MAKE MENOPAUSE YOUR B*TCH!: How self-advocacy, a personal tribe of experts, and a proactive approach will enable you to take control of menopause, not the other way around!
By 2030, there will be 1.2 billion women going through menopause, yet many, if not most, will be experiencing a combination of symptoms that disrupts their quality of life, including hot flashes, insomnia, brain fog, vaginal dryness, low libido, weight gain, and fatigue. What’s worse, our medical system is not offering women the support and treatment options necessary to help them feel better. In her new book, See Ya Later, Ovulator, Esther Blum draws from her 27+ years in nutritional counseling to provide them with the resources they need to manage their body’s response to menopause and learn the exact treatment plan they need to say goodbye to the pesky symptoms, dial into their needs, and start to feel like themselves again.
Here’s what women are sick and tired of hearing from their doctors:
- Your labs are normal and you look fine (despite your symptoms).
- You’re just getting older.
- Birth control is the only option for your symptoms.
- This is common for your age.
To which I say:
- Your labs can be completely normal and you can still feel like dog poop
- You’re 50, you’re not dead!
- Birth control suppresses hormones and if yours are already in the toilet, why add fuel to the fire?
- Just because these menopausal symptoms may be common in women our age, that doesn’t mean they are normal, and still warrant medical treatment regardless!
Listen up, doctors–menopause is not a birth control deficiency. Nothing is worse than knowing your body inside and out, knowing when things are not right, and still not being heard. To second guess yourself and your body when you are the number one expert of what goes down there (and hopefully who goes down there) erodes confidence and will only delay finding answers and getting solid treatment.
Let’s crack open what you can expect during menopause, educate and empower you, and put you in the captain’s chair to steer the ship throughout your journey. Let the Menolution begin!
Just about every woman approaching menopause knows a hot flash when she feels one: The sudden overwhelming blast of heat that extends from your forehead to your toes, soaking you with sweat. Your hormones have minds of their own and are fluctuating and mixing up your body’s temperature regulation (the hypothalamus). You can experience hot flashes all over your body or in just one area. But the extreme temperature change is uncomfortable no matter where you feel it.
Your face may also flush and turn red or become blotchy. And the severity of your hot flashes can range from mild to severe. Many women wake up in the middle of the night sweating and sometimes soaking their sheets. This only adds to brain fog and fatigue from sleep deprivation. While there are some treatments available for hot flashes, many of them come with side effects. Knowing your options is important, so make sure your doctor is aware of your symptoms. And be proactive because hot flashes can last for a couple of years after menopause.
How to go into menopause like a rock star
Most women who come and see me experience many symptoms at once like hot flashes, low libido, night sweats, insomnia, vaginal dryness, sudden weight gain, and brain fog. They ask their doctors to run blood tests and when the results come back they’re told, “Everything looks fine and your labs are normal for your age.”
But normal does not mean optimal. Normal in this country means you’re struggling with weight, are either on a blood pressure medicine or Statin drug (or both), and Prisolec, an acid blocker, because you’re having reflux. At night you use a CPAP machine and maybe you’re also taking a sleep medication or antidepressant.
Historically, you’ve also been on five to ten diets and recently you’ve tried keto and Whole 30 and still the needle won’t budge. You notice that what worked in your 20s doesn’t work in your 40s and 50s and it seems like overnight you’ve put on10 to 20 pounds. What gives?
Welcome to the hormonal roller coaster ride that starts in perimenopause and takes you through menopause.
Perimenopause begins before a woman officially reaches menopause. This stage can last nearly a decade, and most of us have zero idea of what lies in store. Our mothers never told us, and our doctors don’t have much to offer in terms of relief, aside from prescribing birth control. Truth is, we all have suffered in silence without a clue about how to get some blessed relief.
I like to think of menopause like this: You are backing out of your period and your body’s as confused about what to do as when you went into menstruation in the first place. Your periods weren’t always regular then. You had mood swings like no one’s business, and you never knew exactly what to expect. Except now, your body’s telling you, “Time’s up! The baby making shop is closing (even if you’ve never had children), so last
You are now on a rollercoaster ride of fluctuating estrogen and progesterone. Hold tight, because your ovaries are in flux with quick drops and steep rises in hormone levels that cause your symptoms. And because women have estrogen receptors all over our bodies, every organ system can be affected by the changes occurring in our ovaries. No wonder we experience so many frustrating symptoms! Your period doesn’t show up on time anymore, you skip it altogether for a month or two, and it can either get shorter and lighter. Or, wait for it, you start to clot heavily with no apparent warning (“Perfect for those times at the beach or wearing white pants to a summer party!”, said no one, ever).
This Girl is on Fire
If you’ve ever had a hot flash, you know it can feel like a sudden overwhelming blast of heat extends from your forehead to your toes and leaves you soaking with sweat. (If you’ve never had a hot flash, think of it as shoveling coal into Dante’s Inferno and sweating like a hairy beast.)
You’ll also notice that you can’t sleep well past 4:00am, you feel exhausted, and develop brain fog. Your hormones now are mixing up your body’s temperature regulator (the hypothalamus). You can experience hot flashes all over your body or in just one area, but the extreme temperature change is wickedly uncomfortable no matter where you feel it.
Your face may also flush and turn red and blotchy. Or, you wake up in the middle of the night drenched in so much sweat, you can wring your clothes out. Left untreated, hot flashes can last for a couple of years or more after menopause; I’ve treated numerous women in their 60s and 70s who were still having flashes long after their periods were gonesies.
Menopause, by definition, means you’ve gone 12 months without a menstrual cycle. Some of us will start and stop our periods for years wondering if our menstrual circuit system has gone awry. Some of us will go 6 months without a period, only to have Flo show up out of the blue. Regardless, every time you restart your period and have a cycle, you’ll also need to restart the menopause countdown clock.
Some women go through menopause super fast like a high-speed train moving through a narrow passage. For other women, menopause is slower and has more ups and downs.
Caution: Speed bumps ahead
Some of the signs and symptoms you may notice during the transition are an increase in irritability and much more irregular periods. Periods start getting shorter and closer together or you might skip a month sporadically here and there. Your libido may also take a nosedive with vaginal dryness and you put on 10-20 pounds practically overnight.
Before you face plant into a tub of onion dip and chips from depression and worry, do not despair! I help women like you navigate through these stages all the time and am here to help make sure that your mind and body feels as good as possible throughout all these changes. We’ll put all the puzzle pieces together to help you understand what’s happening here.
Esther Blum, MS, RD is the bestselling author of Cavewomen Don’t Get Fat, Eat, Drink and Be Gorgeous, Secrets of Gorgeous, and The Eat, Drink, and Be Gorgeous Project. She currently maintains a busy virtual practice where she helps women balance hormones, lose stubborn body fat, and treat the root cause of health struggles. She is also a member of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians in Functional Medicine, Nutritionists in Complementary Care, and the Connecticut Dietetic Association. Esther currently runs a virtual practice where she helps women balance hormones, lose stubborn body fat, and treat the root cause of health struggles. And she lives in CT with her family where she can be found cooking up a storm, going for long hikes, and blasting 80’s music by the fire pit. Her new book, See Ya Later, Ovulator! will be released on October 4th.
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