How To Find A Doctor Who Understands Menopause

doctor who understands menopause

I'm lucky. My doctor listens to me and understands what I am going through

Complaints abound from women about not receiving help from their doctors for their menopause symptoms. Their biggest challenge is finding a doctor who understands menopause. Here is a small selection of the complaints I have heard

  • I went to two women “hormone specialists” who would only throw antidepressants at me when I wasn’t depressed, but having anxiety/panic attacks instead
  • When I told my doctor about my symptoms, her advice was to go out and buy a new dress or get a manicure
  • When I was hospitalized and questioning things, I found that the doctors didn’t have much knowledge about menopause. They wanted me to simply be quiet and take a pill
  • I have a female doctor. When I described my symptoms to her, her response was “so that’s what I have to look forward to?”. I looked at her like, really…this isn’t about YOU for crying out loud….ugh!
  • Doctors think they’ve heard it all and so they brush you off….they say things like that’s normal, that’s normal shrug their shoulders and then offer anti depression pills for a quick fix
  • I went to my doc a couple of days ago because I’m having really BAD anxiety with panic attacks. He wrote me a prescription for a low dose anti depressant and waved me away! He does not know jack shit about menopause!

Unfortunately, this is the norm. The majority of women are not receiving help from their doctors for their menopause symptoms. If you have found a doctor who understands menopause and is helping you, consider yourself fortunate.

Why is your doctor not helping you?

Quite frankly, it is hard to find a doctor who understands menopause. A recent survey of ob-gyn resident doctors, conducted by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, found that there is a lack of understanding by ob-gyn residents in matters connected with menopause.

510 resident ob-gyns, from all over the country, were surveyed. Only 100 (20%) reported that they had received formal training in their ob-gyn curriculum in regard to menopause matters and only 78 had reported that they participated in a practical menopause clinic. That means that just 15% of those being trained as ob-gyns are receiving practical training to help you with issues that you are facing during menopause. The results of this survey explains why you are finding it hard to find a doctor who understands menopause.

A positive take from this study is that approximately 70% of the participants expressed a desire to learn more about menopause, its symptoms and its treatment.

An earlier study of ob-gyn residents found that most residents did not feel comfortable managing menopause patients with 75.8% reporting feeling “barely comfortable” and 8.4% feeling “not at all comfortable.”

It is not surprising that it is hard to find a doctor who understands menopause. If ob-gyns are not being trained in menopause matters, what training can you expect an internist or general practitioner to have had about menopause?

What to look for in a doctor who can help you with menopause

  1. You want a doctor who has received training about menopause
  2. You want a doctor who has experience in helping menopausal women
  3. You want a doctor who listens to you and is a caring human being

1 above, may be easier to find than you may think. 2 may be a little more difficult to find than 1. Unfortunately, 3 is not taught in medical curriculums. It is a case of “suck it and see”.

How to find a doctor near you who has been trained about menopause

The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) has developed a menopause competency examination. All licensed healthcare providers (including doctors, nurses, and physician assistants) are eligible to sit for this examination. Those who pass this rigorous competency examination, have demonstrated their expertise in the field and are awarded the credential of NCMP, which stands for NAMS Certified Menopause Practitioner.

How do you know if a physician is a menopause “expert”?

One way is to ask if he or she is a NAMS certified menopause practitioner. The credential is good for three years and they receive a certificate that they can proudly display in their office.

Another way is to search the directory of menopause healthcare providers on the NAMS site. You enter your zip code and the search results will reveal doctors in your vicinity. It is advisable to tick the box that limits the search results to NCMP practitioners, because the NAMS directory also contains details of doctors who do not have the NCMP credential.

Good luck in finding a doctor who understands menopause.

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Acne During Menopause: A Fact Of Life For Many Women

Acne During Menopause

I've been using the treatments my daughter uses.....but they are not helping

“What is going on? I have come to terms with my hot flashes, my mood swings and my weight gain. Now I am breaking out pimples and blackheads …. just like I did when I was a teenager”. This is how Jane opened her session with me.

Many women are shocked to discover that they are susceptible to acne when they reach menopause. They equate acne with adolescence. I told Jane that acne during menopause is more common than she thought. I asked her how common she thought it was. She said that none of her friends are showing signs of it, nor are they talking about it.

I then told her about a recent study of 2895 women to determine the extent of the rise in adult acne in women. It found that more adult women are getting pimples than ever before. 26 percent of the women aged 31–40, and 12 percent of the women aged 41–50 had clinical acne.

