When we started Women to Women more than thirty years ago, we were so excited to create the first alternative health clinic to offer care for women by women. We knew from the day our doors opened that women were not always listened to in the mainstream health care system. We knew that many practitioners had no idea what PMS or Menopause was really like: how could they when it was not even taught in medical school?
Back then, so many physicians would tell their patients that their symptoms of heart palpitations, anxiety, hot flashes, fuzzy thinking, depression and more were “all in their head.” Or they would simply send them out the door with a prescription for an anti-depressant, never taking the time to understand or connect the dots the symptoms were presenting.
From day one, we were passionate about women being heard; we listened to our patients, reassured them that their symptoms were real and that we understood how debilitating and disrupting they could be, and we worked with them to restore hormonal balance, heal, and get their bodies (and their lives) back on track. Since then thousands of women have come to our clinic and used our online programs to finally feel like themselves again.
When we started, we knew we were ahead of the curve but we truly believed that “the curve” would begin to catch up and that more practitioners would practice functional medicine. Functional medicine acknowledges that everything is connected and recognizes that sometimes a symptom does not come from an obvious cause, but rather, is the result of something happening further ‘upstream’ that needs to be addressed for health and healing (instead of simply treating the end result, the symptom.)
There is definitely more awareness today but sadly, three decades later, we still see patients who are dismissed by their regular practitioners because they were unable or unwilling to see the impact their hormonal balance symptoms were having on their lives and their health. Sometimes they were given an anti-depressant as a magic bullet; sometimes they were simply told it’s just a part of getting older. Sometimes we see women who have been to specialist after specialist to uncover the true cause of their health concerns, only to remain undiagnosed, miserable and exhausted.
The women who find us at our clinic or on our website tell us that we changed their lives and they are so glad they (finally!) found us. And we are thrilled that we can be there to listen, support, understand and guide them back to health.
While there have been some incredible medical advances over the past few decades, at Women to Women, we see more women than ever with debilitating PMS and peri-menopausal symptoms. That is because many of these hormonal balance, adrenal and thyroid symptoms are created and/or exacerbated by our lifestyle choices.
With the changes to factory farming, the rise of fast and convenience food, eating out more, working longer, sitting more, sleeping less, the prevalence of stress, and the excesses of exercise, alcohol and caffeine we employ to cope, more women than ever are struggling with painful or uncomfortable PMS or Perimenopausal symptoms.
The good news is that if we are causing or worsening our symptoms, then we can improve and even alleviate them. Let’s look at some of the factors that may be making your symptoms worse and what we can all do to help our bodies heal, whether you are experiencing symptoms or not.
(We have a lot more information on each triggers of these on our website, so I’m going to keep the details to the point. If you want more information, check out our articles here.)
Top PMS and Perimenopause Triggers
Sleep – Many of my patients struggle to get a good night’s sleep. A recent study showed that after two weeks of sleeping for only 6 hours a night, your body reacts and functions as if you had been up for 48 hours straight! Sleep is so important to health and wellness and most of all, restoring balance and healing. That’s because so many of our body’s healing processes take place at night while we are sleeping. If your sleep is disrupted, so is your healing and that means your hormonal imbalance and your symptoms will seem worse.
So what can you do if you aren’t getting enough sleep? I know we are all so busy, but try making a plan to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night for two weeks straight. My bet is you’ll feel so good after a few weeks that it will become a priority! Turn off the TV and read before bed. Try a warm bath with Epsom salts or take a magnesium supplement before bed, especially if you wake up and have trouble going back to sleep. (Magnesium has been shown to aid in falling – and staying – asleep and most of us are deficient.).
Keep your room cool and dark and avoid reading, watching or discussing anything intense or stressful (like the news or problems at work or with the kids) in the hours before bedtime. If your mind is busy or you have difficulty relaxing, try our Women to Women’s Sleep Support Formula that supports relaxation and sleep.
Stress – Stress has reached epidemic proportions and it is proven to disrupt hormones and menstrual cycles, leading to more painful periods and more entrenched peri-menopausal symptoms. I’m not going to be the first one to tell you that finding a way to slow down and relax is critical for your health and your hormonal balance; you’ve heard it before and the research proves the negative health impacts of living under ongoing stress include not just worse PMS or peri-menopausal symptoms, but adrenal fatigue or burn out, heart disease, stroke, cancer and more.
