An Article for Women

is on the blog today, The Path to Menopause: My Story

My journey started fourteen years before I entered into my final year of periods and now it’s been over fourteen months since my last one. It’s August and I’m celebrating post-menopause. I was by all accounts late to menopause. Everyone I’ve known over the years was way past menopause by the age of 57. But, by no means is 57 something to be concerned with. I’ve been a late-bloomer my entire life. Before I get too far into my story, I would like to mention that as it is with all medical issues one should first talk to their trusted physician. If you do not have one, I would urge you to find one before you enter the realms of peri and post menopause. I could make this article all about the negatives, the scariness, the uncertainties, or yes, the sadness of the end of one’s child-bearing years… But, my final years heading toward menopause where everything but all of that. I was fully knowledgeable, well as far as I could be, what perimenopause was all about. The very first thing I did was learn about my body, nutrition, hormones, my reproductive organs, post menopause, and life at 50 something nearing 60. I was 42 when hot flashes started, although I did not know this at the time. They came and then seemed to leave for several more years. The internet in the early 2000’s was a fairly new place and there weren’t a lot of articles, or groups, or google searches that led me to answers. I had no female friends near my age, I was working from home, and as far as I knew at the time, I was just dealing with a house with temperature fluctuations.

I remembered that my mother had experienced a very difficult menopause. Even going so far as having to take hormone replacement therapy. In the last years we talked, I received several calls from her crying over one perimenopausal issue or another. I had also lived with my grandmother when I was 18 and remember her telling me that she had been put on several medications during her “change of life” due to various difficulties. All of this knowledge about my close female relatives was concerning as I prepared for perimenopause. So also was the fact that up until now, I did not have a regular physician that I trusted or felt could advise me or prepare me or even care for me should menopause be difficult. On top of this my cycles for over half my life had been almost non-existent due to eating disorders. My periods started at the age of 15 and until I was 35, though they were regular, they lasted at most 2 days and never amounted to much of anything. PMS was not something I had ever been known to have as I’d never up to this point ever had what most physicians would have agreed to be “normal” monthly cycles/periods. Another concern for me was the fact that I had been pregnant seven times with only one baby surviving– (premature baby at 5 months, 3- end of first trimester miscarriages, two ectopic pregnancies, and a full-term delivery.

My mother’s/grandmother’s history, my pregnancies, and my health were a very big concern to both myself and my physician. When I continued to get hot flashes, I decided to make a doctor’s appointment and start to get some baseline labs taken of hormones etc. Unfortunately, my then physician thought me to be crazy to think that at 45 I would be going through perimenopause. So, yes he took some labs, but unfortunately, some of the labs needed need to be taken over several days/weeks in order to get accurate levels. Knowing that going to him was going to be a total waste of time and money, I sought other assistance. I immediately started looking for another physician. Several things happened around this time that really shook my faith in doctors, so while I was looking for a new physician, I began making BIG changes in my lifestyle.

First–

  • I started changing our diet from conventional food to organic (I had actually started doing this in 2004 and it was very hard to find organic food and if you did it was expensive)
  • I started to eliminate all the toxic cleaners from our home–furniture polish, glass cleaner, toilet cleaner, dish soap, laundry soap, fabric softener, candles (all gone). I learned how to make my own laundry soap, I bought my toxic free dish soap at a Coop I’m a member of, dryer balls for fabric softener, vinegar for cleaning, and microfiber cloths for dusting.
  • I eliminated all feminine hygiene products from my life at 42 and for 14 years used Mama cloth pads. You can find them on Etsy. I never regretted that decision, in fact it was one of the best decisions I ever made in being proactive about my health.
  • I stopped smoking in 2004 after twenty-five years of smoking. I stopped drinking in 2003 after 3 years of heavy drinking and a previous five years of heavy drinking several years before that.
  • I stopped wearing make-up. Which by now you’re probably thinking I’m crazy. But at the time there wasn’t any toxic free make-up, to my knowledge, on the market.
  • I stopped wearing cologne and lotions and using body washes/ painting fingernails. I’d been a life-long cologne wearer and loved, loved smelling good and shopping for scents. Chanel No. 5 was the last cologne I wore. This I did mainly because of allergens. Amazingly enough after suffering from allergies for almost twenty years at this point, once I quit smoking, and quit toxic cleaning ingredients, and quit cologne my allergies went POOF! Now- I use high quality essential oils. I’ve been an oily for almost 5 years and love my essential oils. I purchase most of my oils from RMO and Doterra. I don’t sell oils or make any money from mentioning this–but trust both these companies. In 2018 I finally took the leap for a second time and stopped using deodorants with aluminum. It took me a year to detox my stinky armpits (sorry for the TMI), but finally it worked. I used Tom’s of Maine prebiotic soap to detox my underarms and use Ivory deo–which works great!

