Peri-Menopause

HELLO! I’M BACK! Part 5 

I’m sharing my story because I am not alone in this. Almost every human being I talk with has a similar, if not milder, a worse experience. This is not a gender issue. Most people are unaware of existing mineral deficiencies and should be informed about the compounding effects of pharmaceutical drug-induced mineral depletions.

This is an extra long post (5,700 words). It’s doubtful that you will read it all in one sitting. But I hope you will read it and make use of the links provided so as to do your own research long before you need it.

Disclaimer: I am in no way suggesting that you self-diagnose like I have. I take full responsibility for my choices. This information is for sharing only. Do your own research, speak to your health care providers if you need to. The following is my story and I am not recommending what I’ve done to help myself as procedure or protocol. 

In the years after 2005 and BEFORE 2014, once I figured out that all my bizarre symptoms were early onset peri-menopausal symptoms (or so I thought) (9a), I explored natural remedies, such as raspberry leaf and red clover etc. I would search for the top herbs used in female/ peri-menopausal health. I made my own ‘female tonic’ using plant recipes from ancient Mayan traditions as well as Hortence’s Formula (10). Hortence’s Formula was amazing and is what drew me to Belize in 2016 to study with Rosita Arvigo (11). You can read Rosita Arvigo’s remarkable story in Sastun: My Apprenticeship with a Maya Healer. She is also a novelist who translates turbulent ancient Maya times through historical fiction. Originally, I was introduced to Arvigo Abdominal Massage via Barbara Loomis (12) with whom I had a Skype session in March 2015, which led me to finding local practitioner, Renée Warner RN (13) in Vancouver. Renée introduced me to Hortence’s Formula and within a week of using it, I noticed that the Hydrocystomas (small bumps below the surface of my skin) on my forearms were shrinking, which was an interesting side effect since I was using it to deal with my irregular, tender uterus and too frequent menses. It was recommended to only use the heroic Hortence’s Formula once or twice, so after that I switched to the curative Female Tonic. 

I’m not exactly sure why I didn’t stick with Female Tonic. I still have jars of my homemade tincture. I can only speculate that my symptoms became more intense with time and I felt that I had to keep searching. Maybe it’s time to dust them off?

All the while, I’d played around with elimination diets such as the Blood Type Diet as well as did the more personalized ALCAT blood test (which in the end broadened the selection of foods I ate) and followed the plan according to my results. Remaining true to nature working with nutrition (homemade bone broths, reading Weston Price (14,15)/ Sally Fallon (16), and listening to Denise Minger’s cautionary tale (17), I tried to integrate more of that whole foods philosophy into my life. Even though I already was very whole foods minded, organic and local-source focused and avoided plastic — known for being a hormone disruptor. I learned about phytates, oxalic acid and the reason why sprouting nuts, seeds and grains was essential. I learned so much during those years but at the same time it was very exhausting because my kids were having their own worrisome health challenges and besides, as if all the details that go along with raising little humans isn’t enough, my declining health made it all the more difficult.

Brain Fog…

Looking back I can see how much I struggled with mentally processing the food preparation information into practice —my brain just couldn’t focus and it was becoming more and more difficult to finish tasks. I felt like an idiot — why couldn’t I do such basic things anymore? Nouns were escaping me. Starting projects or chores was always easy but the finishing was near impossible. I wasn’t a lazy person, I liked to get involved and help out and do things but my behaviour suggested otherwise. I was avoiding social events, one-on-one was manageable, and I’d figured out how to smile and fake it…sometimes. From this side of health, I can say that my lack of focus felt a lot like ADD. I can see the contrast now since I’ve been restoring my minerals, I’ve been back in the kitchen, some days easily whipping up recipes (even though I’m not one hundred percent back –there are still good days and OK days). It’s likely that it was these Whole Foods that kept me just getting-by until I became so much further depleted from sweating out minerals in Hot Yoga followed by the drug-induced mineral depleting effects of bio-identical and mainstream Hormone Replacement Therapy.

But I’m jumping ahead again. Hopefully, this isn’t too confusing to follow 🙂

LATE 2016, I experimented with over the counter tincture, Fémance (18) by St. Francis, but it didn’t seem ‘powerful’ enough for my symptoms. Then while waiting for delivery of Pueraria Mirifica, from the US, I tried over the counter Harmony Menopause Max (19) which, within a few days of starting, was super effective. But within a week the Pueraria Mirifica arrived and I was anxious and curious to try it so I stopped Harmony.

I learned about Amata Plus (Pueraria Mirifica), from Dr. Christiane Northrup (whose name is synonymous with Women’s Health “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom” fame and everything Menopause). In her book, The Wisdom of Menopause, the author gives many options for herbal/alternatives as well as suggestions for Hormone Replacement. I did not read the entire tome so don’t know if she talks about Zinc specifically, but she does talk about the importance of minerals and supplementing. I have since looked in the index and cannot find any references.

Why didn’t I read the book in its entirety? Brain fog, fatigue, inability to focus to name a few reasons. It’s probably a really good idea to stay a few decades ahead in terms of personal health reading. Although, I must say that I’d always been an avid reader about everything health and wellness but it really is different when it’s happening to yourself. And when you’re in a state of chronic brain fog without realizing it, processing information is not straight forward.

It’s like: 

Looking without seeing

Listening without hearing

Participating without engaging

Excessive Sweating Depletes Minerals

Pueraria Mirifica (20) is a root grown in Thailand that Dr. Northrup has processed in an FDA lab in the U.S.. PM is available from other sources but I felt more comfortable getting mine through her. It worked brilliantly well for 6 months, within a few days (no hot flushes, but still had chronic pain) then gradually it stopped working in early August, around the same time I was four months deep into sweating out the remainder of what minerals I had left in Hot Yoga, which by the way, historically, I never liked the idea of —stuck in a sauna climate room, packed to capacity with next to no ventilation, breathing recycled air, just didn’t seem like an excellent idea. However, this facility had no carpeted floors and they took care with hygiene. The Ashtanga Yoga studios where I had studied and practiced years before were always amply heated, I was always soaked from sweat and I always replenished with coconut water after practices. When I practiced at home I always felt warm enough, but as years passed, and because my body was experiencing so much chronic pain I felt that I needed this added heat source, besides it being encouraged by my Naturopath.

