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Menopause is Terrifying (Let’s Just Say It)

Talking with a few women over the last couple of weeks about peri-menopause, the same revelation came up, over and over again.

Peri-menopause is terrifying.

As much as I believe peri-menopause is a time of amazing clarity and transformation, it can be – yes – terrifying.

From the time we start our menstrual cycle, we are encouraged to control our periods and our bodies. [click to continue…]

Hormones, Depression, and Magnesium

I forget sometimes how important little things can be.
Like one little fact: magnesium helps us relax.

I was reading up on how to help myself with relaxing at night.
My current health goal (besides the Hashimoto’s which is driving me ker-azy!) is to get more and better sleep.

I was seriously having trouble relaxing at night.

In part due to stress (okay, got a plan for that).

In part due to the fact that I do not get my ass in bed at a decent time. [click to continue…]

We’re talking about flooding today. Not the kind that sent Noah to the ark, but close.

Flooding is when there is a large amount of blood, gushes, clots, and sometimes a long, slow bleed during your period. And it can be really frightening if you’ve never experienced it before. Even if you have, or even if you know about flooding, it can just be…really annoying.

It can feel like you’ll neverstopbleeding.

There can be very uncomfortable cramping as clots are passed.

And you will likely have to change your pad and/or tampon very regularly.

You can see how it would be annoying.

If you’ve never had flooding before, it can make you feel like there is something wrong. Or like you are a piece of meat, just hanging there…bleeding.

Obviously this is no fun.
Flooding sucks when you’re not in peri-menopause.
But then, if you’ve got other fun symptoms (like hot flashes, anger, or cravings) it super sucks.

Flooding happens when there is a change in progesterone levels (often not enough of it), which controls the thickness of the uterine lining during your cycle. During peri-menopause the drop in estrogen can disregulate the function of progesterone (they work very closely together), and this can lead to flooding.

Not every woman experiences flooding. But if you do, it isn’t fun.

a picture of a flooding street and subway terminal as a metaphor for menstrual flooding

I’m going to share some information about flooding, and options for dealing with it, but before I do, I need to say my caveat: I’m not a doctor, nor a nurse, nor any other type of licensed healthcare professional. If you are concerned about your flooding please see your health care person. I will also ask you to do your own research on what I offer here: make an informed decision. Because I’m not the only health educator on the block.

Ooookay! Here we go!

Increasing Iron: Dietary and Supplementation Options

So, the first thing about flooding is that it can lead to a lack of iron. When we bleed a lot, we are also losing a lot of iron. This can lead to anemia, which can make you feel like crap (fatigue, foggy brain) and can also make other peri-menopause symptoms worse.

A lack of iron can also make your blood clot less, which leads to more bleeding.
You see the vicious cycle thing happening here, right?

There are plenty of sources for iron in food.

  • Beef,
  • chicken liver [does anyone eat liver anymore?],
  • oysters,
  • cooked beans,
  • tofu,
  • pumpkin and/or squash seeds, and
  • fortified cereals

are all great sources of dietary iron.

But sometimes that is not enough and you may need to consider taking an iron supplement. Try a slow-release supplement to avoid constipation.

 

Herbal Supports

There are several herbal supports for increasing iron- so you can eat your herbs, if you prefer. These include cooked dandelion leaves (organic, please!), molasses, and yellow dock root. Steam or cook with vinegar to release their full iron stores.

Other herbs that can help decrease flooding when it starts include: lady’s mantle (tincture, 10-20 drops per day), flax seeds (soaked or ground into oil), and chaste berry (tincture or added to food).

These each work in a slightly different way. For instance, lady’s mantle and chaste berries help regulate progesterone so there is less build-up of blood in the uterus prior to the period. Flax seeds help increase prostaglandins (which control bleeding and clotting throughout the body).

Because of their different mechanisms of action, one herb may be better than another for you. Each woman is different.

Please remember that herbs, while natural, can also cause problems. If you’re going to try herbs to reduce flooding, please read more (from good sources, okay? not an online forum) and pay very close attention to your body while you’re using them.

 

Mind-Body Options

Christiane Northrup, in her book, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom (go get yourself a copy if you don’t already own it) states that flooding can be induced or exacerbated by stress. This seems obvious when you think about it. (Stress induces stress hormones, those hormones wreak a little havoc with your cycle…)

De-stressing on a regular basis is great, but especially during the weeks after you ovulate (when the lining of the uterus is being built up), will probably help decrease flooding.

Try my three-minute meditation.

 

The path of peri-menopause can seem like a walk in the wilderness. But don’t worry, you won’t be here for 40 years- it will come to an end. As you travel through peri-menopause, get the support you need from food, herbs, and your own (super smart!) body.

