Has Your Body Been Hijacked by Perimenopause?

Has Your Body Been Hijacked by Perimenopause?If you feel like your once-pleasant personality and your mojo have skipped town together, you’re not alone. The likely explanation is that perimenopause has hijacked them!

Signs of perimenopause can start as early as your mid-late 30’s. While you’re in the thick of raising kids (or considering having more), your ovaries may be looking toward retirement.

And the signs can be easy to miss.

Maybe you notice that you’re just a little grouchier or that your periods aren’t quite as regular. Your PMS symptoms, which were once mildly annoying, are now raging. You gain weight even though you’re exercising and eating right.

Is this Normal?

Hormone shifts can start in your mid-30’s when ovulation becomes less regular. This results in lower progesterone levels which causes symptoms that can be subtle or hit you with the force of a Mack truck. Fatigue, mood swings, insomnia and irregular periods are some of the most common problems. And this can go on for 5-10 YEARS.

Is it PMS or Perimenopause?

Many of the symptoms of PMS overlap with perimenopause. In both cases, hormonal swings are the culprit. The difference is that PMS happens during the second half of your cycle. Perimenopause symptoms can happen at any time. Keep a journaling of your symptoms may help you sort this out if you’re not sure what’s going on.

How Can I know for Sure if I’m in Perimenopause?

The short answer is…you can’t. Lab tests in perimenopause can be unreliable because your hormones are bouncing around constantly on any given day. A lab test only gives a snapshot of what’s going on, and results can vary depending on the timing of the test. Many a woman has been dismissed with “your lab tests are normal” when she is, in fact, in perimenopause. You know your body better than anyone, so don’t settle for this if you feel like something is off.

If you do have blood tests, your doctor will most likely test your FSH (and maybe your estrogen or progesterone levels). The closer your FSH is to 50, the closer you are to menopause. Your FSH level does not tell you anything about your specific hormone imbalances.

It’s a Hormone Problem, not a Prozac® Deficiency

It’s important to recognize what’s going on because many a woman has ended up on antidepressants or sleeping pills because she (and her healthcare provider) did not recognize that these problems were related to a HORMONE IMBALANCE and not true depression. Antidepressants won’t fix the root cause of the problem.

Misbehaving hormones can often be corrected with lifestyle, herbal and nutritional supplements. Simple changes such as avoiding alcohol and managing stress can make a big difference. In some cases, hormone replacement may be necessary, but that’s not usually the place to start. The first step is to get tested to see what your imbalance is. This is important because signs of imbalance overlap. For example, a low progesterone problem can look like low thyroid and high cortisol can mimic low progesterone.

What’s the Next Step?

If changes in lifestyle don’t help, then it may be time to test your sex hormone levels and your cortisol levels. High cortisol levels can keep the rest of the musicians in your body’s orchestra from playing their best, so it’s important to have a picture of how you handle stress and address that first. Testing can be done with saliva, blood or urine (there are plusses and minuses for each method). Knowing your specific imbalances allows your hormone care provider to create a unique management plan for you.

Want to learn more about writing your OWN prescription for progesterone balance? I’ve created a 5-week e-course called The Power of Progesterone: Creating Calm in Your Hormone Chaos that’s designed to teach you what’s going on with your body and how to solve the problem of progesterone imbalance using lifestyle plus herbal and nutritional supplements. If you’re ready to reclaim your mojo, this course is for you! We’re starting June 29. Click here for full details: www.writeyourownrx.com/progesterone/.

8 Ways to Beat Hot Flashes in the Summer Heat

Womanfacingfan300Summer in my part of the country is a drippy mix of 90+% humidity and 90-degree heat. That’s a recipe for disaster when hot flashes already have your body on simmer!

Hot flashes are caused by roller coaster estrogen levels. Up down, up down. And that downswing is the switch that turns the heat on!

