Are You Going Into Early Menopause?

Are You Going Into Early Menopause?

Are You Going Into Early Menopause?

We all know menopause is going to hit us.

But, when exactly will it hit us?

To fully understand when menopause may hit us we first need to understand the three stages of menopause.

The Three Stages of Menopause

Perimenopause or “menopause transition.” Perimenopause can begin 8 to 10 years before menopause, when the ovaries gradually produce less estrogen. It usually starts in a woman’s 40s, but can start in the 30s as well. Perimenopause lasts up until menopause, the point when the ovaries stop releasing eggs. In the last 1-2 years of perimenopause, the drop in estrogen accelerates. At this stage, many women can experience menopause symptoms. Women are still having menstrual cycles during this time, and can still get pregnant.

Menopause. Menopause is the point when a woman no longer has menstrual periods. At this stage, the ovaries have stopped releasing eggs and producing most of their estrogen. Menopause is diagnosed when a woman has gone without a period for 12 consecutive months.

Postmenopause. These are the years after menopause. During this stage, menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, can ease for most women. But, as a result of a lower level of estrogen, postmenopausal women are at increased risk for a number of health conditions, such as osteoporosis and heart disease.

Are You Going Into Early Menopause

Early menopause can be triggered by a number of factors:

  • Poor nutrition
  • Poverty (experts hypothesize that women in poverty have poorer eating habits)
  • Smoking (this can increase your risk of early menopause by 30%!)
  • Alcohol, although it is noted that yes alcohol may contribute to entering the phases of menopause at an earlier age, it is not necessarily deemed as “early menopause” – not sure what the difference is myself.
  • Medical treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation
  • Chromosomal abnormalities
  • Women who have had their ovaries surgically removed
  • Premature ovarian failure (POF)
  • An overload of heavy metals like lead, mercury and cadmium can also be a cause

When premature menopause is suspected, you can ask your doctor to order blood tests that look at the levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and estradiol.  This work-up should also include the thyroid and the adrenal glands because they can be affected too.

Relief for the Symptoms of Early Menopause

According to WomentoWomen.com:

“Our estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels are constantly shifting throughout our life, and that’s normal. But as we age, the fluctuations and ratios between these hormones can become more extreme. When the body cannot regulate these shifts in hormone levels, women can experience common symptoms of menopause, including night sweats, hot flashes, food cravings, and fatigue.”

We can balance these symptoms naturally with:

  • A healthy, whole food diet
  • Herbal remedies such as black cohosh, passionflower, chasteberry, wild yam and ashwagandha have been shown to help support our hormone production
  • Lifestyle changes such as removing environmental toxins, getting enough sleep
  • Reducing chronic stress
  • Getting more exercise

Health Concerns for Early Menopause

Our hormones (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone), are needed for the years leading up to menopause.

They offer protection against cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.

If you have been found to be in early menopause chat with your doctor, or a naturopath who specializes in women’s health and get yourself on a health plan to protect your heart and your bone health.

Some things to look at are:

  • Vitamin D, to support your bones
  • Strength training, to help build new bone and strengthen the heart
  • Maintaining a healthy weight. Studies have shown that women who go through menopause before the age of 46 are twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease or have a stroke
  • Don’t smoke – or quit
  • Take a high-quality omega 3, daily
  • HRT (hormone replacement therapy)

Local Naturopaths Who Specialize in Women’s Health

Dr. Karen McGee

Dr. Heli McPhie

Dr. Nishi Dhawan

 

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Menopause & Sleep

Menopause & Sleep

Menopause and Sleep

Why can’t we sleep? Why is it in our 40’s, 50’s and beyond, we all of sudden revert back to our newborn selves?

Where we are up every 2-3 hours, crying, whining, fists in a ball ready to hit someone (and that someone is usually our significant other who is sleeping just fine right beside us).

Or, perhaps you are one of the chosen that can’t seem to fall asleep. You lie there getting more and more frustrated while your brain is doing a continuous play-by-play of the last 24 hours, and then 48 hours and then the last ten years.

Menopause & Sleep

Sleep disturbances (aka: insomnia) is common around the time of menopause, and while most women attribute their lack of shut eye to menopause symptoms there are many other reasons for sleep disturbances that healthcare professionals want us to look at.

Some factors to consider that may be distributing your sleep:

  • Night sweats (which are simply hot flashes at night)
  • Sleep-disordered breathing (known as sleep apnea)
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Stress, anxiety and depression
  • Painful chronic illnesses
  • And even some medications can get in the way of sleeping

How to Sleep Better When In Menopause

The first order of treatment is to improve your sleep routine and sleep hygiene.

