We sit outside overlooking the sea. Twelve women in our 40s and 50s, discussing our journeys to the East Sussex coast. We’ve travelled from across the country and have one thing in common: we are all peri-menopausal and have come to the three-day Menoheaven retreat at Florence House at Seaford.
It is run by Tania Smith (nutritionist Amelia Freer’s PA) and Paula Gallardo (a yoga teacher and doula who also co-runs the Refugee Community Kitchen in Calais), and their vision is to ‘support, empower and inform’.
I’ve just hit the big five-o and for the past three years, my periods have been random and heavy, and I’ve had fractured sleep, which has resulted in a semi-permanent state of jet lag. I have night sweats, am often anxious and blindsided by tears and have to work hard to stop my girth from thickening. But I’m lucky. I don’t have some of the worst symptoms, like loss of libido, hot flushes or osteoporosis. Yet. So far I’ve avoided taking HRT, but I’m looking for alternative remedies. I’m keen to embrace this new life stage and hoping the retreat will help.
There are massages, pre-breakfast yoga, and a comedy night where we all dress up and laugh ourselves silly. But for me, the biggest revelation is a talk by medical herbalist Julia Behrens, who recommends cramp bark for period pain, lemon balm to calm anxiety and red sage for ight sweats – which, during the weeks following the retreat, take the edge off my vicious hormones.
The delicious, organic plant-based meals by nutritionist and chef Daphne Lambert are designed to promote good gut health, which she believes is key to maintaining healthy bones and reducing the chances of osteoporosis. She recommends lots of calcium in the form of kale and broccoli, combined with magnesium-rich food (almonds and pulses) to help with its absorption.
It may sound simple, but it’s often hard to remember to put ourselves first, and after years of hormone hell, three days at Menoheaven has helped me to re-evaluate the menopause as a gateway to a new beginning.
The next Menoheaven is from 5 to 7 December. The all-inclusive price is £550. One-to-one sessions with Julia Behrens cost £50; mamaheaven.org