How well I remember a certain Christmas season in Idaho about 15 years ago ….I was in my late 40s then and had just moved back to the States from England – a culture shock and-a-half. My daughters, Jess and Rye were still little, 9 and 6 years old, and having a hard time making friends who could understand their English accents. My husband was setting up a photography studio in our garage (bad idea). I was looking for work in health publishing where there was none. It was a tough transition and to top it off, my hormones were in full revolt. Between the mood swings and hot flashes every 20 minutes, no amount of holiday cheer could cheer me up. In the dead of winter I kept opening up the windows, and gawd help anyone who complained of frostbite. “Try putting on another sweater,” I would bark at my shivering little ones… Needless to say, my family was beginning to hate me…. That Christmas Ebenezer Scrooge had nothin’ on me!
I guess I should have built an igloo in the back yard and moved in… that might have helped. But when it came to helping myself, I was my own worst enemy…drinking too much caffeine, eating all the wrong things, and not getting enough sleep! Forget hitting the pause button – I was in full-throttle Peri-menopause and letting it get the best of me.
The night before Christmas, the only creature stirring all through the house was I, woken by the sound of night sweats dripping on the floor (well it was almost that bad). Around 2am, I went outside to stand on the deck (in minus 10 degrees… ahh relief) when I heard a noise behind me. Was I about to meet the jolly man himself? Would he wag his finger in my face for scarfing all his cookies and for being a mostly naughty, not nice, peri-menopausal person? He would have been perfectly within his rights to say so. But no, it was Ryan, my little one, too excited to sleep. “Mommy, has Santa been here yet?” She looked over at the tree and then up at me, crumbs trailing down my PJ’s. “Mommy, did you eat the cookies we made for Santa!!” She started to wail; “now he’ll never come! You’re a mean mommy!” A mean (hot, sweaty, flabby, crabby, itchy, bitchy) mommy, that’s what I was. But I didn’t want to be. I didn’t want to be that person. And I never wanted to see that look on my child’s face again!! That Christmas was the beginning, the eve of my journey back to balance.
I hit the books, starting with What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause, by Dr. John R. Lee, the bible for women in menopause. (A couple pages in, I started to cry, he was speaking to ME!) Hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, weight gain, the dreaded belly fat in particular, nervousness, irritability, i.e. behaving like the wicked witch of the west to those you love best in all the world? I could blame it on my hormones. The extent to which I was out-of-sync had everything to do with the extent to which my hormones were out-of-sync. Yes, I could expect my hormones to significantly shift in mid-life, but however steep or rapidly the shift occurred was clearly up to me. I could stop the rollercoaster and get off. So I did, and so can you! In fact it’s one of our essential guiding principles: You can get off the rollercoaster and get your mojo back!
Start now:1) Buy Dr. Lee’s book and read it cover to cover. (Stay tuned for other selected books that Kyle and I love, and that will be available for you to order in the New Year right here on our blog.)
2) Get your hormones tested (www.zrtlab.com) to determine whether and to what extent your hormones are out of balance.
3) If testing reveals imbalances requiring hormone support insist on bioidentical vs. synthetic hormones (HT).
4) Find a provider to partner with for prescribed hormone therapy
5) Support your adrenal glands! They have to manage your stress response, energy levels, immunities AND take over all hormone production in mid-life so these mighty little glands need all the help they can get: optimal nutrition, exercise, stress control, sleep and pursuit of meaningful work and ME time.
For specific tips about how to quell the hot flashes please keep reading:
• Avoid alcohol, caffeine, sugar, spicy foods, hot soups and drinks that can trigger hot flashes and worsen mood swings.
• Steer clear of unnecessary, avoidable stress since it is one of the biggest causes of hot flashes and night sweats. Your body reacts to constant stress by raising cortisol levels, which alters the normal balance of hormones in the body. Vow not to let stress take center stage in your life. Start to banish it
now by breathing deep to get oxygen to the brain, an instant stress reliever. Make time to read, relax, soak in the tub, take a 20-minute walk, or a 10-minute catnap, cancel at least one appointment a week.
• Reset the temperature in your house to 68 degrees.
Studies show that sleeping in a cooler room can lead to deeper sleep. Night sweats can be triggered by changes in room temperature, so if you start off cool and use minimal covers, you are less likely to wake in a sweat as your body warms up through the night.
• Daily exercise can release held tension in the body, so you can truly relax. It also triggers endorphins; the “feel good” hormones that help you feel calmer and increase your overall sense of well being. Studies tell us that woman who make exercise a part of their daily routine have fewer hot flashes, night sweats and other symptoms of imbalance.
Supplements that can help relieve hot flashes:
• Bioidentical progesterone (balanced by bioidentical estrogen as need be) may dramatically reduce the strength and frequency of hot flashes by keeping estrogen and progesterone balanced and less prone to fluctuate erratically. Studies have shown up to 80 percent relief from hot flashes in women using bioidentical progesterone in a ‘Goldilocks’ dose – no more and no less than the body needs.
• Multivitamins and Trace Minerals (zinc, selenium, etc), B-complex, Vitamin E, and Flax seed (grind your own and sprinkle on salads, oatmeal, in smoothies etc.) help to optimize hormone production and metabolism, and diminish hot flashes and night sweats.
• Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are essentials for balanced estrogen production and GOOD for hot flashes
• Soy protein in moderation has been shown in studies to relieve hot flashes and night sweats. Asian women with soy-rich diets are famous for their lack of hot flashes and menopause symptoms. (Best sources of soy are fermented as the Asians take them in, e.g. tofu, tempeh, miso, etc. vs. overdoing it with soy lattes, chips and bars.)
• Phytonutrients found in plants and herb supplements, such as magnolia, red clover, dong quai, black cohosh, rhodiola, etc. and other “weak plant-based estrogens” can cool hot flashes and help you refocus.