  • Maintain regular hours of going to sleep each night and getting up each morning. Keep your sleep cycle the same, seven days a week.
  • Get outside, and in some sunshine as soon as you can first thing in the morning (if the weather permits it), as well as in the afternoon. This will help set you body’s sleep cycle clock and aid in nixing any napping that could happen in the afternoon.
  • Exercise on a regular basis, but avoid exercising too late in the evening – as it increases your alertness.
  • Avoiding getting too warm while sleeping if you are prone to night sweats
    • Sleep with a window open, or a fan on you
    • Sleep in dri-fit clothes (to wick away the sweat)
    • Buy moisture-wicking bed sheets (here’s a brand that got some great reviews)
  • Don’t have any stimulants, such as caffeine and dark chocolate, 6-hours before bed.
  • Have a light dinner and avoid alcohol. One drink is fine, but more drinks will only increase the chances of you waking up throughout the night.
  • Shut down all your gadgets at least two hours before bedtime. The blue light in computers, tablets and phones is can block the production of your natural sleep hormone, melatonin. If you do have to be on your computer you can try blue light blockers. There are screen covers, as well as glasses that block the blue light out. For the glasses, this brand was the only one that passed the test by Consumer Reports.
  • Give yourself at least an hour before bed to unwind and power down. Dim the lights and read a book, meditate, do some slow-flow yoga or yin yoga, or give my stretch workouts a try.
  • When lifestyle changes fail to alleviate sleep disturbances, ask your doctor to refer you to a sleep centre to rule out sleep-related disorders before initiating prescription treatment.
  • And, if your sleep disturbance is related solely to hot flashes, hormone therapy is likely to help.

 

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Upper Body & Abs Workout for Women (Part 2)

Upper Body & Abs Workout for Women (Part 2)

Upper Body and Abs Workout for Women (Part 2)

When I set out to film workout videos I look at three things: has anyone requested certain workouts, what workouts are lacking on the channel and what are my most popular and viewed workouts.

Hence today’s workout Upper Body and Abs Workout for Women – Part 2 (but, really guys can do this too).

If you have done Part 1 Upper Body and Abs Workout for Women  I thought you might would enjoy another workout to add to their upper body training repertoire.

And if you haven’t done Part 1 – there is no need to do any of these two in order (part one first and then part two). Just choose at least one upper body workout a week and do it please. That’s all I ask.

upper-body-ab-workout-for-women-photos-fitness-with-pj

Upper Body & Abs Workout for Women – Part 2

 

Upper-Body-Ab-Workout-For-Women-Full-Workout-Fitness-with-PJ

 

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10 Truths You Wish You Knew When You Were Younger

10 Truths You Wish You Knew When You Were Younger

10 Truths You Wish You Knew When You Were Younger

 

What if you could write a letter to your younger self?

 

What would you say? What life lessons would you share?

 

Would your letter go a little like the letter I would write to my 24-year old self?

 

Dear 24-year old PJ,

 

Hey PJ! So, we just celebrated our 46th birthday a few days ago (spoiler alert: we were in Mexico), and it got me thinking about some life lessons I wished we learned earlier.

 

But, before we get into that, how are you?

 

I know! That was a ridiculous question to ask. Since you are me and I know I was doing pretty good 22 years ago, even if I didn’t think I was at the time.

 

But, 22 years ago is when we married loving husband and launched our personal training business.

 

It was a big year girlfriend.

 

In fact, our 20’s were pretty good. But, unfortunately we were pretty busy being 20-something, and taking everything for granted like 20-somethings do, that we didn’t really appreciate what the hell we had.

 

Hence this letter.

 

10 Truths I Wish I Knew When I Was Younger

 

First, learn to forgive the a**holes in life.

 

It’s not easy, but you need to learn this important step.

 

You see, even if they were a jerk to you it doesn’t mean that it’s all about you. Yes, thinking that they are being an a-hole to just you means you believe life revolves only around you.

 

Huge life lesson here, it does not.

 

This a-hole could just be having a bad day. Or, someone may have been an a-hole to them earlier (which then put them in a bad mood). You just don’t know their story.

 

So please, forgive, turn the other cheek, smile and be nice (Yes, you may curse at them inside your head. We aren’t saints for crying out loud.).

 

Second, learn to love the journey as much as the destination.

 

We are very good at making goals. We have laser-like focus and will quite often narrow our vision to the finish line only.

 

What you need to start doing is paying attention to the journey as well.

 

This is where you will meet some pretty cool people (if you pay attention), as well as learn about yourself and create all the awesome memories that we can reflect on as we get older.

 

The destination is really secondary to the journey.

 

Third, learn to breathe for crying out loud.

 

Everyday take a few moments to just sit still and breathe.

 

These few moments I am asking you to take are what you are going to term “slow and useless”. They really aren’t and are quite the opposite.