Please note that I don’t wish to bad mouth any health care providers. Not everyone can know everything; all of us work diligently based on beliefs, especially experts in their field. And clearly, this was a journey I had to take and write about. All the information is out there, and why I/we miss seeing the writing on the wall is another story.

I had been going to Hot Yoga 3-4 times per week from April – July 2017. My over the top hot flushes gradually came back in July and intensified so much that by August 2017, I had to put my membership on hold —I haven’t been back since. And besides my shoulder pain (that frozen shoulder pain so common among peri-menopausal/menopausal women), was getting worse and wrist pain had returned, despite everything. I also had a right hip issue that stemmed from my TFL (tensor fasciae latae) which seemed like a type of cross syndrome, left shoulder + right hip.

Sept 28. 2017 – Started Bio-identical Hormone replacement therapy with a Naturopath. (This means two different topical creams: bio-Estrogen in the morning and Progesterone before bed. I was also taking Pregnenolone (a pill) first thing in the morning. (I’ve since learned that there’s something called Pregnenolone Steal). (21)

The following 3 months (Oct., Nov., Dec., 2017) I was experiencing severe sleeplessness due to extreme hot flushes around the clock. 

-Each hot flush, some more intense than others, would last approximately 4 minutes, every twenty to sixty minutes/24 hours a day). Face, neck, complete upper body dripping wet, then clammy followed by chills. Most of the time I’d wear my full length down jacket, not in summer, but I was more bundled up (layered) in the warmer months than what is considered reasonable.  Sleeping at night was not really sleeping, I forfeited R.E.M and no longer was dreaming. I felt like a non-violent zombie during the day, just aimlessly going through the motions.

Why did it take me so long to do something about it? I was in a fog. I was just trying to get through the day. This kind of back and forth, hot/ cold extremes leaves a person rattled. Trying to make appointments or even getting to appointments only added to the stress.

It’s very distracting, to say the least, to experience this kind of interruption a few times per day (which I had no problem dealing with for years, which is why working with herbs was fine), but to have it go on all day long and throughout the night was beyond bearable — which made me a perfect candidate for HRT –I’d tried everything else! During the day the episodes stunned me and amazed me. Besides it being exhausting, it was fascinating to witness this physiological phenomena happening in my own body —at times it was mesmerizing. Now I recognize why t-shirt clad people have their car windows rolled down in sub-zero temperatures! :/ Because I was one of them.

In contrast, the sleep-interrupting hot flushes were not at all entertaining to observe; sheets soaked from extreme sweating multiple times per night, type of intensity. And my husband being, at the best of times a light sleeper, was now getting less sleep than me. Our household was hanging by its fingertips on the edge of a crumbling precipice.

January 2018, some tweaking was made to my bio-identical hormone treatments.

March 2018, I was ready to throw in the towel. I was becoming more fatigued, depressed, unable to make food for my family, attention deficit was increasing, chronic pain intensifying, hot/cold flushes persisted etc., I listed all the symptoms in earlier posts. At my husband’s urging, he suggested, maybe it was time to talk to my Ob/gyn, who dismissed bio-identical HRT as not effective and further research revealed to me that bio-identical is erroneously considered safer, (22) (which is why I finally agreed to go on bio-identical in the first place —it seems to be a huge misconception).

Depends who you talk to!

There is so much conflicting research. Each doctor seems to have a different philosophy with mounds of studies to support them.

One reported problem with bio-identical is that it is compounded (a blending or combining) of different hormones into a topical cream. According to some doctors, this makes it very difficult to measure each application as well as knowing exactly which hormones/medicines have been mixed together. However, CEMCOR states here that Prometrium (an oral pill) along with others are bio-identical. I had been led to believe that bio-identical was only available in compounded creams.

At this point, “throwing in the towel point”, I came to the conclusion that if mainstream HRT is what it would take to bring me back to life, even at the risk of developing something worse down the road like Cancer or shortening my lifespan, that I would rather have one, five or ten really great years than continue on this declining-zombie-aimless existence for ten or more years…I was no longer having any fun. I felt a burden to my family. It felt like I was just going along for the ride, watching them live their lives, I was no longer actively engaged but a non-participating observer. In my formerly depressed condition, I was of the opinion that longevity in this condition was no way to live.

Just a side note: A couple years ago, I spent so much money on physical therapy, supplements and alternative medical practitioners that the CRA (Canadian Revenue Agency) requested receipts to prove this over-the-top spending. “No one spends that much money on their health!” [my words]. Health Care in Canada is free but not for those looking for answers —non-pharmaceutical answers, like I was.

Having had a baseline mammogram done to ensure I was a good candidate for HRT we then filled a prescription for the lowest amount of hormones. If it didn’t help me we could increase dosage or if I had any sign of pre-cancerous cells, I was offered Effexor as the alternative therapy. Effexor is an anti-depressant whose side effects stop hot/cold flushes; that option remained on the table.

Backing up again to late 2016, I had gone to my GP for Prometrium, but was still on the fence. I couldn’t really remember all the previous attempts I’d made with bio-identical, specifically Prometrium (in 2011, see post titled Mother Nature) after reading Jerilynn Prior’s book Estrogen’s Storm Season. Brain fog was at it’s peak. I was given a prescription for Prometrium only (2016), but never filled it opting at the time, to explore over the counter herbal options. Talk about a scattered mind!! Not only was I juggling what was going on with my body and trying to keep it together, but also putting my all into doing the best job possible raising kids along with their mounting personal expanding lives.

Again, more time passed and before starting AMATA in 2017, I took my daughter to the doctor for something, so had an opportunity to discuss my current state, still trying to figure out what to do about HRT and feeling ready to dive in; strangely, I’d forgotten that I’d already taken bio-identical hormones for fourteen months in 2014-2015 or Progesterone topical cream in 2011 – 2013!!! As it turned out my GP was out of town and so saw a Locum. Within a few minutes of describing my situation, the Locum offered Effexor (this was the first offering of Effexor, second offering -2018 – was from the Ob/gyn as back up) touting its benefits for depression, anxiety and hot flushes. She warned me that everything I would read about it on the internet could be off putting, but that it was very effective.

