When I was growing up and becoming an adult I associated menopausal symptoms with women in their mid 40’s. That’s about the time my aunts and older cousins (it’s a big family, folks) began to fan themselves when I thought the temperature in the room was just fine. And right on target when I was 45 I had my first “power surge” hot flash that started on my arms, thighs and back and then spread all over. I felt like I’d stepped into a microwave. That’s about the time I learned to appreciate that big refrigerated room in CostCo with all of the vegetables in it, the one I affectionately refer to as ‘my hot flash room.’
What I didn’t know was that this train had been bearing down on me for years. Perimenopause, the years before you hit the technical definition of menopause, can happen 10+ years prior to menopause. But no one talked about it: not my family, my doctor, or my friends. Maybe it’s because none of us were really aware it was happening. I was 35 years old when I started experiencing some serious mood swings. I could go from zero to angry Amazon warrior queen then crumple into a pile of tears in 20 seconds or less. My mother commented that I acted like a woman in menopause and I needed to get a grip. I was exhausted all the time and was gaining about five pounds a year I just couldn’t shed no matter what I did. My doctor suggested prozac, wellbutrin, diet pills (speed, basically) and a host of other pharmaceuticals.
What was really happening? Hormonal shifts and imbalances. See if these symptoms sound familiar:
- Depressed mood or sadness
- Weight gain, especially around the middle
- Fuzzy thinking or “brain fog”
- Feeling overwhelmed, confused, or just not like yourself
- Irregular periods
- Heart palpitations
- Achy stiff joints
- Less interest in sex
- Vaginal dryness
- Cravings for sweets or alcohol
- Yeast infections or urinary tract infections
- Bouts of gas, bloating and/or diarrhea
- Hair or skin is getting dry, fragile or brittle
If any of these sound like you, what do you do about these things? Don’t just suffer through it. This is your body’s way of telling you something is off kilter. You can do a lot to help balance your hormones even after you start experiencing symptoms. My recommendations:
- Educate yourself.
Find out all you can about your hormones and how to balance them. Read Ann Louise Gittleman’s book, Before the Change: Taking Charge of Perimenopause. If you can’t afford it or want more information after you’ve read it, check out the author’s blog.
- Change your diet.
You can regulate your hormones quite a lot by changing your diet. I know that’s hard. Believe me, I know. Change a little at a time so it’s not so difficult. The book and blog above has some great suggestions for you. The book lays out a diet to aspire to and a support group like Weight Watchers can help you not feel overwhelmed by the changes you might need to make.
- Get some acupuncture.
It de-stresses you, makes you feel more balanced, clears the mental fog, and helps your hormonal balance right away. It can also relieve insomnia, irregular periods, PMS symptoms, anxiety and palpitations, depression, and the other symptoms listed above. Call and talk to me if you have questions: 512-619-5549. I’m happy to chat with you.
- Herbs and supplements.
Your body needs some extra help. I can help you with herbs and supplements to help your body come back into balance. You can book an appointment with me by calling 512-619-5549 or by going to my online booking site.
Another dirty word, I know. Moderate exercise is great for helping your body out though. It even helps with the next recommend, managing your stress levels. Why not take a yoga class or a tai chi class? You’re getting two things done at once. Pat yourself on the back for multitasking!
- Manage your stress.
Stress is a killer. Literally. And it doesn’t do your hormones any good either. If you’ve got Netflix, look for a National Geographic production called Stress: Portrait of a Killer. You can stream this online or order the DVD from them. It’s the best and simplest explanation of what stress does to the body that I have seen. It starts a little corny, but within 5 minutes it gets really good.
Give me a call at 512-619-5549 or drop me an e-mail. I’m happy to talk with you about painless ways to make these changes and get control of your life again.
Yours in health,
–Cat Calhoun, L.Ac.