I started researching magnesium in more detail a month or two ago and I’ll be honest it’s never ending! There is so much to take into account when you enter the world of magnesium and it’s fascinating in its own right. I know one blog won’t do this justice so I am going to split it out - otherwise you wouldn’t get the important information we all need to know and take into account when it comes to Magnesium.
What is Magnesium?
Magnesium is a mineral – and one of the most important minerals on earth. To give you some background into its importance, it is one of the 19 minerals considered essential for life and the 4th most common mineral in the body. It is involved in over 300 enzyme reactions within the body - your body's spark plug! The word Magnesium comes from a region in Greece which happens to have a high concentration of magnesium ore in the surrounding area. Like other minerals it occurs in nature with other elements – for example, you have magnesium & sulphur which give you Magnesium Sulfate otherwise known as Epsom salts. Most of the magnesium in our bodies is in our bones and teeth roughly 60-65%, the balance in the rest of the body and finally our blood – our blood however only houses 1-2% of magnesium. Hence blood tests are not an accurate level of the magnesium count in your body at any given time. Magnesium is mostly utilized in the heart and brain, which in my opinion, explains some of the reasons why it is so important for the nervous system and sleep. You will see too when you look at the symptoms of low magnesium it is often affecting the heart and the brain. Now the interesting part is that many of the symptoms of magnesium deficiency tick the box of menopausal symptoms – this is one of the reason I see this as being essential to your toolkit at this stage. Dr Carolyn Dean author of the Magnesium Miracle calls magnesium ‘the spark of life’. This is a great name for this essential mineral as is so vital for so many processes that the body needs to complete on an hourly/daily basis.
How does Magnesium help you?
This is one food that I believe has to be incorporated into your diet at all stages in life, from children, growing teenagers, active sportspeople to perimenopause and beyond. It plays a vital role in heart health (blood pressure and steady heart beat), bone health, immune function, muscle function, brain health and energy transmission throughout the body. As you can see it is involved in several body functions, this vital role it plays can be seen in the vast number of symptoms that can be linked to sub optimal magnesium levels. The main conditions helped by magnesium are as follows:
Asthma – It’s powerful anti-inflammatory impact can be very beneficial to people suffering from asthma.
Fibromyalgia – I have written about this before and how important magnesium is if you have this condition. There is a link between Fibromyalgia and low magnesium. Magnesium Malate is the form of magnesium best used to help here.
Migraines & Headaches – the best relief for migraines is Magnesium & COQ10. Magnesium has been shown to alleviate the frequency and duration of migraines.
Heart Palpitations – our hearts contain the highest level of magnesium in our bodies. Optimum magnesium intake has been shown to have a positive impact on cholesterol and blood pressure.
Osteoporosis – as most magnesium is stored in our bones any shortage can result in reduced absorption of Vitamin D (essential also for bone health) .
PMT – Cramps along with your period can be very common and often create havoc for those few days of the month. The muscle relaxing effect of magnesium can be a great help here, it can also help the mood swings that come with PMT at any stage and during Perimenopause.
Depression – I will talk in more details about the brain and magnesium but magnesium is involved in the production of neurotransmitters and plays an important role in blood flow & reducing inflammation. All of this helps our brains function optimally. It has also been studied and continues to be, in relation to brain injury – when a brain injury or concussion occurs it can cause tissue magnesium levels to fall by up to 60% - magnesium can help restore this balance.
Diabetes – many people with Type 2 Diabetes can be deficient in magnesium due to an increased loss of this mineral through urine and also lower intake of magnesium through foods.
Aches, Pains & Inflammation – you will have often heard about the great benefit of an Epsom salt bath after rigorous exercise – I had many of these in my marathon training in 2018! Inflammation and pain go hand in hand – inflammation in the body causes pain. In addition tight muscles can lead to sensitive nerve endings and they are the messengers that send the message back to the brain to indicate pain is being felt. Magnesium helps here by relaxing the muscles and the nerves.
Why are we no longer getting as much magnesium as we need?
This is a vast subject and there are many factors influencing how much magnesium we absorb into our bodies – alcohol and caffeine can impact absorption due to their diuretic effect. If you’re doing a lot of exercise excess sweat will led to loss of magnesium. How food is processed and cooked can decrease magnesium levels – for example take white flour, magnesium is stored in the bran and the germ, and this is lost in the milling process of the whole grains. Sugar also drains magnesium - for every molecule of sugar you eat, it takes 54 molecules of magnesium for your body to process it!.
