A Healing Journey to Menopause with Pamela Windle

With a psychology and sports science degree, certified health coach Pamela Windle, 57, worked as a personal trainer for more than a decade before switching careers to work with individuals managing alcohol dependence. For much of her adult life, she lived a healthy lifestyle and sought to model the embodiment of wellness for her clients.

After developing a chronic health condition at age 46, Pamela was essentially homebound for the next several years. She spent much of that time in virtual education mode, learning about functional nutrition and women’s hormonal health. She was amazed to learn about various non-pharmaceutical options for improving menopause transition that weren’t being shared with women. Even as she struggled with her own health, she made a personal commitment and refocused her professional endeavors to use her voice to make the menopause journey better for women.

Down but not out

In 2012 at age 46, Pamela wasn’t thinking about menopause and didn’t really know what perimenopause was. She was still getting her period and wasn’t experiencing any distressing symptoms that can come with menopause transition. What she was experiencing, however, was a flu-like virus that lingered for weeks and only worsened as time passed. She became ill to the point where she couldn’t return to work for more than a month. And when she did go in to work, she was only able to work part-time.

“I would go for a day, then have to take a day off. This continued for another few months. Throughout 2012 and into 2013, I’d have times when I didn’t feel well for seemingly no reason.”  

After six months and several visits to the GP for recurring fatigue and a painful throat, she was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Initially, Pamela was in denial and thought she could rely on her personal trainer and hypnotherapist background to overcome the immobilizing challenges she was experiencing.

“I thought, ‘Oh no, I haven’t got that. I’m really fit.’ I’d been a personal trainer. I was really healthy and a generally positive person,” she says. “And at the time, because of my training as a hypnotherapist, I believed that overcoming most of life’s challenges was mind over matter.”

However, the fatigue was unrelenting and unpredictable despite her positive mindset and commitment to healthy living. In 2014, Pamela wound up losing her job with the National Health Service (NHS) due to her illness. She was housebound for the next five years.

“During that time from 2014 to 2018, I was just ill. I’d lost my income, sold my house, and was living off the equity to fund myself. It was a scary time… Things were going out, but nothing was coming in.”

Limited in what she could do outside – or inside her home, for that matter – it was during that time a friend suggested that she check out some Facebook groups about women, aging, and menopause. Pamela hadn’t necessarily been tracking her experience with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome against any menopause symptoms. Still, she had witnessed her eldest sister, by four years, experience a pretty bad hot flash (she recalls water “pouring out of her body”) in 2014 while dealing with their father’s passing. Her sister was 52 at the time. 

“I remember thinking, ‘So this is the menopause!” Then the shock set in, “I thought, ‘Oh, my God. I’m only four years younger. This is going to be me.”

She says that’s when her interest in perimenopause began.

Down but not out…

Pamela read several books and was invited to join a group, which quickly led to her enrolling in a virtual training course about perimenopause and menopause. She was astonished to learn how many of the symptoms that women struggle with during menopause transition can be modified through nutrition, lifestyle, and certain plant-based supplements.

Having been a personal trainer, Pamela thought she understood what nutrition was. However, she wanted to know more after learning about functional nutrition through a webinar she’d seen with American integrative specialist Jessica Drummond DCN, CNS, PT, and NBC-HW.

I thought, ‘How come nobody knows about this? How come no one is shouting at the top of a hill saying you do not have to suffer.” 

Pamela wanted to shout about it, but she was still unwell. Driven to know more about functional nutrition and how it might be integrated into her client work, she took a big gamble that ultimately paid off.

“It’s 2016, and I’m moving beyond the Facebook groups and starting to educate myself. And the information was just amazing! I wanted to know more,” she recalls enthusiastically.

With $10,000 left from the sale of her house, Pamela signed up for a $5,000 online course led by Dr. Drummond. Concerned about how she would replace that money when she had no income and only $5,000 left to live off of, she struggled with the decision to move forward with the course.

Even though she hadn’t worked for more than a year, she was optimistic that, eventually, she’d be well enough to work with clients again through her own business venture. She believed the knowledge she’d gain from Dr. Drummond’s course would be invaluable and additive to her psychology and sports science training.

