The process of the change of life often has a gradual and unnoticed beginning. Menopause is officially the lack of menstrual flow for one year. We divide this process into three phases. Peri-menopause is everything that leads up to our last period. Menopause is the end of flow for one year. Post-menopausal is when all the symptoms of the change have ended. This is a large and complicated topic, and I have divided it into categories to better help you find what you need.
- Why do I have to go through this?
- Symptoms of menopause
- Hot flashes
- Foggy brain
- Sore feet and joint pain
- Skin changes
- Emotional Roller Coaster
- Depression and Anxiety
Why Do I Have To Go Through This?
The closely held secret of many menopausal women is that being menopausal is wonderful. It is a time of being in integrity with who we were created to be. To me menstruation is a time for being of service to others based on what they need. In menopause, we are now being of service based on what we have to offer. Relationships can now be based on an appreciation of who we are.
Many women notice that although they may have less mental focus, they have more intuitive knowledge. If we like and trust ourselves we are also more able to trust our body’s wisdom.
You may or may not be symptomatic with hot flashes, weight gain, skin changes, sleep interruption, changes in libido and/or loss of mental focus. If you do experience these symptoms, whether you are still menstruating or not, there are many remedies to help you.
You are the best source of knowing when to seek help. If the symptoms seem to be a normal process then you don’t need assistance. If on the other hand they are interrupting your quality of life, it is the time to seek assistance from a practitioner like myself. For an appointment contact us.
The first change that can happen is a decrease in sexual interest caused by a lessening of production of testosterone. Next you may begin skipping ovulation, producing less progesterone as a result. This causes an imbalance of estrogen/androgen hormones, referred to as Estrogen Dominance, and causes a shift of weight to our midsection. You may also notice an increase in bloating and fluid retention, breast discomfort and PMS and/or a change in our menstrual cycle. Cycles may become shorter, for example, coming every 21 days instead of the usual 28 days. They may become less frequent or you may skip periods. The flow may change becoming heavier or lighter. PMS may get worse or it may actually improve. There is nothing to worry about in these changes unless they upset you. They inform you that you are entering the process called the Change of Life.
I believe that menopause is called the Change of Life for a really good reason. In the years I have been supporting women through menopause, I have noticed a pattern that I believe is the reason for these changes. As women I believe we are genetically designed to be of service to others based on our ability to notice what they need and supply it. This is important skill as we raise children. We seem to have it whether we have children or not. Through the process of menopause, we are changing from being of service based on others needs, to being of service based on what we uniquely have to offer. This is an enormous change.
So how do you make this change? When your cycle deregulate, one of the byproducts is that your psychological defense mechanisms stop working. The ability to tuck away emotional content you don’t have the time or capacity to deal with stops. I call this process THE BIG SORT. My analogy is that Psyche comes into your being and empties every drawer, every closet and every cabinet on the floor, and then begins to sort what needs to be kept and what needs to be released. Releasing old content is accomplished by feeling emotions. During this process you have a lot of unattached emotions, of unfinished experiences with no story attached to them. The healing of old unfinished experiences is through feelings with no story attached to them. You simply need to check out, “is what I am feeling now current for me?” A good deal of what you feel during peri-menopause isn’t current. If you attach your feelings to a story you get to keep them, rather than releasing them.
Most women handle the ups and downs of peri-menopause very well. One of my clients described it like surfing. “If I get tossed by a wave of emotion, I know I can climb back on the board when the wave passes.”
You are considered menopausal when you haven’t been menstruating for one year. Most of us become menopausal without difficulty (75% in a study done of menopausal women in NYC in the 90’s). We experience some symptoms we handle without concern. We fear menopause because in our culture we only hear from and about those of us who are having problems.
Symptoms of Menopause
Medicine calls hot flashes “vasomotor instability”. Your body opens superficial blood vessels close to our surface and as warm blood flows there, you feel heat. These can vary between mild waves of feeling warm to intense episodes of heat, flushing and perspiration. Some of us experience dry flashes, which is heat without the perspiration. We learn to dress in layers and carry a hand fan in our purses. Some of us turn bright red and pour out sweat. Hot flashes can occur all over your body and they can be limited to specific areas. I had a period of time when the only place I would actually sweat was on my legs. Hot flashes that happen at night can interrupt sleep. If you are able to fall back to sleep they are not usually a problem. However if you are unable to get back to sleep this can be a huge concern. Interrupting sleep patterns is a well-known form of torture. It effects our sense of well-being and ability to function.