Possibly the single biggest impact is modern farming methods. Acid rain where it occurs takes calcium and magnesium from the soil, the infamous Roundup binds with magnesium which means plants can’t absorb it like they used to. Pesticides kill the good guys we need in the soil and they are no longer there to do the job of breaking down minerals so the plants can absorb them. Our water too has less magnesium due to filtering processes that now occur. Certain medication like acid blockers, antibiotics and diuretics can reduce absorption. If you experience a bout of vomiting, diarrhea, urinary infection etc this increased loss of urine will result in a loss in magnesium. For those who are coeliac or have low stomach acid you will not absorb magnesium as effectively from your food as others. Finally chronic stress impacts our gut health which will inhibit the absorption and action of magnesium. This is by no means a conclusive list but these are some of the key reasons why we are lower in this essential mineral in today’s world.
How do I know I am deficient?
As I said earlier many of the symptoms of low magnesium are similar to perimenopause symptoms - the most common tell take signs are as follows - you will see they can mirror many menopausal symptoms:
Magnesium Part II - How we absorb magnesium, the various forms and food sources
Magnesium Part III - Navigate the supplement world, a story & FAQ
If you can't wait for the next two parts....and are already eager to start incorporating please remember I am really picky about what to use if you are supplementing and a magnesium supplement in particular is one where HUGE amounts of money are being wasted on sub standard products. That's my personal view but it's based on extensive research and experience.
I am working to get the next two parts completed but if you are truly eager then please for now don't buy anything other than MAG365. I have used this for years, it's one of the best on the market and I have had great success with it. I am not affiliated with MAG365 and the girls there have kindly given me a great discount of 25% (type WWEVENT when buying - you need to register to to use the code) on any of their range so please use that if you are ordering BUT if you can please wait for the next two parts as you will then order in an informed way. As you know 'Knowledge is Power'.
You will remember I recently did some videos on Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) with Karen Cryan - there was great interest in the information Karen provided and this continues with great details below. Again it's knowing your labels, know what your eating and empower yourself with knowledge. Olive Oil is an amazing world and it's not just olive oil as we know from daily use but it extends even further to Olive Leaf Extract (that will be another story!). Read on to learn more about EVOO, the FBI of Food and Lamp Oil!
So what is Extra Virgin Olive Oil ?
Extra virgin olive oil is the highest category of olive oil. It is often described as the juice of a freshly squeezed (olive) fruit. Extra virgin oils don’t undergo any type of heat treatment or chemical processing.
In terms of the categorisation and quality of olive oil this is determined through both chemical analysis and sensory analysis (a panel of expert tasters). The tasters check the oil firstly for defects and then for fruitiness, bitterness and pepperiness. If any defect is found in the olive oil, it can’t be labelled as extra virgin.
The official definition of an extra virgin is ‘the median of defects is 0 and the median of the fruity attribute is above 0’ as opposed to the definition of ordinary olive oil is ‘the median of the defects is above 3.5 but not more than 6’.
Oils that are high in bitterness and pepperiness are high in polyphenols - the good stuff, the health giving properties of EVOO. Even so, there are plenty of olive oils out there labelled extra virgin which are, in reality, olive oil or even lampante, which is categorised as ‘unfit for human consumption’ and was used for lighting lamps years ago. When Bill Whittaker of CBS Television sent samples of the three top selling brands of extra virgin olive oil in the United States to the Italian food fraud section (they have 60 specially trained tasters and are known as the FBI of food), they found that none were extra virgin and the top selling brand was lampante. The only real way to know if an oil is extra virgin is to taste it (explained below).
The tips I’ll give you for choosing olive oil and storing it will also enhance your chances of buying and maintaining a quality extra virgin.
And the many health benefits
The health benefits of EVOO are numerous.
Particularly relevant to the modern day is that it has been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. As Judy Ridgway outlined in her book “The Olive Oil Diet’, “it has been estimated that 50ml of extra virgin olive oil rich in oleocanthal polyphenols may provide an equivalent anti-inflammatory effect to 200mg of ibuprofen. Similarly, the presence of this and other natural anti-inflammatories in extra virgin olive oil may contribute to lower rates of arthritis, asthma, inflammatory bowel diseases and other chronic diseases.”
Cholesterol : It also lowers your bad cholesterol (LDL) and brings up your good cholesterol (HDL). The 10 year EPIC study of 40,000 Spaniards found that those who consumed as little as two spoons of extra virgin olive oil per day were 50% less likely to die from heart disease and those who used the most olive oil were 26% less likely to die from any health problem.
