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Menopause: From the Sublime to the Ridiculous!

Comedy © lynette sheppard

Comedy © lynette sheppard

My new favorite Menopause music video is by Kyla Burge. Her husband Brian Burge is the driving force behind the Blow Me Cool fans that Menopause Goddess Blog readers (and yours truly) just love! Enjoy this take-no-prisoners tune as Kyla tells it like it is:

You can find the Blow Me Cool fan in the Menopause Marketplace: click here.

In other news on the Menopause front, two research studies have come to light recently. (Though personally, I wonder if they should have been left in the dark. Or at least, unfunded.)

First, we have a groundbreaking (NOT) study showing that Menopause causes memory lapses. Apparently, they couldn’t take our word for it. A controlled study determined that it is just as women have reported: Menopause causes sucky memory. Read more here: Menopause Memory Study.

Last, and almost certainly least, we have research delving into the question “Why” does Menopause happen. It was thought to be a result of outliving our reproductive usefulness, but now would appear that it is the fault of Men. Yep, we knew we’d be able to pin it on them someday. That day is here.

Turns out that this study found that women go through Menopause because Men start preferring younger women at some point. This research gets my vote for most useless information on the Pause yet. Not sure what they suggest we do about this nor how they determined the cause and effect here. Tell you what. You can read more here: Men Cause Menopause.

I’ll say this much – with studies like these and smart, funny women like Kyla Burge – we won’t have to worry about losing our sense of humor anytime soon. That and girlfriends will get us through. Maybe we’ll have a few more laugh lines, but that’s fine with us.

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Research Participation, Hair Loss, and HRT Update: A Menopause Grab Bag

red maple leaves, Zion NP © lynette sheppard


Greetings, Goddesses (and those who love them). My apologies for not posting for a couple of weeks. The short story on why? Hula conference, food poisoning, the flu.
I’m bouncing back now; well more like crawling back but things are looking up. I’m recuperating in one of the most beautiful places on our little green planet: Zion National Park, Utah.

In deference to the backlog of important topics I’ve been meaning to post, here are three in one – a veritable grab bag of meno missives.

First, there is a call for participation in a UCLA study on attitudes toward disgusting situations. It seems that there may be changes in what we find disgusting or not when we go through menopause. Professor Daniel Fessler of UCLA and Dr. Katinka Quintelier of Ghent University are co-conductors of this research. I took the survey myself – pretty interesting. Click on the link below or paste it into your browser – all results are completely anonymous. http://menodis2011-2012.questionpro.com

On the hair loss front – a particularly diabolical manifestation of the Change, there is new hope out for menopausal women afflicted. Avacor has been approved for hair regrowth in hormonal thinning. (Active ingredient in the serum is minoxidil aka Rogaine.) They have had significant success, although like everything, it won’t work for all women. So I have offered to be a guinea pig yet again and have begun a three month program. It usually takes two months to show any effect, so don’t expect to hear too much too soon. Hope springeth eternal – I’ve taken my before pictures and hope to see a difference in eight weeks or so. I’ll keep you posted.

I will say this: one of the products in their starter kit is called “Boost”. It is a hair thickener styling product and it is as good or better as any of my previous favorites. I highly recommend this even if you don’t need to regrow hair. It’s a great volumizer and doesn’t weigh my hair down in the process. Yes, you can buy this product separately. If you want to take this journey along with me, they can start you out with a free 3 month trial supply of the full set of products. Check out their website at avacor.com

Last but not least, I wanted to report on my HRT cessation (and my physician’s). We both feel just fine – yes, we do have a hot flash every now and then but they are short lived and not too incendiary. I must report the side effect of a little smugness on both our parts, but thankfully this is not serious.
For those of you who are attempting to titrate down your HRT, go slowly and be gentle with yourself. With the patch, I was cutting it into tinier and tinier pieces until I was wearing just a miniscule pie shaped wedge that likely had almost no hormone in it. Still, the placebo effect is powerful juju and I availed myself of it for quite a while. Now I’m happy and hormone free. Except for any hormones that my own body might produce on its own. I’ll take all of those I can get.Now, I’m going out to sit on the patio and look at red rocks. Take the survey, grow some hair, be gentle with yourself in all ways. Oh, and eat some chocolate. Just sayin’…

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Hot Flashes The Sequel: Now Showing In A Woman Near You

Flame On © lynette sheppard

I’m a hottie. There, I said it. I’m not a Demi Moore, cougariific kind of hottie, though. I’m a middle aged, newly slender, boiling in my own casing kind of hottie.  No frog in the frying pan here, gradually warming, adjusting as she goes, wondering what all the fuss is about.