I explained to Jane that when she was a teenager and she got pimples, her changing hormones, at that time, was the culprit. Now, in menopause, her changing hormones are once again the cause of her acne.

How hormonal change causes acne during menopause

Like all of the other menopause symptoms you may be experiencing, acne during menopause is caused primarily by the changing levels of estrogen and progesterone in your body. Prior to perimenopause, your hormones work in harmony by co-existing with one another in a certain ratio. This keeps your body healthy and functioning. During perimenopause, your ovaries produce less estrogen and progesterone. While estrogen levels fall from their premenopausal levels during perimenopause, progesterone levels fall further. In terms of the ratio between them, there is greater percentage of estrogen in your body, relative to progesterone. This not only disturbs the balance between estrogen and progesterone, but it disturbs the balance between all the hormones in your body.

The hormonal disturbance affects the hormones that are directly responsible for acne during menopause. These hormones are called androgens, which include testosterone and DHEA among others. We tend to think of androgens as male hormones, but women have and need them in their blood, as well.

One of the functions of androgens is to cause your glands to secrete oil to keep your skin moist, vibrant and healthy. That oil is called sebum. Prior to menopause, androgens perform this function well….for the most part. During menopause, while the levels of estrogen and progesterone are falling, androgen levels remain fairly constant. This disturbs the balance between them. As a result, your glands are producing excessive oil. This causes acne during menopause.

How to get rid of acne during menopause

As hormone imbalance is the cause of all menopause symptoms, not just acne during menopause, the first step to eradicate acne is to get your hormone levels tested. The results will tell you which hormones to address to re-balance them.

Researchers have found that quickly digested carbohydrates, stimulates the production of sebum. Quickly digested carbohydrates are found in all processed and fast foods. These foods raise your insulin levels, which in turn raises your androgen levels, which in turn stimulates the production of sebum. This means that your dietary habits play an important role in the prevention and elimination of acne.

So…..the second step in the eradication and prevention of acne during menopause is to address your diet. Unless your diet consists mostly of eating real food, the food you are eating is exacerbating your acne. Real food does not need labels – ie – unprocessed meat, fish, milk, eggs, legumes, fruits, grains and vegetables.

These two steps are the way to beat acne during menopause…. permanently. However, it will take time for this to happen …. maybe months. In the meantime, it would help to improve your acne condition if you follow a good regimen for the general care of midlife skin. This includes exfoliating your skin regularly, to remove dead skin cells that can clog pores.

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Itchy Skin: How To Beat The Itch – Scratch – Itch Cycle

Itchy Skin

I itch day and night but it's worse at night

Do you experience any of the following
  • you suddenly itch everywhere – mostly at night. Your back, legs, chest, and stomach end up with what looks like hives
  • a burning, tingling itch from your head to your toes and everywhere in between …that drives you crazy
  • itching in your armpits or palms or bottom of your feet
  • you cant stop scratching your arms or legs or back or neck
  • vaginal itching where you cant stop scratching “down there”
  • itching that is so severe that you scratch your skin until it is raw

Itchy skin is a common symptom during menopause. During menopause, the most common underlying cause of it is hormonal change. Hormone changes play havoc with your skin during menopause.

The hormone most associated with itchy and dry skin is estrogen. Low estrogen levels are the cause of itchy skin during menopause. Estrogen normally plays a vital role in maintenance of healthy skin. Most importantly, it plays a role in the production of collagen which is a form of protein that gives strength to all body tissues including the skin. Decreased estrogen therefore impairs this important process. Furthermore, low estrogen levels reduce the body’s intrinsic ability to retain moisture and also impairs the production of natural skin oils. The result is dry and itchy skin.

There is a medical term for dry itchy skin. It is called pruritus. Pruritus is an uncomfortable and unpleasant sensation on your skin that causes the need to scratch to maintain comfort. This feeling can also be a burning or stinging sensation and can appear anywhere on your body in spots or a generalized area. It can be extremely disruptive because the more you itch, the more you scratch.

Many women report that the elbows and the T-zone of the face are the first places where itchy skin develops during menopause. It often leads to dry itchy skin appearing just about anywhere on your body, from your head to your toes. It can affect your scalp, face, neck, chest, back, arms, arm pits, elbows, hands, vagina, anus, legs, feet … even nails.