So what’s a girl to do when estrogen swings meet hot weather? Here are 8 tips to cool you down when Mother Nature turns up the heat:

  • Try to notice what triggers your hot flashes and avoid those things. Possible culprits include spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, stress, or being in a hot place. Why? Because all of these things can cause blood vessels to dilate. This makes hot flashes worse. A tracking journal can help pinpoint problem times.
  • Dress in layers so you can peel off clothes when your “personal day at the beach” starts.
  • Stay inside with the AC on or use fans when needed.
  • Try taking slow, deep breaths when a flash starts. Paced respiration has been shown to decrease the severity of hot flashes by 44%. Read more about that here.
  • Don’t make matters worse with your sunscreen. Avoid the sunscreen chemicals oxybenzone and avobenzone, synthetic estrogens that penetrate the skin and can disrupt the hormone system. Look for active ingredients zinc oxide and titanium oxide.
  • Try acupuncture. It’s been shown to be beneficial for helping with hot flashes. Researchers think it works by increasing production of feel-good endorphins, which may stabilize the temperature control system of the body.
  • Exercise regularly (but not within 3 hours of bedtime). This has been shown to improve hot flashes in 40% of women.
  • Go natural. Herbs like chasteberry and black cohosh may help even out estrogen swings. Other options like evening primrose oil or clary sage oil may also be helpful. Ask your pharmacist or health care provider if these are safe for you.

You may want to consider hormone testing if your symptoms are severe. Tests can help pinpoint your exact imbalance so you and your health care provider can create a plan to maximize your mojo during perimenopause and menopause.

For more great info and conversation about all things menopause-related, please join me in the Hormone Harmony Club on Facebook. You can request membership here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/hormoneharmonyclub/.

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About Dr. Anna

Dr. Anna Garrett is a pharmacist and menopause expert who helps women who are struggling with symptoms of perimenopause and menopause find natural hormone balancing solutions so they can rock their mojo through midlife and beyond. But her clients would tell you that her real gift is helping them reclaim pieces of themselves they thought were gone forever.

Dr. Anna offers a complimentary 30-minute Get Acquainted Call to anyone who’d like to learn more about working 1-1 with her. You can schedule that at your convenience by clicking here

Please contact her at dranna@drannagarrett.com.

Is Perimenopause Stealing YOUR Zzzzs?

  • SleeplessWoman-300Lying awake night after night staring at the ceiling?
  • Walking through your days with a nagging headache and brain fog?
  • Wishing you could get a solid 8 hours of sleep so you’d feel like yourself for just ONE day??

I hear you…and feel your pain. Chronic insomnia is one of the most debilitating symptoms of perimenopause for a lot of women (myself included).

There’s nothing worse (IMHO) than lying awake staring at the clock while your hormones are having a PAR-TAY! What’s a girl to do???

Lack of sleep makes you cranky…that’s bad enough. But long-term insomnia can lead to other problems obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, depression, and impaired immune function.

Why do so many women suffer with insomnia in perimenopause?

Low levels of progesterone (the most common imbalance in perimenopause) contribute to sleep problems. In perimenopause lack of ovulation leads to dramatic drops in progesterone.

When low progesterone is your problem, you’ll most likely be waking up at 1 or 2 AM. If perimenopause is a relatively recent development for you, chasteberry may be a good supplement to try. It helps balance out estrogen and progesterone. Progesterone supplements are another option. Oral progesterone capsules (prescription only) are most effective for insomnia, although the OTC cream can be helpful as well.

In addition to an imbalance of sex hormones during perimenopause, a lot of women suffer with high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can contribute significantly to chronic insomnia.

Cortisol is one of your “fight or flight” hormones. In a perfect world, your cortisol levels are high in the morning and gradually decrease during the day to very low levels at bedtime. But in our over-stressed world, many women have a bedtime RISE in cortisol.

This interferes with restorative REM sleep, and interrupts sleep rhythms. That’s why so many women in perimenopause say they are able to fall asleep, but can’t stay asleep. High cortisol levels can also cause racing, panicky thoughts, heart palpitations, and even panic attacks. If you have high levels of cortisol, you will not be able to sleep even if you are exhausted. Women often describe this feeling as “tired but wired.”