No, no, no. The Big M flung my little froggie self into a scalding hot, non stick, anodized cauldron from hell – so I was most painfully aware that I was freaking hot.

That said, there may be a smidgeon of good news. A new study suggests that women whose hot flashes began early in the Pause, but not later seemed to have a lower risk for heart disease and death than those who never boiled in their own skins or those who developed flashes later.

My hot flashes were just short of self immolation when I first began this journey. They tapered off enough to allow me to begin decreasing my bioidentical HRT in hopes of ceasing it altogether. My plan was to get rid of my tiny, half patch by April.

Then I had to go and mess with the delicate balance I had achieved by going on the HCG diet and losing that turkey that had taken up residence around my middle zones.

Is it possible that one can be too thin!?
Especially if she is post menopausal?! ? Because my new svelte self has begun having hot flashes. Again. Feel them again for the first time. Sheesh.

These power surges are not nearly as horrific as the early ones, but they are certainly present and accounted for. Dewitt gave me a hug the other morning and noted, “Ooh, clammy girl is back.” So I’m wondering if my April target date might have to be pushed a bit.

I’m pretty sure that the new research findings don’t include a category for early-hot-flashes-diminished-over-time-with-spontaneous-return-post-turkey-loss-no-end-in-sight-just-yet. So I’m not sure if the latest study is good news, bad news, or no news in my case. The Big M is still mostly uncharted territory, but we are definitely becoming expert orienteers, mapping the way for ourselves and our sister goddesses.

So stay tuned. Menopause is not just a soap opera. It’s the real never ending story. For now, I’m going out and looking for my luck dragon.

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Menopause Research Study: Call for Participation

I’ve frequently jumped upon my soapbox and railed at the dearth of research on Menopause. Now here’s a chance for Hawai`i Menopause Goddesses to potentially be a part of the solution.

Dear friend and sister goddess Dee Adams of  Minnie Pauz fame sent me this info on a study being conducted in Honolulu, Hawai`i. (BTW, if you haven’t checked out her hilarious, poignant cartoons on the Pause, you must click here.)

Here’s the request from the research company:
Covance Clinical Research Study Opportunity

Healthy?  Past Menopause
Generations of women have helped test investigational medications by participating in clinical research studies.  You could help too.
To qualify for research study  8232-584 involving an investigational medication you must be:

– A healthy postmenopausal woman
– Able to stay at Covance for 2 nights / 3 days and make 22 outpatient visits

Participants will receive all study-related exams at no cost and compensation $3750 for time and participation.
Think you can help? Great!  Then call 808-441-6327 (808-441-6361 for Japanese speakers), Text ALOHA to 77982 or visit TestWithTheBest.com today.

Please call 808-441-6327 (808-441-6361 for Japanese speakers), immediately for details.

Please consider getting involved, or, tell a friend who might want to participate for the first time (learn more about our referral program at www.testwiththebest.com)
We welcome and appreciate your involvement in clinical research.  To all our participants past, present and future, Thank You!
Sincerely,
Covance Clinical Research Unit

Of course, Menopause Goddesses don’t take much at face value (especially those of us of the Registered Nurse persuasion.) So I called these folks to find out just what they are testing. Because I would be compelled to add my two cents if this study were about antidepressants as a cure for the Pause or some other such “elephant gun to kill flies” strategy.

They are testing an osteoporosis medication, it turns out. Fair enough. They could not give me the other studies that have been done, potential side effects, or any other info “over the phone.” However, they did say that if I came in for screening, they could tell me any and all of this information. Sadly, though I am only 30 miles away, it might as well be 3000, since those miles are open ocean.

So if you should decide to participate, be sure to ask about previous studies and results, potential side effects and benefits, and so on. Read that investigational consent form carefully and thoroughly before signing on the dotted line.

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Menopause Research Study On Hormone Therapy Cessation: Participate Now

Calling all Menopause Goddesses. We need your help in a cutting edge new study. As you all know, research on the menopause transition has been sadly lacking.  I have been bitching about that for what seems like forever.

