just laying down; with positions like the Cobra stretch and spine twists, you just need to orientate yourself right on your mattress. You can also sit up and do more movements, and then slowly get yourself to standing. The more you move, the better you’ll feel, even if it is first thing in the morning! 

If you feel stiff after waking, and ache getting out of bed, you don’t have to sleep like this forever!

How do you feel when you wake up in the mornings? Comment below and let us know if your’e stiff and achy in the mornings!

Tried and Tested: The autumn edit + a massive giveaway!

Welcome back to our regular feature at 40 Now What where we hunt down and share with you some of the awesome things that have landed in our inboxes lately! In the name of you – our lovely readers – we have been busy chugging, chowing, nurturing and guinea-pigging ourselves to the max. Read on to find out what has made the cut in our recommendations to you in our autumn edition of Tried and Tested. PLUS there is the chance to win over almost £500 in prizes in our bumper giveaway where you can win a massive selection of the items featured in this edition.

So without further ado, come a little closer and let us tell you about this month’s shining stars because this month we have been….

Eating/drinking

Mockingbird Spirit

Have you also fallen into the habitual 6pm wine trap? It’s time for a replacement. We’ve tried and tested non-alcoholic alternatives. And we’ve hit the jackpot. Mockingbird Spirit is an alcohol FREE, tequila INSPIRED, agave-based SPIRIT. Ideal for making all the margaritas with none of the migraines. Embodying the spirit of the Mockingbird, humbly mimicking the taste of Tequila by using authentic 100% Organic Mexican Blue Weber Agave. A functional & adaptogenic, passionately produced Alcoternative, made with all vegan/ gluten free ingredients to support health and happiness. Feat. Pure Ashwagandha, an adaptogen that benefits mental and physical wellbeing.The latest creation from their team of wellness beverage enthusiasts is the brand new Non-Alcoholic Mexican style Cerveza; Esmeralda, made with real Mockingbird Spirit. 

Mockingbird Spirit, £22.99 Esmeralda, £26.99 for 12. Available from mockingbirdspirit.com

Tuscan Tree

We were so excited to try out this new non alcoholic aperitivo and it didn’t disappoint when we used it for mixing up a Negroni. Infused with the fresh, natural juice of real blood orange juice. The bottle looks awesome in any drinks cabinet. Check out the mocktail menu on their website here and unleash your Italian spirit without the hangover!

Tuscan Tree, £11.99 (70ml bottle.) Available from Amazon, Master of Malt

Bella Italia

You had me at prosecco! Bella Italia is a unique 0% alcohol free sparkling wine made & bottled in the heart of prosecco country in Treviso, Italy. Using revolutionary technology keeps the unpasteurised & micro-filtered must fresh, with nothing added except the carbon dioxide which guarantees that special fizz. The result is a fresh Italian sparkling wine with a delicate flavour, low calorie content (just 46 calories per glass)& always, all importantly, 0% alcohol. Having tried and tested it during Mimosa Thursday, we are not joking when we tell you we couldn’t tell the difference and it was nice not to be tipsy on the school run! (jokes!)

Bella Italia, £9.95. Available from Amazon

Good Fibrations snack bars

How thrilled were we when these little bad boys landed on our desk for us to snaffle. We really struggle around 4pm and these bars are perfect. Designed to support your gut health, they are one of the highest fibre content health bars on the market and provide a third of your recommended 30g daily fibre intake! The bars come in yummy Peanut Butter, Raspberry & Coconut, Apple & Cinnamon, Cocoa & Hazelnut and are gluten-free, high in fibre, dairy-free and totally vegan too.

Good fibrations, £1.30 individually or boxes of 12 in Peanut Butter and Raspberry & Coconut for £15 for 12. Available from The Gut Stuff or Ocado

Jack Link’s High Protein Meat Snacks

I’d always been super curious about beef jerky. In 2019, Jack Link’s launched an improved recipe for its delicious Beef Jerky range, delivering a juicier and even more tender bite, responding to consumer demands following rigorous taste tests. I love the texture of it and its salty goodness. The full range is made of 100% lean beef, is high protein and all products are under 80kcals per portion. The Beef Jerky currently comes in three delicious flavours including Original, Sweet & Hot and Teriyaki. Perfect for afternoon snacking, on-the-go refuelling at home or at work.