Suggestions about how to beat itchy skin

As hormone imbalance is the cause of all menopause symptoms, not just skin that itches, it would be advisable to get your hormone levels tested. You will then be in a position to take steps to re-balance them.

Some doctors believe that topical treatment with vitamin A creams, such as Retin-A and Renova, can have some effect on itchy skin by rebuilding collagen. Even though some women report that these products reduce flakiness of the skin, they can cause skin irritation. Irritation aggravates the itching condition. These products are best avoided.

Your personal care routines play a part in keeping your skin irritant free

  • Avoid taking hot showers or baths. Hot water can be harsh and can have a drying affect on the skin. Use warm water instead
  • Use an unscented soap when taking a shower or bath or washing your body.
    Scented, antibacterial, or deodorant soaps can be harsh, removing your body’s essential oils, leaving skin even more itchy and dry
  • Exfoliate your skin by gently brushing it
  • Moisturize your skin. Petroleum jelly is one of the best. It helps to trap moisture and keep it in the skin
  • Protect your skin with a good quality broad spectrum sunblock, with an SPF of 15 or higher. This will prevent further damage to your skin and will prevent drying

It is advisable to increase your daily intake of water. This will help to hydrate your skin form the inside out.

The best nutritional advice is to base your diet around real food, not processed food. Specifically, increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids found in foods such as salmon, sardines, walnuts, fortified eggs, and flaxseed. Adequate vitamin B intake is also crucial to skin health. Some foods rich in vitamin B include beef, turkey, bananas, potatoes, brazil nuts and legumes.

Now you can take the steps to end your own itch – scratch – itch torment.

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The Most Natural Treatment For Your Menopause Symptoms

Hypnosis

This could restore my life to me.....without risks to my health

What could be more natural than using your mind to relieve your menopause symptoms?

No…this post is not about having a positive attitude. It is about using mental techniques for menopause relief…..techniques that have been found, by studies, to significantly reduce hot flashes, night sweats, disturbed sleep, anxiety and depression. The topic of this post is hypnosis …. in the form of hypnotherapy and self hypnosis.

An article on the Web MD site reports the results of a study that examined the effects that hypnosis has on hot flashes and night sweats. It found that hypnosis reduces hot flashes and night flashes by 74%. It concludes that it is an effective treatment for menopause-related hot flashes and night sweats. Margery Gass, MD and Executive Director of the North American Menopause Society, says that there is a need for such non pharma treatments for these menopause symptoms.

In a 2010 report from Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, researchers reviewed the available research and found that the tremendous volume of research provides compelling evidence that hypnosis is an effective treatment for anxiety. Other studies have found that it is effective in reducing depression and insomnia, as well.

Hypnosis has been used by doctors to reduce pain experienced from surgery. In a study from Harvard Medical School published in the Lancet in 2000, patients who had 15 minutes of hypnosis before surgery not only needed less pain medication afterward, but also took less time in surgery.

What is hypnosis?

Hypnosis is a subject that is widely misunderstood. Very few terms have quite the emotional impact that “hypnosis” does. All sorts of beliefs surround the concept, most of which have little to do with what it actually is.

Hypnosis is a process that increases communication between your mind and body. In
hypnosis your mind goes into a trance — a daydream-like state. A trance is a heightened state of attention where your body is more open to suggestion.

You have experienced trances many times.

A daydream is one example of a trance. When daydreaming, you temporarily suspend your focus on external events and drift into an internal sensory reality of our own making. In fact, you can become so absorbed in your fantasy that, at times, you literally don’t hear what’s happening around you. Who hasn’t had the experience of having one’s name called a number of times before you suddenly realize that somebody is trying to get your attention?

If you’ve ever been totally engrossed in a book or movie and lost all track of time or didn’t hear someone calling your name, you were experiencing a hypnotic trance. You become so focused on the images on the screen, or the images you have created in your mind from the book, that you become less aware of things around you in your current physical environment.

Three types of hypnosis

  1. stage hypnosis – this is done for entertainment. We are not concerned with it in the context of this post
  2. hypnotherapy – this is the application of hypnotic techniques by a qualified hypnotherapist, for therapeutic purposes. The hypnotherapist induces a hypnotic state and then makes suggestions that will improve an unwanted condition
  3. self hypnosis – the situation in which you enter a hypnotic state, as result of either listening to a CD developed to specifically induce a hypnotic state …. or using deep relaxation techniques.

    CDs are usually developed to improve specific conditions – ie – anxiety, insomnia etc. The CDs will also contain the suggestions that will improve the condition.

