Tag Archives: hot flashes

Can’t Sleep? You Could Have an Undetected Hormone Imbalance!

A century ago most people slept nine to 10 hours a night, a healthy normal for rest and replenishment, but these days we tend to live by the You snooze, you lose maxim. Now most of us are working ten hours a day and getting by on half that much sleep – not nearly enough to recharge our batteries, much less replenish hormone levels. In fact, researchers have a name for those of us who get by on less than five to six hours of sleep a night – “short sleepers” – who not only have a serious fatigue problem but may also suffer from anxiety, food cravings, “stress eating”, AND, get this, higher body fat.
A number of studies out of Stanford and the U. of Chicago attest to the strong association between sleep deprivation and weight gain – particularly belly fat!

Can't sleep at night and can't stay awake during the day? It could be your hormones...

Can’t sleep at night and can’t stay awake during the day? It could be your hormones…

A major cause of our chronic lack of sleep is the fast track stressful culture we live in which leads to overstimulation of the hormones that govern all physiological activities, including sleep. Hormones are meant to follow their own rhythm and diurnal curve. Take for example cortisol, the master stress hormone. It should be at its highest level in the morning to get us up and attam, and decline gradually over the course of the day to lowest levels at night – right before sleep. But what we often observe in the test results of those who list sleep disturbances as moderate or severe, is the absolute reverse where cortisol is low in the morning when it should be high, and high at night when it should be low.

Cortisol levels that are elevated at night seriously interfere with the body’s natural production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. So we toss and turn all night then drag ourselves out of bed in the morning relying on alarm clocks, caffeine, and chocolate to get through the day. By the time bedtime rolls around again, we find ourselves too wired to fall asleep and stay asleep – a classic case of hormone imbalance that has probably been overlooked for years.

Living on a caffeine drip...have you tested your hormones lately?

Living on a caffeine drip…have you tested your hormones lately?

Given that hormones work in tandem with one another to maintain balance, shifting levels of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and DHEA can also negatively impact the nature and quality of sleep, particularly at midlife.
For example, women in menopause who no longer ovulate have plummeting levels of progesterone and thus become low in this natural sleeporific hormone. Deficiencies of estrogen can cause hot flashes that wake us up in the night, and low testosterone in both men and women can cause muscles aches and pain that make it hard to get to sleep in the first place.

Testing for hormone imbalances that sabotage our slumber is easy enough to do. A convenient home collection kit combines non-invasive (no-needles) saliva testing of steroid/sex and adrenal hormones with dried blood spot testing for thyroid hormones. Results can identify specific hormone imbalances linked to sleep disturbance, chronic fatigue, sugar cravings, stress and other health issues related to a healthy sleep.

To sleep is to be balanced in all ways

To sleep is to be balanced in all ways

You can order a test kit at http://www.canaryclub.org for easy at home collection and return of hormone samples (by regular mail) to the lab for analysis. Test results are not a diagnosis, but can be used by practitioners to facilitate correction of sleep specific hormone imbalances. Always partner with a provider. If you need one, go to ZRT Laboratory’s website:www.zrtlab.com and click on Find a Provider, OR, if you live in or around Portland, Oregon, book an appointment with Kyle at Pearl Women’s Center, www.pearlwomenscenter.com, or if you prefer phone consult/coaching you can book with me at http://www.yourhormonebalance.com to review your test resuts, connect the dots to your symptoms, and design a personal rebalancing plan.

A good nights restorative sleep is waiting in the wings for you – what greater gift can we give ourselves in this season of giftgiving, than that… AND how better to start the New Year than with a long winters nap!
P.S. No cellphones or Ipads allowed by the bedside – the blue light that emits from electronic devices is a serious disruptor of natural sleep hormones!!

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Banishing The Seven Dwarves of Menopause

September is Menopause Awareness Month but if you listen to certain talking heads in the media lately you’d think we were in the midst of Menopause UNAWARENESS month! Just the other day I heard a so-called expert refer to the perils of progesterone, and how it can cause cancer. But what she was really talking about was its evil twin PROGESTIN, the synthetic form known to heighten risks in women who use it in HRT combos. Real progesterone (aka bioidentical) is a far cry from the Fake synthetic stuff, and there is not a shred of evidence – trust me, the science is on our side here – that natural progesterone in the proper balance does anything but protect us against estrogen-driven breast cancers, AND while its at it, can also bring sweet relief from hot flashes.