What Do I Do If Hot Flashes Are A Problem For Me?
Hot flashes resolve with a steady level of estrogen. This can be accomplished by using phytoestrogens (estrogen mimicking herbs). They include and are not limited to Black Cohosh, Oats, Maca, Red Clover and Soy. These phytoestrogens have few side effects and are available over the counter in health food stores, pharmacies and even grocery stores.
If these do not work for you then you may need hormone replacement. I believe in using bioidentical hormones. That means the hormones are identical chemically to what your body creates. You will need an appointment with a practitioner like me to have hormones prescribed.
Insomnia and Interrupted Sleep
Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep. Interrupted sleep is the inability to stay asleep. There are many factors other than the hormonal imbalance of menopause. However if your sleep disruption began as other menopausal symptoms began, there is a very good chance that the cause is hormonal.
What is the solution to insomnia or interrupted sleep?
- Resolve hot flashes. Studies have shown that we wake before the hot flash occurs. Some women find that once awakened by the hot flash they cannot get back to sleep. Phytoestrogen pills, teas and creams can sometimes resolve interrupted sleep. Hormone Replacement controls the hot flashes. Taking estrogen can remove the pattern of waking at night that is not associated with caused by hot flashes.
- Over the counter sleep aids. These sleep aids are available at pharmacies and health food stores. Herbal medications have been used successfully for sleep interruption if not caused by hot flashes. These are not so helpful if hot flashes are waking you up. They are usually used as you go to sleep.
- Prescription sleep medications. Many of these are narcotic and potentially addictive. The most common are in the benzodiazepine family which includes lorazpam, temazapam and valium. There is a newer group of short acting sleep medications that include Ambien, Lunesta and Sonata that have less addictive potential. The antidepressant Trazadone works well for insomnia in many women. For an appointment contact us.
- Sleep Hygiene. I find this a strange title. It refers to life style patterns that contribute to your natural sleep inducement patterns.
- Your bed is only for sleeping and lovemaking. Do not lie in bed watching TV reading or working on your computer. Do these activities outside of your bedroom.
- If you have insomnia, go to bed at 10 pm, and turn out the lights. If you are not asleep after half an hour, get up and do relaxing Yoga or stretching exercises and go back to bed and try again.
- Eat a small portion of protein just before going to bed. Turkey and milk have tryptophan which is a natural sedative.
- Some of us can fall asleep watching TV, but most of us take in so much visual input that it takes a long time for our brains to process it all and slow down. Switch from TV or computer to reading before going to bed.
You used to feel alert and capable, now you can’t track information; you are forgetful and can’t understand complex situations. One woman described it as “I don’t know where my brain is but it isn’t here”. This is an effect of imbalanced hormones and is usually resolved with HRT.
I also hear many complaints about memory. I have seen women take a large array of supplements for memory and for the majority, supplements don’t seem to help.
All of us, as we live in this complex society, begin to forget things. I have 30 year olds complaining of poor memory. My investigation into this suggests that the issue is multi-tasking. When we are paying attention to many sources of information simultaneously, out brain can track it but does not remember all of what we track. As we get older we have more information stored in our brains, and it takes us more time to find it. Be patient with yourself and give yourself time.
There is new information about mid-chain fatty acids found in coconut oil, which feeds brain cells and helps with mental capability.
Pain In Feet And Joints.
I really don’t understand the cause of this, and it is common in menopause. HRT can help in some women.
As we age our, muscles get smaller. In our feet, the arch which is maintained by muscle is not properly supported. Each time we take a step the bones move, and without good support become irritated. A good arch support that keeps your foot in proper alignment can help resolve the pain. Muscle is held in place by fascia. Fascia can become adherent (stuck) and interfere with proper muscle activity. This can be corrected by Rolfing or other bodywork that releases the fascia.
These include age spots, hair loss, wrinkles and sagging.
Two things are true about skin and HRT:
- Estrogen, progesterone, DHEA and testosterone all will slow aging changes in our skin.
