Hot flushes and fatigue – Could these be the two biggest?
I know there’s more – but for now, let’s just look at the ‘top 2’. Any more, and I’ll be writing a book! Stay tuned for my next post and I’ll be addressing Anxiety and Weightgain.
Let’s start on a positive note as this blog is meant to be that – rejoicingly positive because the menopausal stage needs to be one of adventure, rebirthing, new life and a time to face the 2nd half of life with positive anticipation and put behind us all that’s happened in the first half. I don’t mean to sound like a Pollyanna, so for those of you who are sticking your fingers down your throat right now, just hold on a minute. I know, I know it’s not necessarily how we feel when we’re unable to sleep at 3am, can’t stand the furnace that’s going off inside us at the most inappropriate times and the general fatigue that accompanies it but really it’s a time of unrivalled empowerment. It really is. Or it CAN be – hang with me here.
For whatever reason, there’s been a big pharma push to make women believe the moment their first hot flush turns up, they need a pill. This thinking started back in the 50s. It’s a shame to see the medical world ‘drugging’ women with chemical HRT. Before you dive into a drug for relief of symptoms, at least look further into some potential holistic relief and allow the body to do its thing. It can be a great time of getting to know YOU again. I’ve nothing against bio identical progesterone cream. I tried it – loved it. BUT only stayed on it for less than a month.
You’re not sick!
I had a conversation with a friend of mine not so long ago who said she’s never really experienced any of the typical menopausal symptoms that other women talk of. She believes she’s already passed through that stage with a mere twinge or blink and she’s feeling fine.
It seems Asian and European women often sail through this time with just a flush and a blink and poof they’re on the other side. Hardly seems fair!
How is it so many of us experience such wildly differing midlife experiences?
Is it diet, attitude, exercise, mindset, physiology, genes, beliefs, environment, nationality, heritage?
It’s a mix – here’s my take on it.
I want to make something clear. Western diet obviously contributes. Menopause, and the symptoms that accompany it, is not an illness. It’s not a deficiency ‘disease’, it’s not a time of expected pain and diminishment – note here I said ‘expected’! Nor is it a time of heading into our ‘it’s all over now’ years! I know I hear many of you saying ‘BS Anne, let me tell you about MY symptoms – no one’s had a menopausal nightmare like me!’ I hear ya sista, your story is acknowledged. For some however ‘the change’ ( I HATE that terminology) comes fraught with mystery, pain, confusion and serious symptoms.
I prefer – BE THE CHANGE!!!
Some of these symptoms are so acute they can trigger off other related illnesses – physical and emotional. We have a right to grieve over losses and mistakes. It’s a time to take ourselves by the shoulders and say ‘it’s my time now to be better, fitter, stronger and do what I’ve been sent here to do’. Some of the greatest achievements by women have happened in their second phase of life. So really – it’s ok. We can get through this swampy lake, make our way out the other side, learn a few things on the way and be better people considering we made it right across the abyss.
I’ve studied some brilliant material by doctors and authors about the science and medical side of menopause and trust me, if I get into the subject to any great depth this could turn into a book. Just get me on this subject and I can engage in conversation for hours. I love hearing about the stories of others and how they compare. Right now let’s just leave it at a blog post and I hope you get some benefit from it. In fact, let me know. Comment or email me firstname.lastname@example.org
The detail of our hormonal imbalances can be readily googled to find some enlightening info from doctors and gynos. But the thing is, many of those doctors and gynos are reporting from a text book and scientific evidence point of view – which is fine. Many are men. They’ve less of an idea of the physicality and emotional turmoil of menopause than they do of giving birth. But I’m reporting from a ‘this is what happened to me, and this is what I’ve seen happen to loads of others’ point of view. As I’m not a medical doctor, I won’t be discussing the science or medical findings. Nor am I giving you medical advice. You go read about those. Do your homework like I did. I’m a Food and Nutrition Coach, Yoga and Meditation Instructor – AND I’ve gone through my own menopausal issues so I have a story to tell. This blog post won’t go into the details of our estrogen dominance or progesterone imbalances, or our estriol or estrodial, because we’re ALL different, but rather I’d prefer to discuss some of the deeper spiritual and emotional aspects and the menopausal questions that have been raised but not answered and how we can deal with it holistically.