    If you are using a deep relaxation technique to enter a hypnotic state, once you are deeply relaxed (that is the hypnotic state) ….. you visualize the condition as improved or reduced or eliminated

As a majority of women prefer a natural treatment to relieve their menopause symptoms, you cant get more natural treatment than hypnosis. You are putting nothing into your body. And … it is relatively inexpensive, when compared with other treatments or remedies.

If you use the CD self hypnosis approach, the only cost is purchase of the CD. If you use deep relaxation and visualization, there is no cost. Of course, there will be a cost if you use a hypnotherapist.

If your menopause symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, depression or disturbed sleep, you could begin with self hypnosis and see how that works for you. If your symptoms are quite severe, it may be a better idea to work with a hypnotherapist. It often takes no more than 1 or 2 sessions with a hypnotherapist to relieve your menopause symptoms.

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Should You Have Your Ovaries Removed During A Hysterectomy?

Ovaries Removed

But.....why do you want to remove my ovaries?

Despite advice from The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, that a pre-menopausal woman should keep her ovaries when undergoing a hysterectomy, gynecologists are continuing to ignore that advice.

According to a new study, one in three ob-gyns still recommend removal of healthy ovaries from women undergoing hysterectomies ….. who haven’t yet entered menopause.

The study was conducted by researchers from Tufts University School of Medicine. An anonymous survey was mailed to practicing ob-gyns, randomly selected from a list produced by the American Medical Association, in an effort to assess their opinions regarding removal of ovaries at the time of hysterectomy. 443 ob-gyns responded.

600,000 hysterectomies are performed in the US every year. Today there is growing sentiment that many of the hysterectomies performed are unnecessary. It is argued that around 10% of the hysterectomies performed are necessary, due to the presence of cancer. That amounts to around 60,000 hysterectomies. The remaining 540,000 hysterectomies are performed for benign conditions, which either resolve themselves over time or which have alternative treatments that are less invasive. If one third of these also involve the removal of ovaries, it means that 180,000 women have their ovaries removed every year. In this post, I will present information that suggests that these women would have better health prospects, if their ovaries were still intact.

At the very moment the surgeon snips the ovaries and removes them, a women is in menopause. She will no longer menstruate. This is surgical menopause. It is important to understand that a hysterectomy – the removal of the complete uterus including the cervix – does not bring about surgical menopause. If the woman still has her ovaries, she will go on to have natural menopause.

You would be mistaken if you thought that natural menopause and surgical menopause bring women to the same place. It is true that either route leads to an end of menstruation, but that is where the similarity ends. Natural menopause is a change that takes place over years. A woman’s ovaries gradually produce less hormones over those years.

There is a common misconception that when you reach natural menopause, your ovaries no longer produce estrogen and other hormones. This is incorrect. The production of estrogen by your ovaries does not go to zero at menopause. Your ovaries continue to produce estrogen, for the rest of your life, but much less of it. They also continue to produce testosterone and androstenedione, which your body converts into estrogen.

Surgical menopause occurs very suddenly; one day a woman is having menstrual cycles, and the next day, after having her ovaries removed surgically, she is postmenopausal. Because she had her ovaries removed, her body stops producing estrogen, and other hormones, abruptly.

Removal of ovaries increases health risks

The removal of a woman’s ovaries increases her risk of cardiovascular disease, because estrogen helps to prevent it. Estrogen acts as an anti-inflamatory agent that prevents the build up of plaque in the blood vessels. The sudden absence of estrogen also increases her risk of dementia and alzheimers disease.

Women who enter menopause via the surgical route also experience more severe menopause symptoms, than women who go through natural menopause. This, too, is due to the abrupt absence of estrogen, and other hormones. While 10%-15% of women who go through natural menopause experience severe hot flashes, 25% of women who go through surgical menopause experience severe hot flashes. The abrupt loss of ovarian hormones will also cause more severe vaginal dryness, mood swings, anxiety.