 

The Menopause Revolution

I was messaging with the wicked smart and raw-truth-loving Renee Magnusson on Facebook last week. We were talking about women and anger and boundaries -and how our culture doesn’t really help women develop either of those things.

I started talking about how societal beauty standards tear women down and that pushing for weight loss just to meet cultural standards of beauty is useless. Only when women feel good in their bodies (whatever size) is true health achieved.

I said, “don’t get me on my soapbox!” because the issue is so near and dear to me.

And Renee replied, “GET ON YOUR SOAPBOX!”

And in that moment, all my love for this work rushed back in.

This is my soapbox:

Menopause and menopausal women are going to change the world.

Menopausal women have access to clear truths about what this world needs.

Deep down in their bones,
deep down in their heart,
deep down in their soul,
they know what is not right with this world.

Women in my practice are mad.
Mad as hell.

Because:

no more hurting girls.

no more hurting women.

no more hurting children.

no more hurting animals.

no more hurting the environment.

no more excess by men and corporations.

no more inadequate food, housing, and safety for those with the least.

“No more!” they say.

And because they have energy now (no period!) they can do something about it.

Giving time
money
personal/professional skills
support
vision
wisdom.

When a menopausal woman finds her truth, she will battle for it like no one else.

And that is so beautiful.

And so POWERFUL.

women-revolution

 

The biggest reason I do this work is because of how much power menopausal women bring to the table. I love helping my clients get clear on what they know and how to live well for the rest of their lives.

Menopausal women are fierce and wise.

It is a powerful combination.

And it will make the world a better place.

As I get off my soapbox now, I wonder: what is your soapbox?

As your hormones shift and change,
as you see the world differently,
what do you know matters?

Because your knowing will change the world.

 

Please don’t steam your vagina.

Yeah, we’re talking about this.

Perhaps it has not reached you yet (really, I hope it hasn’t). But Gwyneth Paltrow is hyping the benefits of a practice called the vaginal steam bath.

This is a practice from Korea, wherein a woman’s naked Pink Parts are treated with steam – often including the herbs mugwort and wormwood.

Now, I am all about the herbs, okay?
They have amazing properties.
I use herbs regularly with clients.

But applying herbs to your vulva and labia, via steam, is just not something I can condone.

Here’s why:

1. Steam.

That’s boiling water pointed at your most precious, tender parts. I don’t care what kind of precautions are taken, steam pointed at your labia and vulva is just too dangerous.

How much does it hurt when you steam-burn your finger by accident (say, from the microwave)? It’s going to be 100 times worse on your lady bits.

 

2. Herbs you don’t know.

Everyone reacts differently to herbs (and medications, and food, for that matter). We each have little genetic differences that make our body handle substances differently.

Perhaps wormwood and mugwort do not agree with you and your biologic system. What then?

Well, then you have discomfort on your vulva and labia until it goes away.

I don’t think it’s worth the risk. (But that’s just me.)

a bench with a hole in the sitting area for steaming the vagina

3. The ‘delicate flower’ that is your va-jay-jay.

I’m not much into anything ‘delicate flower’ (soft femininity? yes! delicate? not so much…), but that sort of describes your vagina.

It is strong (see this great article), but all the folds and furrows of your vagina house a delicate balance of bacteria, lubrication, and pH balance that need to be maintained. (As anyone who’s had a yeast infection or UTI can tell you!)

Adding steam to your vulvar area can upset that balance. The heat, the water (is it purified?), and/or the herbs can all push your body into a state of imbalance.

Again, not worth the risk.

 

Your vagina is self-cleaning and self-regulating.

Simple.
As.
That.

Beyond regular washing with gentle cleansers (and gentle pressure), there isn’t much a vagina needs to stay healthy.

There are certainly complaints that may develop as peri-menopause and mid-life hormonal changes begin happening (different smells, lack of lubrication, painful intercourse), but steaming your vulva will not help.

 

My one caveat to this advice is this: a good long soak in the tub.

A bath is something I can go for and heartily endorse.

Why? 

Because there is no danger of burning the skin (unless your water heater is too hot).

Because if you use herbs in the bath (or even heavily processed cleansers), your vulva will stay lubricated and also naturally stay closed against water coming up into your vagina. Your skin will also often indicate if the herbs are irritating.

And because- if you’re going to get naked and spend quality time with your body, why not go all in and have a bath?

 

Here is to the wonders of our lady bits- especially the vulva. May we never cease to praise her and to revere her – as she is, for all that she is. Love your vulva- don’t steam it.