The above were most of the real BIG things that I changed. You may ask why? Talk to your doctor, Google it, read a book on changes to a woman’s body during perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopausal years. There are some big, big hormonal changes. Read up on hormone disruptor’s and read everything you can about them. You’ll thank me, I promise you. I had a lot of things to give up–you may not. You may not give up anything that I gave up. Everyone is different. I have no regrets and know, as do my doctors, two health problems I later experienced and recovered from would have went so much different without changing a few things. A top priority of mine was above all things be healthy and stay active. My husband is 11 years younger than me and I need to be able to keep up. I do, despite fibromyalgia, back issues, and being older than him. In fact, I more than keep up—even he’s converting to some of my ways of thinking.

I worked on making the above changes and living with them from the time I was 40, 42, 45 and by the time I was 50, I had made the adjustments and had totally changed our lifestyle. We cleaned different, I slept better, I was more energetic, we started hiking, bike riding, exercising, eating better, losing weight, and all around the picture of health. Over the course of a decade I had changed many really big things about myself and done a complete 180.

Around the time I was 51, I started noticing mood changes around dinner time–5/6pm. I would feel angry, hot, irritated, and would start snapping at hubby. Within 30 minutes whatever it was would be done and I would be left feeling bad for being a _itch. This went on for quite a long time and I would say it usually occurred just before my period. So, in a sense as I’d gotten healthier over the years and finally started having a normal period (and when I say this I mean normal for or to me), I was likely experiencing PMS. I had found a great physician by this time and she agreed with me.

Eventually I got some baseline hormone levels taken and also went for a bone density baseline because osteoporosis runs in the maternal side of my family. I also got my cholesterol levels taken to make sure I don’t have too little of the good and too much of the bad as heart disease runs in my family on the paternal side. With these results we would know in the future just where I was at in my journey to menopause and post menopause.

There are a lot of changes you may experience in perimenopause, but to be honest the lists they give you are fairly broad. Most of the symptoms you would have experienced (likely) during your periods. The only way to change that cycle and possibly not continue to experience them is to make some changes. Ninety percent of what is on the lists can be history with a better diet. And by better I don’t mean fad diet. Start with any and all processed foods in your diet. You may not have to go any further than that to feel better results. Talk to a dietician, nutritionist, heck a home economics teacher and start looking into the benefits to your body of what you are currently eating. If it doesn’t benefit your body–why are you still eating or drinking it?

Exercise in any form is a good idea from now until for the rest of your life. If all you are able to do, due to certain limitations, is stand in place and move something. Do it. Help your body help itself. I rode a mountain bike until I was 53 and once I get my seat fixed, I shall again. But there have been times in my life, due to back issues, that I could do no more than walk in circles at home. So, you know, that’s exactly what I did.