So What Can I Do About My Stress? There are many ways to reduce stress and what is important is that you find the one (s) that you enjoy and will stick with. Meditation, tai chi, yoga, deep breathing, journaling, art or music therapy are all great stress relievers. As is spending time in nature, being active outdoors, a nice long walk or being with loved ones and laughing.
Try combining a few to pack a more powerful punch such as a yoga class with a friend, or a walk with a loved one. Plan activities on the weekend, over lunch, or after work that excite you, inspire your creativity, or just get you to slow down and breath, laugh or smile.
Diet – Food is probably the biggest symptom trigger. It’s hard to eat well in today’s world: even your intentions are good, the nutrient level in food is not what it used to be and food today contains hormones, chemicals, pesticides and allergens that disrupt our hormone system. Most of my patients are out of balance from low-fat diets, too much refined sugar and flour and processed foods, dairy (which often contains hormones that will tilt your system out of balance), carbohydrates, gluten, dieting or eating irregularly throughout the day instead of steady meals and snacks that start with a healthy breakfast and end at least three hours before bed.
So What Can I Do About My Diet? Women to Women has a meal plan coming soon
to guide you, but your goal should be to reduce or eliminate foods that disrupt hormones such as alcohol, caffeine, sugar, white flour, processed foods, excess carbohydrates, dairy (especially non-organic), gluten, and non-organic fruits and vegetables as many pesticides contain environmental estrogens that will disrupt your hormone balance.
Instead, look for high quality REAL foods and try to combine high-quality protein, fats and fiber (such as vegetables and other slow-release carbohydrates) at every meal. Look for organic whenever possible and when it comes to animal products, wild such as salmon, venison, bison, or grass-fed beef are better. Think of it as a re-set for your hormones and try to take two weeks to make thoughtful food choices. Most of my patients say that they feel so much better after two weeks that they never want to go back to their old way of eating again!
Excess – Good sleep, good food, regular movement throughout your day to reduce periods of sitting, exercise, and relaxation are all important for healing. Often, however, when our lives get out of balance, we adopt coping mechanisms to make it through. Over time, if the situation doesn’t change, those become habits that can derail our health.
Excess caffeine (more than a cup or two of coffee for example or relying on the coffee to get up or to make it through the afternoon) will wreak havoc on your hormones. So will too much alcohol (it’s just like sugar and will raise your blood sugar levels followed by a crash, making hormonal balance — and possibly restful sleep if you drink at night — impossible.
While exercise is great for health and hormonal balance, too much exercise/extreme exercise can lead to exacerbated symptoms as well as it may deplete the body’s nutritional reserves and send it into famine mode.
So What Can I Do About Excess? We all know we need balance in our lives and hormonal imbalance is often a great reminder of that: we cannot balance our hormones if we out of balance in major areas of our lives. A cup or two of coffee or an occasional glass of wine is ok, especially if it brings you pleasure and you slow down, stop and truly relax and enjoy it. (Though if your symptoms are moderate to severe, you may want to take a break from all caffeine and alcohol for a couple weeks to let your body re-set and see how you feel.)
If you crave something, be if coffee, wine, salty foods, or chocolate, you’re likely out of balance and not getting nutrients that you need; you should definitely look into a high quality multi-vitamin and a probiotic supplement such as the ones we offer in our store.
If you’re addicted to exercise, you may need to learn to love your body (and yourself) as it is. Or you may need to get the energy high from a hug or a close relationship instead. Ask yourself WHY you are doing/eating it. If the answer is positive and nourishing, indulge a little. If not, look for another way to get what you or your body needs.
You don’t Have To Go It Alone!
In our many years at Women to Women, we have found most every woman requires a high-quality multivitamin, an omega 3 and a probiotic supplement. We simply cannot get the nutrition we need from the food supply today, even if we eat well. If you are under stress, not sleeping well, don’t get regular exercise, sit too much throughout the day, are exposed to hormones, chemicals or pesticides, or just don’t feel good, it’s even more important that you support your body’s healing with good nutritional supplementation.
If your symptoms are more severe, the additional support we provide in our PMS and Menopausal Product Systems will help your body jump-start its healing and find relief even more quickly. You may think a nutritional support system cannot bring you relief or maybe you’ve tried cheaper nutritional supplements in the past without success but that’s why we offer a money-back guarantee: our products work.
We have partnered directly with a leading lab to bring you the very best products available, proven to make a difference. We’ve helped thousands of women restore hormonal balance and find relief from their PMS and peri-menopausal symptoms. We can help you too.
To learn more about our PMS product system, click here.
To learn more about our menopausal product system, click here.