Menopause: Hot and Bothered!

Dealing with the change. Hormones! Hot Flashes! Help! Can you relate?

Dealing with the change

Hormones! Hot Flashes! Help! Can you relate? Let me start by saying, “Women! We are on fire!” Most of my girlfriends are either entering menopause or settling into this new way of life in their bodies. We have heard about night sweats and maybe even have memories of a female loved one spouting a spontaneous facial waterfall, but until we experience it for ourselves it’s impossible to truly relate.

With Mother’s Day approaching, it’s a great time to tackle the topic of women’s health and hormones. As usual, I plan to keep it real and focus on the best approach to handling menopause symptoms so we can get on with it, whatever “it” may be for you.

Being a freak about health and always on a need to know basis, I aim to uncover the details of this “normal” aging process. As a health educator, it’s essential for me to not only understand menopause, but to also point my clients and readers in the best direction of menopause management. As a women in my 50’s, I strive to survive this phase, without hurting a loved one or blowing all of my money buying personal fans to stay cool. Wishing our bodies would cooperate exactly as we command them to is clearly not reality, so let’s dive into the deep end of this important women’s health topic and focus on what we actually have control over.

Defining and Understanding Menopause?

While menopause is a natural process that is defined as the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle, typically marked by 12 months with no period, it brings on a whole host of symptoms that certainly feel anything but natural. The most common experiences include hot flashes, night sweats, fuzzy brain (yes, that’s a medical-ish term), weight changes, moody as hell, and decreased desire for sex, serving others, and simple conversations. You feel me right?

STICKY Hormones

What on earth do we do?

There is so much to write about on this subject and for that I need to start a book. Hmmm, this just might happen. For now, the goal is for us to get straight to the point of how to manage each symptom, so in this post let’s take a look at the most common concerns and potential strategies to lessen our lash outs and increase likeability.

Hot Flashes & Night Sweats: The number one reported symptom. They are in fact a bit different. Hot flashes can occur any time of day, while night sweats leave us throwing off covers and clothes in the middle of the night.

Quick Tips to reduce hot flashes and night sweats:

  1. Nutrition. You might be thinking, “I read this far to be told to eat well?” Who doesn’t know this basic rule, right? Knowing and doing are where the rubber meets the road. Reality check; what we eat goes into our blood and becomes our very own living breathing cells which are in charge of literally everything our body does. Foods which are considered helpful in reducing hot flashes include:
    • Greens
    • Drink water. At least 6-8 glasses a day.
    • Whole foods such as apples over apple juice and chicken breast over a packaged protein bar with 10+ ingredients. Aim for organic whenever possible.
    • We all know what good foods to eat for the most part, but what about foods to avoid?
    • Ideally, we want to avoid chemicals such as aspartame, MSG, hormone laden meat/dairy, and high fructose corn syrup. Other foods to avoid are hydrogenated oils, nitrates, and high sodium.
    • Sugar and highly processed white flours are known to interrupt hormones, so if we can limit processed foods, we just might help our system find it’s own internal balance.
    • Some people find that avoiding caffeine and spicy foods help level out body temperature.
  2. Exercise. Yes, sweating can reduce sweating. Exercise goes a long way towards overall health. When our bodies release toxins through sweat, it reduces stress on the body, increases endorphins, and can help alleviate out of control hormones. There is no need to push yourself to the limit, but a nice brisk walk, yoga, bike riding, dancing, gardening, etc are all fabulous ways to improve your hormone health.
  3. Take a sh0wer before bed allowing your body temperature to reset. Consider finishing with tepid water.
  4. Change your sheets to a lightweight cotton blend to avoid overheating.
  5. Layer your clothing and keep a small fan near you for a quick cool down.
  6. Consider supplements or bio-identical hormones. Ask your doctor. There are several OTC products that have natural herbs such as Swedish Flower Extracts, Ginseng, Black Cohosh, etc. Research is mixed, but do your own investigation along with gathering professional advice from your Ob/Gyn.
  7. REDUCE STRESS! I saved the best for last because we must heal our bodies. We must slow down and give our endocrine system some much needed love and rest. We continue to run on adrenaline most of the day, which is only supposed to be used for fight or flight circumstances. If we stand a chance at all, we must reduce the heightened level of intensity our bodies and minds function in throughout the day.

Mood Swings: We like to think menopause is the only reason for these, but as women we’ve been prone to mood swings our entire tenure of hormone induced living. Basically forever. Menopause is surely responsible for heightened moodiness and sometimes it’s simply because we are freakin’ hot. It is essential, however, to recognize the difference between a temporary bad mood and a more significant shift into depression. Hormones are shifty critters and when they are out of sorts, our outlook on life can change significantly.

Fuzzy Brain: Why can’t I think straight? It’s a real issue. Our hormones are playing with our heads, literally. Most research explains memory changes during menopause are due to a drop in estrogen, but some experts also believe lack of sleep, stress, and those joyful hot flashes play a role as well.

Weight Gain: Put on a few pounds in your back, boobs & booty? Yup. Often weight gain or the inability to take weight off is the first clue we have entered perimenopause. The challenge we also face is that with hormone shifts, we may desire comfort foods over more nutritious choices, which complicates the entire eat well/feel well/fit into our clothes well equation.

Striving For Hormone Balance and Overall Happiness

At the end of every day, we want to feel that we accomplished “enough” without being physically and emotionally exhausted.