After much thought and a nagging drive that wouldn’t go away, she decided to move forward and pay in monthly installments instead of putting all the money down upfront. Unsure of the wisdom of her decision, she didn’t tell anyone – including those closest to her – that she was making this type of investment.

“I just thought, I’m going to do it, and they’re – my sisters, my daughter, my partner – going to think that I’m absolutely insane! Even so, I signed up for the course, and the email pinged back confirming the course start date of the 5th of May.”

The significance of this date reinforced for Pamela that her decision was the right one, as it happened to be the second anniversary of her dad’s passing. She took it as a sign that taking the course was providence.

“I definitely took it as a sign from Dad that I should be doing this course.”

The long path to healing 

A few months after she began Dr. Drummond’s course, Pamela also became her patient. She was still feeling poorly and unable to live outside her home. After a series of tests, including hormone and adrenal testing and a stool test to assess her gut microbiome, nothing significant was discovered to indicate why Pamela was so ill. Dr. Drummond then administered organic acid testing to determine nutrient deficiency and heavy metal toxicity.

“Turns out I had some nutrient deficiencies and some toxicity,” says Pamela. “So we developed an eating plan where I would take certain foods out of my diet temporarily and then add certain foods that were sources of needed supplements, based on the test results.”

After three months, she still wasn’t feeling great. Dr. Drummond decided to look at Pamela’s blood. The tests showed that she had high antibodies for the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes mononucleosis.

With this information, Dr. Drummond changed Pamela’s nutrition plan and focused on improving her gut health. Incrementally, over the next 12 months, Pamela began to feel more like herself.

“Eventually, I could drive to visit Mom and chat or go out for walks without feeling that fatigue. I was able to enjoy the two and a half hour ride to London for a getaway with my partner and not feel like I had to nap when I arrived. Now I can do moderate exercises, like yoga and walking.” 

By 2017, she was well into her healing journey. By 2018, she was feeling better for more extended periods and was becoming more active. That’s when she visited her GP and asked that her medical records be amended to say she no longer had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Compared to where she was at the start of her diagnosis, her quality of life has vastly improved.

The journey from healing herself to helping others heal

Since 2018, Pamela has been working full-time with women to improve their hormonal health through her Smarter Change: Hypnotherapy & Wellbeing practice. Although she does not exclusively work with clients experiencing menopause transition, she has specialized training through the International Menopause Society. Many of her clients are going through perimenopause or are newly postmenopausal and are seeking non-pharmaceutical treatments to manage their symptoms.

“Because of my own healing journey, even though it wasn’t anything to do with menopause – because I was in that perimenopausal phase – we don’t know that if I’d been ten years younger, whether would’ve been vulnerable to my illness…obviously, I don’t know,” Pamela ponders. “But the likelihood is that my hormones were starting to change, affecting my immune system and gut health.”

Pamela says that time and a wholly natural approach to healing her gut and lymphatic system have been the keys to her successful yet ongoing healing journey. As she did with her own healing and discovery process, she works with clients to identify and address the root cause of their ailments.

Based in the UK, Pamela works with clients all over the world. Her client sessions typically start with an initial consultation over Zoom, followed by a detailed intake questionnaire to better understand past and current lifestyles, family and medical history, and stress drivers.

“I basically want to get a picture of what’s happened before a client got to this point in their lives. How many antibiotics have they taken? Have they taken the contraceptive pill? Did they have any childhood illnesses?” She continues, “I want to know what happened to their mother while she was carrying them. What was their food intake as a child?”

Pamela says that all of this information (and much more) offers clues to what might be going on with an individual. She may also do diagnostic testing depending on the client’s lifestyle and modifications that have already been made.

“If they’ve tried everything, changed their diet, added nutrients to support their gut and liver. They’re doing the meditation, the breath work, getting exposure to natural daylight, and going to bed at a reasonable time, and they’re still not feeling well, then I would say, okay, now is the time, let’s do some diagnostic testing and let’s see what’s happening.”