So, you’re probably wondering how my journey went and how I’m doing now 14 months later? Well, surprisingly enough, and despite other health issues (eventually resolved), everything went just fine. Did I experience, over the course of 14 years, constipation or moodiness? Well, no more than I’d ever experienced before and if you’ve been here awhile you know that I’ve battled IBS-C all my life. Which by the way, I’ve got under control simply by changing my diet over the year. I take a collagen booster so I have experienced no skin issues–delicate, thinning etc. Maybe a tiny, tiny bit of hair loss, though I dye my hair and that is, after all, to be expected. My sex life is the same as it was at 29 and thus far I have experienced no issues there. I drink 3x the amount of water now to not only hydrate myself,but also to avoid UTI’s, which are more prevalent with age. Though knock on wood, even with IC (interstitial cystitis for the last 25 years), I’ve never had a UTI. I can’t afford to have memory issues/fog as a CPA working in corporate tax plus handling all of hubby’s and my financials/ other issues (hubby has an awful memory). The best thing I ever did for brain fog was to give up caffeine. Once I learned how to be “awake” without stimulants, brain fog was history. If that isn’t an option for you–try yoga, meditation, or brisk walking.
As far as depression or health issues–you should always seek out a medical professional for issues such as these. My article explains my journey–each woman and her experience is different. If I could mention one thing, besides a good support system that worked for me, I’d say change what you eat. Eat healthier.

In summary, my journey went fine. I honestly experienced no issues in perimenopause other than PMS for maybe four years, some night sweats, and a short period of insomnia. My hormone levels progressed to where I would be entering the last year of my cycles, and I began to eat more foods like yams etc. to deal with the estrogen loss. I ate and still eat a lot of foods that are beneficial to promoting natural hormones in the body. There was at times a feeling of the end of something that to me had always been very beneficial to me. I may have thought different had I always had normal periods, but I actually looked forward to them. I always felt renewed after a period and benefited greatly from having fairly balanced estrogren and progesterone. My mental state– as far as the end of child-bearing years. Well, at this point, I’d had many years to come to terms with that. So for a couple years I experienced a missed period here or two periods in one month –each time something like this happened, I knew my time was coming.

As I cruised into my last year, the year of 2020, each month ticked by and no period. Now, after 14 months of no period, I am post menopausal. After thinking that I would be the oldest living woman with her period still–that time is over for me. The end of one thing and the beginning of another. To which I very much look forward to. I hope this article provides a bit of relief and information to my female followers. I wish you luck and all things healthy and beautiful when you reach the time for your own personal journey to menopause.

Low Carbs & Heart Health

Taking care of my health with special attention to my heart is #1 to me. Heart disease and obesity run in my family on my Dad’s side. I recently lost an uncle to heart disease–so I’ve got to be serious about it. I was skinny until my late 20’s and by my early 30’s was 30# overweight. A lifetime of eating junk food, drinking soda, high carb diet, and alcohol had nearly ruined my health. By 42 I was 50# overweight and out of breath and unable to even ride a bike anymore. I put my foot down and started my journey to healthier living.

Almost all of us would love to live a life of eating everything we want to, all the things we love to the extreme, without ever having a single worry about the consequences. My lifelong addiction has been sugar. I love candy. When thinking about the holidays, my first thought is holiday candy. Christmas–lifesaver books, candy canes, assorted chocolates, and chocolate covered cherries. Easter–jelly beans, marshmallow eggs, creme-filled eggs, and chocolate bunnies. Valentines Day–conversation hearts. Halloween–snack sized candy and snicker pumpkins. It’s probably been about 15 years ago now that I started to believe I was going to end up a diabetic. I went out and bought a glucose tester and started measuring my blood sugar 3 times a day. I was two years into a plan to improve my health from no more smoking and drinking to eating more fruits and veggies and exercise. Around 10:00 am every morning I’d get the shakes–hence I began to think I was diabetic or leaning towards that diagnosis.

It was late Feb, early March, coming up on Easter. Every day I would grab a handful of jelly beans, because giving up candy (my beloved) never crossed my mind. Every day for a couple of weeks I’d been eating roughly 15-25 beans–most of them past 8:00 at night (reading in bed). I would buy the big bags sold at Easter and of course a few smaller bags of the black jelly beans. My blood sugars were a tad bit high at 10:00 a.m. but right back to normal the rest of the day. By the following year when those Easter Jelly beans were being sold again, a light bulb went on one day, when after not having 10:00 a.m. shakes for several months, I was back to having them again. What was I eating or drinking that was causing this to happen? I eliminated everything before I even considered the jelly beans, but alas I had to consider them so I lowered my amount to 10- 20 a day and none at night after dinnertime. Everything went fine until years later when I went back to reading before bed and munching on jelly beans. This time my shakiness was at different times and I was starting to get concerned.

