Menopause Rescue Package: Pro Aging Hacks and Habits!
Hi there, it's Candace (YHB's founder)!...here to share my menopause rescue hacks. This is a roundup of the shortcuts and workarounds I’ve found to fan the flames of unwanted perimenopause and menopause symptoms.
Did you know that for 75- 80% of women in midlife, hot flashes are the first clue that menopause is approaching? If you've ever heard me speak on a podcast (like THIS one), you've heard me tell the tale of feeling like a “mean mommy!" In my mid-40s, I had two young daughters and a high-powered job and started getting hot flashes every 20 minutes (and a mood swing in between). The truth is, it was hell on wheels... so what did I do about it? I became an expert at pulling all nighters to meet my deadlines, drinking coffee in lieu of breakfast, soothing my cravings with cookies, and working out like a nutcase to lose the belly fat that only got worse the harder I exercised.
...Sound familiar? Now you know you’re not alone...
As often happens in life, there is a defining moment when you realize, ‘I just can’t live this way anymore!’ For me it was the morning that my five-year-old daughter Ryan (now YHB's co-founder!), stared up at me with tears in her eyes and a look of confusion that spoke volumes: "are you my real mommy?"
From that heartbreaking moment on, I knew I couldn’t continue to be someone my children were afraid of, especially because I didn’t even recognize (or like) myself very much anymore. I took a step back and asked why, as a health educator, had I overlooked the telltale signs of perimenopause? And why had it taken me, a 45-year-old woman (whose periods were changing and ovulation waning), so long to recognize that I was out of balance because my hormones were out of balance? We often hear hormones described as the instruments of an internal symphony that governs our physical, emotional and mental lives; little did I know that my hormones were playing painfully out of tune.
Many women are blindsided by symptoms that seem to come out of the blue, but the truth is that they are waiting in the wings of perimenopause. Symptoms can come on gradually (and be manageable) OR like a rollercoaster, especially if we are not taking good care of ourselves. Once we enter the perimenopause/menopause zone, the way we eat, exercise, sleep and handle stress matters more than ever. As much as we may try to resist it, we cannot skip this sea change in our reproductive lives, and it's important to understand that YOU are NOT your symptoms. This was a life changing lesson I learned over the years, along with an ever-growing array of lifestyle hacks and habits that put me in charge of my body and brought me back home to myself and my family.
Before we get into my roundup, I want to emphasize how important it is to test your hormones (in saliva or urine) to detect hidden imbalances that are likely at the root of your symptoms. Through saliva testing, I discovered that my master female hormones (progesterone and estrogen) were fluctuating, progesterone was very low and my cortisol "stress hormone" levels were too high (especially in the evening when I should have been winding down for bed). No wonder I was having crazy moods, horrible periods, hot flashes and nasty night sweats!
(You can check out our "build your own hormone testing + rebalancing package" HERE for help getting to the root of YOUR symptoms).
1. Hot Flash Hack: Bio-identical Progesterone Cream
Based on my (saliva) hormone test results, I started using a plant-based (non-synthetic) progesterone cream that literally knocked my hot flashes flat. Referred to as the “great balancer,” progesterone is the hormone that keeps the growth activity of estrogen in check. It also supports the adrenal glands in managing the stress response. Unfortunately, it's also the first hormone to drop to lower levels at perimenopause which is exactly where I found myself, until I started using bio-identical progesterone during the second half of my cycle aka the "luteal phase." Using the cream in "goldilocks" amounts (dosage matters) to mimic normal hormone rhythms, not only stopped the sweats but helped me sleep like a log! Note: we promote a "test, don't guess" approach to progesterone supplementation and urge you to order a recommended brand from a hormone health practitioner (like me!) or from a doctor who advocates for bioidentical hormones.
Pro Tip: at the same time, I took vitamin E (400 mg. a day) and upped my intake of B vitamin rich foods (nutritional yeast, eggs, fish, beans, chickpeas, sweet potatoes) which all help to naturally boost levels of progesterone.
Postscript: as I travel further into menopause my estrogen levels are lower now than they were when I first entered the zone… now 15 years on, test results tell me my body is making less estrogen. So progesterone alone won’t cut it. These days, like most women who are replenishing with bio-identicals), my body needs both estrogen and progesterone to mimic Mother Nature and keep the hot flashes at bay. Test Don't Guess!
2. Mood Swing Hack: Dong Quai (Chinese Angelica)
I discovered dong quai (in tincture form), a powerful adaptogenic herb aka ‘female ginseng.' I learned that the Chinese have been using dong quai for centuries to treat PMS, balance hormones, infertility, and libido. Dong quai translates into English as ‘husband returns to wife’ which hints at its potential to boost sex drive! Whenever my moods made me (and everyone else) miserable, I diluted 8 to10 drops in a quarter glass of water and chugged it to banish the black cloud hanging over my head. It worked then and still does today...20 years later. I don’t go anywhere without that trusty little bottle in my purse or backpack! THIS is a brand I've been using for years.