Thanks to Menopause Goddess, Dee Adams, the creator of Menopause cartoons, I learned of an exciting new study in progress.

Mary Fischer, a nursing doctoral student at University of Massachusetts is exploring women’s experiences with discontinuing hormone therapy. How timely is that?

So many goddesses, including yours truly, are working to discontinue our hormone therapy – and frankly, like so much of the Big M, this is uncharted territory. Fear and loathing on the Menopause Trail, you might say.

Thankfully, this new study is qualitative in nature. Rather than simply yes or no answers, our experience in our own words is requested in addition to necessary quantitative data. Which as we Menopause Goddesses know is one of the major ways we share information: through stories of personal experience.

If you are a Menopause Goddess in the process of decreasing or discontinuing your HRT (hormone replacement therapy) or have already ceased your HRT, I urge you to contact Mary to participate in the study. I’ve already gratefully filed out the online study after signing the informed consent and receiving my user name and password.

This is how we will help ourselves and the women who come after us (like our daughters) to have an easier Menopause journey. Women sharing wisdom: that’s what it’s all about.

Contact Mary Fischer at 508-877-3316 or email her at mary.fischer@umassmed.edu to get started.

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Adrift On The Sea of Menopause

I’d like to be a jellyfish
‘Cause jelly fish don’t pay rent…

They’re just simple protoplasm
Clear as cellophane.
They ride the winds of fortune,
Life without a brain.”

from the song Mental Floss by Jimmy Buffett

Now that my menopause brain fog has lifted, I notice an interesting new mental phenomenon manifesting itself. It’s a little like what longtime meditators call monkey mind (and I call Menopausal HDD). Still, it’s different. Monkeys jump from tree to tree exuberantly. Monkey mind jumps from thought to thought, idea to idea quickly. There’s almost a manic energy to them.

This new syndrome is more like jellyfish mind. While myriad thoughts intrude themselves, one atop another, I find myself floating among them. I’m drifting in a sea filled with plans, ideas, to-do’s, memories, wishes. Like a jellyfish, I float from thought to thought as they wave and brush against me.

I don’t mind the floating either. Which is weird. Because I like to be focused. Heck, I need to be focused. But too often, I just float from one thought to the next, one thing to the next, serenely. I feel like a caricature of a Zen master (mistress?).

And since it is time for another blog entry and I am surrounded by flotsam and jetsam in my own little ocean, I’m going to write about the various kelp-thoughts that brush against me. The warning here is that these topics may not go together at all. Yet they have at least The Big M in common. Okay, there’s the disclaimer – don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Estrogen Addiction Say What?
Yep, Apparently our hot flashes are due to an estrogen addiction. UBC Professor of Endocrinology Dr. Jerilynn C. Prior presented her findings on estrogen addiction and its treatment with progesterone at Women’s Health Congress 2010 in Washington DC. Not a joke. Really.

According to Dr. Prior, when a woman has a hot flash:

“she’s experiencing a massive release of brain chemicals … Integrating what we know about hot flushes has led to the hypothesis that the brain exposed to prolonged high estrogen levels reacts like the brain of an addict without a fix when estrogen levels drop. The best animal model of hot flushes is the heroin-addicted mouse.”

Apparently, the treatment for this estrogen addiction is progesterone, since “estrogen and progesterone work together in every tissue of a woman’s body.”

Okay. I’ll bite. Massive release of brain chemicals sounds right on. Furthermore, I’m a big believer in natural progesterone cream. But as I’m floating in my little sea, these thoughts brush against me. Do we have to name everything so that it sounds like a disease or disorder? When Mom Nature cold turkeys us at Menopause, does she know what she has done? And is progesterone now our methadone?

Dr. Prior and her team suggest that women who have taken estrogen will have tons more hot flashes when they stop the hormones. Does that mean instead of 20-30 per day, I’ll have 40-50? I gotta tell you, it doesn’t make me excited about stopping my bioidentical patch anytime soon. And I am definitely planning to decrease and ultimately discontinue it, having passed that magical three year mark. Will I need truckloads of progesterone to combat the dreaded withdrawal from my estrogen addiction? Do I need a 12 step program?

There were a bunch of other kelp thoughts I was going to share, but I’ve drifted too far past them and run out of room. They’ll likely show up in the next post.