12 x Bags, £12.99 from jacklinks.online or £3 per bag. Available from Ocado

Looking after our bodies & minds

tried and tested

The Leg Master® 

Pelvic floor issues? Have you got 1 minute a day? That’s 60 seconds ladies! We’ve got you. This fantastic bit of kit uses your own body weight to improve pelvic floor health through classic strength training and deliver a full body workout, and also improves posture.  Pelvic Floor health is essential not only for women who have had babies – but for everyone (men included!), and one beneficial side effect of The Leg Master® Total Body is that the muscles used to control ‘incontinence’ are strengthened, and tightened. Watch me in action here!

The Leg Master® , £89.95. Available from legmaster.co.uk

Trade to Aid pads

Feeling conscious of your period waste but haven’t yet made the switch to reusable pads. It’s not as scary as you might think! If you’re thinking of making the switch, we highly recommend taking the plunge with Trade To Aid reusable sanitary pads which come with everything you need to be kinder to the planet when Aunty Flo comes to visit. Think bright colours, a variety of pads to suit your flow during your period and the inclusion of a much needed matching waterproof storage bag and an absorbancy level which was absolutely spot on. Plus for every pack of pads you buy from Trade To Aid, they give a free pack to someone in need in a refugee camp to help the fight against period poverty. We’re almost excited to get our next period so we can use them again!

Trade To Aid Reusable Sanitary pads, £29.95 for a set. Available from tradetoaid.org

Beautifying with

Beauty products from Asia

We all know those beautiful women from Japan and Korea have the most to-die-for skin and now it’s time for us to get a piece of that pie! Korean beauty giant Atomy understands the importance of self-care, which is why they have created an online shopping mall that encapsulates everything to make you feel amazing from the outside in. We are huge fans of their multi award-winning Absolute CellActive Ampoule. Think of it like your favourite serum – only more powerful, much like a boot camp for your skin. Repairing, hydrating, brightening and anti-ageing, this is your secret weapon in times of skin dullness, breakouts, inflammation and irritation. Or whenever your skin is not looking its best.

Time to hop over to Japan. Hada Labo Tokyo™ -Japan’s number one selling skincare brand – is now available in the UK and we are massively crushing on it.  Formulated for dry and dehydrated skin, this super skincare brand is designed to boost hydration by supplementing your skin with hyaluronic acid. We can not live a day without Hada Labo Tokyo™’s Anti-Ageing Super Hydrator Lotion or Wrinkle Corrector Eye and Mouth Cream which together with their Anti Aging Sheet Mask has left us looking about ten years younger!

Absolute CellActive Ampoule, £36. Available from www.atomy.com/uk. Stock up on Japan Hada Labo Tokyo™’s range at Superdrug.

Beeutiful B-Rose Facial Balm

There is something incredibly comforting and soothing about using a facial balm, especially at the end of a long hard day. And that’s why Beeutiful’s B-Rose Facial Balm has become part of our bedtime beauty ritual. Know for creating natural handmade skincare so natural you could eat it, Beeutiful’s B-Rose Facial Balm is a luxurious blend of specially selected Jojoba, Rosehip & Macadamia oils combined within a beeswax base and the addition of delicate Rose Absolute to refresh, regenerate & tone.  It smells amazing, transporting us nightly a gloriously scented rose-filled relaxing place. But the real plus? Waking up to an fabulously nourished looking visage every morning!

Beeutiful B-Rose Facial Balm, £18. Available from from Beeutiful

ThickTails

So many of us are challenged by fine, thin hair and have tried so many different brands over the years. With perimenopause on the horizon, we were keen to try something new to help us battle the trestles. This range does not disappoint. ThickTails works to stimulate new hair growth by:

  • Improving the quality of the keratin structures formed.
  • Stimulating collagen and fibre renewal.
  • Reducing hair inflammation around the hair shaft.
  • Keeping the scalp at the optimal pH balance for healthy hair to grow.
  • Providing essential active ingredients to protect hair from free radicals and oxidants. 

Check us out using it via Instagram here

ThickTails Stimulating Shampoo, £17 Stimulating Conditioner, £17 Thickening Spray, £17. Available from Thicktails.com

Wearing

Cozi Hoodie

Close your eyes and imagine being swarmed by 100s of fluffy puppies… and that friends is that it feels like to be wearing a Cozi Hoodie. Made with sherpa fleece and lannel fleece to keep you warm and cushy so you don’t have to worry about the cold, we are pretty sure that this is the cosiest, comfiest and warmest we’ve ever felt whilst being engulfed in our Cozi Hoodie. Think taking comfort with you anywhere – nana naps on the couch, alfresco drinks with friends, cuddling with your pooch or partner – the options are endless!