I’ve gone through it, dealt with some hellish symptoms, had the hysterectomy, treated myself, managed to avoid anti depressants, lost the weight, cleared up my liver and observed reactions, so I have my own story of recovery and transformation. However – and this is the thing – I’m not completely there yet. I’ve not ‘arrived’ to the land of enlightenment and nirvana to report down to you as to how you can too join me here on this heavenly hill. It’s still pretty shitty at times, but I’ve come a long way. If I can be instrumental in bringing a few of you through the quagmire, then it’s worth it.
I believe the aches, pains, heat, digestive issues, weightgain and physical limitations of menopause come from years of living others expectations, giving our bodies and minds over to spouses, kids, careers, bosses and living everyone else’s life so that by the time we’re ready to hit the ski jump of life we find ourselves under the affects of these symptoms. They can be heavy!
Speaking of aches and pains, Magnesium in many forms is worth taking a look. I’ve learned taking magnesium at night can prevent teeth grinding and improve sleep. Magnesium baths and magnesium oil can help with aching knees. To find out more detail about magnesium, here’s a great site.
Here’s a thought…
Why do we ‘thicken’ around the middle at midlife? Why is it our core strength seems to be the first thing that diminishes in menopausal women?
I can bet that 9 out of 10 women at the age of 50+ will say to me ‘my core strength is just gone!’.
Could it be because of all the giving of ourselves over so many years, literally from our core, that it physically weakens?
More scientific proof of the body mind connection comes to light every day. What we think, feel and expect of our ageing process has everything to do with what will manifest in our body and what level of vitality we exude. Expecting to look old? Expecting to feel like crap and experience full on symptoms? Expecting to slide down the hill of ageing? You will. But you don’t have to. Change your thinking.
Hot flushes!!! Something to fear, endure, welcome or relish???
What worked for me!
My herbal product ‘Phytelle’ from my favourite vitamin company ‘Usana’ contains soy isoflavones, black cohosh, licorice, chasteberry and dong quai – all proven to relieve the symptoms of menopause. I wouldn’t be without it. I felt the difference. That was just step one. Incorporating a wide range of nutrients and essential fatty acids was another.
Dr Ladd McNamara in his book about menopause states “ one of my recommendations to help slow the aging process and reduce the risk of chronic degenerative disease in both men and woman, are taking a full-spectrum, pharmaceutical grade vitamin, mineral and antioxidant program twice a day. Essential fatty acids, particularly metal free omega-3 fatty acids (fish and flax oil), fibre, a bio identical hormone replacement, a low GI diet, plenty of pure water, aerobic exercise and weight training. Eliminate alcohol, caffeine, sugar, aspartame and toxic substances”
I decided I’d follow this advice as I’m not totally ‘anti’ bio identical HRT – I did take a progesterone cream for a very short time from my naturopath and have incorporated the pharmaceutical grade nutritionals that he recommends. I’ve found it to be incredibly effective for me personally so feel free to contact me direct if you’d like to talk about taking the same program – believe me it works! I needed to change my diet. Specifically – I wouldn’t be without my Phytelle, Coenzyme Q10 (spark plug for the mitochondria), fishoils and my digestive products. (Can’t handle that bloating or gas, that seriously needs to go!!) For years now I’ve taken a wide range of nutrients – pharmaceutical grade – and my symptoms have all but abated. I had to deal with my sugar craving, my nightly red wine/champagne habit, my serious love of bread and my ‘need’ for dessert whenever we ate out. Of course there’s times when I slip back, but think about the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time you’re conscious of what you’re doing and doing it well – the other 20% are the ‘cheesecake’ days.
