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It hasn’t fully hit me yet, but I know that it’s encroaching—like hearing the faint whistle of an oncoming train that is a few bends away on the mountain tracks, still out of sight.
At 49, I’m soon to be engulfed by full menopause, still mothering a 7 and 4 year old. (I guess I should consider myself fortunate—Menopausal New Mom (http://menonewmom NULL.blogspot NULL.com/), Deb who had her child at 45, hit “full blown” menopause 2 years later.)
Yesterday, I was speaking with a young, respectful (for a change), 32-year-old mother on the subject of having children after 40.
“They say”, she commented with tentative delicacy, “that the biggest fear older women have is that they get tired more easily.”
I laughed with that dry, throaty chuckle—the one that emerges more often these days, as experience overcomes ideology like a gunny sack over the head of an unsuspecting kidnap victim.
From the ages of sixteen to fifty-six—new motherhood spanning the difference of 40 years—I don’t know one who isn’t tired, who doesn’t think she can’t invent her own designer-label brand of tiredness, who imagines she can one-up you in the tiredness stakes when she says she did that extra load of laundry at midnight after you’ve told her your kid had a fever of 104 degrees until 3am.
Mothers of children below the age of 10 are, by definition, chronically tired. I suspect, however, it’s more the province of the modern malaise of over-parenting (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/wordpress/?p=817) than it is of simply being a parent.
Yet, tiredness of mothers of “advanced age” has been the loaded gun the granny-mom bashers have been pointing at us since the beginning—accusing us of being unable to keep up with the younger models—despite the fact that a 2006 University of California study (http://www NULL.fertstert NULL.org/article/S0015-0282%2806%2904566-3/abstract) demonstrated otherwise.
According to researchers, older mothers coped with stress just fine compared to their more youthful counterparts, and that beliefs about their supposed impaired inability to cope may be based on prejudice rather than scientific evidence.
Having said this, impending menopause—the end of fertility as we know it—looms as a specter in our collective unconscious with about the same curbside appeal as a date with Medusa. Or, perhaps, Katrina.
I stand on the shores of my daily life, pottering with young Alex and little Lizzie, to pause and cup my hand over my eyes and wonder why the waters have suddenly receded so far into the distance.
I do, as Olympic Gold Medalist midlife mother Marilyn McReavy once said, feel like motherhood has catapulted me from couch potato to marathon runner.What will happen when profound mom-stress meets menopause? Am I ready for Hormone Hurricane Katrina?
According to Virginia-based Naturopathic Physician, Dr. Ted Butchart (http://www NULL.virginianaturalhealth NULL.com/about NULL.html), stress is one of the main underlying causes of menopausal symptoms in women.
Distilled into simple terms, Dr. Butchart says that stress interacts with menopause in two key ways.
First, it produces excess amounts of the primary stress hormone, cortisol. In turn, cortisol uses up the precursors to the production of estrogen and other hormones, thus reducing estrogen production.
Second, high cortisol suppresses neurotransmitters including serotonin, which then causes the symptoms of menopause—such as hot flashes and mood swings—to be more severe. Dr. Butchart says low serotonin is an extremely common condition in American women and results in insomnia, increased body pain, sugar cravings and anxiety.
He also warns that chronic high cortisol levels result in increased abdominal fat and can seriously impact blood sugar in insulin levels in the long term.
I can now see the inspiration for what I once dubbed the Midlife Momotov Cocktail! (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/#pages/momotov NULL.html)
All of these taken together, the mom-stress-menopause wave packs quite a punch—and I, for one, don’t want to be standing in front of it. But there’s hormone hurricane relief on the way, and a lot we can do to batten down the hatches in advance.
Lorraine Stern, a Certified Homeopath in California (http://www NULL.centralcoasthomeopathy NULL.com/) says there’s a lot we can do reduce this impact, including cleaning up our liver, the processing plant for hormones. She suggests herbal supplements including dandelion, artichoke and milk thistle.
To boost serotonin, she recommends taking 5-HTP, or eating foods high in tryptophan (building blocks for serotonin) including turkey, almonds, black-eyed peas, walnuts or pumpkin seeds.
“Recent studies have shown that chocolate consumption will lower the levels of the chronic stress chemicals in the body, allowing the serotonin to rise as it should during menopause” Stern tells us. “We always knew chocolate was good for us!”
Dr. Butchart advises that the easiest way to give yourself a menopause preparedness exam is to have your hormone and neurotransmitters tested through a simple saliva and urine test kit that can be sent in the mail.
He goes on to say that key areas to modifying menopausal symptoms is a healthy attitude to stress (learn to “let go a bit”), getting at least 8 ½ hours of sleep each night, a whole foods diet with fresh produce, good fats including those contained in fish and olive oils, along with supplements where needed (including Vitamin D), and making the right lifestyle choices in order to reduce stress.
He feels that diet and lifestyle choices have a much higher impact than herbal remedies. “A mother of young children does not have to ferry them all over town every single day and can limit the number of activities they are signed up for” he says. “It’s all about choices.”
So remember that grandma is usually right, midlife moms—be sure to eat your greens at every meal!
Note to readers:
To contact Ted Butchart, ND:
www.virginianaturalhealth.com (http://www NULL.virginianaturalhealth NULL.com/)
www.selfoptima.com (http://www NULL.selfoptima NULL.com/)
email@example.com (drbutchart null@null gmail NULL.com)
Hormone and neurotransmitter test kits are available through Dr. Butchart.
To contact Homeopath, Lorraine Stern, CCH:
http://www.centralcoasthomeopathy.com/ (http://www NULL.centralcoasthomeopathy NULL.com/)
firstname.lastname@example.org (sternlorraine null@null gmail NULL.com)
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