A major study was conducted in 2008 to determine the affect of hysterectomy on women’s health. It was led by Dr William H. Parker, a noted gynecological surgeon. The study reviewed the health of 29,000 women who had hysterectomies for non cancerous conditions. 16,000 of these women had their ovaries removed. 13,000 of these women retained their ovaries. The findings of the study, which was reported in 2009 were as follows

  • women who had their ovaries removed, had a higher risk of death from any cause, and had a significantly higher risk of heart disease, stroke and lung cancer
  • While breast cancer and ovarian cancer were less frequent in women who had their ovaries removed, the overall risk of death from all types of cancer was higher among women who had their ovaries removed

To put these findings into context, ovarian cancer accounts for 14,700 female deaths per year in the U.S., heart disease causes 326,900 female deaths, and stroke causes 86,900 female deaths each year. The risk of death from heart disease is 23 times greater than the risk of death from ovarian cancer. The risk of death from stroke is 6 times greater than the risk of death from ovarian cancer.

The main reason given for removal of the ovaries is to prevent ovarian cancer. However the study showed that risk of death from ovarian cancer to women, whose ovaries had been conserved, is extremely low (34 deaths out of 13,305 women, or 0.26%). Since heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer are each much more common than ovarian cancer, many more women, who have their ovaries removed, will die of these conditions than can be saved by preventing ovarian cancer.

If a woman is at such a low risk for ovarian cancer with her ovaries intact, and at such a high risk for heart disease as a result of her ovaries having been removed, does it make sense to you to have your ovaries removed?

The truth is that by having your ovaries removed, you do reduce your risk of ovarian cancer somewhat….but in so doing you increase your risk of heart disease by 500% (that’s by 5 times). The fact is that you are about 23 times more likely to die of heart disease than you are of ovarian cancer. So if you’re looking at odds, you would be wise to keep your ovaries.

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A New Idea About How To Enjoy Sex During Menopause

Vaginal Atrophy

I am too embarrassed to talk about this

If you search menopause forums or go onto Facebook pages about menopause or just search for articles about menopause symptoms, you will find much discussion about hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, sleep disturbance and weight gain. But you wont find much discussion about vaginal dryness.

Vaginal dryness is the least discussed menopause symptom, yet it is estimated that 32 million American woman experience it. Because it causes pain during intercourse, it often leads to a decrease in sexual interest and activity.

Vaginal dryness is caused by a condition called vaginal atrophy. Vaginal atrophy is a condition in which the vaginal wall gets thinner and it gets inflamed. It occurs during menopause when there is a reduction in levels of estrogen. The symptoms of vaginal atrophy include vaginal burning, itching, dryness and irritation.

Now a prominent ob-gyn, Dr Mary Jane Minkin has suggested a novel solution for women who want to enjoy sex with their husbands/partners, but do not because of vaginal pain during intercourse. Dr Minkin, is clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine. She is an active member of the North American Menopause Society and is a Certified Menopause Clinician, who has her own private menopause practice.

Before I reveal Dr Mankin’s novel idea, I think that it is important for you to know the extent of the problem that vaginal atrophy poses. A global survey of 4,100 of postmenopausal women, who experience vaginal atrophy (va), and 4,100 male partners of postmenopausal women, who experience va, has been conducted in 9 countries….to determine the affect that va has on relationships. The survey is called CLOSER (CLarifying vaginal atrophy’s impact On SEx and Relationships). Information from that survey is being reviewed on an ongoing basis.

New information from the CLOSER survey has recently been released. It has revealed how treatment with vaginal estrogen affected the sex lives of postmenopausal women, age 55 to 65 who had va, and their male partners

Before treatment, a majority of these women (58%) said they had been avoiding intimacy because of the pain, and 68% said they had lost their desire because of it. An even higher percentage of the men (78%) thought their partner’s vaginal discomfort caused them to avoid intimacy. About a third of the men and women had stopped having sex altogether.

Dr Minkin’s novel approach does not involve treatment with estrogen or treatment of any kind for that matter. She encourages her patients to consider using a sexual aid like a vibrator. Here is what she says

Women who use vibrators regularly have increased blood flow to their vaginas and increased lubrication. That’s especially important for menopausal women who can experience lack of blood flow to the vagina due to lack of estrogen. Lack of blood flow contributes to vaginal atrophy, which we’ve talked about before. When it comes to your vagina: Use it or lose it! Sounds corny, but it’s true.

You may consider this to be a controversial solution for menopausal woman who would like to enjoy sex, but dont because of pain associated with it. For some women the idea of using a vibrator may be outside their comfort zone. However the subject of lack of sex in a relationship, because of pain caused by vaginal atrophy, is a real issue experienced by many menopausal women. The solution suggested by Dr Minkin may be a real solution for many women.

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Menopause Blues: Is Depression Getting The Best Of You?