Why are vitamins and minerals so important? Why can’t we just eat well?
Honestly – I always thought I ate well. Always! We just don’t get it ALL from our food – especially at this stage of life. We need help!!! According to Lesley Kenton author of the fabulous book about menopause ‘Passage to Power’ (one of the most amazing books you could get your hands on) states ‘ Your body is continually creating new hormones out of amino acids, peptides and cholesterol in the presence of certain vitamins and minerals. ‘ Sugar is a problem at any stage of life but at this stage it has been known to cause the body to excrete magnesium. We need magnesium – check out this article. It’s a great explanation as to why we have to have our magnesium. It’s good to have a balance of both calcium and magnesium in our body – but with the high level of dairy in our diets, we end up with an overload of calcium and can make symptoms worse.
I used to work as a makeup artist. I remember a time, working on a gorgeous young brides face, in full aircon and dripping like a fast melting icecream. She’d look up at me from time to time with a look of horror on her face. My own makeup must have looked like a 4 year old did it as I tried to subtly wipe my face with the back of my hand, imagining a smear of black liner and mascara working it’s way across my face in an unattractive rivulet. When I was almost dripping down into my makeup kit, I knew I had to start taking my health into my own hands.
Even the backs of my hands were sweating!! Backs of hands don’t sweat!! Mine were. All I wanted to do was lay down with a fan, but of course we keep going. Certain foods may bring one on – like hot spices, curries and coffee. Too much sugar will do it too, so all the more reason to drop it from your diet.
Love your coffee? So do I! Mind you, I’ve not totally eliminated it – it’s one of my life’s pleasures, but caffeine has been proven to leach calcium from our bones, drive up our adrenaline and store fat so be aware of just how many coffees or caffeinated drinks you’re taking in. My favourite Dr Libby says ‘want to stop hot flushes? Stop the coffee’. I used to consume 2 jumbo, triple shot flat whites a day – and my waistline kept expanding, and I felt dreadful. I had a PT who just couldn’t understand why her fabulous training wasn’t changing my body shape. I was adrenally fatigued and using massive coffee doses to deal with it and going backwards fast. BUT, I had to have my coffee. (Addiction much?) Learning to wean it down to one standard sized coffee a day has helped big time.
Note to PTs – be aware of your client. Is she midlife? Adrenally fatigued? Is she overcaffeinated? Then the kind of workout you give her needs to be very seriously considered. Don’t overexert her to the point of dangerous exhaustion on an already exhausted body.
Fatigue, exhaustion, tired to the bone, totally wrecked, stuffed, wiped out! Call it what you will.
Night sweats and poor sleep. This is the stuff of nightmares, foul temper, achey mornings and just not functioning throughout the day. Falling asleep at 7.30pm in front of the telly, then going to bed and can’t sleep. Waking up at 3am and can’t get to sleep until 5am, if at all, when you know you need to be up by 6am. It’s not fun – but it’s almost every midlife woman’s story. It was mine.
No study has ever given a definitive answer as to why this happens and why it’s so different among women. I read an interesting theory not so long ago – could it be our awareness of our past grief, sorrow, regrets and frustrations making themselves known? Many women report the lack of sleep, restless legs and decide to get up, get some work done or read and then go back to bed early hours of the morning only to have to get up to family a couple of hours later. So next time it happens ask ‘what’s the message here? Am I being asked to fulfil a greater purpose at this time of night? Who or what am I grieving, regretting or getting frustrated about? And how can I turn this lesson around to the positive?’
Fatigue, alongside the heat issues, to a midlife woman is common – and so the need for coffee to simply function is inevitable and so a cycle begins. Sleep, or rather lack of, is a key factor that keeps weight on us, keeps emotional issues flaring up, and the achey bones and pain will be ever present if we can’t sleep. So besides the above advice with diet and weight, here’s a few things to ensure for a good nights’ sleep.