- Nothing will stop these changes.
Here are some things to consider:
- Drinking more than three glasses of any alcoholic beverage per week ages skin.
- Smoking ages skin.
- Unless you are exercising vigorously or doing hard physical labor, you probably do not need to use soap. It dries your skin by removing oil. You can cleanse and get rid of dead skin by using nylon mesh gloves or a loofah. Different women respond differently to skin lotions. Hunt around until you find the lotion, cream or oil that keeps your skin moist. For most of us, some sort of good moisturizing agent is a must after bath or shower. All moisturizers go into our blood stream through the skin, so be careful to use those that are made with organic ingredients.
- Moisturize from the inside by taking Omega Fatty Acid. These come as fish oil, flax oil, borage oil ( the same as evening primrose oil) and can be found in fish, flax meal and avocados.
- I like to use a combination of the three sources called Optimal EFA by Biotics Research. There are many opinions about fish oil versus a mix of the three oils. I like the combination as women in my practice tolerate it better with no belching or regurgitation that can happen with fish oil.
- It is not a good idea to eat unground flax seeds. They are difficult to digest and can cause intestinal problems. Because flax, whether seeds or oil, spoils quickly, they should be kept in the refrigerator and ground fresh. This is easy to do in a coffee grinder kept especially for seeds and herbs. Ground flax seeds can be added to any food and to smoothies.
- Please remember, as with supplements, cheaper is not better. Fish oil can be contaminated by mercury and other man made toxins now present in the ocean. It is important to know that whatever oil supplement you use, it is checked for contamination. To order a good quality mixed oil contact us.
Age spots could be more accurately called sun damage. They are the brown discoloration that appear on our skin as we get older. They are initiated by lifelong sun exposure beginning in childhood. The amount of sun you expose yourself to now will make them occur more. Ironically they may occur even if you avoid sun now.
Wrinkles are a result of muscle and collagen loss. Working out to maintain muscle mass in face and body will lessen wrinkles but will not prevent them. There are many creams and lotions that do help. I won’t go into detail here as I have found women differ in their response to treatments. I suggest seeing an aesthetician or a dermatologist if you are concerned about your skin.
Some women have a relaxation of the skin in their eyelids that makes keeping their eyes open a strain, causing fatigue. Plastic surgery for this condition is not cosmetic and may be covered by your insurance.
Thinning of the skin on forearms with easy bruising and slow healing can be caused by a lack of testosterone. This can be helped by using a low dose testosterone cream to the affected skin. I have found that for many women application of local low dose testosterone works well without the systemic effects of testosterone treatment.
The Emotional Roller Coaster .
This is definitely not entertaining. During perimenopause and menopause our psychological defense mechanisms relax. This is designed so we can sort incomplete experiences from our lives. We do this through feeling our emotions. During this process we may experience unattached emotions, i.e. those feelings that are not connected to something that is going on today. Since we wants to understand our feelings, we generally are not comfortable with unattached emotions. As we release old feelings through feeling them, we may experience the roller coaster.
If this emotional imbalance is bearable and you can surf it, then there is no need for medical intervention. If it is not bearable there are many things that can help. These include phytoestrogen creams, daily aerobic exercise of twenty minutes or more, HRT with bio identical hormones and use of antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications. For an appointment contact us.
When do I need to use antidepressants and what do I use ?
There are some excellent herbal solutions such as Saint John’s Wort, MSM, 5- HTP and some other herbal combinations.
I believe that the use of prescription antidepressants are best used for people who have tried other remedies and failed. They are not best used for short term solutions ( three months or less). There are many people, both prescribers and patients, that believe medication is the answer. Others may be using medication for very normal conditions of sadness and grief. Using antidepressants is a very individual choice best made with the help of a knowledgeable practitioner who listens to your problem and concerns. I am happy to see you for a consult to discuss this. Contact us
What If My Problem Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a common side effect of peri-menopause and menopause. As our lives change from within, we can feel unsettled and anxious. The biochemical change of hormones and the stress in our lives can also bring on anxiety. A life time of stress can effect our adrenal glands and cause anxiety. Hormone replacement can help and it is not the only solution.
As a Practitioner, I test for balance in your thyroid, adrenal, pituitary-hypothalamus and sex hormones .I use a questionnaire that focuses on stress relationship to adrenal function and suggest herbal remedies specific to your specific problem.