Cozi Hoodie, £59. Available from cozihoodie.com

PLAINANDSIMPLE T-Shirts

This is a new ‘circular’ company. The slogan here is Made to be Re-Made. They offer free returns and a lifetime guarantee, that when they’re worn out, you can send them back, get £6.00 store credit, we then break them down and turn them into new ones. How awesome is that? They are perfect for autumn, wearing under leather jackets or styled in many different ways.

T-shirts, from £24. Available from plainandsimple.com

Feather and Bloom headbands

There’s nothing we love more than a strategically placed headband for elevating an every day look or dustract from greasy hair. Our go-to is this gorgeous guinea fowl feather headband from Father and Bloom. Simple, striking, elegant and easy to pair with so many different outfits, plus this is the most comfortable hairband you’ll find. 

Spotty Headband, £30. Available from Feather and Bloom

Tillet’s Clothing Cape

We are big believers in the power of accessorising over at 40 Now What. Our recent crush? This block patterned knitted cape from Tillets Clothing. Perfect for adding a bit of style over your standard jeans and boots look, but also super flattering and incredibly versatile making it the perfect layering piece for the season.

Block Patterned Knitted Cape, £30. Available from Tilllets Clothing

Vionic Shoes

These shoes are divine. I’m living in my Cecily ankle boots this autumn. This is an orthotic footwear brand which is loved by 40+ women, both for its style and also the fact that every pair of shoes comes with in-build comfort technology, which cups the sole, provides arch support and cushioning under the ball of the foot. We had a sneak peek at their Spring/Summer 22 collection and have to say ladies, your feet are in for a treat!

Ankle boots, £130 Available from Vionic shoes

Nurturing our homes with

tried and tested

Papershades

Fabulous, unique and, quite frankly, awesome. These are, as the creator herself describes are, ‘a very different lampshade.’ Ros is an artist who specialises in paper collage. Choose from a variety of collections including florals, places, culinary, literary, nostalgia or large. There’s a handy construction guide and easy to follow instructions so you can easily enjoy your beautiful papershades, perfect to bring some snazz to any room.

Papershades, £30. Available from papershades.co.uk

OceanSaver EcoDrops

This is a 100% plastic free, plant-based cleaning brand, on a mission to get everyone to banish single use plastic from home cleaning routines to preserve our oceans for future generations. They’ve taken a stand, by making really effective, plastic-free, plant-based home cleaning solutions, with all the power and none of the pollution. Unlike conventional cleaning brands, they don’t ship water. Simply drop the cleaner into the bottle, add water, shake & clean. Et voila!

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Hangovers in your 40s

Come round for a home cooked speciality spaghetti bolognese I said. It will be very chilled and lovely I said. We have some gorgeous red wine to accompany our grown up, civilised meal. How this descended into tequila shots at 11pm and toilet bowl hugging for a full 24 hours was entirely my fault and one I regretted as I was left quivering in a hot bath 12 hours later gingerly attempting to nibble a banana in a sad attempt to resurrect my soul. Herewith was my very abrupt and uncomfortable introduction to hangovers in your 40s.

Hanging

I kid you not, it’s been over 10 years since my last stonker of a hangover. I could never really handle alcohol and, to be honest, it’s a blessing in disguise. My body simply rejects it and although unpleasant, it means I’m a cheap date! It can be rather annoying. Once me and my bestie were drinking homemade woo woos on the tube en-route to Road House in Covent Garden circa 1999 when I unceremoniously puked the minute I walked in. We hastily left and that was the end of the night. I’ve since taken to enjoying one glass of something expensive, organic and fabulous.

Feeling somewhat embarrassed at the damage I’d done to my body, I called on expert advice so you guys don’t have to suffer the same indignity. At this point I would like to say a huge thank you to my incredibly supportive husband who, by the way woke up fresh as a daisy, went to the shop to buy me a Lucozade Sport which I sipped with such trepidation. My children were given a real life lesson into the after effects of alcohol that day so at least there’s one positive!

hangovers in your 40s

Ask the experts

Claire Snowdon-Darling is an alternative health expert, presenter and educator. As a menopause and hormones expert, Head of The College of Functional Wellness and founder of kinesiology clinic, Balanced Wellness. I asked her to explain what happens to our bodies during a hangover.