Before I descend from my soapbox, allow me to persuade you in our national conversation about menopause this month, to doublecheck what you hear about hormones from a reliable source (like Menopausibilities of course, and others, e.g. virginiahopkinshealthwatch.com; womenin balance.org), and refuse to resign yourself to a bad, sad menopause.  I will gladly go out on a limb here to assure you that nine out of ten times, the extent to which we suffer from the itchy bitchy sweaty (let’s not leave out flabby and crabby) dwarves of menopause is the extent to which our hormones are out of sorts, out of sync, out of balance!

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  • So. If you are feeling:
    ITCHY – your estrogen and/or testosterone levels are likely to be less than optimal
  • SWEATY – your estrogen is probably running low and your progesterone even lower causing hot flashes or night sweats or both!
  • SLEEPY – your master stress hormone, cortisol is upsetting your master sleep hormone melatonin, making it tough to get to sleep and/or stay asleep, thus you are sleepy. (Know any other women awake at 3am?)
  • BLOATED – (and cannot lose weight no matter how hard you try) sounds like estrogen dominance
  • FORGETFUL – (and no way, no how, can you keep a number in your head for longer than 2 seconds) your estrogen testosterone and stress hormones may have gone AWOL along with your memory
  • BITCHY – your cortisol and testosterone levels are out of control, and…
  • PSYCHO – chances are good that your hormone levels overall are seriously out-of-whack!

How do you find out how seriously out-of-whack your hormones really are? By asking your provider to test them to pinpoint specific imbalances (please see my previous blog:How to find a natural hormone friendly provider) or by ordering a test kit online from ZRT Laboratory www.zrtlab.com AND with test results in hand set about exploring your options for rebalancing your imbalances with a qualified provider or hormone health counselor: www.yourhormonebalance.com Image

 

What most women are all too well aware of – like hot flashes, turning 50, and discovering our first chin hair – is that menopause is normal, natural, inevitable. Right. But when it starts to turn into your very own fractured fairytale and the wicked witch is staring back at you in the mirror – this is NOT normal – and it is most decidedly NOT the menopause you were meant to have. We get it that hormones WILL shift and decline as we age, but what makes the difference between a good or a bad menopause is just how shifty the shifting gets and how swift or steep the decline. What matters to menopause is how we live it: how we eat, exercise, take stress in stride, and expose ourselves (unwittingly or not) to toxins that mess with our hormones. Its about that work/life balance and whether we make sacred time for ourselves and those who matter most to us in all the world. And ultimately, it’s about how we support our natural hormonal foundations by topping up (as needed based upon tested hormone levels) with bioidentical hormones that to mimic mother nature without side effects

This is the GOOD Menopause. A time of life when you can find yourself feeling stronger, back in the swing and better than ever! Who Knew? We do! _DBP0555 - Version 2
Please join the conversation and comment here on the blog to tell us how you’ve kicked the seven dwarves to the wood shed ….

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Top 10 Hormone Rebalancing Tips: YOU could be walking around with a hormone imbalance and Not Even Know It! Oprah said that but what did she mean? Hormone imbalance defined.

Return to Balance

No one likes being out of balance, especially when the hot flashes, foggy thinking, and mood swings of menopause leave us feeling like a pale reflection of our former selves. During this hormonally challenged time its important to realize that the extent to which we suffer from troublesome symptoms has much do with the extent to which our lives – and our hormones – are out of balance.

Picture if you will synchronized swimmers all pointing their toes in perfect petal formation at the exact same moment. Suddenly, one of the swimmers takes off in a different direction, let’s call her progesterone, another dives to the bottom of the pool (call her testosterone), a few more decide to make waves (call them cortisols) while the last but not least of swimmers (call her estrogen) takes over the whole routine. All that beautiful synchrony, gone.