Depression

I dont even feel like getting out of bed

Janet is a patient of mine. She first started experiencing menopause symptoms 2 years ago. A few days ago I received an email from her in which she said

I just don’t have the energy or enough desire or maybe even the ability to think and plan what to do. My house has gone to pot. I don’t enjoy much. Takes everything in me just to make myself do the dishes or laundry, much less think about anything fun. I feel like I am watching the world from behind glass.

She said that she wanted to alert me about what was going on with her, prior to her session with me next week. This is the first time that she has spoken about this kind of experience. What Janet has described is depression. It is quite common during menopause. Menopausal women are up to 4 times more likely to experience it, than other women.

Unfortunately, doctors push pills on women who suffer depression during menopause. Antidepressant drugs cost Americans $11 billion each year and have many common side effects including sleep disturbances, nausea, tremors, changes in body weight.

For women who are averse to popping pills to deal with depressive moods, there is another solution that is even more effective in relieving it … than taking antidepressants. Exercise is more effective in relieving depression than antidepressants. Exercise provides the same relief as antidepressants, but you are less likely to relapse into depression. And of course, not only are there no side affects from exercise … as there are from taking antidepressants … and there are many other well known health and well being benefits from exercise.

A team of researchers at Duke University Medical Center found that an aerobic exercise program decreased depression and improved the cognitive abilities of middle-aged and elderly men and women. They followed 156 patients between the ages of 50 and 77 who had been diagnosed with major depressive. They were randomly assigned to one of three groups: exercise, medication, or a combination of medication and exercise. The exercise group spent 30 minutes either riding a stationary bicycle or walking, or jogging three times a week.

To the surprise of the researchers, after 16 weeks, all three groups showed statistically significant and identical improvement in standard measurements of a depressive mood, implying that exercise is just as effective as medication in treating major depression.

How does exercise relieve depression?

When you exercise, your body produces certain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that transmit thought from one cell to the next, allowing your brain cells to “talk to each other”. There are several key neurotransmitters, but two of them affect depression the most – endorphins and serotonin. Endorphins are the “feel good” chemical. You have probably heard of the “runner’s high”. This comes from the release of endorphins when running. Serotonin has a significant effect on emotion, mood and anxiety.

As you know, menopause brings an imbalance in the hormones of your body. This imbalance contributes significantly to lower levels of all the neurotransmitters in your body. Lower levels of endorphins and serotonin leads to a depressive mood.

Regular exercise increases the levels of all of the neurotransmitters in your body. The higher levels of endorphins and serotonin relieves depression and plays a significant role in preventing its recurrence.

Researchers recommend that 30 minutes of aerobic activity every day is the best dose of exercise to relieve depression and keep it at bay.

You must be joking…exercise is the last thing I feel like doing!

I understand the feeling of not wanting to do anything…..let alone exercise.

However, there are just 3 options available to you

  1. you can do nothing about your depression and continue to feel depressed
  2. you can go on to antidepressants. They should help you to feel better. You may experience side effects from them and you may have to be on them for a long time
  3. You can begin to exercise

If you are not exercising at all, you can start by taking a few “baby steps”. Take a short walk outside…. maybe a walk around the block or down your local street or to a local store ….. even if it is just for 5 minutes. Do this for a few days.

Then gradually work your way up to walking for 15 minutes every day. After that, gradually work your way up to walking 30 minutes every day. Once you are doing that, you can continue walking as your daily exercise or you can switch to, or alternate with, other aerobic activities that you may prefer to do.

Researchers have found that there is more gain, in terms of lifting a depressed mood, when going from zero exercise to 15 minutes of exercise per day, than there is from going from 15 minutes to 30 minutes of exercise. But, do not stop increasing the amount of exercise you do, when you reach 15 minutes a day. At 15 minutes of exercise a day, you may begin to feel better, but you will not have increased the levels of endorphins and serotonin in your body, that will keep depression at bay.

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Tired Of Feeling Tired?

Fatigue

I am so tired all the time

When I ask women to tell me the worst thing about menopause, the most common answers are
  • I feel tired all the time
  • I am exhausted
  • I have no energy

If I were to ask you about the menopause symptom that troubles you the most, you may say hot flashes or mood swings or disturbed sleep or you may say that it is a combination of some, or many, of the 30 or more menopause symptoms. But….it is likely that you would agree that the end result of the symptoms that you are experiencing, is fatigue and or lack of energy.