Other studies have shown that EVOO can help protect against different types of cancer (including breast cancer), high blood pressure, strokes, Dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, osteoporosis, heart disease and diabetes.
Top Tips to select the right EVOO
Storing your EVOO at home
Heat, light and air are the enemies of EVOO. Storage is very important to your oil, how you store it will determine how stable it remains.
How to taste your olive oil
Darina Allen once said that if you don’t spend money on your food you’ll end up spending it at the doctors. Besides being a fantastic condiment, extra virgin olive oil is excellent for your health. It is worth taking the time to carefully choose your extra virgin olive oil, spend money on it (after all we will spend money on a good wine which will be gone in a night!) and store it correctly.
Karen Cryan is a qualified Olive Oil Taster who has trained in London, Italy and Spain. She is the only Irish member of the Savantes International Olive Oil Organisation and has been a judge at an International Olive Oil competition in Italy. Karen teaches excellent hands on classes on olive oil tasting and can be contacted at email@example.com.
You can follow Karen on Instagram: karen_cryan_olive_oil
I met Martha on a sunny day in Dublin, and I’ll be honest given her background I was somewhat daunted by her great experience and totally excited on the other hand. I often tell my boys that anxiety and excitement are two ends of the same scale and my preference is for excitement! We chatted warmly and openly about all things menopause and I was thrilled to discover we shared many similar views.
I often talk about developing your own strategy and your own personal toolkit to navigate this chapter, I was thrilled to learn Professor Hickey shared my views and reaffirmed my thought about ‘needing your own strategy’ and knowing ‘what do you need for your life’. Simple yet very powerful statements - we underestimate the power of knowing we have choices, the power of knowledge, the empowerment a woman can get from finding out about her body. What a symptom is telling you and what tools you can use to help your body through. As you often hear me say Knowledge is power.
We talked at length about aging and Prof Hickey is part of a fantastic campaign in Australia called Flesh After Fifty - now here is a campaign that could turn the advertising world on its head. Why do we always have to see the glamorous woman…Yes we all like to look at nice things and nice photos but more reality please! Martha’s opinion is ‘that fear of becoming an old woman and the imagery in society is not helpful……it should not be a battleground. Women are dis-empowered in this space’. Prof Hickey is on a mission to change this. I would like to think we share the same mission - that of empowering women with choices.
Yes, symptoms exist and medication may be required in some cases (findings indicate just 10% of women need medical treatment), and as Martha states ‘HRT is good treatment for severe symptoms, but like any medication it has potential risks’.
Her experience of working with women in Australia is that women working shift hours suffer more than the average woman and where there is no flexibility in the workplace this creates further stress. Her clinics in Australia bring together several practitioners to offer a centric service to women - a one-stop shop in all respects but with a difference. I think the key difference is the utter passion and dedication Martha brings to her work - she has empathy, she fully understands the challenges faced by women and she sits side by side them. The ‘benefits of empowerment’ she states are normal physiology. Her goal is to establish communities where patient’s needs are the driving force behind the direction her clinics will take - the women will lead the way. How empowering is this!
On discussing the most common symptoms Martha works with, these are Sleep disturbance, Mood disturbances & Sexual dysfunction. Again we talked about women doing shift work especially nurses whose working patterns can create havoc with symptoms due to irregular sleep patterns.
Prof Hickey is currently working on the No Sweat Study with the well-known Dr. Myra Hunter in the UK - this is looking at menopause in the workplace and ensuring it is viewed in a positive light as part of diversity and not disability. In order to support women working through the menopause she has worked with colleagues at Monash University to develop this new website: Menopause in the Workplace (MIPO).
Martha also highlighted the Women’s Wellness after Cancer Program (WWACP) which was developed in Australia. This is a really interesting study based on a digitized multi-modal lifestyle intervention to enhance health-related quality of life in women who had been treated for blood, breast & gynecological cancer. The program was ‘structured around four chronological steps: changing lifestyle; establishing healthy habits; maintaining health for illness prevention; and becoming independent.’ Click here to assess the full review
Martha is also working on COMMA - Core Outcomes in Menopause. This international project is consulting with women, clinicians, and researchers to determine the most important outcomes that should be measured in clinical studies of treatments for menopause. When consensus has been reached (2020) all researchers will be encouraged to include these outcomes in their studies. This will allow patients and clinicians to compare treatments across studies and ensure that trials are measuring outcomes that are important to women.