As Jimmy Buffett continues in his song,

“In one ear and out the other.
Don’t you get criss crossed.
I recommend you try a little
Mental floss.”

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Latest Medical Research on Menopause: A Nurse Goddess Perspective

caduceus puzzleshrp

As a nurse, I belong to a continuing education / latest research site called Medscape. It’s nothing short of wonderful. When I think of the sheer poundage of my professional magazines that I subscribed to in the past, it boggles the mind. (And stimulates my guilt reflex when pondering how many trees gave their lives so that I might give better nursing care.)

Now with a couple of keystrokes, I can stuff my few remaining brain cells with the latest nursing and medical knowledge. Amazing. I love love love the internet. But I digress – which happens to me a lot since The Big M.

I’d like to share a few of the latest research findings regarding menopausal women.

Hot Flashes Sufferers Live Longer?
I received a tweet the other day that stated “research shows women that have a large number of hot flashes live longer.” I went to the actual study and found that in truth, it was women that reported night sweats in addition to their hot flashes. They had a 30% lower mortality rate from heart disease than women who didn’t suffer from nocturnal overheating, irrespective of risk factors or HRT (hormone replacement therapy) usage.

Wow. I believe that I will likely live to 210 years of age if this is true. Thank God for wicking sleepwear. (Stay tuned for the debut of our Menopause Marketplace to find great wicking sleepwear vendors.)

Does Depression Affect Menopausal Symptoms?
This study found that women suffering depression reported more menopause symptoms. Conversely, the authors were surprised to find that menopause also seemed to lead to more depression. The first thing I have to say about these results is “Well , DUH!”

The second is that this sounds a little like “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Which we could debate forever, but why would we want to?

Most important were the conclusions of the study – that identification and treatment of depression might help with symptoms of menopause as well.

True enough, but at what cost? We are already seeing a number of articles promoting antidepressants to treat menopause, which really is like trying to shoot a fly with an elephant gun. While I am the first to say that menopause symptoms suck, I also believe in the remedy with the least side effects that helps.

I strongly believe in antidepressant drugs when necessary. When depression causes significant disruption of daily life activities or relationships or suicidal thoughts, then pharmaceutical treatment along with professional therapy can be life saving.

But we need to assess a matter of degree with depression. Some mild depression, e.g. feeling sad and blue, weepy, not motivated during menopause affected all of the Goddesses to some degree. When we shared it with one another, it lessened greatly. It was wonderful to find out that it was normal and it was likely temporary.

Two of our goddesses have suffered from depression pre-menopause and have taken antidepressant therapy successfully. The rest of us just felt crappy for awhile.

Risk for Major Depression Increases During and After Menopause

Basically this study found that the risk of major depression doubles during perimenopause and menopause when compared with premenopause. That sounds about right. To put that in perspective, if two of your twenty friends suffered a major depressive episode before any of you went into menopause, then it might be likely that 4 of your friends would suffer a major depressive episode. Leaving 16 feeling blue and “normally” depressed.

I couldn’t find out how the researchers defined major depressive episode. One of the researchers did make this statement, which was billed in the Medscape article as the take-home message for clinicians. “When women come in and are thinking that they have some extra difficulties with life and feel down and blue…take it seriously. It is not just a passing thing.”

Okay, that worries me. Because it describes nearly every menopausal woman I’ve known at some point in her journey. I personally felt down and blue, and was dragging my weary arse through the days during the worst of the Big M. I was also hot, cranky, and sleep deprived which likely made it worse. But it WAS just a passing thing. It was normal. The best treatment I experienced (besides sleep and cooling measures) was support and commiseration from my Menopause Goddess sisters.

While I’m delighted that we are doing some research on The Big M, I have to wonder why we aren’t looking into bioidentical hormones, herbal therapies, and the effects of support groups. Could it be because there is no funding for these types of research?

So ladies, remember the one Latin legal phrase I learned in nursing school “caveat emptor”. Let the buyer beware. You are the buyer of your own health care. Pick and choose. Ask questions – lots of them. Ask about side effects and risk-benefit analysis. And not to be a conspiracy theorist, but ask yourself who might have funded a given research study? Who stood to gain?

Lastly, make sure that you are followed by a physician or nurse practitioner, not led. Most health care professionals I know actually appreciate a patient who is actively involved in her own care. And if they don’t? I’d shop around for a new health care professional/partner.

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