I handed the prescription in to a pharmacist to put on my file, while I went home to do research. The Locum was absolutely right, everything I read convinced me that I’d never want to take Effexor.

I didn’t.

But came very close. 

At my darkest hour (while taking regular HRT), I was reduced to contemplating Effexor as my last resort. At a loss of what to do for me, my husband was weighing the alternatives, to call 911 or go pick up my Effexor prescription.

Reminder: April to June 2018 (for three months), I was taking regular HRT. Hot flushes were under control, I was sleeping soundly through the night but increasing depression, fatigue, listlessness, chronic pain, etc. 

Diana saved my life!

One day I walked into Pure Pharmacy (one of the places where I would replenish my supply of Multi-vitamins, Vitamin C, Magnesium, Iron etc.), and chatted with Diana, who recognized me as a regular.

Diana was very approachable and sincerely interested, as I noticed her taking extra time to chat and give undivided attention to all her customers. Every time I walked in, she’d ask for an update, and it seemed like I was getting worse with each visit. Finally, she stepped away and returned with a piece of paper which listed Drug-Induced Nutrient Depletions (23). At the very top of the page was the listing for Nutrients Depleted from Hormones (Conjugated Estrogens and Bio-Identical Hormones): 

  • B2
  • B6
  • B12
  • Folate
  • Magnesium
  • Selenium
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin C
  • Beneficial Flora

I found this very interesting since none of my health care providers had mentioned any of this to me prior to starting bio-identical or regular HRT over all these years. I can’t remember ever thinking about drug-induced mineral depletion. I’ve thought about how different drugs or supplements and even food can cause interactions; but effects on depleting minerals? No.

When I got home I placed the paper next to my computer. Either I was too fatigued to look into the information or got distracted.

I carried on, in a low/ depressed state of functioning. A few days later, on what my husband and I have coined my last and turning point of darkest days, he was ready to call for help (as mentioned earlier), he’d never seen me so low, somehow he managed to get me out for a walk and motivational talk. I can’t remember much from that day, but he explains that once we got home I went straight to my computer and spent the remainder of the day researching. Somehow, I intuitively latched on to Zinc from the list of depleted nutrients. 

He says that I came to bed angry: “It’s F@*#! zinc! I’m bloody zinc deficient!!”

Despite supplementing with iron, I learned that my chronic low iron levels would not improve due to my zinc deficiency. (24, 25, 26)

Zinc, Not Iron, … But zinc AND iron are both required to build red blood cells (RBC), and deficiencies often occur concurrently. (27)

So the next thing I researched was which Zinc supplement to take. Cross referencing gave me two to choose from and then narrowed it down further. I then had to figure out how to optimize supplement taking. As it turned out, it seemed like I had been doing everything humanly possible to further deplete my already low minerals. I’d been interfering with the absorption of my iron and some of my other supplements because I was taking them at either the wrong time of day or too close to taking my HRT or with other supplements that would cancel each other out and even the caffeine from espresso or the green tea I thought was beneficial. Also from eating beans, grains, nuts and seeds that weren’t sprouted. PHYTATES!

I found a useful info timing chart, A Guide to Timing Supplement Intake (28) to use as a model for my list of supplements.

And so here’s the what happened.

The next morning upon waking (from a hot flush) around 6am, I took 30mg of Zinc with water. Then I went back to sleep. I probably got up at 9am, which had become my wake up time.

The following two mornings I did basically the same thing except I woke up an hour earlier each day. Took Zinc at 5am then went back to bed, but got up easily at 7am. The following day woke up at 4am, took Zinc, then went back to sleep but shot out of bed by 6am.

Something was happening. My body started vibrating. I was feeling alert. Any of the old feelings of depression and sadness that shrouded me as a constant companion were nowhere to be found. Evaporated. It was difficult to even conjure memories of feeling that way. There was no therapy required.

My physical strength just reappeared. I had not been doing any physical training to acquire strength. My muscles had atrophied so much that in order to move a 12 inch pot of Rosemary on my deck I’d have to tip it over and roll it. This day, I reached down, using two fingers on each hand, effortlessly lifted this formerly lead-weighted pot. I will never forget that moment. I stood up feeling like Super Woman…super human strength had returned. This was freaking incredible!

Then my husband invited me to go for a bike ride. Normally, I’d take a pass. To his surprise and mine, I agreed. We rode on mostly level terrain but at the point for turning back home he suggested (always the motivator) either we head home or we could ride down the hill towards a relatives house. But that would mean having to ride back up the hill. Naturally, I could opt to walk the bike back up the hill, but I could tell that my former all-or-nothing attitude was hovering, waiting to get back in the game. Yikes!

I was feeling good so agreed to the down+uphill challenge. All the time weary of this being “too good to be true”. Up hill was challenging but not as impossible as I’d expected. My throat and upper chest felt that winded burning sensation that you get when you overexert yourself at a cardio vascular activity that you haven’t done in a long time. I rode up the hill switch back style, and started to imagine how I’d feel once delayed muscle soreness kicked in the next day. I knew I wouldn’t regret it, but wasn’t particularly looking forward to the aching muscles. To my surprise, I had no muscle soreness, and was suddenly going for long fast paced walks, making meals, washing up all the dishes, able to do the laundry — fold AND put away. My ADD and fatigue was gone. I could now finish a task. 

What has zinc got to do with fascia?

And my most favourite observation to share with you is about fascia. Gradually, over the years, my entire body had seized up like an aged person. My fascia felt brittle; to the point that I’d injure myself when stretching. Some of my joints cracked, popped and made grinding sounds. My hip flexors were tightening up more and more and I felt myself curving forward, bucket seat style. With each passing day, after starting zinc, without coaxing it along, my body became more limber and flexible. My hip flexors started to open up and naturally my body asked for lunge-style stretches, and back bending.

Two things to keep in mind, and they are not lost on me: 

1) the placebo effect accounts for 30% of all improvements. 

2) I was still taking HRT (the benefits could be attributed to a cooperative interaction between HRT and zinc.)

Everything works synergistically. Or does it?