Finally Professor Hickey also wrote an excellent article for the British Medical Journal the ‘Non-hormonal treatment of menopause’ – I would encourage every woman to read this to get more information and guidance in building your own personal toolkit.
So you see why I think she is a Legend and an Oracle - how much is one woman doing for all us women when it comes to Menopause!
I have been extremely lucky to have met so many truly amazing people on my own perimenopause journey and every one has touched me in their own unique way, enhancing my knowledge in some shape or form – Martha was one of these women, she was so giving of her knowledge and her time, both of which I am truly grateful for – it's so exciting to see what she is doing not just in Australia but in Europe too and I will be watching with anticipation her continued work and sharing with you all as it progresses.
Migraines are those headaches that leave you in pieces, that leave you shattered and exhausted beyond belief. A person’s experience of migraines can differ from one person to the next and while not hormone related they can certainly become heightened in Perimenopause and taper off in the postmenopausal period. Women are 3 times more likely to get migraines compared to men.
So what are migraines ?
Migraines are a type of headache with a neurological basis and can be extremely debilitating when one strikes. Often people will describe the ‘aura’ that precedes or comes with a migraine. A migraine headache is much more than a really bad headache - it is generally characterized by severe, one sided pain in addition to nausea and/or vomiting, and vision changes. Generally there is a great sensitivity to light and sound and sometimes the sensory aspect can extend to smell and touch also. They can be described as ‘episodic’, that is that they come on without warning and the frequency is total random and variable - they can last anywhere from a few hours to 3 days or longer in some cases. Chronic migraines is where you get more than 15 headaches in any given month and 8 of these would be classic migraines. There are different types of migraines - those without aura, those with, those with an aura but no headache, Basilar, Hemiplego, Ophthalmus and Vestibular. The most common forms are the first two - migraines with or without aura.
What can you do ?
Dr Rangan Chatterjee recommends a combination of Magnesium & CoQ10 as a preventative for migraines and I have found this to be a good combination. In addition the following tips might help you develop your own toolkit to manage migraines.
So when you look at developing your personal strategy/toolkit for dealing with migraines it is important to look through your lifestyle to identify stressors and other triggers that may affect migraine occurrence. Take the time to keep a diary and track those triggers, this is the best way to get to know what you can do to help yourself and empower yourself with self help techniques that work or you.
If you experience severe pain, paralysis down one side of the body or face, speech difficulties, double vision, or a rash – make sure you contact your doctor to rule out a more serious underlying condition.
When I was 13 my Dad told me, I was a Warrior. At the time I can tell you I didn’t feel like one. We were on holidays and my Dad had a daily habit of going for a bottle of coke after a stroll on the beach. Each day one of us would be invited along for the stroll and the reward at the end. On this day my day hadn’t started so great….I was as you are by the beach in my swimsuit (no it’s not a story about periods…not really), when I noticed two girls pointing at my leg. It didn’t often upset me but on this occasion it did.
Now I need to bring you back to my birth - I was lucky. I survived.
I was born with the umbilical cord wrapped 4 times around my neck and my Mum had a very tough labour. I think back then labour was a lot tougher than it is now but for my Mum it was her fifth child at the age of 44 so not easy. After my mum lost a kidney and I got a ‘dodgy’ leg. The consequence of the cord being around my neck was I somehow ended up with a huge miss match of veins on my leg, it covered most of my upper thigh. As a young child I gave it no notice, as I hit puberty it changed, and I changed. It bulged more, it got bigger, it wasn’t a pretty sight but to me it was me, it was who I was. Then my first period came along and to this day I can still remember the pain - it wasn’t the period it was my leg. My birthmark was like a bunch of grapes except its intertwined with veins and blood vessels and as luck would have it, it is on the upper part of my leg so everything to my knees looks fine.
With the onset of my periods my veins came under more pressure and my Mum used to wrap bandages on my leg when the pressure got too much. Later I moved to wearing what I can only describe as a horrendous brown compress on my leg - I hated it. I dreaded my periods - and my history here was very chequered, my close friends in school would laugh with me that I only got them on important occasions like my birthday, Christmas etc. I was in no way regular. Maybe I convinced my body not to have a period because of the pain in my leg …who knows. My first operation could only happen at the age of 16 and two more followed after that - now it looks like an old bruise and had given me no issues for many years (only in pregnancy). When I trained for the marathon last year I did have a time when it give an ache and I was really scared ( no I have to be truthful I was utterly petrified !) it was going to develop into something more BUT I was utterly determined no way was my leg getting in the way of that goal - so I dutifully pushed through the pain.