 

The stillness will make us happier, rev us up and help get those creative juices running.

 

Trust me on this one*.

 

* Well, you kinda have to since I am you, and not trusting me would actually be not trusting yourself.

 

Fourth, flat abs and an inner thigh gap is not better health.

 

We were pretty overweight as kids, so I get why you are so concerned about your body image.

 

Flash forward 22 years later though, and with the loss of friends and loved ones from diseases, you will recognize that good health is actually vitality and vigour for life.

 

It is an inner glow and energy that one exudes when you are enjoying good food, a good life and doing those squats you love so much.

 

Fifth, appreciate loving husband (and those around you) more.

 

It is friends and family that will help you through some tough times ahead. You will need their support and their love, so give lots to them right now.

 

Yes, loving husband will still be eating junk food and hiding the wrappers in the garbage can when we are middle-aged. However, he puts up with a lot from us so you will learn to ignore these culinary indiscretions of his.

 

Sixth, use sunscreen.

 

This will save us both a lot of money in the future in laser treatments, exfoliates, anti-aging moisturizers and high-def make-up.

 

Seventh, quit buying the latest and greatest.

 

It is, in the end, just crap. You can live without that sweater and I promise you that owning matching dinnerware, cutlery and placements will not bring you inner peace.

 

Save our money and use it for trips and experiences. That’s the sort of thing that we will be remembering, and yearning for more of, in our middle years.

 

Eighth, be kind to yourself.

 

Love yourself and the skin that you are in. You are perfectly imperfect and embrace that.

 

Ninth, be kind to others.

 

The world runs at a really fast-pace nowadays. So fast that we can lose a bit of our humanity just because we are too damn busy to care.

 

Don’t let that happen. Don’t be an a**hole (refer back to tip #1). Care for others and be kind – however, don’t lose your attitude. That’s what makes us all unique.

 

And tenth, rely on your instincts.

 

Instincts can serve a girl well so start paying attention to yours.

 

When making the tough decisions that we have to make in life have a clear-head and trust your gut.

 

Your intuition, and that gut instinct you feel, will provide you with a very useful first step in any decision-making process.

 

However, there is one occasion that I strongly urge you NOT to trust your gut.

 

When we turn 40 we will think it’s a great idea to die our hair platinum blonde. It is not a great idea. In fact, it is an epically bad one. Blonde is not the way to go for us.

 

Trust me. We will regret that one.

PJ-blonde 

Love Me

 ps – being middle-aged is actually pretty cool.

 pps – you know how you are always cold? I got two words for you Hot. Flashes

 

 

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What is a Hot Flash?

What is a Hot Flash?

What is a Hot Flash?

I have been cold for most of my life (and I’m talking physically, not metaphorically).

I am always the one with a sweater on, even in the dead of summer. I am the last one to turn on a fan when working out, and I once wore a scarf – in Mexico.

I am probably the only woman on earth that couldn’t wait for menopause and hot flashes to start.

Fast forward to today and here I am kinda wishing I wasn’t so vocal to the hormone gods that I wanted some hot flashes.

What Exactly is a Hot Flash

Hot flashes are a common symptom of menopause. It’s a quick feeling of heat that is not caused by any external sources, leaving us sweating from our scalps all the way down to our toes.

They can range from mild and tolerable, to downright troublesome, and all the way to severe and debilitating.

Some women can have hot flashes for decades, while others for just a few years.

A few weeks ago I reached out to my community to ask them how a hot flash felt for them, and here are some of the responses I received:

“A heat that feels like it’s “radiating from your body” late at night or the early hours of the morning…often accompanied by a sweaty neck and restless sleep.”

“…my experience has been with night sweats which you wake up and find yourself very hot and sweaty, sometimes having to change because you have soaked your pj’s – not fun! I have experienced day ones too, which you don’t give you any warning. One minute you’re fine and then the next you are wanting to take your clothes off because you are so hot and uncomfortable. It can be very embarrassing depending where you are, thank goodness I don’t get those very often. I do find if I have had wine that night that I am more prone to having a night sweat.”

“Hot flashes are a very uncomfortable feeling as they come suddenly and leave suddenly. Nights are the hardest as I dress up, undress, dress up, undress, probably 20 times a night.”

“Before hormone replacement I was getting hot flashes that would make my head and face feel like a volcano had erupted on it.”

“…a hot flash feels like my blood is burning up from the inside of me and my face and neck area gets very red, my arms are really hot and a darker color. Thank god they don’t last too long. You can feel them coming on and then you feel normal again.”

Researchers believe that women with hot flashes have more sensitive thermostats in their brain, so they are only comfortable in a small range of temperatures (North American Menopause Society – NAMS).