- Keep your room as cool and dark as possible. And no TVs or electronics in the bedroom. The radiation from these appliances will affect our circadian rhythms. I know, don’t we just love falling asleep in front of the TV to a good movie? Need to stop that now! Same goes for laptops and iphones. The radiation that comes off them does affect us. Sorry about that, all you lovers of doing your computer work with your laptop or tablet under the covers. I know you’re out there.
- Try to keep a regular go to bed and rise time. Easy for me to say of course, considering I’m one of the worst offenders who can be on the computer at 11pm and not realise the time. No later than 9pm to bed is the advice out there and up by about 6am is perfect to keep within our cortisol peaks and troughs. When we’re glued to the computer til the wee hours or can’t sleep and wake up 3am, we’ll find we’re out of whack with our cortisol (stress hormone). But within the hours of 9pm to 6am, if you can make that a habit for a month, just see how your body responds.
- Is sleep apnoea an issue? If you know you DO have sleep apnoea, get it looked at. If you’re not sure, get checked. This is a vicious cycle that needs to be addressed and will keep you back if you don’t get on top of it.
- Meditate or do some deep yoga stretches before bed. It’s a great way to release tension from muscles. Tension is held in the muscles typically shoulders and neck but also down the legs for us midlife women!! Stretch these out. Let the muscles do a little work before bed. I don’t mean go on a run and lift your heart rate – I mean stretch out the body and use some muscles. Then see how you sleep.
- Take magnesium before bed. Go back to the article I mentioned. Interesting reading.
Summary – it’s time to get a bit Rebellious. We don’t have to accept ‘the norm’. Get out there and discover why you’re here and move beyond the symptoms.
Flushes and fatigue are inextricably linked. Stay tuned for my next blog where I’ll talk about anxiety and weightgain. One seems to be the trigger for the other but here’s my checklist.
- Do you need to lose weight? If so, ask for help. I can help you! Another favourite doctor educator of mine Dr Brian Dixon said ‘being overweight is worse than drinking alcohol and smoking combined’. And it is – I’ve lived it. It stops our entire quality of life. We know about the typical diseases of obesity like Diabetes, Heart disease and Cancer but for the midlife menopausal woman to be overweight can be extremely dangerous. Remove toxins from your body.
- Start moving. Don’t think a gentle walk around the block is going to be enough in your second half of life. I used to think that and couldn’t understand why my weight wasn’t shifting. And if that’s all you’ve ever done and your excuse is ‘but I can’t do any more, my body won’t cope with it’ – it’s time to reassess just what your body CAN cope with. You and only you can answer the question of ‘what quality of life do I want to settle for?’ Find something you enjoy doing – whether it’s dancing, cycling, aerobics or tennis.
- Start some restoration (feeding of the soul) processes – meditate, breath, do yoga and/or restorative yoga, tai chi, dance, learn to tango anything that will give you joy and encourage some restoration.
- Start on a regime of pharmaceutical grade, potency guaranteed nutritionals – I can help you hear.
- Eliminate sugar, reduce caffeine and meat, up your veges and increase your fats.
Stretch it out into a downward dog, which works like recalibrating the computer or flip and really work out the muscles. You’ll feel better.
Think about the strain on our medical system as we’re all ageing. Not doing anything about it now will only ensure an uncomfortable and dependant old age. Let’s not even go there.
Do these things and you’ll find midlife will be that passage into a powerful time in your life where dreams, careers, businesses, relationships and ambitions can be fulfilled.
How much do we expect of the ageing process? How much do we believe of what is to happen to us is simply inevitable? Could we turn this around and simply believe that as our bodies are totally renewing themselves regularly that maybe we could renew our cells with different beliefs and different environments?
Can we soak our cells in new thoughts, actions, habits and mindsets?
THEN… let’s see how we progress and grow rather than age or decay.
For my individual programs or simply an obligation free chat, get in touch. Let’s see how I can work with you to sort out your midlife health issues.