In this empowering book, Pam Lob an expert in health and well-being takes a holistic view on menopause. Gives you information to make informed treatment decisions and offers practical tips and practices to look after your body, mind, emotions and spirit.
This book is aimed at all women who want to feel healthy, joyful and full of vitality no matter what there age and to help prevent and reduce menopausal symptoms.
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Beyond Hot and Crazy
A Radical Guide to Living Well with Menopause
By Pam Lob
Balboa PressCopyright © 2016 Pamela Lob
All rights reserved.
Beyond Hot & Crazy — How to Understand Raging Hormones!
"I feel like someone has put me in an oven."
"I've turned into a total bitch! I've reached the point where I don't even like the person that I have become."
"I feel weak, exhausted, shut off and alone".
These are three of many comments I hear time and again from women going through the menopause. Do you resonate with these?
Midlife transition used to be and still is in some cultures, a time for women to celebrate, to leave the responsibility of the childbearing years behind and enter a phase of creativity and wisdom. Today however, with the use of contraception, many women are delaying childbearing until much later in life.
Many women today are disconnected from their femininity as they take on a male persona to survive in the workplace, which is predominantly male orientated. Plus many women are working full time, whilst caring for a home and family. As a result many women today see menopause as a time to dread; a time of loss and struggle with health, difficult emotions and low energy. They are left wondering what the hell is going on. It feels like they are losing control of their bodies!
We are led to believe that most, if not all women struggle with the menopause, experience hot flushes, weight gain and loss of sex drive. This is a myth perpetuated by the medical profession, pharmaceutical industry and the media. Even here in the western world, many women have none, or very minor difficulties. Several women I've spoken to as I've been writing this book have reacted with surprise to discover that menopause causes such difficulty for other women. Others have told me tales of woe and embarrassment, believing that menopause truly sucks. Very few have shared openly with other women and family members how they feel.
Research suggests that around 70% of women in the western world suffer some symptoms deemed to be due to menopause.
This is huge and a large proportion of them are having a really torrid time, yet like many other women's health issues menopause is rarely openly discussed!
Menopause typically happens in the late 40's to early 50's, with early menopause occurring before the age of 45. The women who often struggle the most are those who have had a surgical menopause due to hysterectomy. This involves the removal of the uterus and in a total hysterectomy, the ovaries too. These women are also frequently quite young to experience menopause and have had no, or barely any, perimenopause, so their body has had no time to adjust.
However, it's not a forgone conclusion that women will have a horrendous time post hysterectomy. I actually felt much healthier after my hysterectomy, despite being on the lowest dose of HRT possible. Hot flushes were a bit of a nuisance, but I'd been having them for some time anyway. Others have said the same thing. Probably because the reason they had needed a hysterectomy in the first place had caused them to feel so rotten, menopausal symptoms were quite a breeze in comparison. This was certainly true for me.
In the past the majority of women sailed through menopause with very little discomfort. Even today some cultures have no problems with menopause, instead seeing it as a time for sexual freedom without the fear of getting pregnant. It is considered a time for connection and knowing of self, rather than having to concentrate on others needs, as children become independent. In some languages there are not even words to describe this time of life.
It is argued that true feminine power does not fully blossom until we reach the power stage of life, which is midlife onwards. Research shows that there is a major spike in a woman's creativity aged 50, that can last for 25-30 years. In the past and in some tribes today, the matriarchal elder woman is celebrated and revered by all, including the warriors, for her knowledge and intuition.
In western culture today however there is an obsession with youth. The media and the medical profession, encouraged by large pharmaceutical companies, are constantly pushing pills, potions and cosmetics that will keep us looking forever young, or at least striving for the unavailable elixir of youth. Along with the toxicity of our environment and disconnection from self and nature, women are constantly stressed and stopped from reaching their true power and potential.
What is Menopause?
Menopause, like puberty, is a natural phenomenon that all women will go through at some stage. It isn't a sudden stopping of menstruation, but a gradual process of change to hormone levels involved in fertility. You are deemed to be menopausal one year after the cessation of any menstrual bleed.
Arguably menopause is 'just a day'! Before this day you are perimenopausal and after post menopausal.
The time leading up to menopause is called the perimenopause and this is the time that your hormones are going through the transitional phase leading up to menopause. Statistics suggest that the average is four years, but for some women it can be as long as 15 years. Signs and symptoms can vary throughout and continue after menopause has been reached. Some woman in their 60s and 70s still report experiencing hot flushes that are not attributed to any other cause.
(For the purpose of this book I will be using menopause to mean the time from when menopausal symptoms are first felt until they cease.)
