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Menopause Survival Guide: 7 TIPS to Keep Your Sanity Intact

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I am, unfortunately, a woman who went into menopause early (hello hysterectomy). Although I believe that everything happens in life for our advancement/learning, I'd really like to give the Almighty a piece of my mind for the challenges of the big "M."

I acknowledge that the menopause debate is an important one. For example, we ask: Should you take hormone replacement or not because of the potential health risks? (And again, that is arguable, just read Cynthia Gorney's brilliant article in Sunday, April 18th's New York Times Magazine section). Still, I choose to rub on the creams and pop the voluminous pills.

My wellness road is called bio-identical hormone replacement. This is a natural strategy derived from plants to replace the estrogen loss in a women's cycle. The more traditional hormone replacement protocols take the estrogen from animal bladders -- particularly those of sheep. Plants ... sheep bladders, easy choice for me. I am a bio-identical girl and outspoken about it.

Here's why I choose to use bio-identical hormone replacement:

WORSE THAN CRAPPY SLEEP

Before bio-identical hormone replacement (BHRT), sleep, as I once knew it, (seven refreshing hours of peace and quiet) became a living hell. I either couldn't fall asleep, (toss, turn, up, down, worry, panic, meditation tapes to calm my nerves, heightened anxiety because the tapes weren't working) or I fell asleep and then awoke every night at 3 a.m. as if someone had injected me with caffeine. The only solace on those nights was that my husband doesn't sleep well either and we had unexpected late night meet-ups.

IRRATIONAL EMOTIONAL MELTDOWNS

Before BHRT I used to, for no reason whatsoever, cry. Not shed a few tears -- oh, no -- but literally wail uncontrollably even though all aspects of my life were happy, aligned and in great friggin' shape.

MENTAL DETERIORATION

Before BHRT I was often spaced out. I had never lost my keys before menopause set in -- just wasn't that "kind" of person, but misplaced keys, forgotten agreements, and an inability to remember someone's name (not a stranger, but a friend!) became common place.

NIGHT SWEATS

Before BHRT I said hello to the famous "night sweats." In comparison to the above: severe physical, mental and emotional disarray, a little bodily wetness was almost a welcomed relief because it was the only menopausal symptom I could easily deal with; off with one T-shirt, on with another.

Like my previous blog on winning the war with medical insurance companies, finding a menopause advocate is an absolute necessity to successfully navigate these treacherous waters.

One of my amazing way-showers is Scott Berliner. Scott is a registered Pharmacist and a Nutritional Educator. He is the owner and President of Life Science Pharmacy, Life Science Nutrition, and VetRx. Scott is a member of the American Pharmaceutical Association, Pharmacists Society of the State of New York, IACP (International Association of Compounding Pharmacists) and The Professional Compounding Center of America.

When in New York City, he lends his brilliance to the renowned Wellness Center, home to many of the cities most admired celebrities. Scott has lectured extensively about nutrition, anti-aging, natural hormone replacement therapy, AIDS, hepatitis and cancer nationally: GMHC, NOMADOCS, The Children's Aid Society, The Actors Fund, Beth Israel Medical Center's Continuum Center for Health and Healing and The Omega Institute on women's health issues, to name a few.

Here are Scott's seven tips for surviving menopause with your sanity intact:

TIP#1: Replenish your estrogen!

There are three estrogens in the body. Estrone(E1) Estradiol(E2) and Estriol (E3). Though Estradiol only comprises 10 percent of the estrogen a woman makes, it does 80 percent of the activity, especially for the brain and nervous system. It is truly the "gas pedal." The other estrogens also have activity in the body but in the US only Estradiol is FDA approved.

TIP#2: Add in your progesteron!

Progesteron is the "brake pedal." It is the calming hormone. It opposes estrogen and helps with sleep, bones and emotional calmness. In a woman's child-bearing years this hormone prepares the uterine wall for the implantation of a fertilized egg, or if this doesn't happen, then it thickens the wall in preparation for menses.

TIP#3: Take control of your cortisol levels, aka don't stress!

When there is stress, there is inflammation. This stress can be physical or emotional but the outcome in the body is the same. This inflammation is taken care of through the secretion of another hormone called cortisol which regulates inflammation and also acts as a messenger to the brain, letting it know what is going on with regard to this inflammation. It is one of several adrenal hormones. So the messages might be "we need more cortisol or we need less cortisol." Depending on the extent of the stress and its affect on the body, the adrenals may or may not be able to satisfy the demands. This effect is cumulative and can sometimes be the cause of problems that we have come to term Adrenal Fatigue.

TIP#4: Support your adrenals!

As we age, the adrenal glands, two little glands that sit on top of our kidneys, take over much of the hormone production that was formerly handled in the ovaries of women and in the testes in men. In today's time of increasing stress, poor lifestyle choices, combined with the common practice of eating processed foods to excess, it is easy to understand how these little glands can be taxed to their limit.

TIP#5: Engage your Thyroid!

Thyroid controls all the energy in the body. That's its job. So whether the fatigue is from lack of sleep, over work, or too much stress, it is the thyroid's job to allocate energy for these tasks. Needless to say that with the demads of today comes the need for more energy. Due to toxicities in the environment and in the food supply, we are seeing more and more issues with the thyroid including thyroid cancer (mostly benign, but the extent is troubling).

TIP#6: Calm your system!

L-theanine is an amino acid derived from green tea. (It has worked wonders for Debbie!) It is what makes green tea calming. The extraction of this amino acid has enabled us to have an effective alternative to prescription drugs for the management of anxiety. It increases GABA in the brain. GABA is a brain chemical called a neurotransmitter. There are two main families of neurotransmitters in the brain: the excitatory neurotransmitters like adrenaline and the calming neurotransmitters like GABA (gamma amino butyric acid). GABA is the number one calming neurotransmitter and l-theanine can increase this neuro hormone in the brain thus increasing calmness.

TIP#7: Soothe your dryness!

As women age all the hormones decline. When the levels of one particular estrogen, Estriol (E3) declines it can cause dryness issues with skin, eyes and vaginal tissue. During a woman's child-bearing years these hormones are made in adequate quantities to maintain the moisture levels of these various tissues. When we get older it is harder to convert these hormones at the levels that are necessary so we often have to supplement the benefits of systemic estrogen with some local application of Estriol. Though not approved in the US, it has been used in other parts of the world for 40 plus years.

Personally, I follow Scott's advice to the tee. And, although I hate to admit it, menopause has been a great teacher for me. Hormonal changes have taught me to:

• Value my well-being in new and committed ways

• Take full accountability for my stress levels!

• Practice preventive health measures (quarterly blood tests, yearly mammograms, annual physicals)

• Create a bullet-proof meditation practice to play its vital part in stress reduction

• Be patient when things are not going well hormonally

• Have fun, because laughter and good times balance the body's bio-chemical intricacies instantly

• Exercise six days a week, regardless

• Turn off my work day at least one hour before sleep

I think you'll agree these are high self-esteem choices.

To reach Scott Berliner go to: www.lifesciencepharmacy.com

To reach Debbie Robins, M.A. go to www.debbierobins.com

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