By a certain age, one hopes to have developed an ability to discern fact from fiction and the charlatans from the true healers. But as the years creep up we can become less certain about some things and more open-minded to alternatives. Sometimes, trial and error works best.
We live in a strange time. It was not long ago, when personal grooming was confined to the privacy of one’s home. Nowadays just about everything is on display and as a result, this blog post, I fear, will fit right in.
Gentlemen, you may wish to exit to a more masculine site at this time, however, if you live with a woman (or more than one) or know of someone going through some health challenges, this post may provide you with some ideas to ponder and suggestions to offer.
To all readers: I don’t promise any answers, but rather hope to provide questions as fuel for your own research. To be clear, this post is not meant to provide any medical advice, rather I am sharing information that proved to be useful for my particular situation. I am not connected in any way with any of the sources I cite.
I have wanted to share this information for some time, but have felt a little uncertain as how to broach the subject. Today, I received a comment from a concerned forty-four year old woman. She sounds a lot like me from a few years back; with joint inflammation and she’s blood type O. She has worked with an Osteopath and sees an RMT, so she is proactive in her self care. She said she will start exploring eating for her blood type to see if that reduces her joint inflammation.
Before reading on, you might view my blog post called Motivation for some background here. In it I describe how after having two pregnancies and nursing, my body’s chemistry was off which led to complications including a depleted immune system and joint inflammation. There are some things I didn’t get into, for two reasons: 1) I was already going into too much detail, which I thought would have heads spinning and 2) it just felt too personal so early in my blogging.
It’s time to talk about our hormones. Do you recall the book I have referenced called “Younger Next Year“? In it, Dr. Henry Lodge suggests that by age thirty the ageing process begins. Yes, thirty! At thirty I was more concerned with conceiving my first child. The thought of ageing was not on my radar at all. Ageing was something I’d deal with when I got there. News flash, I’m there…most of you reading this are there and some are well into it. What about those not registering on the radar? Read on and pack this information into your back pocket, it may prove to be useful later.
Like most women, I would visit an aesthetician from time to time. I found myself at the office of a reputable dermatologist, and was the new client of a fifty year old aesthetician named Janice; a woman with a wealth of information and experience. Naturally, we got to talking about everything from exercise to health and hormones. I described for her some of the challenges I had been facing and because she had been there she picked up on some key points. She suggested the name of a book that I might consider reading: Estrogen’s Storm Season, by Dr. Jerilynn Prior.
I ordered the book immediately and read it within two days. And so began my journey.
Let’s back up for a moment. At thirty-three years of age, our second child was born. (I nursed both babies until they were 16 months and 19 months respectively). By thirty-five years of age I started having ‘hot flushes’. Are you kidding me? At thirty-five?! It must be something else, right? I mentioned it to my doctor, but the consensus was that I was too young. My eyesight was changing too. Suddenly I was having difficulty reading my computer screen. I started having skin crawling sensations (the feeling that a loose hair or small insect was crawling on my skin). Normally a deep sleeper, I started experiencing night sweats which contributed to restless sleep. Daytime chills which were my version of day time hot flushes. Mood swings. Excessive amounts of discharge. Joint pain. Menstrual flooding. Oh, and let’s not forget about reaching the age when sneezing or laughing becomes a concern…hmmm. All these symptoms suggest high levels of Estrogen production, which is typical during peri-menopause.
Mind you, all these symptoms didn’t happen all at once. They crept up gradually, overlapping sometimes, coming and going. I felt like I was barely hanging on, trying to focus on caring for my young family and – seriously – trying to navigate this storm that was welling up inside me.
So, in an effort to help myself, I would visit my doctor – often. I felt like a hypochondriac. There were these real things going on with me that we couldn’t do anything about…yet, I presented like a healthy person. My eyes were clear, my blood pressure was normal and my blood work came back in the normal range. Except I had this mysterious joint inflammation that would come and go and my menstrual cycle had gradually changed. My cycle had always been 28 days. Over time it had dwindled down to between fifteen and twenty days. That’s just too frequent.
I tried to keep a record of when my joint pain would flare up and for how long it would last. It seemed to happen occasionally just prior to my cycle, so linking it with my cycle and shift in hormone levels felt like a reasonable place to start. Finally, my doctor suggested I try going on the pill to regulate my hormones and menstrual cycle as an experiment to see if it were my hormones which were causing my joint pain.
I did three cycles of the pill without a break, which meant no menstrual cycle for that time frame. The result: no joint pain – were we on to something? But sometimes I would go for a few months without pain, so I wasn’t convinced that I was on the right track. Besides the usual side effects from the pill, I wasn’t interested in taking the pill until I reached menopause, which was their recommendation.
This is where, Estrogen’s Storm Season comes in. Dr. Jerilynn Prior, suggests that during peri-menopause we tend to naturally have higher levels of Estrogen which contributes to the above mentioned symptoms. So for me, by taking the pill, which is loaded with more estrogen and only a very minute amount of progesterone, I was adding to my problem. I didn’t need more Estrogen, apparently, I was producing more than I needed.
“Regarding OHT (Ovarian Hormone Therapy), Dr. Prior has never advocated the wide use of hormones as an ongoing “replacement” for menopause. She does not think menopause is a medical condition that should be “fixed”, but is instead a normal stage of life.
According to Dr. Prior, there are only three main reasons to recommend OHT:
- if a woman is experiencing early menopause (<45 with hot flushes and for sure < 40)
- hot flushes are interfering with sleep and
- for prevention of osteoporosis. For hot flushes progesterone is equally effective as estrogen.”
“…We have used the word ‘menopause’ to mean everything that’s changing in midlife women, as well as to indicate the final menstrual flow. Now days, “menopause” is used specifically to mean that a year has passed since your final menstrual flow. ‘Perimenopause’…means the years of change before menopause.”
After a lot of back and forth with mainstream doctors, I discussed this situation with the M.D. I go to who consults in Homeopathy. He uses Electrodermal Testing to aid with diagnosis. Though all the doctors I spoke with were familiar with Dr. Prior’s theories, my mainstream doctors were still unwavering that Estrogen was the right course of action. My ‘Homeopathic Consultant’ agreed with her theories but felt that I didn’t need the high doses of progesterone which she recommends. The Electrodermal Test confirmed I would benefit from a specified dose. Over time, with chart taking (on my part) and paying close attention to my body, I was able to fine tune the levels with my ‘consultant’.
I printed copies of the Peri-menopausal charts/diaries from Dr. Jerilynn Prior’s CEMCOR website and kept strict record of everything for four months before I made any changes to my diet or started bio-identical progesterone. I kept track of my hot flushes, restless sleeps, even my morning temperature! Everything. How much and what type of exercise / activity I did each day, if I experienced any constipation, levels of mucous secretion, interest in sex, appetite, etc. I added my own lines for mood swings, clumsiness, chocolate and the list of vitamins/ minerals or homeopathic remedies I was taking. You can view and print a blank template of the chart/ diary here (and the instructions for use, here). I highly recommend that every woman do this especially if you have health issues creeping in. I wish I had been given a chart like this when I was a teen, it sure would have helped to navigate and bring more awareness to the natural fluctuations which would allow for more preparation (read: emotional preparation). I wonder why doctors don’t automatically offer this kind of self-help guidance? I know I will present the adolescent chart/diary to my daughter when the time is right for her.
A lot of women I talk with tell me that they are lucky because in their family lineage the women don’t develop these problems. Truly lucky. But I do wonder, for women in previous generations seemed to be much more discrete.