‘There are a few things going on when we are detoxing. Firstly we are dehydrated so making sure you drink lots of water. If you can’t stomach water on it’s own add some mint or cucumber or sometimes having sparkling water helps.

Next the liver is busy breaking down toxins into non-toxic substances (this is called Phase 1 detoxing) then trying to eliminate them (Phase 2 detoxing). To effectively do this the liver requires amino acids AKA protein and sulphur AKA green veg! Carbohydrates won’t help you here even though you are probably craving them. This is when it’s best to plan ahead and have some food ready to go in the morning. Eggs is a good place to start, ideally with something green to go with them like spinach. 

When we drink alcohol we flood our body with carbohydrates that quickly turn to sugar which means our blood sugars spike. What goes up must go down and when the blood sugars plummet we can get all sorts of symptoms such as nausea, feeling shaky and headaches. To avoid this avoid having chips or toast at the end of the night but instead plump for some protein. Yep, that kebab is actually quite a good idea if you avoid the pitta bread and chips. “End of the night protein” can really stop a lot of the symptoms the next day!’

Dr Sarah Yelland is a 40-something mum of twins, health and wellness coach and General Practitioner specialising in Women’s health, Menopause and lifestyle medicine.

Dr Yelland agrees that as she gets older, she’s less able to handle her drink. The intensity and duration of the hangover gets worse too.

The hunt for the hangover remedy

‘Sadly the ‘cure’ shall remain an urban myth- it just doesn’t exist- and I hate to be a party pooper if you are already suffering the effects of the night before, but prevention is definitely better than cure.

Most people thinks hangovers are all about the dehydration but that’s not the whole picture, it’s a little more complex.  When the body metabolises alcohol it produces chemicals and enzymes which stress out our cells, make our blood sugar go wonky, cause inflammation, oxidative stress and pump out hangover causing free radicals that need mopping up. Overwhelm the system and you’ve got your classic head pumping, stomach churning, brain fog of fatigue.

So what can you do?

hangovers in your 40s

Here comes the science bit

Before you go out

  • Eat- food especially carbs & fats will slow your absorption of alcohol- giving your body a chance to keep on top of the alcohol processing, and get rid of the hangover inducing toxins, before it is overwhelmed.

Whilst you are out

  • Avoid darker drinks – these contain natural chemicals called Cogeners- these are a cause of inflammation of our blood vessels and for many of us these will make your hangover feel that much worse.
  • Drink soft drinks in between, and preferably not the fizzy variety. Fizz speeds up the absorption of the alcohol- and like I said above, we want to Slow. It. Down.

The morning after

  • Get hydrated- you will definitely be pee’ing a lot more, add that to sickness and even diarrhoea and dehydration will play a part in how rubbish you feel. 
  • Eat breakfast (if you can)- a healthy hearty and balanced breakfast will help not only maintain blood sugar levels- a cause of fatigue and brain drain if they drop low- but also if you can get some colourful fruit and veg, will provide a healthy dose of antioxidants to mop up those nasties.
  • Deal with the inflammation- anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen or aspirin will always be one of my go to lifesavers.
  • Settle your stomach- antacids like Rennies, Gaviscon or Nexium (esomeprazole) can help you not only ease symptoms but allow you to eat and drink.
  • Caffeine- okay so this doesn’t really deal with the hangover, you might just feel more alert after a lovely cup.
  • Move- ramping up your metabolism will help to fire up the systems to burn it off (just don’t over do it- remember the systems is already under stress
  • Sleep- sleep is our most restorative state, the body needs time to repair and focus all of its stress blasting systems on the effects of the alcohol metabolites.
hangovers in your 40s

Finally supplements

I know many of us want a “natural” or alternative approach to conventional medicines. Although research on supplements is limited, and the science gets a bit grey,  a few studies suggest the following might help reduce symptoms… and lets be honest after some hangovers every little helps.

  • Zinc
  • B Vitamins
  • Red Ginseng
  • Prickly Pear extract
  • Ginger
  • Borage Oil (from the seeds of starflower)

Let’s be honest the only real way to get away without hangovers is alcohol in moderation, moderation, moderation.’

What are your tried and tested hangover cures? Let us know by commenting below. Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram!