I don’t know who I am anymore… is this the way it is now?
Perimenopause, Menopause and Post-menopause
10 tips to a comfortable menopause journey
So, we know that menopause is a process that happens to all women at some
point. Many of us assume that the common symptoms of perimenopause
including hot flushes, irritability and discomfort are a “normal” and
inescapable part of the process. You may be surprised to know that this is not
the case! As with puberty, while our bodies change, it is not a life sentence.
It can just be a transition. It is true that many women suffer horribly. It is
also true, that with a diet and lifestyle that supports our hormones to balance,
including cortisol and DHEA as well as the more widely known oestrogen and
progesterone, we can transition through this period of life, comfortably! Life
after menopause can be lively, exciting and something to look forward to. A
stage of life blessed with increased wisdom and being comfortable in your own
skin. Travelling through your Golden years with ease and grace.
These tend to vary
from person to person and some women hardly notice any. An incomplete list
- Hot flushes
- Breast tenderness
- Worse PMS
- Lower Sex drive
- Headaches and migraines
- Irregular periods
- Vaginal dryness
- Discomfort during sex (due to dryness)
- Urine leakage when coughing or sneezing
- Urinary urgency
- Mood swings and irritability
- Trouble Sleeping
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Perimenopause is the transitional stage between regular monthly periods and reaching menopause (defined as the point in time when a woman has had 12 months since her last period). The stage after this is classified as post-menopause.
Pre-menopause is the stage of life between puberty and menopause. A stage where hormones tend not to fluctuate much, a woman tends not to suffer any symptoms associated with menopause and she is in her reproductive years.
Perimenopause begins when the oestrogen produced in the ovaries starts to
reduce. Often resulting in several years of irregular periods due to the more
sporadic release of oestrogen and progesterone (as well as cortisol and DHEA).
Sometimes the hormonal fluctuations as so large or out of balance that we may
experience symptoms such as depression, moodiness and irritability, weight
gain, discomfort, reduced memory and concentration, muscle aches, as sense of
being uncomfortable in our own skin, hot flushes, hair loss, breast tenderness,
reduced libido and sexual pleasure and vaginal dryness, to name a few. This
stage may begin sometime between the ages of 35 and 50 years and can last from
as little as a few months, to as long as 15 years with the average, being
around 4 years. In the final stage, oestrogen levels may decline sharply. Symptoms
may be most pronounced at this time, expanding to include things like urinary urgency
and frequency or even incontinence; depression and anxiety as well as night
sweats, fatigue and skin dryness.
Menopause occurs when there is no longer enough oestrogen produced by the ovaries to trigger the uterine lining to build, the release of an egg or the shedding of the uterine lining. This is the point where fertility ceases. Contrary to what some of us thought, during the perimenopausal stage, conception is still possible.
Doctors can prescribe
- Oestrogen creams for vaginal dryness, pain and discomfort
- Progesterone creams for breast tenderness
- The pill or other hormone replacement therapies to try to minimise symptoms
- Creams or tablets to reduce bladder irritability
Look into the options and side effects for yourself before you decide
10 Natural Tips for a Comfortable Menopause Journey
- Stop smoking
- Get more rest/sleep
- Reduce alcohol intake
- Be in a healthy weight range
- Ensure you don’t have a vitamin or mineral deficiency (magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin C, omega 3, evening primrose oil [internal or topical])
- Reduce foods that have the potential to alter hormone balance in the body => Processed, hydrogenated and trans-fats; Highly refined carbohydrates (especially sugars); Caffeine; Alcohol
- Pelvic floor exercises to support the pelvic area and the bladder (as incontinence is a symptom of hormonal imbalance associated with perimenopause)
- Using natural oils (jojoba, coconut, olive) as lubricants down there as a lubricant during sex, or during the day to allow more comfort
- Add an anti-inflammatory, alkalising, plant rich diet
Always consult your doctor if you have strong pain, very heavy bleeding or bleeding for more than 7 days longer than your usual period
Are you ready to improve your health and vitality and reclaim your body and life? Dr Anna Cabeca has a new book with one approach to help you do just that.
I Sleep, but I’m always TIRED… Maybe its my Thyroid
Depending on which source
you look at, Thyroid conditions affect women somewhere between 4 and 10 times
more than men. The Thyroid Foundation of Canada states that about 5% of the
world population is affected and the Australian Thyroid Foundation adds that 1
million Australians currently have an undiagnosed Thyroid issue (that’s 1 in 25
people!). As rates of thyroid conditions (especially hypothyroidism) tend to increase
as we age and we have an aging population, we may expect to see numbers
increase further. The Thyroid Foundation of Canada goes on to state that Thyroid
disorders are very treatable. Given that a large percentage of the affected
population is unaware of their situation, this would lead to a substantial number
of people, unnecessarily feeling fatigue, irritability, discomfort and with an inability
to be fully productive.