Pre-Cautions: Dong Quai is a phytoestrogen that can mimic estrogen activity in the body and has been shown to help relieve symptoms of imbalance during peri/postmenopause when used in appropriate amounts. Taken in excess it may adversely affect estrogen-sensitive conditions (fibroids, endometriosis,etc). Women with a family history of breast or uterine cancers should ask their doctor before using Dong Quai, or any other herbal preparation. Dong Quai should be avoided by pregnant or nursing women and those on the pill.
3. Dry Skin Hack: Avocado Face Mask
Dry, crepey skin is the bane of a menopausal woman’s existence. But lest we spend a fortune on anti-aging creams to keep the wrinkles at bay, consider the botanicals that women around the world have used for ages, like shea butters, coconut/jojoba/rose-hip and pomegranate seed oils. My (late) mother’s housekeeper of 38 years swears by avocado oil, which she started using as a young woman growing up in El Salvador without money to burn on beauty. Despite working with cleaning products all day, Ana (now nearly 70) has lovely, unwrinkled skin. Abundant in vitamins A, D, and E, avocado face masks provide deep hydration and the anti-inflammatory lauric and oleic acids they contain can soothe inflammation, shrink wrinkles, and reduce redness.
How to use:
- Mash the pulp of a slice of avocado and mix in 1 tsp of coconut oil.
- Apply the paste to your skin.
- Wash it off after 30 minutes.
- Repeat this remedy daily for soft, youthful skin.
I use the leftover mash to make avocado toast, since we know that consuming healthy fats are good for us and help the skin retain its elasticity as we age!
Note: always research ingredients to make sure they are the best choice for your skin type and any other sensitivities you may have!
4. Fab 4 Snack Hack
I like to eat smaller meals throughout the day to keep my blood sugar humming along which also supports my hormones. In the morning, I blend my Athletic Greens + Just Ingredients protein powder (use code BLISS for 10% off), add a dash of stevia, a TBSP of nut butter, hearty sprinkle of hemp or flax seeds and call it GOOD!
My early afternoon snack is a Finn Crisp (fiber galore!) + Toby’s original plant-based spread (tofu protein that tastes exactly like egg salad) + quarter of avocado + tomato slice with a dash of pink salt (electrolytes!) and I am satisfied until my next early evening snack, and then dinner where half my plate is filled with fiber rich veggies and equal parts protein (hormone free, grass-fed, wild-caught) and anti-inflammatory fats (extra virgin olive oil, avocado, ghee, etc).
5. Stress Hack: Singing is My Natural Anti-Depressant
Making music in any form is relaxing, but singing is known to lower stress levels by releasing endorphins, the uplifting brain chemicals that make you feel happy. Singing along with my favorite artists (Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, Brandi Carlyle, James Taylor, Crosby Stills and Nash, Sting) takes my mind off the day’s worries and lets my spirits soar. And for those of us battling the memory lapses of menopause (why did I come into this room?), it helps to know that singing improves blood circulation, allowing more oxygen to reach the brain. That translates to improved mental alertness, concentration, and memory! The Alzheimer’s Society has even established a “Singing for the Brain” service to help people with Dementia and Alzheimer’s maintain their memories.
6. Exercise Hack: Walking Poles
Walking poles are my new favorite thing, especially since the big snowfall we just had has me feeling positively Nordic! But you don’t need snow to experience the health benefits of Nordic walking, that combines cardio with a vigorous muscle workout for your whole body. And btw: if you’re fighting the mid-life bulge, lots of evidence confirms that this style of walking burns more calories than traditional walking with estimates ranging from an increase of 18% to 67% more. WOW!
I’ve also found that with my aging skier’s knees, I’m much more stable when I use poles, because I have more contact with the ground and don't have to rely solely on my two wobbly knees and feet! Any sporting goods store will carry walking poles and their staff can help you adjust and use them properly. Be sure to carry water with you and do a 10-minute warm-up and cool-down. Nordic walking is great fun, but it’s definitely a workout!
Here is a photo of me using my walking poles outside our McMinnville, Oregon home, although I do look a bit like Darth Vader on the ski slopes, don't I?
7. Lifestyle Hack: Do Something Different!
Even though we all know that it’s beneficial to shake up our routines and try something new, we don’t always follow through. Guilty! So, in the interest of prodding my brain to think in a different way (look into neuroplasticity for graceful aging), I’ve embraced my yoga teacher’s challenge to write a haiku! A haiku is a non-rhyming, 3 sentence poem, with an emphasis on nature or the seasons and with a specific number of syllables in each line:
- 1st line is 5 syllables
- 2nd line 7 syllables
- 3rd line 5 syllables
I have never written a Haiku in my life but here is mine as I gaze out at the beautiful snow wondering where the deer and the homeless go:
awake winters land
snowfalls turbulent repose
warmth finds some not all
I challenge you to write a Haiku and share it with us @yourhormonebalance or share in the comments below! It's an easy and entertaining way to tap into your creativity which we know is a stress buster. Writing a haiku first thing in the morning (before I open my cell phone or laptop) helps me focus and get into a state of flow for the rest of the day.
Go in Balance,
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