How to Balance Hormones and Lower Cortisol Naturally

The most obvious way to control cortisol is to reduce stress. That’s easier said than done for most of us. You can’t just press an “OFF” button on your life! But there are changes that can help. Consider these ideas:

  • Learn to say NO. It’s a complete sentence.
  • Sometimes “good enough” is good enough. Be willing to accept imperfection.
  • Get regular exercise…but not too close to bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Both elevate cortisol levels. Alcohol also increases estrogen levels, which may worsen imbalances with progesterone.
  • Unplug at least an hour before bedtime. Screen light interferes with melatonin production.
  • Try a magnesium supplement before bed. Magnesium is a calming mineral. I like magnesium glycinate because it’s least likely to cause diarrhea.

It may be tempting to resort to over-the-counter sleep aids (they contain antihistamines) or prescription sleep medications. But these don’t treat the root cause of insomnia and may make you dependent. Over time, they work less effectively…which means you need higher and higher doses to do the job. As someone who’s been there and done that, I don’t recommend this approach. Get to the bottom of the problem.

There are supplements that can help with balancing hormones and controlling cortisol. However, it’s best to target these to your specific imbalance. Saliva testing is an easy, non-invasive way to find out exactly what’s going on. If you’re suffering from insomnia and want to know more, Let’s Talk.

 

Is Perimenopause Sneaking up on You??

Angrywoman250My client, Sarah, is ready to kill her teenage children. Her nerves are shot and her patience left the building long ago.

On the days she’s not in a murderous mood, she can barely drag herself out of bed.

And she is wondering what the hell is going on.

If you feel like your once-pleasant personality and your mojo have skipped town together, you’re not alone. The likely explanation is that perimenopause has kidnapped them.

Perimenopause is sneaky.

Some days she’s subtle, but other days she plows through your body like a pack of alien invaders.

AND she is the mistress of disguise.

Signs of perimenopause can start as early as your mid-late 30’s. While you’re in the thick of raising kids (or considering having more), your ovaries may be looking toward retirement.

Maybe you notice that you’re just a little grouchier or that your periods aren’t quite as regular. Your PMS symptoms, which were once mildly annoying, are now raging. You gain weight even though you’re exercising and eating right.

Is This Normal?

Hormones begin shifting naturally around the age of 35 when estrogen and progesterone start to taper off very gradually prior to menopause. Because this is usually such a slow shift, many women may hardly feel this change happening in their bodies. However, for many women, these hormonal shifts may overwhelm the body’s ability to maintain balance. The result is severe symptoms that can go on for years. There are some very lucky women who don’t experience any of this until much later…and their symptoms are mild or non-existent. That’s normal too.

Is It PMS or Perimenopause?

Many of the symptoms of PMS overlap with perimenopause. In both cases, hormonal swings are the culprit. The difference is that PMS happens during the second half of your cycle. Perimenopause symptoms can happen at any time. Keeping a journal of your symptoms may help you sort this out if you’re not sure what’s going on.

How Can I know for Sure if I’m in Perimenopause?

The short answer is…you can’t. Lab tests in perimenopause can be unreliable because your hormones are bouncing around constantly on any given day. A lab test only gives a snapshot of what’s going on, and results can vary depending on the timing of the test. Many a woman has been dismissed with “your lab tests are normal” when she is, in fact, in perimenopause. You know your body better than anyone, so don’t settle for this if you feel like something is off.

If you do have blood tests, your doctor will most likely test your FSH (and maybe your estrogen or progesterone levels). The closer your FSH is to 50, the closer you are to menopause.

It’s a Hormone Problem, not a Prozac® Deficiency

It’s important to recognize what’s going on because many a woman has ended up on antidepressants or sleeping pills because she (and her healthcare provider) did not recognize that these problems were related to a HORMONE IMBALANCE and not true depression. Antidepressants won’t fix the root cause of the problem.

