Being My Best, Despite Menopause: Pt 2
I have spent the last month really getting to know my body. It is a practice that I would highly recommend for everyone, menopause aside. In my last blog I confessed that in 3 months’ time, I had gained unexplained weight, I was experiencing hot flashes, especially at night, I had difficulty falling asleep and I would wake up between 2-3 am and not be able to fall back to sleep, and all around I just didn’t feel like myself. I am happy to report that things are looking up.
I mentioned that I had taken a quiz which suggested that my cortisol levels were high, my estrogen levels were low and my thyroid hormone levels may have been low as well. This quiz, along with recommendations for each, are in The Hormone Cure, By Sara Gottfried, MD. I followed much of her suggested protocols and had a few enlightenments of my own.
What Did I Track?
I had a pretty nice scale, but I bought a Renpho Health scale at a reasonable cost because of all the things it tracks for you. You can keep track of your weight, your BMI, your body fat% as well as subcutaneous fat and visceral fat, your fat-free body weight, your water %, your skeletal muscle %, your muscle mass, your bone mass, your protein %, your basal metabolic rate (BMR), and your metabolic age. These things are interesting because you may not see your weight go down, but you might see your body fat go down and your muscle mass go up. Health is not always about the number on the scale.
I also had my physician prescribe me a FreeStyle Libre continuous blood glucose monitor. I was really interested to see what my blood sugar was doing at night and if it was a cause of my sleep disturbances. This has been a great exercise because it has allowed me to see how my body responds every time I put food in it.
I took a Diurnal Cortisol test which tests your cortisol levels at 4 points during the day. Cortisol is at its highest in the morning to prepare you for the day and decreases as the day goes on. If this is higher than it should be at night, it can affect your sleep.
I also kept track of my Ketones with a blood stick ketone monitor since I put myself on a clean keto diet.
My husband bought me an Oura ring for Christmas which I have been using to track sleep, heart rate, and Heart Rate Variability (HRV), which is a key indicator of stress.
I switched to decaffeinated coffee only.
I put myself on some supplements that were recommended by Dr Gottfried per my quiz results.
As a Vegan, I already took a supplement called Complement which, that along with my nutrient dense diet supports my thyroid which I already keep track of due to my Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis diagnosis three years ago and I know that it is stable.
To help lower cortisol levels, I took 1000mg Vitamin C 2x daily
1600mg Panax Ginseng
To help balance my estrogen levels, I took 500mg Magnesium 2x daily
500mg Organic Vitex
Maca, Ginseng, and Rhodiola also help with energy levels, which I was in dire need of.
As a vegan, my diet is naturally pretty low in fat. Since our body needs fat for hormone production, I decided to add a little more fat in my diet. I put myself on a clean Keto diet which I accomplished by adding some healthy fats in, but more by eating very low carb. I also did intermittent fasting, eating all of my meals in an 8-hour window. My body has responded very well to this and I am losing weight and balancing out my blood sugar, which is actually balancing out my insulin. I see that eating things like rice and starchy vegetables can spike up my blood sugar, so I am learning what to stay away from. Our bodies can be different when it comes to this; what causes a rise in blood sugar for me, may not have the same effect on you, which is why the glucose monitor is key.
So What About Stress
Let’s face it, we all have stress in our lives. The key thing to remember is how we perceive that stress is what impacts us. I run a small business and I am a dentist, which is reportedly one of the most “stressful” jobs with the highest suicide rates. These things don’t negatively impact me, on the regular, because I love my work; it is part of who I am. However, in hindsight I realized that during that 3-month period I had some life events that I perceived to be very difficult and stressful and out of my control (A very bad thing for me).
Our bodies are regulated by the autonomic nervous system which is made up of the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is the fight or flight regulation that can save our lives during life threatening situations. The problem with it is when it kicks into gear and stays on chronically, because of our day-to-day stress. It causes an increase in heart rate and force of contraction, dilation of bronchioles, dilation of blood vessels in our peripheral skeletal muscles, and inhibits peristalsis of the intestine and other digestive functions. Can we say WEIGHT GAIN and HOT FLASHES?! My cortisol test came back pretty normal, but I believe if I had tested it 2-3 months prior it would have given me a different result. My HRV is lower than I want to see it so I will continue to track this, as I have put a meditation practice back into my routine. Since I moved and added an hour commute each way to my day, my miracle morning practices have gone out the window, but I am trying to find ways to fit it all back in.
After all the analysis, I truly believe that stress exacerbated my menopausal symptoms. I have always been very aware of sleep hygiene and although I made no real changes to that directly, my sleep improved. Managing stress and regulating blood sugar I feel played a role in this, but once this happened, I now had energy to exercise again, and the brain fog lifted. I feel like once the stress was dealt with, everything else just fell back into place. I will continue the clean keto eating since I think my hormones are happy with the added fat and I still have some weight to lose. It is hard to say what benefit the supplements have had. I hate taking pills so I may remove them one at a time and see if I notice any difference. I still run a little warm, but I am actually using the blankets at night again and am not awakened by hot flashes.
We Can Be In Control Of Our Bodies
I originally thought I might have to make this more than a two-part series since I really didn’t think I would have much to report in a month’s time. Even I am amazed at the changes I am feeling. This just goes to show that once you take the wheel, you have control over your health- both body and mind.
I cannot stress more to you the importance of stress management. I gave a speech on this topic at the Women In White Coats symposium to a group of women doctors, but I think I still forget at times, myself. We get caught up in our daily routines and don’t make time for the little things that can make a huge impact in our life.
I have decided after experiencing this, that I am going to focus my Health Coaching on helping women with the challenges of going through menopause. It happens to all of us!