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Key hormone players achieve balance through synchrony

And so it goes with us. When our hormones are out of sync, we are out of sync – physically, mentally, emotionally. And because hormones are so mutually dependant (a deficiency of one creates a surplus of another), there are countless opportunities for imbalance. As Oprah put it at the opening of her show on women and hormones, “You could be walking around with a hormone imbalance and not even know it!” Knowing the signs and symptoms of a hidden hormone imbalance is your first big clue, testing and exploring your options is next  …. But before we go any further, let me explain what a hormonal imbalance is…. It’s what happens when one or more of the key hormone players (see Kyle’s most recent blog): estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and/or Cortisol, fall out of proportion to each other, (or like our synchronized swimmers above, swim off in different directions) that we are left with excesses of one hormone and deficiencies of another, a working definition of hormone imbalance. These unwelcome but inevitable shifts in hormonal milieu can be handled but until we learn how, they can seriously disrupt our  moods, memory, mojo, and zest for living. It can happen to the best of us …I would describe myself during my early experience of imbalance as feeling addled, exhausted and unloving…in a word or two: basket case.  Here now are some of the more common (preventable – seize on that word ladies) doozies:

Estrogen Dominance (flabby, crabby and fed-up) – this mother of all hormone imbalances results from high estrogen levels relative to low progesterone as a result of erratic ovulation, normal aging, hysterectomy (particularly if estrogen therapy is prescribed post-surgery in the absence of its balancing partner, progesterone), and exposure to environmental chemicals known as “xenoestrogens” (see my Feb 1st post: the Cruciferous Connection). Too much estrogen triggers multiple symptoms like weight gain, mood swings, heavy periods/no periods, lost libido, lost pzazz, lost YOU…. It typically begins at Perimenopause (early to mid-40s) when hormones wax and wane, and ends with Menopause (early 50s) when cycles cease and the ovaries stop making hormones for good. Younger women who don’t ovulate regularly (note that lack of ovulation = lack of progesterone) can also be estrogen dominant, plagued by PMS, monthly migraines, tender breasts, water retention and painful periods. So when it comes to hormone imbalance, too much estrogen is just as much an issue as too little. Having said that….

Estrogen deficiency (hot, sweaty, weepy) – low levels of estrogen can trigger that hot flash in the middle of an important meeting, or night sweats in the middle of the night, as well as other bedevilments like vaginal dryness, thinning skin, brittle nails, bones, heart palpitations, fragile emotions, muddled mind….

Imbalances of Testosterone/DHEA and Cortisol (no longer lean, just mean) are a bad combination that deplete energy, metabolism, mental clarity, stamina, and the strength of our bones, muscles, and libido. When for instance, the stress hormone cortisol goes up or stays up, testosterone goes down along with our enthusiasm, drive, and zest for living.

Adrenal Imbalances (tired, wired, and bummed-out): Lows and/or highs of cortisol resulting from unresolved stress, junk food, lack of sleep and exercise, can cause rapid aging and belly fat bigtime – not to mention allergies, insomnia, and chronic fatigue.  This under-recognized imbalance generally makes an appearance in mid-life when the adrenal glands have to pick up the slack in hormone production. The once and future energizer bunny no longer hops but plops, her sunny mood submerged under a black cloud. This is the time when the flack hits the fan if we don’t take better care of ourselves; tired, overworked adrenals eventually burnout and so do we…

Fluctuating hormones at perimenopause when hormone production becomes erratic are usually behind the hair-raising symptoms known to everywoman as the “emotional roller coaster.” That’s when all hell breaks loose and we’ll do anything for relief!

Fortunately we have a lot more control over these ups and downs than we might think. Consider these Top 10 Tips  to empower yourself and return to balance:

1.   Determine your symptoms of hormone imbalance http://www.hormonesynergy.com/women.asp  or http://www.theseventhwoman.org

2.   Test your hormones to detect hidden imbalances http://www.canaryclub.org or http://www.zrtlab.com

3.   If you have an imbalance and need to supplement insist on bioidentical hormones – they are better and safer!

4.   Learn how and when to use natural progesterone, the “great balancer.” http://www.theseventhwoman.org

5.   Support adrenal health with optimal C and B-complex, D3, and herbal tonics such as Dong Quai, Astragalus, Maca, Rhodiola, etc.

6.   Avoid xenoestrogens – eat “hormone free” foods, go GREEN with home, garden, bodycare; microwave in ceramic/glass; reject synthetic hormone replacement (HRT) and any products with unpronounceable ingredients, exercise in the open air whenever possible.