I could go on from here to discuss how the imbalance of the hormones in your body, is the underlying cause of your symptoms and the fatigue and lack of energy that results from them. And, I could discuss how to re-balance them. But I am not going to do that. I have written enough about that previously.

In this post I am going to tell you about something simple and easy for you to do, that can reduce your fatigue and boost your energy level.

When you feel tired, and lacking energy, the best way to energize yourself is to take a walk…..not a nap! Researchers reviewed 70 studies that examined the effect of exercise on 6,807 subjects who were fatigued. 90% of the studies showed that exercise reduces fatigue by as much as 65%. They found that exercise increases energy by 20%.

You may well say now “but the way I feel….the last thing I want to do is to exercise. I feel exhausted.” I can understand that. Tired people generally do not want to put on their sneakers and go for a run.

But the exercise involved here is much less strenuous that going for a run for a few miles. Did you know that even getting up from the couch and walking around the room will help to reduce fatigue? It will get you moving, which is the key. Just a 10 or 15 minute walk can do wonders for reducing your fatigue and increasing your energy level.

When you exercise to boost your energy level, you want to do low intensity exercise. Low intensity exercise boosts your energy even more than if you were to do moderate intensity exercise. When you do high intensity exercise, it saps your energy and makes you feel tired.

How does low intensity exercise boost your energy?

Any exercise that you do, increases your red blood cell count and the amount of glucose (blood sugar) that is transported to the cells of your body. Glucose is transported to the cells of your body in your blood and it provides the cells of your body with energy. This helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. When your heart and lungs work more efficiently, you have more energy to go about your daily chores. But….there is more to exercise than just this.

Almost every cell in your body has a small structure called a mitochondria. They are often referred to as the “powerhouse” of the cell. Mitochondria produce energy from the food that you eat. Exercise increases the number of mitochondria in the cells of your body. When you don’t exercise, the number of mitochondria in your cells actually declines. In other words, the more mitochondria you have, the more energy you have. A recent study has found that increased mitochondria in the body, as a result of exercise, reduces fatigue.

Having read this post, you now have a choice to make. You can continue to talk to yourself, and others, about how tired you are …. and do nothing to reduce your fatigue …. or you can begin to take “steps” (pun intended), that will reduce your fatigue and increase your energy level. What choice are you going to make?

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Are Your Mood Swings Driving You Crazy?

Mood Swings

You dont have to go up and down like a yo-yo

Sharon sat down opposite me, in my office, and immediately blurted out that her mood swings were driving her nuts. Here is what she said

I’ll be really tired, then really peppy, then really pissed off, then happy, then I wanna cry cuz my life is terrible, then I’m happy again, then I hate everybody, then I’m hyper, then I get really emotional about something or someone, and so on….

She said that mood swings like this happen to her several times a day and that they were getting worse. She said that her doctor had prescribed medication for it, but it wasnt helping.

I encouraged her to tell me about her emotional history. She explained that she had been even keeled all of her life, prior to menopause. She also said that she understood that her mood swings were caused by the changing hormone levels in her body during menopause, but that blaming her mood swings on this wasnt helping her to feel better. She wanted to have a better understanding of their cause, in order to find a safe and effective way to eliminate them, or at least to reduce them.

What follows is a synopsis of what I discussed with Sharon

  • the changing levels of your hormones during menopause, are responsible for all of your menopause symptoms. It begins with a change in the ratio between estrogen and progesterone. Progesterone levels fall further than estrogen levels. This affects all of the 50 plus hormones in your body, which operate in concert with one another.

    Because your body functions as a holistic system, it also affects the levels of other chemicals in your body

  • the other chemicals that are affected by the changing levels of your hormones are called neurotransmitters. It is actually the changing levels of your neurotransmitters that causes your mood swings.

    In your brain are ten billion neurons (brain cells). Between each of these neurons are neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that transmit thought from one cell to the next, allowing your brain cells to “talk to each other”.

    There are four major neurotransmitters that are very important for brain health and physical performance. They are acetylcholine, dopamine, GABA and serotonin. They each influence different brain and body functions.

    Serotonin is the feel good neurotransmitter that is directly involved in mood and emotion. It is essential for optimal brain function. Low levels of serotonin have a significant impact on your mood swings

  • The relationship between hormones and your neurotransmitters
    can best be described as one of master and servant. Your hormones send messages to your body, instructing it to do certain functions. Your neurotransmitters carry those messages to your body.