“We think of ourselves as ‘in’ landscape, but sometimes we forget that landscape is also in us. We are formed by the ground we walk on: that which lies beneath our feet. That which holds us, supports us, feeds us. Ground is where we stand, the foundation for our lives.” —Sharon Blackie, The Enchanted Life

Both points separately and combined could easily explain my sudden burst of energy. But I don’t know how placebo effect alone could cause my lips to become fuller, and have noticeably more colour to them and my gums as though the iron was finally getting to where it needed to go. As well as past injuries or cuts started to heal? But the biology of belief is profound.

Zinc is to Progesterone and Testosterone as Copper is to Estrogen

By July 11/ 2018 (one month after starting zinc and three months after starting HRT) I reported back to my Ob/gyn how the zinc had made a huge difference. He was not familiar with drug-induced nutrient deficiencies so was unable to have a conversation about it. I was thinking about stopping all hormones but we had decided that carrying on for the next three months would be wise at which point I could just stop (not taper off) and should my symptoms return I could easily call his office for a new prescription. 

Eight days later I stopped all hormones.

For a couple reasons. 

1) I had been feeling a bit too wired. It felt as though my own hormones were starting up. So it made sense to me that I could stop all the supplementary hormones and work with minerals and vitamins to bring myself back to homeostasis. And if it didn’t work then I would go back on the HRT, but this time at least my mineral stores would be on the road to becoming replenished and I wouldn’t risk falling into depression.

2) I wanted to know if it was the zinc that was helping or if it really was a placebo effect. I already knew that HRT alone stopped my hot flushes and that it did nothing for my chronic pain and put me into a deep depression. Piecing the puzzle together, I now know that it was the Estrogen + copper (yes, copper), which were likely the culprits for keeping my in chronic pain and depression. More on that down the page.

I also had been researching everything I could find on Zinc. I was really concerned about taking too much zinc and causing zinc/copper imbalance. I spoke to a white coat at one of the pharmacies (not Diana) who gave me some advice about stopping the 30mg of zinc I was taking and start taking 15mg zinc to 2mg copper balance. So I started following that plan around July 23, 2018. 

After stopping HRT, my hot flushes started to slowly return! Remarkable isn’t it?!

But now I question if it was the introduction of copper supplement to my already excess levels that nursed the hot flushes. 

By July 24, 2018 my hot flushes were back. It dawned on me to try Pueraria Mirifica since it had been so effective before, and I was hopeful with my new mineral support I could manage mild hot flushes. But it didn’t work. Very quickly the hot flushes returned to full power. I stopped Pueraria Mirifica on August 2 and the next day started Harmony Menopause Max, which had been super effective so long ago. Within three days I knew it wasn’t going to cut it. My hot flushes were now disrupting my sleep in a big way and I was having hot flushes all day long as before.

From the position I stand now, with all the information I’ve gathered leads me to believe that these very good quality herbs couldn’t stand up to the zinc deficiency and copper overload. Had I been in a more mineral balanced state they might have been sufficient.

ON AUGUST 6, 2018, I restarted HRT. Within a few days the hot flushes seemed to settle down a bit, but it might have been wishful thinking. My joints started to act up in mild and subtle ways and the hot flushes had returned now building with intensity even though I tried to deny them. Lots of denial: This can’t be, I just need to give it more time, It worked before…With each hot flush I told myself that the next one wouldn’t be so bad and so on. Now I was beginning to think I’d gone and totally messed everything up and that I’d probably have to tweak my prescription to calm the symptoms down. My brain fog was starting up again too as well as I was starting to be a lot less patient, more irritable.

At the time of discovering Zinc (June 11, 2018), I became worried about who I could go to to help me get my mineral levels where they needed to be. I didn’t feel very confident with going back to the practitioners that I’d been seeing all these years. I wanted to find a Woman Doctor who’d experienced exactly what I had, or find a regular person, someone who shared my story but figured it out for themselves. But really, I was still so overwhelmed and there is only so much time a person can spend on this type of research each day. So, in the meantime I took back complete responsibility for my health. If I messed it up, I had only myself to blame.

Q: What effects does Copper have on Estrogen?

By August 11 (looks like 11 is my number?!), I went back to google and asked the right question which helped me find Patricia Reed (whose symptoms very closely resembled mine). The Universe answers…

I’ve linked to her blog post–> (Part 4 here, which is longer than the post you are currently reading, so plan to read it over few days) because she explains everything!! No sense in me trying to re-write her findings, since I’m still decoding for myself.

“Copper and estrogen are directly linked – they feed each other.  The more estrogen you have in your body, the higher your copper levels go, and vice versa – the more copper in your body, the higher your estrogen levels.  There are also cases where low estrogen is observed, but with high biounavailable copper.  What is observed as low estrogen can actually be severely high estrogen trapped in tissues with unbound biounavailable copper, rather than showing up in the blood, making it very hard to detect through blood tests, making it appear as though you have low estrogen, when in reality, you may be very severely estrogen dominant.  In either scenario, the excess biounavailable copper wreaks havoc on your liver, not to mention your brain, your appetite, and your metabolism in general.  When you have too much copper in your body, it prevents your liver from being able to detoxify anything properly – including estrogen.  So you end up with more estrogen dominance, which feeds your copper imbalance, raising your copper levels even more.  It’s a vicious cycle.  And as excess estrogen blocks your body’s ability to convert T4 thyroid hormone to active T3 thyroid hormone, now you start experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism, even if your thyroid tests tell your doctor that your thyroid function is just fine.  It’s not!                                                     – Patricia Reed

So after reading this above and researching more and cross referencing it occurred to me that it was likely that I was giving myself more copper in an effort to balance my zinc/copper intake was further contributing to my problem. In addition to wearing the Estrogen patch! OMG!! My copper levels must be just over the roof!

My zinc level as of July 24, 2018 was 11.9 μmol/L (optimal range of plasma zinc is 13.8 – 22.9μmol/L and my ferritin was 67 μg/L (Iron 51-100: Possible Iron Deficiency).

Note: I’d been taking zinc supplements for six weeks prior to testing. I didn’t know to stop taking zinc 24 hours before my blood test (see below). And I’d been taking iron on and off for years.