After seeing a physician and going through the fasting/blood tests where everything, thank goodness, checked out–I wrote it off as hormonal. But it wasn’t folks, it was the unbelievable amount of sugar in jelly beans. In eating just 15-25 jelly beans a day I was ingesting 25 grams of sugar = to 6 tsp. of raw sugar. Jelly beans were just one of the things I was eating packed with sugar. The worst thing, I’ll give you that. Fast forward to three years ago and me ugly crying because I bought some jelly beans and had decided to portion them out vs. eating every day. I would eat 5-10 every other day. This worked better but it was very hard to limit myself–very very hard. When I realized that I would have to give up jelly beans–the one candy I’d loved my whole life, I was devastated. So yes, I ugly cried about how unfair life was and that I didn’t feel like going on anymore if I couldn’t even eat a jelly bean or two every year. This may sound over dramatic, but at this point I had given up smoking, drinking, restaurant food, and a lot of the different snacks I loved. I got through it friends and today? I buy the occasional bag of jelly beans and I limit myself to 3. A bag lasts me a few months and I’m not tempted anymore to overeat them and face the consequences from them. The last thing I want or need at almost 57 is diabetes, high cholesterol, or heart disease.

Don’t get me started on my love for buying things for my husband–goodies, or learning how to make cheesecake (his favorite) or all the ways I’ve helped to make him overweight… Putting the brakes on his eating goodies, sugar laden treats, and such has been horrifically hard. His mother had late in life diabetes, heart disease, and his father high blood pressure and one of those big hard stomachs men get. Ya. Hubby has that too and the direct cause for that big hard stomach>> carbohydrates–nothing else. Look up visceral fat if you want to know what I’m talking about. Huge health problems can come from having a belly like that. Apart from his tummy, hubby is a fairly fit guy. That I’ve loved almost to death with sweetness, literally. Do your hubby, friends, family members and neighbor (wink wink) a favor and stop killing them with kindness. Eating a diet high in carbohydrates is bad when you’re young, but in your 50’s and older it’s a killer. It’s a proven fact that smoking, drinking, added sugar (diet high in goodies), bad fats, and processed foods increase your chance of getting breast cancer (women) prostate cancer (men).

Edit- Hubby wanted me to edit the part about him because he thinks I was too hard on myself…o.k. I was. Truthfully, I’ve lectured my husband for years and years about his carb intake, to no avail. After awhile it was up to him. He’s a grown man and had to figure it out himself. I did buy him sweets occasionally and for that I feel responsible. Thankfully, I am not a baker (never have been) otherwise we would really have issues to deal with. His wake up call is/was the visceral fat and on his own he has placed limits on his carb intake these past few years and is doing better. Lookout everyone this spring because he and I are starting a walking program to work his belly right off and to get me back in shape and back on my bicycle. I’ve lost quite a bit of weight so now it’s time to get limber and fit!

Life isn’t fair and no one ever said it was. You have but one body and the last thing in the world you want is to be too late in the game to correct an issue. Had I continued on with my love of jelly beans–lived in a state of denial, today I would be telling my story from a diabetics perspective.

Slowly but surely I have reduced my sugar intake by about 80% and by doing that I’ve reduced my anxiety (also lifelong) by about 80%. Physically and mentally I’m a new person and it’s all because I stopped supporting bad habits, stopped ingesting cups of sugar every day for comfort or out of habit, and started caring about myself (for the first time) and started feeding my body what it needed not what I wanted.

See the links below regarding comfort eating and anxiety. Don’t be fooled thinking your comfort food or comfort activity isn’t killing you if it involves bad food choices or sugar. Sugar increases anxiety>>>carbs are bad for anxiety. Until next time, be safe friends and be well!

Caloric content women over 50

Livestrong link for carbs & NIH Hearth Disease

Comfort Eating??

This Is Exactly How Sugar Can Mess With Your Anxiety—and What to Do About It

Healthy Food for Christmas Morning

I know, I know, supposedly healthy food and Christmas don’t go together–but Christmas doesn’t have to be a time where whatever you do during the holidays, you pay for in the new year. Right?