Menopause is not just about hormones rampaging through your system, sometimes having weird, unsettling and unpredictable effects on you, but research is showing that your whole being is rewiring, especially your brain. Hence the forgetfulness. This is comparable to puberty. In fact, it is puberty in reverse as once you've entered menopause, your hormone levels, if you are fit and healthy, are very similar to what they were as a child.
From puberty until menopause your monthly hormone cycle is designed to have you focus on reproduction and nurturing of others. As these start to wane, it can be unsettling and lead to big changes in your life, not just physically but also emotionally. This time often corresponds with your children moving out into the world, resulting in what is often referred to as 'empty nest syndrome'. Many women also find themselves facing marital separation, divorce and change of career direction at this time.
What Causes Menopause?
Age is the main cause of the menopause. Women are born with a set number of egg-producing follicles in their ovaries. One egg, or occasionally two are released each month, from puberty up until menopause, except during pregnancy, or because of hormonal imbalance. Anorexia and excessive exercise can both cause cessation of a woman's menses, commonly referred to as a 'period'.
When the follicles run out the menopause occurs. This is typically about the age of 50, but can be as early as 35 or as late as 60. The ovaries don't abruptly stop working but start slowing down. This transition is the perimenopause. Menopause is a natural occurrence except if it is caused by surgical removal of the ovaries, uterus (womb), chemotherapy, or pelvic radiation.
It is common to hear, including from the medical profession that menopausal symptoms are due to insufficient oestrogen. This may be true for a small number of women, but the majority are more likely to be oestrogen dominant. Oestrogen dominance causes breast tenderness, weight gain, bloating and mood swings. You are probably familiar with this, as it's what you experienced in puberty. Strangely doctors will report the ups and downs of puberty as being due to high oestrogen exposure, but the same symptoms during menopause as oestrogen deficiency!
A Simple Biology Lesson
You have three main sex hormones; oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, that are produced in the adrenal glands and ovaries. After menopause production is nearly all in the adrenal glands, which sit on top of your kidneys. These three sex hormones are made from a precursor hormone DHEA, which is made in the adrenal glands.
From the onset of puberty until menopause, except during pregnancy, it's normal for a woman to go through a monthly menstrual cycle that is between 23 and 35 days on average. The main purpose of each cycle is reproduction. If fertilisation of the egg does not occur, the woman experiences her monthly bleed. This is due to the elimination of the womb lining that developed in the second half of her cycle, ready to receive the egg if it became fertilised by a sperm.
During each monthly cycle, a variety of hormones are released at different times to stimulate the release of the egg, prepare the womb in anticipation of the egg being fertilized and the shedding of the womb lining. What all the hormones are and how they work is unimportant for the purpose of understanding the menopause. The two hormones that we are interested in are oestrogen and progesterone.
In the first part of the menstrual cycle, starting on day one of menstruation, known as the follicular phase, large amounts of oestrogen are produced by the ovaries, to prepare the follicles for release of an egg. It is this period that varies the most in length from woman to woman, or cycle to cycle.
At about day 14 of a 28 day cycle, ovulation occurs and the egg is released into the fallopian tubes ready to be fertilised by the male sperm within the next 24 hours. At this time levels of oestrogen begin to fall and progesterone begins to rise, to build up the lining of the womb in preparation for a fertilised egg. This is known as the luteal phase and this is the time when you may experience bloating, breast tenderness, lethargy, depression and irritability, often referred to as pre-menstrual tension (PMT). The cause of PMT is unknown, but it is likely to be due to the levels of the different hormones that get released during this part of the cycle. Studies suggest that it is oestrogen that causes the bloating and breast tenderness and other studies suggest it's how some women metabolise progesterone. PMT becomes more common in women as they enter the perimenopause.
If fertilisation has not taken place at around day 26-28 progesterone and oestrogen levels drop significantly and menstruation occurs.
As women approach menopause the length of their menstrual cycle can vary significantly. For some women the length of each cycle increases and for others it shortens, or there can be swings from one to the other. It has also been discovered that women don't necessarily ovulate in every cycle and the likelihood of anovulatory (egg less) cycles increases with age. In this type of cycle, progesterone is very low, or not produced at all, with potentially devastating effects on fertility and increasing the risk of osteoporosis, breast cancer, fibroids and endometriosis.
Effects of Progesterone and Oestrogen
Your hormones are an essential part of your physiology. Without them you wouldn't survive, but they are something you take for granted until they go array. Your endocrine system that controls your hormones is incredibly complicated and still not fully understood. An added complication is that hormone levels are notoriously difficult to measure. Just thinking about them or walking into a doctors office can make huge differences to their levels.