What is the Thyroid?
The Thyroid gland is an
important part of the endocrine system. Its job is to control many bodily
functions via secreting hormones – T3 (triiodothyronine)
and T4 (thyroxine). They
regulate the body’s temperature, metabolism and heart rate and in doing so affect
many areas. The Pituitary (and Hypothalamus) glands monitor and control the
amount of T3 & T4 that the Thyroid releases. Thyroid conditions create either a state of Hyperthyroidism or
Hypothyroidism, that is, too much or too little thyroid hormone production,
Thyroid disorders may
be caused by iodine deficiency; autoimmune diseases (namely Hashimoto’s
Thyroiditis and Graves’ Disease); viral and bacterial induced inflammation (thyroiditis);
congenital; malignant (cancerous) and benign tumours/nodules on the thyroid
gland, disfunction of the pituitary or Hypothalamus glands; or as a result of some
treatments (surgical removal of the thyroid gland [or part there of] & toxic
changes from radioactive iodine therapy).
tend to vary as there are many factors involved, further, as symptoms tend to
start slowly and gradually progress, it may take a while for sufferers to
realise that they are not just tired or stresses etc.
- weak slow heart beat
- muscular weakness and constant fatigue
- sensitivity to cold
- thick puffy skin and/or dry skin
- pale and cold (maybe clammy) skin
- poor appetite
- brittle hair
- voice may be croaky and hoarse
- slowed mental processes and poor memory
- weight gain/difficulty losing weight
- goitre (increased size of the thyroid)
- rapid, forceful heartbeat
- muscular weakness (due to muscle loss)
- weight loss (due to muscle and fat loss) in spite of
- restlessness/irritability, nervousness/anxiety and
- profuse sweating
- heat intolerance
- hot, moist skin
- eye changes (generally bulging)
- goitre (increased size of the thyroid)
Generally is treated
by medicating with T4 thyroid hormones (and sometime T3 also). This is a life-long
treatment and requires frequent blood test monitoring.
Hashimoto’s is an
autoimmune condition creating a low level of Thyroid hormones and is the most
common cause of Hypothyroidism. As with all autoimmune diseases, the immune
system is over-active and is associated with inflammation. A diet and lifestyle
that reduces inflammation and supports the immune system to balance, may be of
benefit in combination with medication and monitoring. It is also worth noting
that generally only T4 hormone medication is given, but some people respond
better with a combination of T3 & T4 hormone medications. Further, some
people find that animal derived Thyroid hormones are more effective for them
than the synthetic medications. So be aware that there are a few options out
there and if your symptoms are not responding as expected, some experimentation
with the support and guidance of your GP is possible.
Lifestyle changes that
may assist in the management of hypothyroidism include:
- Reducing gluten intake
- Checking MTHFR gene function and your body’s
ability to absorb and use Folic acid/folate/folinic acid effectively – and supporting
- Reducing stress
- Supporting Adrenal overload and the body’s
- taking adaptagenic
herbs (such as Siberian Ginseng, Rhodiola and Ashwaganda)
- Supporting Kidney and Liver functions and the
body’s detoxification processes
- Eating an anti-inflammatory diet
- Avoid gluten,
dairy, red meat, processed sugar, packaged foods
- Adding turmeric,
omega 3, green leafy vegetables
- Supporting optimal Thyroid function
- Salt balance
(electrolytes) – using water, sea salt and honey
Graves’ Disease (a
genetic autoimmune disease) is the most common cause of Hyperthyroidism.
Nodules on the Thyroid (cancerous or benign) and Thyroiditis caused by viral or
bacterial infection can also be causes.
Treatment is based
around reducing the levels of thyroid hormone in the body. This can be done via
- Thyroid blocking drugs
- Destroying thyroid cells with radioactive
- Surgically removing the thyroid gland (partial
treatment is required, a healthy lifestyle may generally support optimal
response to treatment, your general health and your resilience.
It is also important
to note that the treatment of Hyperthyroidism may result in a subsequent hypothyroid
state, meaning that Thyroid hormone medication may be required.
In this three-part series, we give you some easy, practical tips on how to feel more refreshed and energised so you can focus on creating your excellent life.
Part 3: Nourish
Healthy eating becomes vital when we’re under stress. By taking in proper nutrients, we can increase our focus and concentration and stabilise our emotions, even during the toughest of times.
But when we’re stressed out and busy, how often do we reach for a chocolate bar, a packet of chips or make ourselves another coffee? It can be difficult maintaining healthy habits when we’re under pressure. That’s why it’s useful to have healthy habits set up before we need to rely on them. In other words, making it easier for our bodies to work smarter, not harder.