I start planning my new year mid-summer of the current year–that means our finances, budget, holidays, vacation, and so on. I used to start all of that in January just like everyone else. But, planning things out during summer breaks, or vacations, or downtime is so much easier than trying to get it all together right after the holidays. I don’t have the time or money for gyms–so that’s why several years ago now, I changed everything up. Good healthy eating plus a treat or two during the holidays and I’ll be off and running come 2021! I’ve tried all four of the recipe links provided and yum–you will thank me come the new year. There’s something for everyone– make-ahead, gluten-free, and vegetarian, and non-vegetarian too.

http://damndelicious.net/2016/08/10/freezer/breakfast/burritos/

http://erhardtseat.com/vegetarian-burritos-recipe/

& a healthy vegetarian gluten-free make ahead breakfast casserole here–

http://eatingbirdfood.com/healthy-breakfast-casserole/

I make a version of this one every year—

http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/easy-make-ahead-breakfast-casserole

p.s. I love Sally’s site! It’s my go to for many recipes. ❤️

Building a strong immune system–what’s in my medicine cabinet

Headache/Sinus Headache/Facial Migraines –Peppermint Essential Oil.

Colds- 1 tsp elderberry syrup every 1-2 hours for 12 hours.

Menopause issues- I eat yams–roasted, pureed, anyway they taste good. Sometimes mixed with mashed potato and sometimes with applesauce. They help a lot with hot flashes.

Sleep- Lavender Essential Oils on the bottom of my feet, and I take 320 mg of magnesium a day. Magnesium works great for constipation as well. I found a great article on using Magnesium supplements here.

Stress- Frankincense Essential Oils on the bottom of feet.

Sore achy muscles- we take Epsom salt baths several times a week. Epsom salt is great for relieving muscle aches and pain and also detoxifies your body.

For over 20 years I have incorporated healthy living and a healthy diet into our lives. It’s been many years since I’ve been sick and when my husband gets sick his recovery time has improved. I don’t say this lightly–it takes work and considerable money.

Our diet– I’ll start by saying 60% of our diet is organic. I know some people are going to say to themselves I’m a food snob or? But I’m really not. I’ve had Fibromyalgia most of my adult life–probably close to thirty years now. I spent four years researching diets, food, and food safety and discovered that it was possible to feel better and live the life I wanted to if I changed my diet. So I did. It hasn’t happened overnight. We are still working on several changes in our diet. All total we’ve been working on a complete 360 almost fourteen years.

We aren’t big meat eaters. Before I got married I had been a vegetarian for over ten years. Since being married I’ve been a vegetarian for another ten years. We eat red meat once a week. We eat poultry or fish twice a week, and the rest of the week is meatless. We don’t eat out more than 12 times a year. When we eat out we usually choose homemade food restaurants or a local pizza place. I can’t think of anything we eat that we overeat. I don’t use any cheese in my cooking, processed foods are out, and most of what we eat is fresh and usually locally grown. When we grocery shop we shop in the outside aisles for the most part. I don’t buy anything in cans, boxes, or the freezer section except ice-cream.

We don’t drink alcohol and neither of us smokes. We also don’t use any OTC medications except Tylenol and hubby uses Nyquil if he gets a cold.

We weren’t always this healthy I assure you. Twenty-some years ago we had a cold every year, sometimes twice a year, just like everyone else. We also had the stomach flu a time or two. But overall I think we’ve been fairly lucky, considering I worked for almost twenty years in healthcare.

Having fibromyalgia has been the hardest thing for me because so many other things have come with it. I’ve dealt with IBS off and on since I was a teenager, but since changing our diet most of my IBS symptoms are gone. I’ve also had IC for about twenty years and that can be a very frustrating thing to have. But again diet plays a major part in controlling the symptoms of IC.

Before I quit smoking I had a lot of allergies. I probably had a severe allergy, that caused me to miss work, or be in bed all weekend, 3x a week. Now, I maybe have a couple of bad allergy episodes a year. Though in the last few years I have been getting facial migraines from sinus issues. I probably get two or three facial migraines a year. I also deal with jaw pain at times which is also something found in people who suffer from fibromyalgia.