Oestrogen and Progesterone seem to have opposing functions, but their actions are interrelated. "Progesterone tends to balance out many of the negative side effects of oestrogen and at the same time can't function properly in the body without the help of oestrogen". (Lee 2004)
Research shows that for many women at the time of menopause, progesterone levels are falling proportionately greater than levels of oestrogen and in some cases, are lower than in men. This is despite the fact that oestrogen, like all the steroid hormones within the body, derives from progesterone.
When oestrogen is dominant the following symptoms are likely:-
Acceleration of ageing
Breast, uterine cancer
Decreased sex drive
Craving for caffeine and sweets
Oestrogen dominance occurs because of stress, diet and lifestyle.
The Role of Testosterone
Testosterone is often thought of as the male hormone. However, testosterone is equally important to women, it's just in lower quantities. Testosterone is needed to build muscle mass, maintain bone density, maintain a healthy weight, libido and creativity.
Your testosterone levels can be low if you experience:-
Loss of sex drive
Weight gain around your middle.
Testosterone can dip:-
At the beginning of perimenopause
If you come off the contraceptive pill
After removal of the ovaries
If your progesterone is low
If you are stressed.
Testosterone levels can be maintained by eating saturated fats, especially avocado, increasing your intake of zinc by eating seeds and beans, exercising and reducing stress, or taking a supplement prescribed by your doctor.
Signs of Menopausal Transition
The transition into menopause can vary enormously. Some women experience none, or few symptoms other than their periods become irregular until they stop altogether. Others experience horrendous problems that leave them barely able to function.
The symptoms that women experience are not necessarily due to hormone imbalances; health, lifestyle, culture and expectation also play a big part.
Women the world over will have the same hormone changes, as they go though the menopause. But not all women around the world, or from previous generations, have the same signs and symptoms. Research shows that Chinese and Japanese woman rarely report issues with hot flushes and night sweats, whereas three quarters of Caucasian woman will report this symptom and the percentage is even higher for African Americans.
From my own experience and research, I believe that the three main causes of menopausal symptoms today in the western world are:-
Lifestyle (including diet)
I will be looking at each of these in detail in further chapters.
Common Menopausal Symptoms
Time between periods gets longer or shorter
Heavy, cramping periods
Very light periods
Fluctuating period length
Skin becomes thinner and drier especially in vagina and urinary tract
Changes in libido
Frequent urination or incontinence
Have you noticed how alike these symptoms are to oestrogen dominance?
All of these symptoms can also be attributed to stress. For example, hot flushes and night sweats may result from stress and are being reported by women in their twenties, sixties and seventies. Stress leads to raised cortisol levels that in turn effect all your other hormone levels. Decreasing the stress in your life could ensure a graceful and easy menopause transition. Indeed I believe that the most likely reason that you are experiencing menopausal difficulties is because you are stressed. I will be looking at stress in detail in the next chapter.
Many women want an instant fix, a magic pill that will cure them instantly with no side effects. Sorry to disillusion you, but the truth is that there is no magic treatment. Your body has an amazing capacity to maintain balance and heal itself if you treat it right. How quickly you get results varies from person to person as everyone is unique, but you need to be willing to change how you do certain things right now and practice. Habits take 21 to 90 days on average to change and I'm here to support you on this journey. Remember ...
'WHAT YOU RESIST PERSISTS'
Many of the treatments available from pharmaceutical drugs to herbal remedies don't deal with the cause of your symptoms, so are little better than a plaster covering a wound. They can be helpful in the short term to reduce the pain and discomfort you are experiencing. However they all have potential side effects, or cause adverse reactions, especially if you take other medication, including contraceptives.
To lead a happy, healthy, joyful rest of your life without any risks from medication, diet and lifestyle changes are required. Later in the book I will be sharing with you some amazing practices and strategies to transform your life. First, a little on the more standard treatments that are available, to help you make an informed decision on what is right for you.
Excerpted from Beyond Hot and Crazy by Pam Lob. Copyright © 2016 Pamela Lob. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsForeword by Rachel Jayne Groover, xi,
My Story, xv,
The Key to Your Extraordinary Life, xix,
The Key to Your Extraordinary Life, xx,
Chapter 1: Beyond Hot & Crazy — How to Understand Raging Hormones!, 1,
Chapter 2: Are You Addicted to Stress?, 23,
Chapter 3: You Are What You Eat!, 35,
Chapter 4: Why Your Beliefs Are Sabotaging You, 59,
Chapter 5: The Missing Ingredient That Keeps You Stuck, 79,
Chapter 6: Blueprint to Balance Your Life and Relationships, 95,