Misbehaving hormones can often be corrected with lifestyle, herbal and nutritional supplements. In some cases, hormone replacement may be necessary, but that’s not usually the place to start. The first step is to get tested to see what your imbalance is. This is important because signs of imbalance overlap. Low progesterone can look like low thyroid; high cortisol can look like low progesterone, etc.

What If That Doesn’t Work?

If changes in lifestyle don’t help, then it may be time to test your sex hormone levels and your cortisol levels. High cortisol levels can keep the rest of the musicians in your body’s orchestra from playing their best, so it’s important to have a picture of how you handle stress and address that first. Testing can be done with saliva, blood or urine (there are plusses and minuses for each method). Knowing your specific imbalances allows your hormone care provider to create a unique management plan for you.

She’s Sneaky

SneakyShe’s sneaky.

Some days she’s subtle, but other days she plows through your body like a pack of alien invaders.

SHE is perimenopause… the mistress of disguise.

Signs of perimenopause can start as early as your mid-late 30’s. While you’re in the thick of raising kids (or considering having more), your ovaries may be looking toward retirement.

Maybe you notice that you’re just a little grouchier or that your periods aren’t quite as regular. Your PMS symptoms, which were once mildly annoying, are now raging. You gain weight even though you’re exercising and eating right.

Is this Normal?

Hormones begin shifting naturally around the age of 35 when estrogen and progesterone start to taper off very gradually prior to menopause. Because this is usually such a slow shift, many women may hardly feel this change happening in their bodies. However, for many women, these hormonal shifts may overwhelm the body’s ability to maintain balance. The result is severe symptoms that can go on for years. There are some very lucky women who don’t experience any of this until much later…and their symptoms are mild or non-existent. That’s normal too.

Is it PMS or Perimenopause?

Many of the symptoms of PMS overlap with perimenopause. In both cases, hormonal swings are the culprit. The difference is that PMS happens during the second half of your cycle. Perimenopause symptoms can happen at any time. Keeping a journal of your symptoms may help you sort this out if you’re not sure what’s going on.

How Can I know for Sure if I’m in Perimenopause?

The short answer is…you can’t. Lab tests in perimenopause can be unreliable because your hormones are bouncing around constantly on any given day. A lab test only gives a snapshot of what’s going on, and results can vary depending on the timing of the test. Many a woman has been dismissed with “your lab tests are normal” when she is, in fact, in perimenopause. You know your body better than anyone, so don’t settle for this if you feel like something is off.

If you do have blood tests, your doctor will most likely test your FSH (and maybe your estrogen or progesterone levels).  The closer your FSH is to 50, the closer you are to menopause.

It’s a Hormone Problem, not a Zoloft® Deficiency

The first sign of perimenopause that you are likely to notice is some change in your period. Shorter, longer, heavier, lighter. Other symptoms may come with time. Mood swings, fatigue, tearfulness, depression and insomnia are all relatively common.

It’s important to recognize what’s going on because many a woman has ended up on antidepressants or sleeping pills because she (and her healthcare provider) did not recognize that these problems were related to a HORMONE IMBALANCE and not true depression. Misbehaving hormones can often be corrected with lifestyle, herbal and nutritional supplements. In some cases, hormone replacement may be necessary, but that’s not always the place to start. The first step is to get tested to see what your imbalance is. This is important because signs of imbalance overlap. Low progesterone can look like low thyroid; high cortisol can look like low progesterone, etc.

What if That Doesn’t Work?

If changes in lifestyle don’t help, then it may be time to test your sex hormone levels and your cortisol levels. High cortisol levels can keep the rest of the musicians in your body’s orchestra from playing their best, so it’s important to have a picture of how you handle stress and address that first. Testing can be done with saliva, blood or urine (there are plusses and minuses for each method). Knowing your specific imbalances allows your hormone care provider to create a unique management plan for you.