I am at a point in my life where I wonder…is there something else I could be doing to feel better? It seems when I hit 40, it was harder to stay fit and healthy and another weird symptom appeared every month or so. At 47, I am wondering about perimenopause, fatigue, my thyroid, weight gain, stiff and achy joints and even heart palpitations. It is my intention here to share a little of what I am going through and maybe help you find some answers too.
My menstrual cycle started changing about a year ago. Longer, shorter, heavier, lighter….all of the above. I knew it was perimenopause and I wasn’t concerned until I started experiencing symptoms that would affect my daily life. Most of the symptoms were manageable. Some symptoms, like burning tongue, were diagnosed by my dental hygenist. Night sweats, though intense enough to have to get up and change my clothes in the middle of the night, didn’t interfere with my life. My fatigue was enough to cause me to start taking an afternoon nap. I work nights, so that didn’t interfere with my day either. You’d be surprised how much a cat nap could help. And though we’re told if you move more you won’t feel as tired, that wasn’t so for me. I walk or practice yoga every day and I was still tired around 3 in the afternoon. So I worked a snooze into most of my days.
However, fatigue could also be adrenal fatigue or low level DHEA. DHEA is a natural steroid produced by the adrenals. The adrenals are small organs right above the kidneys. We make about 25 mg of DHEA per day (men more than women), but our production dwindles as we get older. This is what nature intended for us. Your adrenals make cortisol and adrenaline and also balance over 50 hormones in the body. The hormone cortisol affects other regulatory processes such as: blood pressure, blood sugar levels, your immune and inflammatory response and influencing mood, memory and thought clarity. If your adrenals are exhausted from stress (emotional and physical), poor nutrition, and crazy dieting, they are pumping out more cortisol and can’t manufacture enough DHEA to support a healthy hormonal balance. This will result in your exhaustion, depression and that feeling of being overwhelmed. So, if you are under more than average stress, your body will not have enough working material for proper endocrine function. There is some evidence that healthy DHEA levels may help with Alzheimer’s, cancer, osteoporosis, depression, heart disease and obesity.
So that could be why my blood pressure has been so low these last couple of weeks! OK, so I guess I’m going through all of the above stressors. I do know that when I eat 100% raw food I feel better. I have been traveling a lot lately, and if I am not happy where I am, for example, with people that do not support my lifestyle, I simply do not feel well. Is taking a DHEA supplement the answer? It could be an important factor, but include it with lifestyle changes also. There’s a lot out there about DHEA levels and supplements. If you are concerned about your levels, have a medical test done. Taking a supplement alone won’t help you if your adrenals are exhausted. Your body will produce more or less depending on nutrient support, metabolism, hormone balance, activity level and your emotional state. Also maintain a healthy body mass index, get adequate rest, expose yourself to some sunlight, exercise, and create more “downtime” in your life.
What else can you do to support this “aging” thing? Ayurvedic medicine says the adrenal gland is connected to the root chakra. The root chakra is about groundedness, our nourishment, and our physical health. When stress enters full force, we can become less grounded. That sure explains even more about my aches and pains. As most of you know I recently closed my business and moved. However, I am not living anywhere yet. I have been traveling around visiting family and friends and still haven’t decided on where I want to live. Yep, that would be ungrounded! Guess I’ll start doing some yoga grounding poses today!
Eating a gluten-free diet can relieve the strain of your adrenal glands. Low blood sugar will put stress on your body and strain your adrenal glands too. Time your meals so that you aren’t going long periods of time without food. Adrenals will work harder on an empty stomach, requiring them to release more cortisol to keep you functioning normally. Living foods will allow the body to absorb more nutrients. You will find yourself craving sugar and caffeine if your cortisol levels are low or you are tired. Drinks that will restore your adrenal glands are: chamomile, passionflower and valerian teas, and vegetable juices. Alcohol, caffeine and gatorade can drain the adrenals. Honor your body. Try to take the time to feel if you are actually hungry or if you are eating to fill another need. I know when I am eating and not actually tasting anything. With my burning tongue symptom, my taste buds are a little off. So I think my mind tells me to eat more because my mouth can’t taste anything! It’s all about balance. I have good days and not so good days. I honor them both.
I’ll talk next time about more symptoms of our changing bodies.
As always, please see your health care practitioner for symptoms that concern you. The suggestion here are informational only.