Ally Atkins is a personal trainer, who specialises in mobility and strength training for women over 40. She is passionate about educating and empowering women in perimenopause and menopause to make positive and long-lasting changes.
Discover how Ally navigated an adenomyosis diagnosis in perimenopause and the choices she made to improve her symptoms.
How my symptoms began
My symptoms began aged 35, about three years after my second child was born. I lost around half my hair, was constantly exhausted, had chronic acid reflux, chronic constipation with sporadic severe abdominal pain, aching joints, brain fog and terrible heart palpitations.
I went to various doctors, had all sorts of tests and was put on omeprazole (acid reflux) and movicol (constipation) for life.
I wasn’t happy with this diagnosis so started my own research. I gradually stopped eating gluten, which hugely helped my constipation and pains and I also cut out most cow’s dairy. I employed a personal trainer and improved my health and well-being to such an extent that I decided to train to become a personal trainer myself to help others.
My path led me to a keen interest in functional mobility training (to improve joint health and mobility) and strength training (to build muscle and improve metabolism). My health gradually improved and I felt stronger and fitter than ever.
Finding out I was in perimenopause... and had adenomyosis
Towards my mid-40’s my periods started becoming irregular and very heavy and I had feelings of a heavy weight around my uterus each month along with occasional sharp abdominal pain. At 45, I figured I might be perimenopausal and was sent for a scan, which is where my adenomyosis was discovered.
Adenomyosis is an abnormal, but benign, growth in the uterine wall made up of uterine lining that has grown into the uterine muscle. It is similar to endometriosis and symptoms include abdominal distension, pelvic pain and very heavy periods.
My doctor told me the best thing was to have the Mirena coil fitted and to let that settle before starting oestrogen gel. The Mirena coil stopped my periods completely and I applied the gel daily although it wasn’t straight forward. I still wasn’t feeling my old self and had various symptoms on and off such as tiredness, irritability, no get up and go and some brain fog. It wasn’t as bad as it used to be but something still wasn’t right.
Learning about unopposed oestrogen
As time went on I started researching adenomyosis and gradually realised that something called unopposed oestrogen was likely making my symptoms worse.
Unopposed oestrogen is when the effects of oestrogen aren’t counterbalanced by progesterone, either because progesterone is too low, oestrogen is too high or you’re not metabolising oestrogen effectively. This can lead to symptoms like heavy and painful periods, fibroids, weight gain, irritability and skin breakouts.
I suddenly realised that the combination of oestrogen HRT and shutting off my natural progesterone production by going on the Mirena coil was maybe not the best combination. But I couldn’t find anyone to talk to about it because the doctors seemed to have no understanding of what it was – they told me the cause was unknown.
I didn’t know where to turn but I continued to do my own research and eventually came across FUTURE WOMAN. I could see the work they were doing around women’s hormones was very forward thinking and not like anything I’d come across before. I felt like I’d found my people! I thought they may have the answers I’d been looking for.
Learning about my hormones with FUTURE WOMAN+
I signed up to the FUTURE WOMAN+ hormone course for coaches and personal trainers, so that I could empower myself with knowledge about hormones and perimenopause, and then use that to help my own clients.
I felt as though all the pieces of the puzzle I’d been searching for were coming together. The training helped me to realise that the Mirena coil is a synthetic localised progestin that doesn’t come with the full body benefits of natural progesterone. My body was likely crying out for natural progesterone.
I had my Mirena coil removed and have since been taking natural body-identical progesterone hormone therapy. I’m still in the process of balancing my hormones and am waiting to complete three full cycles so that I can test with the FUTURE WOMAN Advanced Hormone Test. For me, I want to know my overall oestrogen levels and detoxification pathways, and whether I’m on the right dose of progesterone. But there are also some really important markers in the Advanced Hormone Test for things like cortisol and inflammation which can be important to understand for adenomyosis, as disfunction of the immune system also plays a big role.
(You can actually test your hormones while still on the Mirena coil, as the Advanced Hormone Test comes with so many different markers, but the oestrogen and progesterone part of the test won’t be a true reflection of your natural hormones unless you’re ovulating – which I am not – and I wanted to wait to get the full picture.)
I’ve since been doing a lot more of my own research, feeling confident with the knowledge I have learned from FUTURE WOMAN and feel empowered in that education to be able to help others. The hormone course also covered key areas such as the liver, gut health and the thyroid, all of which greatly impact hormone balance.
My interest is still primarily in strength training and it all ties in so well together with the balance of hormones and overall well-being. I’m so pleased I embarked on this journey and look forward to helping my PT clients in as many ways as possible.
I’m actually hosting my first local menopause café this month! I’ll be discussing the many wonderful impacts of strength training as well as the importance of hormone balance, gut health and the factory power house that is the liver.