Researchers also hypothesize that hot flashes may be because of a change in our circulation (WebMD).

Dr. Karen McGee, naturopathic physician in Fort Langley who specializes in women’s health, says that a drop in estrogen is one of the factors in a hot flash, however she says that it is a bit more complex than just low estrogen.

She explains that we are actually designed to fight off hot flashes, but lifestyle hinders that fight.

There is a layer of our adrenal glands that releases sex hormones, and these hormones can prevent hot flashes. But, throw in a busy lifestyle and chronic stress and our adrenal glands are left being busy dealing with day-to-day life stuff. They are unable to balance the thermoregulation needed to prevent a hot flash.

And so the hormone sh*t-storm begins.

funny-menopause-hot-flash-quote-fitness-with-PJ

Hot Flash Triggers

While you can’t escape hot flashes during menopause, there some triggers you can avoid to help with the intensity of them.

These are:

  • Stress (to keep your adrenal glands happy)
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Spicy Foods
  • Tight clothing
  • Heat
  • Cigarette smoke

NAMS recommends if your hot flashes are mild or moderate you may find relief by simply changing your lifestyle.

But, if you have severe hot flashes, while you will still benefit from lifestyle changes, you may also choose to take a nonprescription therapy or a prescription medication, including hormones to help you manage your symptoms.

Lifestyle Changes

A big lifestyle change that can help produce a difference with hot flashes is to stay cool (both physically and metaphorically), and reduce your stress.

Other relief options can include:

  • Avoiding warm rooms (no more saunas or hot tubs), hot drinks and foods, alcohol, caffeine, excess stress, and cigarette smoking.
  • Wearing layers of clothing made from light, breathable fabrics. This way you can remove a layer or two when you’re hot and replace them when you’re cooler (this is a tactic I use).
  • Using cooling products, including sprays, gels, and a Chillow pillow.
  • Reducing stress and promoting a more restful sleep by exercising regularly.
  • Meditation, yoga, qigong, tai chi, biofeedback, acupuncture, or massage will also lower your stress levels.

When you feel a hot flash coming on:

  • Try “paced respiration” (NAMS). This is slow, deep, abdominal breathing where you breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. You want to breathe like that for only 5 to 7 times per minute. So it is much slower than usual, and continue breathing like that until you feel the flash subside.
  • You can also try different strategies to stay cool while sleeping, such as dressing in light, breathable nightclothes. Or, wear workout wear, like a Nike dri-fit top.
  • Use layered bedding that can be easily removed during the night.
  • Cool down with a bedside fan.
  • Keep a frozen cold pack under your pillow, and turn the pillow often so that your head is always resting on a cool surface.
  • If you wake at night, sip cool water and to get back to sleep try meditation, paced respiration, or getting out of bed and reading until you become sleepy.

Women who are overweight tend to have more hot flashes, so maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly will help in both decreasing the hot flashes while also improving your overall health.

Nonprescription Therapies

Many nonprescription therapies can help reduce hot flashes, but not because of how you would think.

Researchers claim that nonprescription therapies work because of the placebo effect.

When nonprescription treatments are studied scientifically (NAMS) it has been found that they are JUST as effective as the placebo.

But, even if relief is simply all in our heads it is still worth a shot to try, yes?

Yes, I think so too.

Some remedies you might want to consider for hot flash relief are:

  • Soy: eat one or two servings of foods daily (containing isoflavones). This can be tofu, tempeh, soymilk, or roasted soy nuts.
  • Supplements containing soy isoflavones.
  • Herb supplements: such as black cohosh, have also decreased hot flashes in some studies

Prescription Therapies

Dr. McGee sees success with her patients using bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (replacing your estrogen and progesterone).

Estrogen, in a pill or a transdermal patch, is highly effective at reducing, and in some cases, eliminating symptoms.

However, there are risks with hormone therapy (HT).

Long term studies of women receiving oral preparations of combined hormone therapy of both estrogen and progesterones were halted when it was discovered that the women in the study had an increased risk for heart attack, stroke and breast cancer when compared with women who did not receive HT.

Later studies of women taking estrogen alone showed that estrogen was associated with an increased risk for stroke, but not for heart attack or breast cancer.

So, the decision to start, or continue taking, HT is a hard one and a very individual choice. Talk to your health care provider to weigh the pros and cons.

Other prescription therapies include:

  • Low-dose depression drugs like fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), or venlafaxine (Effexor)
  • Clonidine, a blood pressure medication
  • Gabapentin, an anti-seizure drug
  • Brisdelle, a paroxetine formula specifically for hot flashes
  • Duavee, a conjugated estrogens/bazedoxifene formula designed to treat hot flashes

You can also read what the North American Menopause Society recommends by clicking here.

 

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