Serum and Plasma zinc tests are not always accurate. (31)

Plasma Zinc

This is the main lab test done to establish zinc deficiency. Although it is very good at picking up major deficiencies it is quite insensitive to marginal deficiency because a change in plasma zinc does not occur until zinc intake is extremely low. So a patient with `normal’ results may still be deficient.

Plasma levels of zinc can be influenced by hypo or hyperproteinemia, acute infections, stress, time of sampling (how long after a meal), pregnancy, liver disease, malignancies and pernicious anaemia.

Zinc supplements will affect the results of plasma tests so one needs to avoid taking these for at least 24 hours prior to the test.

***The optimal range of plasma zinc is 13.8 – 22.9μmol/L ( 90-150μg/dl).***

Clinical signs of zinc deficiency may occur when plasma zinc concentrations drop below 9.9μmol/L (65 μg/dl).

Values less than 5μmol/L (33 μg/dl) are particularly associated with loss of the senses of taste and smell, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, skin rash, and loss of appetite. (32)

I have repeated a zinc tally test and tasted nothing — my kids too 😦 

pylouria_zincleveltasteresponse

………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

To really get to the bottom of things I have to do a HTMA test (Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis Test). (29, 30)

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

***

“Mineral ratios are as important, if not more important than mineral levels.

***

Copper for example, may be seen at a normal level, however, if the zinc/copper ratio is low, one may experience symptoms of elevated copper.

This principle also applies to toxic metals. For example, if the cadmium level is only slightly elevated but the zinc level is low the cadmium toxicity is more serious.”

                                                                                                               – CanAlt Health Laboratories

Zn Cu Zn Cu Zn Cu Zn Cu Zn Cu Zn Cu Zn Cu Zn Cu Zn Cu Zn Cu Zn Cu Zn Cu Zn Cu Zn

In addition:

Look Up Pyroluria: Also known as Mauve Factor (due to the mauve color visible on testing paper during urinalysis) or pyrrole disorder, pyroluria occurs when the pyrroles bind to pyroxidine (vitamin B6) and zinc, causing these vital nutrients to be excreted from the body in large amounts.

“The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.”

– Thomas Edison

In following posts I will share a list of some authors that you can look into. My To Be Read (TBR) book stack has suddenly got a lot taller and less heavy on the fiction side of things.

In case you are wondering what I’m doing/taking now? I’ll share that too in the next post.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

(9a) 15 Zinc Deficiency Symptoms and Best Food Sources https://drjockers.com/15-zinc-deficiency-symptoms/

(10) Hortence’s Formula https://arvigotherapy.com/rainforest/node/96 

(11) Rosita Arvigo https://rositaarvigo.com/about-dr-arvigo/

(12) Barbara Loomis https://nurturance.net/meet-me/

(13) Renée Warner http://touchrootbodywork.com/about-renee

(14) Weston Price https://www.westonaprice.org

(15) Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston Price https://www.amazon.ca/Nutrition-Physical-Degeneration-Weston-Price/dp/0916764206

(16) Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions https://www.amazon.ca/Nourishing-Traditions-Challenges-Politically-Dictocrats/dp/0967089735/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_t_0?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=1WCQNZWASV6TM8Y7PFA4

(17) Denise Minger https://deniseminger.com/about/

(18) Fémance https://www.stfrancisherbfarm.com/products/vitex-combo

(19) Harmony Menopause Max http://takeharmony.com.au/product/harmony-menopause-max/

(20) Pueraria Mirifica https://amatalife.com/index.php/menopause-relief?SID=58a9cbbd46a1eb0aaf65b78059b6132d

(21) Pregnenolone Steal http://www.naturalendocrinesolutions.com/archives/the-negative-impact-of-the-pregnenolone-steal/

(22) [Is Bio-Identical Safer?] Women’s Health Forum with Dr. Jennifer Blake Ob/Gyn https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBqqo8cvbRQ

(23) Drug Induced Nutrient Depletion https://nutritionreview.org/2016/12/practical-guide-avoiding-drug-induced-nutrient-depletion/

(24) Iron deficiency or anemia of inflammation? Differential diagnosis and mechanisms of anemia of inflammation https:/www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5065583/

(25) Acute inhibition of iron absorption by zinc https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0271531707000954

(26) Zinc and IGF-I concentrations in pregnant women with anemia before and after supplementation with iron and/or zinc. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10376783?dopt=Abstract

(27) Zinc, Not Iron, May be the Answer to Anemia http://www.chiro.org/nutrition/FULL/Zinc_Not_Iron.shtml

(28) A Guide to Timing Supplement Intake https://labdoor.com/article/a-guide-to-timing-supplement-intake

(29) HTMA Test https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/hair-analysis-test#1

(30) Hair Mineral Analysis https://www.canaltlabs.com/hairmineralanalysis

(31) Serum zinc levels in patients with iron deficiency anemia and its association with symptoms of iron deficiency anemia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26931116

(32) Zinc Diagnostic Tests http://accurateclinic.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Zinc-Diagnostic-Tests…..-A-guide-to-zinc-deficiency-tests..pdf

 

HELLO! I’M BACK! Part 3

Let’s go back to 2004. 

At age 34, while nursing my second child (3 month old infant), I started experiencing my first hot/cold flushes. (Also known as “flash” —however, flush is a more realistic definition).

Hot flushes can be defined as a feeling of intense heat in the upper body, usually accompanied by an increased heart rate and flushing of the face, neck, and chest. As the body begins to cool down, women often experience chills, have cold feet, and begin shivering. Nearly 75% of women experience hot flushes and cold chills as they transition through peri-menopause and may continue long after menopause.

 Asking my doctor: “Do you think I could be peri-menopausal?” Reply: “No, you’re too young.”

Much to my dismay, I dismissed it to the fact that I was just working harder, managing an infant, toddler and two large Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs. It was mid-September, the weather was changing to autumn with mixed cool/warm climate fluctuations. My very supportive, physically fit husband managed himself (of course) and we’d divide and conquer chores and duties, so I was not doing it all!

But that which I WAS doing felt so taxing. 

My mother had died from cancer six months earlier, when I was pregnant with baby number two. Her voice echoed in my mind from her peri-menopausal years, when pushing herself through her usual non-stop chores, she’d breathlessly whisper, “I’m just so tired.” It was more of a question than a statement…she was normally capable of so much. It wouldn’t be long before I’d parallel my mother’s gasping sentiment.