Another important thing for me to add in about my health is that I suffered from malnutrition most of my young life. I was diagnosed at eight years old. Growing up not only was I a picky eater, but I also had major issues regarding food. From a baby until eight or nine my diet was extremely limited. This aversion to food caused by malnutrition remained an issue until I was in my late thirties. To give you an example of the degree of malnutrition I had.  I weighed 60 lbs in 5th grade. When I graduated high school I weighed 92 lbs. I tried twice in the eighties to join the military and twice weight issues prohibited me from being able to join.

To say my health was extremely fragile when I was 30 and met and married my husband would be an understatement. I shouldn’t really be as healthy as I am now. I owe most of my good health to eating right and using a homeopathic approach to all of my health issues.

In addition to my homeopathic approach, I am also careful about getting the flu shot. I have never had a flu shot–I’m certain this statement will cause some readers to become very unhappy with me. But it’s true– no flu shot ever. I’m allergic to eggs and penicillin–and in the old days you couldn’t get a flu shot if allergic to eggs (and I’m sticking with that recommendation, even though the CDC has now relaxed it). I still have issues with eggs if they’re not organic eggs from Organic Valley. In my whole life, I have had to use an antibiotic 3 times. Once in my childhood, once with strep throat, and once when I had foot surgery. That’s it. My husband has used an antibiotic just twice in his life– he too is allergic to penicillin.

Sometimes I am convinced that being allergic to penicillin has been a good thing for both my husband and I. I once sat in a room with 15 students and our instructor and was the only student not to get the swine flu. My husband is 1 of 2 people out of 100 people not to get the flu this year. It’s on its third time around in his workplace.

Three Secrets to a Strong Immune System

  • Probiotics- I eat Activia yogurts 3 x a week. I stop using them if I start to get too much gas or bathroom activity. That tells me I have enough active strains in my system and need no more at this time.
  • Sleep- 8 hours every night.
  • Drink 1/2 your body weight in clean filtered water every day.

I’d like to say we drink kombucha a lot or eat kimchi on a regular basis but we do not. We’ve tried both but unfortunately did not like them. Probiotics were difficult for both of us at first. I tried several brands of probiotic supplements and had varied results. If you’ve been reading my blog awhile you’ll remember I thanked Accuflora–a probiotic tablet, for helping me to recover from a serious intolerance to gluten. I took Accuflora off and on for about two years with great success and then switched to Activia.

Other things that can be done to assure strong immunity and healthy living–

  • Wash bed pillow often or change it out.
  • Keep all toothbrushes separate from other toothbrushes and not out in the open in your bathroom. I keep mine on a piece of paper towel in my medicine cabinet. Change out toothbrushes every 2 months and more if you’ve been sick. Change out the piece of paper towel or cup it is kept in every 2-3 days for the cup, once a week for paper towels.
  • Wipe down doorknobs if there is someone that has been sick in the home.
  • Wipe down toilet flusher on toilet daily with a baby wipe or antibacterial soap.
  • Clean toilets twice a week or more.
  • A banana or apple a day really does keep the doctor away.
  • Wash hands often. Don’t touch your hands to your mouth when out shopping in stores. Try not to touch bunker railings (where the meat etc. are kept in the meat and dairy department). Every time I’m at Walmart I see someone sneeze and wipe their hands all along the bunkers in the meat and dairy department.  My husband and I do use hand sanitizer all the time. We have heard that is really doesn’t work, but for us, it works even if it is semi somewhat psychologically. Maybe it’s because that is what is on our hands vs. germs from the meat bunkers in Walmart? No clue.

I understand that not everyone can follow a homeopathic approach to their health. Many people have very serious issues that do indeed require regular doctor visits and prescribed medication. Other than my having Fibromyalgia and back issues my husband and I do not have health conditions that warrant being under a doctor’s care. Believe me when I tell you we do not take our good health for granted. At any time, for many reasons, our story could change. I hope this post is helpful to some of you. I wish everyone good health in 2018!