Perimenopause & Menopause Q&A: Summer issues and symptoms Part 2

Eileen Durward
Ask Eileen

24 June 2024

Q&A 1. I sunburn more easily now than I did before. Is this due to menopause?

This is a very common one. Unfortunately, as your oestrogen levels start to fall it can affect the elasticity and also the thickness of the skin, so you become much more sensitive to heat, to sunshine, and you can end up burning much more quickly or much more severely than you would normally have done.

What can help?

You need to be much more careful in the sun. I also tend to recommend a natural sunscreen, if possible, especially if your skin is very sensitive and you get a lot of itchiness, hives, or prickly heat.

But the important thing to be aware of is that we do need sunshine to manufacture vitamin D in our skin, and one of the things I found over the years is that vitamin D deficiency, especially here in the UK, seems to be on the increase. We're spending less time in the sun with the result that we're making less vitamin D, and that can cause a whole raft of issues in perimenopause and menopause.

So, if possible, try and get a little bit of sun exposure without the sun cream on if you can. What I tend to do is go out mid-morning. If I'm doing gardening or going for a walk then I get my daily dose of sunshine for about half an hour before I then protect myself either with sun cream or by putting on a shirt or a t-shirt or a sun hat.

So just remember, we've got to balance protecting our skin against making sure we don’t end up with vitamin D deficiency.

Remember to stay hydrated as well. If your skin is thinner, you're going to need to keep it much more hydrated. Keep in mind the difference between a prune and a plum! A prune is just a very, very dried plum! So, you want to keep your skin nice and plump.

Other important factors are vitamin C and healthy fats, which are needed for good skin maintenance. So, make sure that you're getting enough of these in your daily diet to help with skin repair and regeneration.

Q&A 2. Why am I so tired during summer?

Fatigue and discomfort due to the heat are the main things that will make you feel extra tired during the summer. Heat will drain us of energy and, if we're already a little bit tired, then we're going to feel that bit more tired right through the day.

If it's hot at night then you're possibly going to get more night sweats. It's also going to be much more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep when you're really, really hot, and this can obviously contribute to fatigue the next day.

The other thing to remember too is that if you are dehydrated, which is a big issue during the summer months, it's really important as the temperature goes up to increase your water intake. If you're dehydrated during the summer months, your bladder is going to suffer more during the night. Your urine is going to become much more acidic, which can then irritate the bladder lining. So, you may find that when it’s hot, you're having to get up twice as much during the night, which disrupts your sleep. Drinking less, which you may think will help reduce night time loo visits, will actually make it worse, as urine becomes even more concentrated.

What can help?

For this particular one, avoid being out in the heat for too long. Don't lie on a sunbed for hours and hours because it's just going to totally drain you. Make sure you get some kind of shade. Drink loads and loads of water, and remember that things like tea, coffee and alcohol don't count. You need to have a good top-up of plain water every single day.

You might find having a fan going in your bedroom helps you to sleep better.

Q&A 3. Lots of my symptoms seem worse just now. What could be causing this?

There are lots of things that can happen to cause this. You might find that your skin is getting dry or itchy. Your night sweats are worse. Anxiety, headaches, muscle aches and pains, and even twitches and tics can increase, and again a lot of that is often to do with dehydration. That will affect all these symptoms and make them worse, so just make sure you really increase your water intake. Drink little and often during the day and, if you're having issues at night, have a small shot glass of warm water just before you jump into bed.

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Try and prioritise relaxation too, because if you're more stressed, symptoms will get worse.

Q&A 4. My symptoms are worse when I am away on holiday, why?

This is for those of you who go away on holiday and think, “Great, I'm going abroad, I'm going somewhere for a week, I'm going to relax, I've got no cooking, cleaning, or anything to do!” and suddenly your symptoms get worse.

There are a couple of extra things here just to be aware of, even if you're going on holiday to relax. I love travelling. Stick me on a plane and I will go anywhere, but it can be really stressful even if you're a hardened traveller.

You've got to get to the airport, you've got to get through security, you've got to get on the plane. There's the physical stress of being on a plane. You're at altitude, and you're going to get more dehydrated when you're on a flight. Then, when we're on holiday we tend to eat lots of different foods that we wouldn't eat at home, and we tend to drink more alcohol, and we don't give ourselves a break. So, all of these things can affect the body.

The sudden temperature change, the sudden change in the tempo of daily life, and all the other things that are going on can affect the whole hormonal system within our body - called the endocrine system. If there's any extra pressure on the endocrine system, that will affect your hormones; it will affect your nervous system; and it will affect your blood sugar control.

So, all of these things can go awry just at the point when we want to relax.

What can help?

It's really important to look after yourself well on holiday. Again, drink lots of water to try and offset things like alcohol. Also, one of the things I've learned to my cost the hard way is that a lot of holiday places will use cheap cooking oil for cooking food, and if you're eating that daily it can upset your digestion and end up giving you diarrhoea and a holiday tummy. Try to avoid fried foods and stick to really good olive oils if you can.

I hope you found this one helpful. There's a whole raft of things that can go wrong during the summer so if any of you have any more suggestions or questions, please share them with me. I love the read them.

Until next time, take care and have a lovely week.

Missed last week's blog?

In last week's blog, I answered 3 common summer-related issued and symptoms, including hayfever, night sweats and hives. Missed it? Head over to it here:

Perimenopause & Menopause Q&A: 3 summer issues and symptoms

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