Food trends come and go so often, it can be difficult to know what we should be eating.
One thing is clear, however – eating is a positive, life enhancing act of self-nurturing. That’s why it’s important to focus on the mind, and our beliefs around eating first. Eating should bring joy, not guilt or pressure.
Try to develop awareness in your body by finding what food works for you. When you eat something, does it make you feel alive and energised, or do you get a quick rush of energy and then feel flat and drained soon after?
Ever had a large pasta dish for lunch and not long after, you’re struggling to stay awake? By 3pm you can’t keep your eyes open, and you’re hunting for a coffee and chocolate bar for another pick me up?
Having a large meal focuses your body’s energy on digestion, leaving little energy for focus and concentration. The carbohydrate loading of the pasta itself makes it worse by creating a quick energy increase and then dropping flat. You then repeat again with the caffeine and sugar in the coffee and chocolate bar and wonder why you feel lousy.
What can we do differently?
Let’s start with eating less, more often.
Eating a little bit every hour or two is a great way to keep your metabolism going and your energy stable. This helps to boost your metabolism and keep it running at a higher rate. It can stabilise blood sugar levels, which helps concentration and enables your body to cope better with stress. It can stop the rollercoaster of high and low energy and help maintain or even reduce weight, if that’s a goal you have. So, three small meals a day, with snacks in between, is a good start.
Proteins are the building blocks of our body. They make up our skin, bones, muscles, ligaments, hair and nails. Foods such as dairy, eggs, meat, fish, nuts, legumes and some plants e.g. broccoli, avocado and spinach are good sources of protein.
Proteins are made up of molecules called amino acids. Nine of these are essential, meaning that our body can’t make them, so we need to eat them. Different foods contain different types of amino acids, so eating a wide variety of foods ensures we have the best chance to consume a whole range of them.
Protein is also a natural appetite suppressor as it keeps the levels of Ghrelin, a chemical in our system that makes us feel hungry, lower for longer.
Protein is also great at improving our mood and our resistance to stress. Tryptophan is the amino acid that produces the hormone serotonin. Serotonin can reduce depression, anxiety, headaches, insomnia, memory and learning problems and generally improve our mental processing ability. Research suggests that if we want to remain in a positive, uplifted and stable mood, eat small, regular protein portions through the day. So next time you’re feeling flat, instead of that chocolate bar, grab a handful of nuts such as raw almonds and observe how you feel.
Carbohydrates are found in fruit, vegetables and grains and contain the various vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are vital for maintaining our general health. They can boost our immune system so that our body can defend itself against bacteria, viruses and free radicals that are in our everyday surroundings, as well as repair and protect us at a cellular level. And of course, they’re important for increasing our energy levels.
This is another reason why small portions more often are so important. If we have a large carbohydrate hit all at once, like with the pasta meal I mentioned earlier, you get an energy boost for a very short time, then fall in a heap and need tooth picks to keep your eyelids open. The more natural and less processed the sugar in the food is, like fruit rather than chocolate, the lower the spike. If you have protein with carbohydrates, such as peanut butter with an apple, that can also lower the energy spike and make it last longer.
Good fats, bad fats
If you remember that motor oil ad – Oils Ain’t Oils, that’s true for our bodies too. Our cell walls are made of fat, so we need fat, but not just any fat.
Many oils change their structure and how they operate in your body when they are heated. These are fats like trans fats or hydrogenated vegetable oils. They’re heated to preserve items such as muffins from the convenience store – they never get old or go off. They just clog our cells.
The safest fats to cook with don’t change much when heated. These include coconut oil, rice bran oil and ghee. Great oils to eat raw in things like homemade salad dressings include olive oil, avocado oil or straight avocados.
Omega 3s, found in deep sea fish and flaxseed oil, have been shown to increase our ability to handle stress, lower depression and anxiety and other mood related conditions, such as autism. They also help us to think faster and clearer. The neurones, or nerve cells in our brains, actually operate better and fire quicker. This is especially beneficial in pregnant women, for the development of their baby’s brain.
And don’t forget to drink water. We are more than 75% water, so drinking 2-3 litres a day helps flush your system and is also important for digestion, especially in processing fats.
Planning is key
Planning what you eat can be simple and empowering. I spoke to a lawyer not so long ago. She was recently married and she and her husband were working very long hours. Out the door early and back around 9pm, too late to start preparing dinner. We talked about the types of food they like to eat and worked out a plan for them to store simple salad basics in the fridge at work for a healthy lunch that they could easily add different things to, like olives or feta cheese. We also worked out a basic weekly dinner plan that they could prepare and cook the night before and keep in the fridge to heat up as soon as they got home.
