A Midlife Rollercoaster Ride

 



A Midlife Rollercoaster Ride

Catherine Stack ND, CNM


For a few individuals, menopause (or MANopause) is a fairly uneventful few years occurring somewhere between the years of forty and fifty five.  And then there are the rest of us!


It may begin as an unexplainable, low level anxiety that sits just below the surface of our emotions.  Maybe it is just an annoying wake up at 2 am for no reason.  Some women will wonder why they just woke up, only to immediately feel the most intense wave of heat attempt to escape their body in a burst of sweat, heart palpitations, and the overwhelming need to open the window (even if it is only 20 degrees outside).  You are sure that the caloric burn of such an event should be equivalent to a week's worth of food and yet here you are gaining a few more pounds each and every year.  Your husband’s facial hair seems to have become contagious and you are curious as to why everyone thinks that YOU are moody.  


Although it does not appear that men experience the same intensity, they are not immune to some of the hormone fluctuations that may cause some discomfort or body changes that are less desirable.  The loss of what used to be effortless muscle mass has now turned into effortless belly mass.  This is mostly due to a drop in testosterone and a change in the ratio of other hormones. This can cause men to become more anxious or even emotional and the equipment may not function as it once did.


For women in perimenopause (5-10 years prior to menopause), it is the falling progesterone levels that are typically to blame for anxiety, poor sleep and moodiness.  Hot flashes are initially caused by low progesterone (estrogen dominance) in perimenopause.   Once menopause takes place,  estrogen levels begin to drop off now being the cause of hot flashes.  I know, it’s confusing.  Other symptoms of falling estrogen levels include, thinning and wrinkling of skin, memory issues, vaginal dryness, frequent urinary tract infections and loss of libido.  


So what can we do to minimize the sometimes very uncomfortable symptoms of midlife?  If you want to be aggressive in a proactive-kind-of-way, you can have your hormone levels tested.  Blood tests can be ordered but for many who specialize in this area, urine and saliva tests are typically more helpful.  


There are a handful of specialists in Western New York who know how to treat hormonal imbalance in women and men.  Ask around or call  and speak to the pharmacists at Pine Pharmacy in Williamsville.  They are very knowledgeable and will likely point you in the right direction based on what you are looking for.  


If you’d like to get a handle on things without the time and cost of hormone replacement, there are some things you can safely try that should help take the edge off.  First, be mindful of your diet.  Sugary and spicy foods as well as caffeine and alcohol are triggers when it comes to hormonal discomfort.  Individuals fare best on a plant based diet or anti-inflammatory diet.  Individuals with excess weight will struggle more than those who fall within healthy weight guidelines.  


GABA (Gamma aminobutyric acid ) and lemon balm (tincture) are helpful for those suffering from anxiety.  Melatonin, GABA and L-theanine can be helpful to those who have difficulty sleeping.  Progesterone cream, which can be found over the counter, can be very beneficial to the peri-menopausal group of women.  Taken as directed, sleep disruption and unexplained anxiety should slip away.  DHEA, which converts to estradiol and testosterone (depending where your body needs it), becomes helpful after menopause.  I make this sound easy, but it takes a bit of trial and error to find your perfect place.  There is lots of misinformation when it comes to hormones, but when applied correctly, hormone balance can be the the key to longevity.

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