Within a few years, I’d often say that I was barely surviving. But was reminded to buck up — living in a first world country hardly qualified as ‘barely surviving’.

True.

But feeling this way woke me up to consider what was causing so many people to suffer along with me, with their declining physical and mental health, though financially secure and able to access all the best doctors and or remedies beyond Health Care? Is this really what ageing was all about? Did a person’s health really, in the end, come down to LUCK?

9 months later (or so), my right knee became inflamed. I expected that it had to do with running along the forest trails pushing a double stroller. I’d read about forefoot running and thought to give it a try, even though for years I’d been adamant about heel strike first, unless one was sprinting. So maybe I torqued my knee, the trail was uneven after all, not to mention that my hands were fixed onto the stroller. Also, I wasn’t running in reality, more like jogging, so maybe the theory of forefoot running was best left for high-speeds after all? I never ran like that thereafter. 

Within a few months my knee felt OK. Out of nowhere, the metatarsals of my right foot became excruciatingly painful. For a month or two, I suffered with the pain, my foot felt fractured. Since it was mostly debilitating in the morning upon my first steps out of bed and would subsequently subside, I started to wonder if I had Gout? But how could I have Gout? My diet, as it was, gave no indication that that could be a reasonable diagnosis. Maybe Morton’s Neuroma? And quite possibly I’d done something to my foot while favouring my knee? Once I couldn’t endure the morning pain anymore or the inconvenience of random bouts of pain causing me to hobble around, periodically crippling me, I went to the doctor.

Over the years, at my husbands urging, I’d visit the doctor for minor but chronic bizarre symptoms, to which the ‘idiopathic’ cause was offered. As a result, I was beginning to feel like a hypochondriac and shied away from further complaining.

My GP, prescribed an over the counter orthotic/metatarsal support. I knew that that wasn’t what was going on but I had nothing up my sleeve to table. So, grudgingly I obliged and wore it for a while. And of course, in due time the pain subsided…

…to show up at my elbow! Like a slow moving hacked game of Tetris. The pain, being the ball, stuck in the same spot, banging in its corner until a player materialized to knock it to another corner and then forget about the game once again.

This went on long enough that finally, with enough examples, (knee, foot, elbow, other foot, shoulder, hands) to present to my doctor, I pleaded for help. 

LONG story short, I visited the Arthritis Society (I wrote about that visit here) and was diagnosed with Palindromic Rheumatism.

Palindromic Rheumatism = (PR) is a rare episodic form of inflammatory arthritis – meaning the joint pain and swelling come and go. Between attacks, the symptoms disappear and the affected joints go back to normal, with no lasting damage.

I never believed that that is what was going on with me. They prescribed (NSAIDS) pharmaceuticals, which I never took. I’ve always been more curious about what causes disease. However, there is a twisted comfort in giving a name or diagnosis to a mystery illness.

It’s safe to conclude, by that point I was pretty frazzled. Sometimes my hands would become incredibly sore that they felt broken at the metacarpals (much like the foot pain I previously experienced), but additionally, my knuckles swelled reminiscent of the evil Queen’s transformation in Snow White (not visibly as bad but they FELT like hers looked). There were times when I couldn’t tie my toddlers shoe laces, or twisting the handle for the faucet (a seemingly innocuous task) and worst of all was changing bedding: pulling the fitted sheet over mattress corners was just unbearable. 

Below is a list of symptoms over the course of these thirteen years. Here you can better understand why the analogy (mentioned in Part 1) of the frog in pot of boiling water is relevant. These symptoms would often present themselves in a mild and stealth fashion and then overlap one another and then some or all would disappear until the next month when my hormones would fluctuate again, triggering game on. My chronic pain would crescendo and then decrescendo to the point I would forget I ever had the pain only to have the pain return ever so slowly, not unlike the tepid water in the pot gradually increasing to boiling point.

-chronic slow wound healing

-one episode of Bell’s Palsy

-vision worsening

-chronic Raynauds (fingers and toes)

-palindromic rheumatism

-thinning of eyelashes

-Hydrocystoma, I pushed to have it biopsied to find out what the heck these bumps under my skin were! (I had multiple on underside of forearms, one at throat area, some have shrunk away, there are some tiny ones left).

-peri-menopausal symptoms 

-one episode of Menstrual Flooding age 36

-chronic hot/cold flushes

-Umbilical Hernia

-skin crawling (freaky! Sensations of invisible insects crawling on the body, so much so,  that you are compelled to brush it away — and I LIKE insects and don’t normally mind them crawling on me, but this is so freaky!).

-brain fog

-leg cramping in bed

Update: I forgot to mention Urine Leakage, called “stress urinary incontinence”. Often associated with a weak or damaged pelvic floor. There has been a lot written about the subject over the years. My friend reminded me about the time I visited and was jumping on their trampoline and how I commented that I’d have to be careful because I tend to leak. I must have been 40-41 at the time. She recalls being surprised, because of all people, I was very in tune with my body and particularly the pelvic floor.

Speaking-up about pelvic floor health was always something that I included in my personal training sessions — specifically to ensure that people weren’t overtraining (trying too hard to contract) the pelvic floor muscles and working towards better understanding o  body alignment . There is a “just right” amount of muscular tension that is helpful, beyond which are negative returns. Of course when this leakage started happening to me I wondered if I’d been “doing it wrong” myself all these years? Long story short, I noticed that my urine leakage was directly related to the fluctuations in my hormones. Almost like one week or two out of every month I’d have occasional leakage from sudden sneezing, laughing, coughing or jumping and other times no problem at all.

-Urine leakage, laughing, coughing, jumping, sneezing.

-irregular menses age 36 – 41 (10 days of bleeding every 15 -18 days), eventually able to get cycles to 22 – 25 days (ages 41 – 44). Then menses became irregular again until present, 60 – 105 day cycles, with only light spotting for 2 – 5 days.

-recurring benign cervical polyps. (Ob/Gyn suggested D&C; I declined, due to my tendency to heal slowly, I was concerned I’d open myself up to more problems.