7.    Counteract stress by releasing tension: stretching, deep breathing, yoga, pilates, zumba, walking. Strength train to boost hormones naturally.

8.   Take your vitamin Zzzs – power nap!

9.   Make more ME time

10.  Act the way you want to feel! ( The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, order at http://menopausibilities.com/womens-health-shop.html)

How do YOU rebalance? Have you got a top 10, or 5, or a Numero UNO all-time best tip you can share? We’d love to pass it on!

Rebalancing amongst the Rhododendrens

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Hormones 101

What is a hormone exactly? 

How do I know if I have a hormone imbalance?

And if I do, what can I do about it anyway?

These are common questions that Candace and I hear as we work with women everyday.  Sometimes we forget how many of us don’t know the basics about our own bodies so don’t feel embarrassed if you are among those who don’t. I rely on my car mechanic to sort through the ins and outs of my vehicle when IT is out of balance. But I always feel a little sheepish because I don’t even know the right questions to ask. In many ways, I think women feel the same way about their bodies when they begin to show signs of imbalance. So here is a brief overview to answer these questions and help you understand when it is time to do something about how you feel.
A hormone is a chemical that is produced in a gland(such as the ovary or the thyroid) which is released and has far-reaching effects on other parts of the body. These hormones have many functions, including regulating metabolism, fertility, fluid balance, mood, blood sugar regulation, to name a few. Hormones act on organs, tissues and cells throughout the body and are essential for optimal functioning.
Hormones work best when they work together and are balanced with one another.

Think of a symphony which consists of various musical instrument sections  coordinated in such a way  that each section comes in at just the right moment, volume and tempo to complement the other sections. When the conductor and the musicians work well together, the music is melodic and lovely. When they don’t, it is difficult  to hear the music at all(it sounds more like a bunch of noise!).
There are days when all of us wake up and we just feel ‘in balance’ and have energy to spare. Then there are those days that we know our balance is definitely off; everything seems off-kilter. This brings me to some of the symptoms of hormone imbalance. We have mentioned a few in previous blogposts but here are some you may(or may not ) be aware of: hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, belly fat, irritability , depressed mood, anxiety, foggy thinking, feeling cold, hair loss, hair in new places, weak or peeling nails, insomnia, low libido, menstrual changes, dry skin, vaginal dryness, inability to concentrate, fatigue, memory changes…… I could go on but I think you get the picture.

If any of these sound familiar,  there is a good chance that something has caused your hormones to be out of balance.  Common causes include pregnancy, stressful life events, over scheduled and busy lives(sound like anyone you know???), lack of exercise, poor diet, toxins in our environment, toxic relationships, job stresses, and the simple act of moving into ‘midlife’ .We all have so many demands on us and often don’t have enough time in the day to get it all done, leaving us feeling depleted and ‘not like ourselves’.

Hmmm…got you thinking hopefully, so now what? Stay tuned and we will be posting a ‘checklist of symptoms of hormone imbalance’ in the near future so that you can do an inventory of your individual symptoms.  Once you have those identified, the next step will be to get your hormone levels tested.  Let us know if you would like to   get this done as we are working on putting together an offer for our readers and would like to get an idea of how many people are interested.  Just list your first name and first letter of your last name in the comments section.

As always, give us YOUR suggestions for future blogposts and feel free to ask us questions….there is no such thing as a silly question!

Wishing you balance

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Live discussion on hormone balance, testing and treatment options

Last year I did a televised interview at our local radio station, KINK.fm. The moderator asked me questions about hormone imbalance, hormone testing and possible treatments. I have had quite a few patients comment on how helpful it was to hear this interview so I would like to share it with all of you. Just click on the link and then scroll down to my photo and hit the play button I hope you enjoy it and would love to answer any questions you might have. Let me know what you think!

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Don’t Let Hot Flashes Warm Up Your Holidays…Stay Cool This Christmas!

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!

Christmas coming on – not hot flashes! Daughters Rye and Jess (not pictured) and hubby Dave like mom much better in rather than out of balance!

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!

                                        Christmas Cool…Practice Balance!

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.

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