Failing to cope well with stress can make you miserable during your menopause years

Part 1 of 2

Are you confused or concerned about what you need to do to have a healthy, symptom-free menopause? Conflicting advice from your doctor, friends, menopause experts and websites, books about women’s health, and health food stores with several lines of menopause products don’t make it easy. I spoke with women’s health expert and product formulator Lorna Vanderhaeghe about how women can take control of their hormone health at any age.

Wendy – My upcoming book ‘Powerful Habits to Grow Younger Every Day’ is for women who want to look and feel younger naturally without drugs or added hormones. What can a perimenopausal woman do to manage her hormones without taking drugs or added hormones?

Lorna – The first thing I recommend for women over 40 is to nourish their bodies with optimal nutrition – eating protein at each meal, having 5 to 7 servings of vegetables every day, and cutting back on fruit juice which can cause estrogen levels to get higher and lead to increased belly fat.

I often hear women over 40 say “I haven’t changed anything and I’ve gained all this weight.” – We actually have to change what we eat when we’re over 40 to keep our blood sugar and insulin balance.

Balancing hormones is all about the adrenal glands. The adrenals are two little glands that sit on top of our kidneys.  They help us deal with stress; they’re also involved in communicating with the thyroid gland. When we have exhausted adrenals – because we’ve been doing too much for too long – what happens is when women go through menopause, the adrenals are the back-up hormone system. Your ovaries take a much-needed rest at menopause. Your adrenals kick in and make your hormones for you.

Women who have a hard time at menopause often have exhausted adrenals – their adrenal glands are unable to make the back-up hormones for the woman.

Women who sail through menopause generally have great functioning adrenals and thyroid.

Wendy – So this makes it essential to get a handle on your stress and figure out how to manage it before going through menopause?

Lorna – Absolutely! Stress is a big killer. We know that it disrupts our hormones at all ages.

You want to get your adrenals functioning well so you can sleep properly at night. If you have exhausted adrenals you often end up with elevated night-time cortisol levels and you wake up at 3 am and can’t fall back asleep. That’s a classic sign of adrenal exhaustion.

Of course, you can’t handle stress well, you get belly-fat weight gain, you’ve got salt cravings, alcohol intolerance and you have to have caffeine to get going.

Wendy – Well, that sounds like me at various times!

Lorna – It’s a classic Type A woman problem simply because the adrenals get overtaxed.

Wendy – Do you think that the diagnosis ‘menopause’ is a rather convenient label to put on a bunch of symptoms that may in fact be related to adrenal fatigue, thyroid insufficiency and other conditions?

Lorna – The word menopause just means one year with no periods. When we talk about menopause symptoms, they occur because of the hormone triangle – the liver, adrenals and thyroid. A woman with a great functioning liver, adrenals and thyroid when she goes through menopause has virtually no symptoms. We meet those women – they can’t figure out why everyone else is having symptoms!

You have to have a good functioning liver because your liver is involved in the detoxification of hormones when they get too high. Your liver also decides whether your estrogen will turn into cancer-causing estrogen, and if your progesterone becomes testosterone. You have to have a healthy-functioning liver.

The adrenals are the back-up hormone system and they help us deal with stress

The thyroid is the master conductor of all your hormones.

So, if you have a dysfunction in any of those three glands and organs, you’re going to have all kinds of symptoms. We see symptoms in women in their 20s and 30s who can’t get pregnant, if they have low thyroid. We see women of all ages who have insomnia and difficulty handling stress because their adrenals are exhausted.

I’ve created a chart of all the menopause symptoms that shows how each symptom is related to low thyroid, exhausted adrenals or a liver that’s not functioning well.

Wendy – So women who haven’t gone deeper than the label of ‘menopause’ likely won’t get to the root cause of their symptoms if they think it’s just an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone when in fact the other hormones are involved as well.

Lorna – Oh, absolutely! For example, women with low thyroid that’s not being treated properly will have the never-ending menopause. Those are the women who are still getting hot flashes and night sweats 10 years or more later. It’s very important that we have that hormone triangle sorted out so we can sail through menopause. It’s the reason why I wrote “A Smart Woman’s Guide to Hormones” and give hundreds of lectures every year to teach women that they actually have control over whether or not they’re going to have menopause symptom.

The bottom line is no woman should be suffering at menopause. Not one. We have a solution for everything.

A lot of women are mis-diagnosed with other conditions at menopause.

Not every woman gets hot flashes and night sweats. Some women get panic attacks, depression, and anxiety.

Other women get diagnosed with menopausal arthritis, fibromyalgia and allergies – which have nothing to do with hot flashes.

It’s important to know what’s going on with your body and the endocrine system so we can correct all that using food, nutrients and lifestyle changes.

Wendy – What are some of the most effective foods, supplements and lifestyle changes to get your hormones back into balance?

Lorna – If you have adrenal exhaustion, we have an herbal supplement of adaptogenic herbs called AdrenaSmart to treat it. This combination has Suma, Ashwagandha, Rhodiola rosea extract, Schisandra berries which work to bring cortisol down if it’s too high or bring it up if it’s too low and to balance out the adrenals and give them some support. That combination works very well to get people sleeping through the night again and it helps balance out the adrenal axis.

The fastest way to fix the adrenals is to

Say no

Go to bed early

Eat well

De-stress your life

Deep breathing exercises

Most people don’t have time to do that – this is why we have adrenal support herbs to help treat adrenal exhaustion.

Look for Part 2 of this interview in my next post.

NOTE: ‘Powerful Habits to Grow Younger Every Day’ will be published in April 2014. Sign-up for your free copy at

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