SamE, Saint John’s Wort and 5-HTP can help anxiety. St John’s Wort affects an enzyme pathway and has negative interactions with many medications, herbs and grapefruit. If you are taking any medications I encourage you not to use St John’s Wort without checking the interaction with your pharmacist, naturopath or medical practitioner.
Quantum Biofeedback-Indigo™ is a voltometric transcutaneous evoked biofeedback treatment. Although people consider anxiety a mental/emotional problem, thoughts and emotions come from a biochemical milieu of neurotransmitters in our brains and bodies. The Indigo reads the body’s complex bio-magnetic field. The program tests your reaction to 10,000 different substances, and can tell where you are most reactive. It is able to send a mixed electrical impulse into your body to correct patterns that keep you stuck in anxiety. I have found the Indigo to be very effective for this. For more information.
Buspar is an anti-anxiety medication that helps anxiety without effecting other emotions. It seems to work well for some women with very few side effects.
Benzodiazepine including Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, Librium, Tranxene and Xanax. These are all sedatives and some are stronger than others. They all have the risk of addiction. Infrequent and short term use can be helpful. These are not for continual use.
I Think I Am Depressed:
Depression is feeling flat, uninterested in life, restless, unremitting sadness with no explainable cause and being unable to focus mentally. Feeling sad, especially if you have a good reason to feel sad such as death of a loved one or the death of loved animal companions, is not depression. This is grief. Grief is a necessary and healthy response to your experience of loss. Help is available if you are having a difficult time with your grief.
WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT DEPRESSION?
The following suggestions are for mild to moderate depression. Severe depression is a more serious condition and requires a different approach.
Exercise. Many studies have shown that aerobic exercise that increases your pulse rate over 100 for 20 minutes daily, is as effective as drugs for mild to moderate depression. Yes I know, this sound absurd. I know that when we are depressed getting to do exercise can seem impossible. Here are some of the ways women have succeeded:
- Make a date with your partner, friend or anyone you know who is willing to support you to get out together and exercise.
- Don’t forget dancing. In the privacy of your home with music you love, you can boogie and no one will see you or judge you.
- If you can afford to, hire a personal trainer at home. This is a good commitment if you don’t feel up to going out.
- DO NOT LISTEN TO THE VOICE INSIDE TELLING YOU that you are not worth it, nobody wants to be with someone as depressed as me, I can’t do this, etc. It is your depression talking.
Herbs, Flower Essences and Essential Oils. There are many remedies that help with depression. These are usually most effective if your depression is new. Chronic depression can be more difficult to treat with remedies, and they can work. Do a little research, and trust your gut instinct on which of these remedies will be best for you.
I suggest you visit a practitioner familiar with these herbs, oils and remedies. If you cannot find one in your area, there is a lot of information about them online. Your personality and individual situation is key to getting the correct, helpful remedy. For an appointment contact us
Homeopathy. Classically is a system for treating illnesses that uses very small amounts of substances that would in larger amounts produce symptoms of the illnesses in healthy people. However some practitioners have started to use remedies that treat the symptom. An example is homeopathic estrogen for hot flashes.
Homeopathic remedies function as a form of vibrational medicine within our liquid body environment, and act like a stone dropped in water.
In my experience homeopathy is most effective in:
- Young people
- People with very successful previous experiences with homeopathic treatments
- Depression of short term duration
- Depression that occurs as a result of a very specific current or past trauma. Classic Homeopathy involves seeing a homeopath who takes an involved history about you. She/he then bases your treatment on a remedy that fits your complex situation.
Vibrational Medicine Is the science of intervening on and retraining bio-magnetic patterns in and around our bodies. Our bodies are 70% fluid. Every beat of our heart sets a pulse through that liquid. Every atom in our bodies has an electromagnetic field. Your body is made up of the composite of those electromagnetic fields. Your Electromagnetic Frequency is a reflection of your internal biochemistry, and can be read and evaluated by using Indigo. The Indigo is an impressive modality because it includes forms of vibrational medicine such as polarity therapy, acupuncture, homeopathy, kinesthesiology, aromatherapies and Rife. For more information click here.
For an appointment contact us