She doesn’t always start with diagnostic testing because often, if she knows a client isn’t sleeping well, that may be addressed through behavior and lifestyle changes.  

“What do you have to eat in the morning? Because that influences your sleep as well,” she says. “There are many tools we can apply before we go down the diagnostic testing route. And because I’m also a certified health coach, I’m trained in coaching people to make healthier lifestyle choices.” 

In addition to her coaching expertise, Pamela uses hypnotherapy and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) in her client work. Because of this unique portfolio of knowledge, she can work with clients who’ve struggled or are struggling with any life trauma that may be the underpinning of their anxiety or stress.

While Pamela is not opposed to HRT and acknowledges the benefit it provides to some women, most of the clients she works with are looking for non-hormonal and non-pharmaceutical solutions. She has clients who come to her on HRT and find that it’s not working for them.

“They feel dreadful,” she says. “And so, I help them. I support the liver. I support the colon. I support the nervous system.

Think about it,” she continues. “Everything that we’ve done over the course of a lifetime… What we’ve put on our bodies, in our bodies, and the relationships we’ve had with ourselves and others will catch up with us at perimenopause. That’s why I’m so passionate about what I do when working with women to build a new way forward. We can be that vibrant woman as we age. We don’t have to struggle.”

Challenging myths and changing narratives

Unfortunately, many of Pamela’s clients are struggling to manage their symptoms – not just at home, but at work. Because of the stigma associated with menopause, research shows that many women are hiding their symptoms from their employers out of fear of being penalized.

The British Menopause Society conducted a 2022 survey of 1000 adults in the UK, which found that 45% of women felt their menopause symptoms had a negative impact on their work, and 47% who reported needing to take a day off work due to menopausal symptoms said they wouldn’t tell their employer the real reason.

To help employers better support their menopausal employees, Pamela advises companies like UK-based BSI, a leading provider of business improvement solutions on how to create menopause-friendly work environments. She recently contributed to a workplace standards guide that BSI developed, which offers guidance for organizations on how to establish policies related to women in the workplace, specifically regarding menstruation and menopause.

In addition to her client work, Pamela is also passionate about changing some of the negative stereotypes and what she calls “self-fulfilling” narratives that some of the negativity spurs, particularly for women of color. She cautions that research like the SWAN study should not be used to make blanket statements that Black women have worse menopause. She emphasizes that we must consider the roles of lifestyle, socioeconomic status and the weathering effects of racism rather than simplify the data to infer a direct correlation between menopause and race.

“I want us to really wake up because the limited research that’s available is 20 years old, and it’s fueling this blanket statement that Black women start the menopause earlier and that we have a harder time.

 Of course, you would expect someone who’s living in poverty or struggling to make ends meet to have worse menopause symptoms, and it’s probably going to last longer. It needs to be a wider conversation – like, 1 in 3, or 1 in 2 Black women experience, blah, blah, blah.” 

Of Jamaican descent and born and raised in the UK, Pamela just reached menopause earlier this year at age 58. She notes that of her two older sisters, one also hit menopause at 57 and the other at 53. She believes her mother was about 56 when she reached menopause. Given that the average age of menopause in the UK (and the US) is 51, she makes a good point about the need to be more precise about the data cited regarding Black women and menopause.

Even so, Pamela readily acknowledges the serious health disparities Black women face.

“Black women our age need to wake up – particularly in the UK, and I’m sure it’s the same in America – we’re dying disproportionately of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, as well as certain cancers.”

Many of Pamela’s clients, who are women of color, are often managing multiple demands – from their families and in their churches and communities. They’ve got a full-time job, and they’re giving several hours a week to the church on top of work. She says they feel compelled to do it. But it’s actually making them ill.

“For us as Black women, we really need to start challenging this strong Black woman narrative. We’re not stronger than any other woman and we need to teach this to our young girls and start modeling that for them now, because all of these things are going to drive us into an early grave.”

To work with Pamela, schedule a free online consultation on her website. You can also follow her on Instagram and Facebook.


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