Once you’ve planned out what you need, create a shopping list then either buy the items online and have it delivered, or, if you go to the shops, make sure you go with a full tummy, rather than being hungry. You’ll be far less tempted to buy things that are not on the list.
Making better choices
Marketers spend thousands of dollars on item placement at the supermarket because it can have enormous impact on what people buy. How could you use that concept to encourage better food choices on a daily basis at home?
What is visible at eye level? These are things we see often, and our unconscious mind will most often be tempted by them, even if it’s not what we went to the fridge for. So, put as much in the way of fresh fruit, vegetables and proteins at eye level.
On harder to see shelves, put breads or grains, and behind them, any treats you might keep in the house. Reducing the number of times our unconscious mind is exposed to seeing them is an easy way to keep them out of sight and out of mind. This means we are less tempted, without restrictions or punishments. Having your mind and body working with you rather than against you, is another way you can work smarter rather than harder.
What are your go to foods that help you feel nourished? Let us know in the comments below.
Notice, nurture, nourish: Simple tips for a healthier mind and body
In this three-part series, we give you some easy, practical tips on how to feel more refreshed and energised so you can focus on creating your excellent life.L
Part 2: Nurture
It’s a well-known fact that people who experience high levels of stress tend to get sick more than others. Combine stress with lack of sleep and poor nutrition, and our immune system’s ability to naturally protect us against infection and disease is greatly reduced.
A great way to help reduce stress and improve your resilience is to increase your physical activity. That’s right – good old exercise.
Physical activity makes us feel more positive and confident by raising our endorphins – chemicals that can trigger a positive feeling in the body. People who are physically active often talk about the ‘runner’s high’ – the feeling of euphoria after a good workout.
And with its ability to help us relax and sleep better, exercise is now commonly prescribed by doctors treating patients for anxiety and depression.
But it’s not always easy to fit in regular exercise. How many of us have started an exercise routine and let it slip as life gets in the way?
Thankfully, you don’t need to commit to a strenuous workout, or an expensive gym membership, to reap the benefits of physical activity. Just a small amount of movement can help reduce stress, increase energy levels and even your ability to concentrate and focus, making you more productive throughout the day.
Here are some simple, but effective ways to get us moving:
- Talk to a colleague face to face instead of emailing them. Your communication is likely to be more effective and you’ll develop a closer working relationship at the same time.
- When shopping, park further away from the entrance. You’ll add extra steps and longer time carrying those weights (shopping bags), without going too far out of your way.
- Schedule a walking meeting. Choose a nice beach or park to walk through if you can to make it more pleasant. You’ll find that walking together, in the same direction at about the same pace and speed, naturally helps your unconscious minds to be more collaborative and see the world from similar perspectives.
- If you catch public transport, get off a stop earlier. This helps you fit in an extra walk without it feeling like too much of a burden.
- Move while on the phone. If we stand up when we’re making calls, we sound clearer, more confident and we often feel mentally more capable.
- Make cleaning a fun activity. Break it up into smaller tasks and delegate to family members or colleagues. Why not turn it into a group relay? One person does a first step e.g. empty the top shelf of the dishwasher, then goes and taps the next person to take a two minute stretch break and empty the bottom shelf. Before long everyone in the office has gotten up and moved and the kitchen is clean!
- Stretch at your desk. Hold a simple upper body stretch at your desk for 3-5 seconds or get up and do a full body stretch. Stretching brings proper blood flow and nutrient supply to our muscles and tissues, especially our brain. This can help prevent fatigue, discomfort and reduce the risk of injury, stiffness, aches and pains and even lower our risk of osteoarthritis.
- Get out of your comfort zone. I have a friend who is a computer programmer. He has a brilliant solution to getting stumped with programming problems – he goes rollerblading in the park. It gets him outside, in the fresh air, away from the problems at hand. Enabling his conscious mind to focus on something completely different gives his unconscious mind the opportunity to think through the problem. Often, he will arrive back at the office having worked out the solution.
- Exercise with others. Having a gym partner or belonging to an exercise group can help keep you accountable as we’re more likely to turn up when others are relying on us being there. It’s also a wonderful way to connect with others and nurture our minds at the same time.
Other things we can do to nurture ourselves include:
- Massage. Previously considered a ‘luxury’, massage is now rapidly gaining popularity as a way to improve mental and physical wellbeing. A remedial massage can undo knots in your muscles, decrease aches and pains in your body, boost our immune system, lower heart rate and blood pressure and increase blood circulation, helping our body to eliminate waste and increase access to fresh nutrients. As for the mental benefits, massage can relax your mind and de-stress you.
- Epsom salt bath. The magnesium in the salts seeps into muscles, relaxing and rejuvenating them. A foot bath after standing for a long period can help restore our feet and calves and help our mind unwind too.
What are some of the ways you nurture yourself, or others already? Let us know in the comments below.