-fibromyalgia type fatigue and chronic pain

-unable to get out of bed without stretching in bed 

-2011, mildly fatigued, my solution was to stretch in bed in the mornings. Started sharing this on my blog. But with each passing year the benefits from stretching didn’t seem to hold in my tissues. It seemed like the more I stretched the more I needed to stretch AND on many occasions, in the last couple years, I would injure myself from stretching! My fascia was feeling so tight and brittle like the posture we see in a 70+ person suffering from osteoporosis.

-chronic excruciating shoulder pain, nearly impossible to take shirt off over head type of movement. When hand pain was at its peak, even pulling up my underwear and stretchy Lululemon-type leggings was laborious due to searing pain — not a swift movement like it should be!

-chronic elbow pain, felt swollen but appeared normal. Any pressure from a jacket or propping myself up on a forearm would cause me to wince, and when propped, I’d have to collapse to escape the sharp pain.

Note: Just about daily, the need to bend the elbow would present itself or to prop myself up on my forearm, you’d think a soft mattress would be a safe place. Most of the time, there’d be no issue and so when the searing pain hit, it would always catch me by surprise.

-after completing Orthodontics (2014 – 2016), one tooth became grey. Dentist & Endodontist (second opinion) both suggested root canal. I said that I would look up alternative because of my slow to heal problem, concerned that I’d cause more problems for myself.

-snoring: turbinate enlargement

-tongue and gums developed lichen planus

-teeth: dentin (below the enamel) looks cut through (top front four teeth – can only notice it in certain light), a dark shadow approximately at the same level where Ortho wires went across the teeth. (It’s NOT from staining).

Within the last year:

-tongue swelling but Lichen Planus went away

-vision continuing to deteriorate

-Facial ageing: lips wrinkling, shrinking and loss of colour. Bronze discolouration and swelling at medial point of eyelids (upper lid sulcus –not sure if this is the correct anatomical term for the area I’m describing, but I noticed this same problem on a relative who had Emphysema and Addison’s Disease.

-while driving, hunched forward like a little old lady, nervous/overly cautious to change lanes. Normally, I’m like Leilani Münter 🙂

-zero libido 😦

-depression, weepiness, quick to cry or feel put down, anxiety, avoiding social situations, eventually a loss of zest for living.

NEXT week on HELLO! I’M BACK! Part 4…Learn about the prescribed treatments I used, and WHY and HOW they spiralled me further down into a rapid declining health AND finally, I’ll share what brought me back. #KatCameBack

Hello! I’M BACK! Part 2

My experience as case study: 

My kids, now teens, were born at home in 2002 and 2004; I had (still have?) a high pain threshold. Gradually, I became more fatigued after the second child. I was 34, with two young kids, naturally, I presumed a reasonable amount of exhaustion was to be expected. 

When feeling well, I’ve got a lot of physical energy, and some. Even during these fatigue years I was still able to get a lot done, despite chronic pain. This year I’ve read 48 books since January —primarily because I was listless. I like to do things and so if the least I could do was check off ‘book read’ from my TBR stack, then I was accomplishing something.

Example: in the past, on this blog I’ve shared a breakdown of A Day in the Life of movement/activity and meals from my early 40’s (under Food Log), so you can see I was getting it done.

Example: In my early 20’s, 1990’s Toronto, a buddy introduced me to the new In-Line-Skating craze. On a scorching summer day, swimming in oversized borrowed skates and two pair of wool winter socks (to make the skates fit), he and I would barrel down University Avenue (having started out at Lawrence and Bayview), weaving through and around moving objects, jumping this and that all the way down to the Lakeshore, eventually coming across places to practice our jumps. I’d follow behind with no particular grace or skill but sheer excitement for the thrill (completely risky in hindsight). One particular spot, had piles of rotting timber and the occasional rusted nail jutted out; we’d build up speed and fly overtop. Then we’d skate all the way back home—up hill all the way.

In those days, I was into Body Building and Fitness Competitions. I’d spend two to three hours a day at the gym. Take a 20 minute recovery nap mid-day, work with my Personal Training clients and teach Cycle Reebok “Spinning” classes and sometimes take clients for a run. Often commuting across the city on my mountain bike, eventually, securing slick tires to make the ride more functional, meanwhile studying and eventually becoming certified in Pilates and Yoga.

Having learned that I’d won a Ms. Fitness Canada pageant in ’94, a new friend at the time named me: “Super-Power-Babe-of-the-Universe”. HAHAHAHA! 

Essentially, the picture I’m painting is to illustrate that by my nature, I move. And when I wasn’t on the go, I was eating food or reading anatomy books. Side note: I believe in moving the body for health…the body as a machine which requires maintenance and proper fuel vs. to actually be a machine. Difference.

I’m sharing all this to emphasize that I consider myself in a unique position to talk about what being healthy and active is, and likewise, to detail the shocking, contrasting decline to the rock bottom of torpidity…and back again. 

How #KatCameBack And what all my health providers missed.

Reminiscing on what I used to do back then surprises me now, I almost can’t wrap my head around it. And yet it was so natural. Even to conceive the amount of activity I was capable of only four years ago is startling to my present self, since mustering up the energy or inspiration to go for a simple stroll a few times per week was a huge accomplishment these last few months. I’d pretty much stopped preparing any food for my family. If I did supply anything it would be mostly store bought (Ma & Pop shops in my community were my lifeline where I’d bring in my reusable containers for soups, salads etc.). Creativity gone. Motivation gone. Zest for living…gone 😦

I stopped preparing food for my family. If I had enough energy to do a grocery shop, I then would be completely zapped of energy or desire to prepare any meals upon returning home.

If I could muster up the energy to make something, I’d plead for my husband to tell me what I should make. Most days I ate very minimally. I was no longer exercising (the most I could do was stretch in bed in the morning, a requirement to get out of bed, usually way after 9am) and on a good day I’d go for a twenty minute walk in the woods, often overtaken with emotion and weepy throughout the day.

Basically, I stopped being able to make decisions for myself. Rote memory was what got me through daily activities. I had become mechanical 😦

I needed to bring my husband with me to my doctor appointments to speak on my behalf and to make sense of the conversation FOR me.

WTF!?! What happened to me?