    It may be helpful to think of your hormones as being similar to the furnace in your home and the neurotransmitters as being similar to the fuel on which the furnace operates. When that fuel level gets very low the furnace may begin to sputter and not function very well. When the levels of your neurotransmitters are low, your brain …. which controls your nervous system (the entire system of nerves in your body) …. does not function well

  • low levels of neurotransmitters are caused by hormone imbalance, poor dietary habits and a lack of exercise

What you can do to reduce your mood swings

  1. get your hormones tested and re-balanced
  2. improve your diet. Base your diet around eating real food, the food you eat is exacerbating your mood swings and other symptoms. Real food does not need labels – ie – unprocessed meat, fish, milk, eggs, legumes, fruits, grains and vegetables. Eliminate processed food from your diet
  3. daily exercise increases the amount of serotonin in your brain, in two ways. Exercise directly increases the levels of serotonin in your brain. It also indirectly increases the levels of serotonin, by increasing the level of tryptophan in your brain. Tryptophan is an amino acid that makes serotonin

Sharon’s objective was to eliminate her mood swings. She embarked on a program that is addressing her hormone imbalance, her diet and exercise. She is still working on that program. While she has not eliminated her mood swings thusfar, she says that they have reduced significantly.

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Is Your Brain Not Working As It Should?

Menopause Brain Fog

I feel better about myself when I am physically active

Are you embarrassed in a social setting when you cant remember the name of someone you know very well or you cannot recall a common word, when you are mid sentence?

Do your words come out scrambled during a conversation?

Do you walk into a room, and cant remember why you went there?

Are you forever misplacing things like your keys, phone or even your car?

As you know , these are some of the very common experiences known as menopause brain fog. Research has revealed that 2 out of 3 women experience menopause brain fog … to some degree.

The number of American women in the various stages of menopause currently is thought to be approximately 50 million. This means that right now, more than 30 million women in the US are having experiences of memory loss, confusion, lack of concentration and a general decrease in their cognitive abilities….the symptoms of menopause brain fog. For some it may be mild; for many it is moderate or severe.

Any way you cut it, there are a heck of a lot of women who feel stressed out, overwhelmed, worried or annoyed because of menopause brain fog.

What you can do to get your brain working as it should

Get your heart pumping. Researchers have found that exercise boosts blood flow to the brain area involved in cognitive function. Regular exercise releases brain chemicals that are key for memory, concentration, and mental sharpness.

When you exercise, your brain produces a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor – BDNF for short. BDNF rewires your memory circuits so they work better. The more you exercise, the more BDNF your brain produces.

One study found that exercise improved the higher mental processes of memory and the so-called executive functions, which include planning, organization and the ability to mentally juggle different intellectual tasks at the same time (multi-tasking) ….. of older women and men.

Another study found that exercise improves memory and learning.

And yet another study found that exercise not only strengthens your heart and muscles – it also beefs up your brain. Dozens of studies now show that aerobic exercise can increase the size of critical brain structures and improve cognition in children and older adults.

Long term regular physical activity, including walking, will significantly reduce your menopause brain fog. It also leads to less cognitive decline as you get older.

Speaking of walking……it is especially good for your brain, because it increases blood circulation and the oxygen and glucose that reach your brain. Walking is not strenuous, so your leg muscles don’t take up extra oxygen and glucose like they do during other forms of exercise. As you walk, you effectively oxygenate your brain. Maybe this is why walking can “clear your head” and help you to think better.

Researchers measured the brain function of nearly 6,000 women during an eight-year period in the Women Who Walk Remember Study. They found much less cognitive decline in women who walked 17 miles per week, than women who walked less than a half mile per week. They found that for every extra mile walked per week, there was a 13% less chance of cognitive decline. The concluded that some walking is good for your cognitive function, but the more you walk …. the better it is.

There is even evidence that cognitive function improves during a single bout of moderate exercise. But please do not think that all you need to do to reduce your menopause brain fog experiences, is to exercise just one time. If you exercise just once or twice a week, it is not going to significantly alter your brain fog symptoms either. It is better than doing no exercise at all, but it won’t get you the cognitive benefits that will make a difference.

Unfortunately, you can’t buy BDNF in pill form; only your brain can make it for you….. and it only makes it for you when you exercise. The more you exercise, the more BDNF your brain will make. You should aim to do 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every day, to return your cognitive function to pre-menopause levels ….or to at least significantly reduce your menopause brain fog experiences.

The message is now clearer than ever: you have to get physically active, and stay physically active, to buy protection for your brain.

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