How a beloved dog and a simple magnet saved this woman from the menopause
PUBLISHED: 08:30 02 August 2015
Could wearing a magnet be an answer to menopause symptoms? Sheena Grant spoke to a woman who thinks so and hit on the idea thanks to her beloved dog, Bob.
For Sheila Wenborne, the menopause came “like a bolt out of the blue”.
She had never had children so the benchmarks of age that apply to many women’s lives did not apply to her.
By the time she hit her early 50s, she was suffering. But she had no idea why.
“Believe it or not, when I crawled out of bed every morning with my joints hurting, I thought it was probably a virus,” she says. “And when I started to put on weight, which was a complete shock to me because I had always been a skinny minnie, I thought I was just eating and drinking too much.
“It was only when I started to get depressed, short tempered and miserable, became tearful at the drop of a hat and lacked libido, that I thought something might be wrong with me.”
Sheila, who lives at St Lawrence Bay, near Bradwell on Sea, booked an appointment with her GP, only to be told it was her age.
“The doctor said I should buy myself some bigger knickers and a book on coping with the menopause,” she says. “I was mortified. Menopause - I’m not that old. How dare she! I left the surgery feeling like rubbish and burst into tears.”
Despite her initial reaction, Sheila followed the doctor’s advice. She also changed her diet, wore loser clothing, drank so much water than she spent much of the day in the bathroom and tried to avoid stress.
“It helped a bit,” she says. “But I was still fighting every night with the duvet due to hot flushes. I’d lost all capacity for concentration, I couldn’t remember things, which made me feel really stupid and dippy, I became more miserable and moody. I felt old and ugly and drove everybody I cared about mad.”
Other ways of coping with the menopause
The menopause is caused by a change in the balance of hormones.
A reduction in oestrogen causes physical and emotional symptoms, including hot flushes, night sweats and mood swings.
NHS advice is that medication isn’t always needed to treat symptoms. Many women find that making simple diet and lifestyle changes can help but treatment may be recommended in the case of severe symptoms that interfere with day-to-day life.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) helps relieve menopausal symptoms by replacing oestrogen. Doctors say HRT can also reduce the risk of osteoporosis and cancer of the colon and rectum. However, long-term use is rarely recommended, and bone density will decrease rapidly after HRT is stopped.
Combined HRT slightly increases the risk of developing breast cancer, womb cancer, ovarian cancer and stroke. Most experts agree that if HRT is used on a short-term basis (no more than five years), benefits outweigh risks.
Doctors recommend eating a healthy, balanced diet and taking plenty of regular exercise. Combining aerobic activities, such as walking, with strength and flexibility exercises will also help you maintain bone strength and muscle mass.
So Sheila consulted a different doctor and begged for something, anything, to make her feel like her old self.
“HRT was the suggestion,” she says. “Little clear patches, which became psychologically demeaning as they served as a constant reminder that I was getting old. They worked to a certain extent. My joints didn’t seem to ache as much and I wasn’t quite as forgetful, but I blew up like a balloon. Every day my bust seemed to grow by another cup size and became extremely tender and sore. In fact, I was convinced that one day my boobs would explode and I would be catapulted across the room.
“My mood swings were still there. My husband started to wear a tin hat for protection against low-flying objects and I became, according to my mum - the one person who loves me no matter what - hateful. It was not good.
“Then when it hit the news that HRT could increase my chances of breast cancer I knew I had to find an alternative.”
That alternative was inspired by Sheila’s beloved collie, Bob, and it was to prove so successful that it changed her life in more ways than one. “Bob was a rescue dog and I loved him dearly,” she says. “Ironically, we used to call him Fearless Bob, the commando dog, because whenever there was any trouble he would run for cover and only emerge again when the coast was clear. He had quite a personality. But at the age of nine his back legs gave way and he was diagnosed with arthritis. The vet suggested it might be time to let him go but I wouldn’t hear of it and vowed to think of something.
“A few days later I came across a pop-up shop selling magnetic collars for dogs so I bought one. I rushed home and gave Bob his new collar, fingers crossed. Within three days Bob looked a lot brighter, within three weeks he was walking normally and when a few months later we moved to the coast, Bob saw the beach and ran up and down it like a puppy. Bob wore the collar everyday for the rest of his natural life. He died at the grand old age of 13.”
As Sheila wrestled with her own problems, it occurred to her that perhaps a magnet would work for her too.
“I was having a conversation with my mum about it, talking about age and I said, ‘perhaps I should try a magnet too. It seemed to work for the dog’. I bought one from a pharmacy and put it on my underwear. It was half an inch wide and quite heavy but the effect was amazing. The first thing I and my family noticed was that I was in a much better mood. After just a few days I felt more positive and was certainly much happier.
“Within a few weeks I realised that I didn’t ache when I got out of bed in the morning and I seemed to have developed a bit of a spring in my step. My husband’s jokes had become funny again and made me giggle when just a few months earlier I would have happily smashed his face in for just trying to make me laugh. Within a short while the night sweats stopped. I got rid of the HRT patches altogether.
“I felt better, more confident, I lost that bloated feeling and very importantly I felt sexy and more attractive than I had done in years. I wanted to embrace things again. To be honest, I felt healthier, happier and 10 years younger.”
The only thing Sheila wasn’t happy with was the appearance of the magnet she was using. A friend in Germany told her how popular magnets were there and suggested she get in touch with a company selling attractive magnet jewellery that was then virtually unknown in the UK.
Earlier this year, Sheila set up her own company, Aura3, (www.aura3.co.uk) to bring the benefits she says she has reaped from these magnets to others.
And she’s far from alone in swearing by magnets as a way of dealing with menopausal symptoms. Singer Belinda Carlisle reportedly turned to them for hot flushes she was experiencing. “Within 48 hours, I went from having 30 to 40 hot flushes to having none at all. I felt like the old Belinda again — in fact better than that,” she has been quoted as saying.
But there appears to be little robust evidence about the effectiveness or otherwise of magnets in relieving menopausal symptoms.
One magnet manufacturer says that when more than 500 women tried its device, 50 to 70% reported reduced irritability and improved sleep, and more than a third said they had fewer hot flushes after a month of wearing the magnet day and night. But some have cast doubt on the reliability of this study because it lasted only three months and it was possible there was a strong placebo effect.
The British Menopause Society, meanwhile, says there is “little scientific evidence that complementary and alternative therapies can help menopausal symptoms or provide the same benefits as conventional therapies”.
In the US, however, research at the University of Virginia has found evidence to suggest the healing power of magnets in cases of injury.
Three years after she first started using them, Sheila, now 56, is adamant magnets have worked for her and countless other women who have contacted her.
“My message now to all of the women out there who are suffering is why not try this? You won’t feel the effects overnight, it could take a couple of months but you will feel better,” she says.