Takeaway: This is NOT about being nostalgic about my ‘glory days’, but rather, to clarify that there was a time when I had the drive to commit to showing up. Remember, I coined the term: Self-Discipline Is Born From Being Consistent. As a result of this downward spiral and rebirth, I now understand that no matter how much a person wants to be healthy there is much more going on here than positive self-talk and ‘showing up’ to achieve self-discipline. There’s a whole group of people who are unable to show up, and I don’t believe that it’s necessarily ‘mental illness’ or laziness/ lack of self-discipline. Within three days of figuring out what was causing my decline my energy stores started to fill up. Like a plant, restricted from water, after receiving a deep watering we actually see the plant, before our eyes, straighten up expressing its life-force. That’s exactly how I felt. My body was vibrating. I even went for a bike ride for the first time in years, down a steep hill and rode back up, with no delayed muscle soreness the next day! Prior to this, vertigo-like feelings, declining vision and spacial awareness type of sensations kept me from playing…I just didn’t feel right or safe to make judgements. But now my mood has lifted and the brain fog is not as bad (it’s still taken me four days to write this tho).

Even last year from April to August 2017, I was a regular at a hot Yoga studio. My shoulder pain was at an all time high. I was hopeful that the heat of the yoga studio would allow me to move without pain or at least be able to move enough to correct whatever was going on, besides my Naturopath wanted me to sweat…but I’ll get to that later and explain why the heat may have been a contributing factor to my rapid decline.

Next up, I’ll share a list of all the symptoms and treatments I went through during these last thirteen years.

To be continued…

Comments are turned off until the end of this grouping of posts. 

HELLO! I’m BACK!

Not sure if you noticed my absence? I haven’t posted anything here since 2015.         Today is June 25, 2018. 

I’ve been unwell.

Despite doing all the “right” things, my decline has been gradual, not unlike the fable of the boiling frog. The only difference, is that I was able to hop out prior to boiling point.

The boiling frog is a fable which describes a frog being slowly boiled alive. If a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, the frog will jump out. But if the frog is put into tepid water, which is gradually brought to a boil, it will not perceive any danger.

The result: being cooked to death.

Up until two weeks ago, I believed that the last thirteen years of early peri-menopausal onset was exclusively due to my gene expression. Having done the 23andme genetic test in 2016, it was confirmed that I have the gene which puts me through menopause ten years earlier than the average woman. Some will argue, that just because I have the gene doesn’t mean that it will be expressed. (I don’t know enough about genetics to debate this). Unfortunately, we will never know. Should we be open to speculation that something ELSE was going on which triggered these symptoms which over time gradually brought me to boiling point?

The first thing that came to mind when I read the report, was that it made sense: Mum had a very difficult and drawn out peri-menopause too, even though comparatively, my sisters seemed to have minimal and manageable symptoms at typical ages. And I was grateful for the ‘official’ explanation for my untimely symptoms, which began at age 34.

What has this got to do about you? Essentially, that’s why you’re reading this. We’re all looking for answers for our own well-being. You may find some details going forward that either resonate with your health or someone you know.

My vision has always been to die healthy, at a ripe OLD age! But I was barely holding on to life at 47 years of age. I know that sounds dramatic, I was not hospitalized, but I felt that my expiry date was rapidly approaching. This slow, gradual decline that I’d been trekking had suddenly accelerated in the last six months and avalanched as of April 2018. My life started crumbling under my feet, like loose gravel overtop a seemingly solid trail. Depression’s fists were strengthening their grasp on my shirt collar and pulling me down, and I went willingly — I was giving up.

I never knew what Darkness meant up until this year. Really, I didn’t truly understand what depression was — because I’d never experienced it. Like so many others who don’t understand, I couldn’t comprehend how a positive attitude or encouragement from well meaning supportive friends and family could not pull you up out from your depths. “Cheer up! Smile!”

So what happened that brought me back to life? How’d I escape boiling point?

What happened that made Darkness leave? I never said good-bye to Darkness, by the way– I didn’t work at convincing it to leave me alone. Darkness just vanished, POOF! and what I was left with is empirical understanding. 

I’m heartbroken that so many people are walking around with despair as an unwelcome shadow and living with chronic pain.

I’ll share my story with you. It’s long, but I’ll keep it short-ish. There’s thirteen years of decline to cover — although there’s no doubt the early years prior set the stage.

I’d rather be doing other things than write this out, so I’ll be brief, for your sake and mine…after all, I’ve got some lost years to restore 🙂 AND, I’m still not at one-hundred percent. However, I’m feeling pretty amazing in contrast to how I was feeling just two weeks ago. There are so many FIRSTS that I’d like to shout about. Like the fact that I am here typing away, so naturally, words are flowing. I went for a LONG walk yesterday, I wake up refreshed, my strength has returned without having done any type of workout to have ‘created’ strength, to name but a few of my firsts.

I’ll post a little something every day, or so, to describe what happened.

At the root of this story is the failure of the experts. Oops! I did it again! I listened to the experts instead of my own instincts. Surly they know better –> tongue firmly planted in cheek. Years ago, I wrote a cautionary post about not relinquishing too much to the experts.

Did I forget? NO. But this is what happens when brain fog kicks in. What you know and interpretation of information becomes clouded…hence the term.

I’m pissed about this. Thirteen years of physical pain and aging like I were 70+. So, yes, I’m pissed. But I was eloquently reminded, that it’s better to be pissed than pissed on…unless you’re into that.

Silver lining: There is no success without failure. 

BOTH, the natural and allopathic medical systems failed in preparing my various doctors, who in turn failed me. But this story wouldn’t reach you, had they not. I wouldn’t have learned some pretty significant information about depression and health, had they not.

And so maybe, this will reach you or someone you love, in time to help. Despite doing all the seemingly right things for a healthy life, there are too many people slipping into darkness, suffering pain, premature ageing and dying.  

To be continued…

Comments are turned off until the end of this grouping of posts. 

Mother Nature

DSC02832 Ed Polish mouse pad hot flash

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:

  1. if a woman is experiencing early menopause (<45 with hot flushes and for sure < 40)
  2. hot flushes are interfering with sleep and
  3. 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.”

-from Dr. Jerilynn Prior’s website: CEMCOR to view her explanation of the Phases of Peri-menopause through to Menopause click here.

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.