Don’t worry this isn’t going to be a lecture on why smoking is bad for you…well maybe it is. I want to focus on why smoking is particularly bad for a perimenopausal and menopausal woman.
Several studies have shown that women who smoke are more likely to go into menopause about a year earlier than those who don’t smoke (1, 2). The reason why this occurs isn’t truly known but it is believed that the chemicals in cigarettes damage the cells in the ovaries and also changes how we respond to oestrogen (3).
There have been numerous studies to show that cigarette smoking can not only increase the risk of hot flushes but also increases the severity of those hot flushes. The reason behind this, again, isn’t really known but it seems that smoking lowers circulating oestrogen (4). It also increases norepinephrine (one of our stress hormones) which is somehow involved with the regulation of temperature in our brain (5).
Another study found that women smokers are 19% more susceptible to develop breast cancer after menopause than women who don’t smoke after menopause.
Smoking definitely ages you as the chemicals oxidise the skin and collagen; smoking may also contribute to weight gain during peri/menopause,
Giving up smoking can affect our mood and our weight – putting weight on is typical and maybe the smoking is keeping you from biting your partners head off at the moment. I have many clients tell me that smoking is their ‘stress relief’ or it’s their treat, or ‘self care’. I’m going to offend some of you now because that’s the biggest pile of rubbish I have ever heard.
Smoking has been shown to actually increase stress hormones both cortisol and noradrenaline. Smoking is a stressor to the body. It affects insulin levels in the body and in turn makes the body make cortisol instead of oestrogen (which is already low in smokers) and progesterone. It also increases androgens (male hormones) which can make us pimply, angry and hairy (6, 7,8).
Smoking also increases the risk of osteoporosis and heart disease both of which we are already at risk of after menopause because of the lowered protective effect of estrogen.
To me smoking is not a stress relief or a self- care treat. If you truly cared about yourself, if you truly saw yourself as the beautiful soul that you are then wouldn’t be killing yourself one puff at a time. That is not a form of self-care.
Let me also make this clear, I used to smoke…many years ago. So I know how addictive it is. I know how hard it is to give it up and I also know the urge never really goes away but it can be done.
There are so many other ways of dealing with stress – stress relief shouldn’t be adding to your stress levels. Yoga, breathing techniques, Qi gong, Pilates, afternoon baths, reading books, going for walks in nature – they are free, they are beautiful self-care treats and they really do reduce stress.
And think of the money you would save – you could actually buy a massage or a facial or even our programme :).
If you want to quit and you are in NZ go to Smokefree NZ for help: https://www.smokefree.org.nz/help-advice/stop-smoking-services