Hello Hormone Hotties! I recently had a question posed to me during a recording of a podcast and it got me thinking so I decided to write about it in this bonus blog for the month. If you are just finding me for the first time, I'm Dr. LaKeischa, your Integrative Gynecologist, hormone specialist, speaker, and best-selling author. I help ambitious women, like you, who are struggling with depleting hormones; get your hormones balanced, regain mental sharpness, have energy all day, and remember just how beautiful and vital you are!
I was recording a podcast about perimenopause and menopause with JJ Virgin recently, and the conversation went in the direction of both of us pondering the question, "is the stress in our lives slamming us into perimenopause and menopause"? As I pondered this concept during and after our conversation I am willing to go out on a limb and say yes. I can think of 3 reasons the various stressors of our lives can have a significant contribution to the intensity of perimenopause and menopausal symptoms.
1. Upregulation of the Stress Pathway
Let's start from the top, the brain that is. When the brain gets a signal that there is a stress response and that the body needs to survive it does just that. It kicks in the various systems that help with survival. The main one is the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are in charge of producing stress hormones to keep you alive. The best way I can illustrate what the adrenal glands do for us is by having you think of yourself as a car. The engine in your car is the adrenal glands. I'm about to tell on myself, when I was first learning how to drive, I learned on a stick shift. You had to listen to the engine rev up so that you knew when to manually change gears. If you allowed the car to stay, say in second gear when you should have been downshifting to third, you were putting stress on the engine. Also if you were not changing the oil and putting in the right type of oil the engine would burn out.It's the same concept when thinking of the adrenals. The adrenals start revving when they get a stress signal, you have to meet a deadline, you have to change jobs, you have to learn a new concept, you have to be all things to all the peoples, and so on and so on and so on. If you don't take the time to downshift then your adrenals are going to stop working. And what does that look like...anxiety, depression, intense hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and night sweats.
2. Disruption of Sleep
You look up and it's midnight again! Why can't you get your brain to wind down? Or better yet, you can get to sleep but why can't you stay asleep. That brain of yours just won't seem to let you unplug. What's happening? The stress pathway is upregulated and it is high jacking the sex hormone pathway that has a synergistic effect with your brain's ability to turn off at night so you can get to sleep and stay asleep. And because of this...you are unable to get your body to restore and repair its self the way it should at night. Does this phrase describe you? You are wired but tired. Yeah, I'm in your business.
3. The Superwoman Escapades
You are playing the starring role in your particular version of "The Superwoman Escapades." I know, I know, I know, some things you didn't ask for. The other things you have somehow begun to feel responsible for the outcomes. And then there are the things that you have self-imposed. What do I mean? Let me share with you a story that was shared with me. I had a fellow superwoman mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend, stellar employee tell me that quarantine was the biggest blessing she didn't know she needed. You see, because of quarantine a lot of her extra responsibilities were put on pause. Is this sounding familiar. And because of this mandated pause, she was finding that she didn't miss all the things (Is she talking your business without your permission?). She was finding that all of the group meetings and the dinner gatherings and the running here and there were not necessary for her survival or fulfillment. She was learning that "No" is a complete sentence and what she is really saying when she is saying no to someone else is that she is saying "yes" to herself.
The superwoman escapades can be the inciting factor that leads back to reason No. 1, upregulation of the stress pathway. and this could be slamming you into perimenopause and menopause. This superwoman complex could be the very reason you are not sleeping, you have no libido and you're gaining weight. All because ultimately it has put your hormones out of balance.
So what do you do about it?
The first thing I would recommend is making sure you are getting the right support for your body. Remember the adrenal glands are the "engine in your car" and if you don't give it the right "oil" they could burn out on you. One of the supplements I like for the adrenals is a good adrenal assist vitamin. This is like giving your adrenals a nice big hug and the support you need to get through your day.
The other tool I like to implement is some type of restorative practice. This can be in the form of intensional meditation at certain times during the day or a variety of breathing exercises (I'm always demonstrating these).
Breaking free of the superwoman escapades for some will be as simple as rearranging various obligations. Looking at what really needs your attention now and learning how to use that complete sentence, "No". For others, it may be time to make some serious life-altering decisions (I've been there, I share that in my story). And be very aware that some decisions could very well affect other people in your life. There may be someone reading this right now that needs to come to the realization that you need to add a therapist to your healthcare team because there are some issues you need to really work through and things you need to let go of in order for you to thrive in this phase of life.
Whichever scenario you find yourself I employ you to listen to your body while it whispers or you will hear it when it is yelling and that may not be a pleasant conversation.
If you are experiencing symptoms or changes in your body and you are not sure what's going on, grab your FREE hormone quiz and start your hormone blueprint. And remember Hormone Hotties, until next time, give yourself and others a little grace.