Read the full video transcript below
Hello, and welcome to my weekly video blog. And today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I’m going to talk about the menopause and how it can affect your lungs and your breathing. Now, this is not a particularly common menopause symptom, or so we thought. But we’ve been quite surprised by the number of women that are actually contacting us with lung issues. And it was also very interesting that just recently, there was a major article in one of the UK’s daily newspapers all about lungs and the menopause.
So how exactly does the menopause affect your lungs and your breathing?
Well, your lungs are basically made up of mucous membranes. And mucous membranes in the body are membranes that are wet and that produce mucous. Now this also includes areas such as the vagina, the mouth, your nose, your eyes, and your digestive tract. And during the menopause, it’s known that falling oestrogen can actually affect the mucous production in these areas and dry them out. And we know that vaginal dryness is a huge issue in the menopause. And a lot of women also tend to get dry mouth and dry or irritated eyes as well. But we didn’t realise just how big an impact this drying, if you like, can affect the lungs.
Now, lungs, if you imagine a big sponge, and your lungs are full of all these little areas that expand and contract when you breathe. So you need the muscle tissue, if you like, to be able to expand very easily, to contract. It also needs to be very mucousy, if you like, in order to help the transportation of oxygen from the lung surface into the blood stream.
Now, if these areas start to dry up, then the capacity of the lungs to expand actually decreases. So as I said before, if you imagine a sponge, if a sponge is nice and wet, you can squeeze it really tight, and it will then bounce back very, very quickly. But if you leave a sponge to dry, in the side of the bath or the shower, and it goes hard, then that ability to contract and expand just doesn’t exist at all.
What symptoms can this cause?
So drying up of the mucous membranes of the lungs can actually affect the way that you breathe, it will restrict your breathing. Now, this can lead to queasiness. It can lead to the fact that when you start exercising, you get breathless very, very quickly. You might find that instead of going for a really good hike, you can only manage halfway down the road, and then you start to feel your lungs constricting.
You can end up getting asthma. A lot of women in the menopause suddenly find that they’re diagnosed with asthma, although it may be more to do with the menopause, but obviously, that’s something you need to talk about with your doctor.
If you’ve had asthma as a child, then very often, in the menopause, you will find that it can return, and any breathing issues that you had, maybe a long time ago, because the lungs are already in a weakened state, once this drying out starts to occur, then these conditions can actually come back. And for those of you that smoke, this is a really a good time to actually try and think about quitting, because if you smoke and you’re approaching the menopause, then your lungs are already in a damaged state, and you may find that smoking will make this worse as well.
It can also, for some women, you might not necessarily get the breathlessness or you might find that you can only shallow-breath, but you might find that you might end up getting a bit more coughs when you get colds, because the falling oestrogen can weaken our immune system, so if your immune system is a little bit weaker, you would be more prone to picking up infections. And if your lungs are starting to get a little bit weaker, then the infections may actually show up in the lungs as well.
Get it checked by your doctor
So if you find that you are getting very breathless, if you can’t exercise as much as you could before, if you find that you’re having to catch your breath, or you’re getting that kind of wheezy feeling in the chest, the first thing to do is get this checked out by your doctor. But tell them that you’re in the menopause, and tell them that you have actually heard that lung issues can occur in the menopause, because what we’re finding is that a lot of women are going to the doctor in the menopause with menopause-linked issues, and they are not being picked up as being caused by menopause, and you can end up getting the wrong treatment. It’s really important to let your doctor know that you’re approaching menopause or that you’re actually in the menopause.
What can you do?
What can you do for yourself if you want to protect yourself against this or you want to improve the conditions?
Sea Buckthorn oil
There is a supplement called sea buckthorn oil that’s supposed to really help with keeping the mucous membranes in the body well-lubricated, and I recommend it a lot for vaginal dryness. So it’s certainly worth trying to keep your lungs in shape.
Breathe deeply & drink lots of water
And it’s this whole thing of you use them or lose them, and I know it sounds a bit silly, you know, remember to keep breathing. But we breathe, a lot of the time, we’re not aware that we’re actually breathing. We can breathe very shallowly, a lot of the time. And I know I do if I’m really concentrating on something. So it’s really important to practice that deep breathing on a regular basis during the day. And it doesn’t have to be for long, just a couple of minutes of really slow, deep breathing, to make sure that you’re exercising the lungs. Get out and about. Get your heart rate up, and try and keep the lungs well exercised regularly. And remember the water, if you’re getting lots of hot flushes or night sweats, then dehydration could be an issue, and that might also be a factor as well.
Until next week...
So I hope this has given you a little bit of insight into one of the less common symptoms of the menopause. Now, I look forward to seeing you next week for another edition of A.Vogel Talks Menopause.