Trend: The Rise of Menopause Retreats
Menopause, an inevitable transition affecting half the world’s population that can bring serious physical and emotional challenges, has been criminally ignored in culture, medicine, and yes, wellness. Now it’s bursting out of the cultural closet, there is a rising storm of menopause-focused solutions, and on the travel front, more destinations are launching menopause retreats where women come together to get some personal attention, try different solutions, and where community is perhaps the most powerful “medicine” served up
Yesterday was World Menopause Day, and while we need more than a “day” when it comes to this serious public health issue that has long been stigmatized and ignored, it’s one sign that perimenopause and menopause are finally becoming a loud topic of public conversation.
It’s astounding that this natural biological transition where women experience intense fluctuations in hormone levels–which can lead to the onset of issues such as heart disease and osteoporosis, and crippling symptoms such as hot flashes, insomnia, depression, anxiety, weight gain, a destroyed sex drive, brain fog, joint pain, and more–has been so radically ignored by medicine. The wellness industry until recently has been essentially silent, too–bizarre, given that the majority of its consumers have always been women.
A $600 billion market by 2025: Change is, of course, finally here. It’s not breaking news to anyone that follows health and wellness that menopause is one hot topic, and that a whole “menopause economy” is being born: with over one billion women worldwide having experienced perimenopause by 2025, a $600 billion market opportunity is expected that year. There is a sudden avalanche of menopause-focused solutions–from telemedicine companies such as Elektra Health and Gennev to a flurry of product companies, such as Bonafide or Naomi Watt’s brand, Stripes, launched yesterday. The British company Fifty One Apparel is even making hot-flash-friendly clothing, using technology that NASA created to keep astronauts cool in their spacesuits–and this spring, the UK appointed a Menopause Czar. It was a hot topic at the 2021 Global Wellness Summit in Boston, with Stacy London, celeb TV host, menopause activist, and founder of the support platform, State of Menopause, keynoting on how the wellness industry needed to wake up to women’s needs and the business opportunity. London, more recently, has some new cautionary words given the rush of new investment and products: Menopause cannot be some fleeting wellness trend, it has to be a permanent, far more serious focus in both medicine and wellness.
The menopause trip: One aspect of the wellness-menopause revolution (not trend) is the recent rise in wellness travel destinations and individual practitioners launching menopause retreats that bring women together for some very personalized attention and whole menus of therapies aimed at helping them cope with the physical and emotional challenges. There is no cure for the loss of estrogen that comes with perimenopause/menopause, and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) remains the tried-and-tested medical treatment, but these retreats want to provide more… and more alternatives.
Their offerings vary wildly. Some retreats take a medical-wellness approach, with menopause-specialist physicians evaluating HRT (it’s not right for everyone) and non-hormonal medication for guests, conducting diagnostic testing, and providing a medical education into the changes that the retreat-goers are experiencing. Some retreats, such as those at Italian wellness resort Preidelhof, combine a medical-wellness approach with a major focus on creative (sometimes wild) emotional release therapies. Ayurvedic resorts, such as Ananda in the Himalayas, are using the ancient medicine’s focus on correcting imbalances of all kinds to tackle hormonal fluctuations. Retreats are bringing in nutritionists, psychologists and sex experts–and are using everything from breathwork and acupuncture and menopause-focused bodywork treatments–to provide some relief.
Far more evidence needed: Precious few dollars have been spent on clinical trials evaluating what works in either medicine (beyond HRT) or wellness when it comes to relieving the many symptoms associated with menopause. In a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal on the rise of menopause retreats (below), medical experts argue that some of the solutions the wellness world is leading with aren’t backed by science: for instance, there’s no evidence that dietary supplements help with hot flashes. But they note that stress-management, certain diets, and the power of community, really can help.
Women demand new solutions and they’re willing to experiment–and new menopause retreats are speaking to that demand and very much experimenting. They do offer something unique: real time spent on education, letting women be heard, giving them some much-needed personalized attention, and the power of shared experience and community (I’m not the only one going insane)–certainly some of the best “medicine” available.
Europe is out in front:
Italian medical-wellness resort Preidlhof in South Tyrol has ongoing six-day menopause retreats, where guests experience a menu of diagnostic (from heart to sleep analysis) and ancient treatments to increase energy and treat the myriad physical and emotional challenges. The destination really aims at tackling the intense psychological challenges: their psycho-emotional stress expert uses approaches such as their well-known, cathartic Your Voice coaching, that teaches women to unleash their voice to release emotions–and they also offer everything from transformational dance to bodywork concepts designed to unblock emotions. Marbella Club on Spain’s Costa Del Sol the team of naturopaths, nutritionists, therapists and fitness pros offer “Ageing Gently’ retreats – focusing on perimenopause and menopause.
Austria’s Ayurveda Resort Mandira in Austria has a 10-night Change of Life stay that tailors treatments to the person. Medical-wellness powerhouse, Clinique La Prairie in Switzerland, has had a dedicated Menopause Center since 1995, which takes a personalized, multidisciplinary approach, and can include diagnostic and hormonal testing, HRT, acupuncture, phytotherapy and much more.
The English countryside is Menopause Retreat Central:
Menoheaven retreats from Mama Heaven are held at Florence House in Sussex. Nicki Philips, Pilates instructor and creator of the women’s health app niix, also holds menopause retreats in Sussex, with a gynecologist and menopause specialist evaluating hormone therapy for guests, a psychologist, and nutritionist–and everything from strength training to abdominal massage. Beaverbrook estate in Surrey, England, a wellness hotspot that offers everything from the Wim Hof Method to Celtic Druidry retreats, recently held women’s health retreats with a focus on menopause. The Farncombe Estate in the Cotswolds is hosting menopause retreats in 2023 called “Pause!”–with sessions with a physician and nutritionist and yoga geared for menopause. Dormy House in the Cotswolds will host menopause retreats next year, with a specialist menopause doctor, educational workshops, a nutritionist, and meditation, yoga and bodywork.
Asia: Amilla Maldives recently held five-day perimenopause and menopause retreats, led by a wellness coach and naturopath, which focused on natural ways to boost hormones, stress-reduction, nutrition and even intuitive dance sessions and tree-hugging therapy. Ayurvedic medicine, which focuses on correcting systemic imbalances–using panchakarma, diet, pranayama, meditation and herbal remedies–is as Traveller points out (see below) a “natural” for menopause, and Ananda in the Himalayas just launched a new “Rebalance Program,” a host of therapies that address menopause symptoms and also men’s hormones, such as testosterone.
Spas are even devising new treatments targeting menopause symptoms:
Moddershall Oaks Country Spa Retreat in Staffordshire, UK, recently launched Pause & Renew, a cooling experience that blends touch therapy with breathwork and meditation. The spa at The Shelbourne in Dublin just launched “Comfort and Calm,” a range of therapies targeting menopause symptoms–cold-stone massage, gua sha, lymphatic drainage techniques, reflexology, paired with guided breathwork–aimed at redistributing heat, reducing fluid retention, and calming the mind.
Specifically designed to support women going through perimenopause and menopause, helping to comfort, soothe, relax and balance the nervous system.Encompassing a range of therapies over 90 minutes, including an, will assist withand should help calm the mind, reduce the symptoms of stress and anxiety, and assist with a deeper, more restorative sleep. Spa therapist trainer Jennifer Young recently started a new training course called Hormonal Wellness Touch Therapies to help practitioners address the physical and emotional state of women in menopause.
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