Returning to that beach in Italy at the age of 13, when people often stared at my leg or you knew they were looking I guess it was sometimes hard to take in especially as a self-conscious teenager…that day with my Dad I can remember crying hard and yes I felt very sorry for myself. My Dad however being truly unique for his age, saw this very differently. He told me it wasn’t my first challenge in life, that many more would come, and this would make me strong and resilient to what the future might bring. He told me I was a Warrior, that I fought my way into life and that was my badge of honour to carry with me. So I guess without knowing I was born resilient, like all of us, I learnt to handle challenges as they came along. No one gets a clear run in life - we all have hurdles to overcome throughout our lives. At 20 when I lost the hearing in my right ear again my Dad’s wise words came out. Life throws us challenges constantly, some easier than others and some are steep mountains that take great strength to overcome.
I think we are all Warriors, I think we all have a story or chapter (or chapters) in our lives that make us stronger. Women and Men alike. The journey of menopause is not always for the faint hearted and it’s not always plain sailing, but I strongly believe it can be the most empowering time of your life. Our main challenge is getting society to agree with this view and embrace it with us as opposed to the taboo that still exists on this subject. We should all be able to Like a Facebook Menopause page without worrying what others think, we should all be able to talk openly about the symptoms we experience, we should be able to buy tampons our ST’s without hiding them in our shopping trolley or going red when they hit the conveyor belt. If not for ourselves we need to do this for the next generation - for our daughters, daughter in laws, nieces, friends, all women.
Yesterday I tackled a task I had been putting on the long finger - the mundane household task of sorting not one but two baskets of mismatched socks. It's funny I really wasn't too excited about this task at all :-). However I spent over an hour in the process and I have to say it was one of the calmest hours ever ! I totally lost myself to the job at hand and became fully absorbed in it - it was a very effective one hour of total mindfulness where my brain wasn't thinking of anything other than matching socks. For me mindfulness needs to work for you - we do not always need to be sitting cross legged on a mountain top, it is more effective if we can bring it into our everyday habits.
Mindfulness and/or meditation = superfood for your brain.
Mindfulness is well researched for its benefits to our wellbeing and can be used as a way to train your brain to patiently observe your anxiety. Think of it as you would a parent observing a toddler’s temper tantrum - you can observe and watch the behavior but need to remain calm and passive until the tantrum is over.
Daily routines can be used as opportunities to practice mindfulness, to focus on the present, on what is happening right now. For mindfulness to become part of your life it must work for you, it must be something you get benefit from and not something you dread. In that respect, start small, let it find ways into your life and it will work for you. When sitting in traffic, just be - for a few moments, right where you are – not on the way to somewhere, or the way from somewhere, not late, not early. Just there, in that moment.
When we stop and sit in “the now” we can slow down what we are experiencing and take time to savour and enjoy what life has to offer. Being mindful lets our minds be present, and become clearer. The realization that this very moment is all there is – everything else is merely a thought, projected into the future or excavated from the past – is the start of letting go of worry. Thich Nhat Hanh sums this up nicely when he reminded us ‘anxiety comes primarily from our inability to dwell in the present moment’.
Stress fades away and our minds become calmer. It’s all about taking life in smaller bites, not hour-by-hour but minute-by-minute. Just focus on the next 60 seconds, minute by minute.
Stop constantly doing and simply STOP.
Begin with simple ways to be present:
§ Concentrate on the process of making tea – slow down and pay attention to the movement of your hands, the smell of the tea, the steam from the kettle, the sound of the water pouring, and finally, the taste of the tea.
§ Washing your hands – pay attention to the water, the smell of the soap, the slipperiness of the lather, the movement and sensation of your fingers and palms. Pay attention to only these things for a few moments – this is a meditation of sorts.
§ Eating: notice the textures, the colours, and the aroma of your food as well as the taste, slow down the action of eating and focus on the sensation of the food on your palate.
§ Do a Digital Detox for 1 hour during the day .
§ Remember to breathe.
Finally as Ruby Wax states in Frazzled:
‘My definition of mindfulness is noticing your thoughts and feelings without kicking your own ass while you’re doing it…If you treat yourself with compassion and resist obeying your demanding thoughts, they become quiet.’
I had the pleasure of spending a morning with Fiona Hedigan recently of FLORA+FIONA. When I think of Fiona, I simply think flowers, divine smells and the most beautiful smile ever. Fiona’s home wafted of freshly baked scones and bergamot infused tea, her work space looks onto her garden and as I sat there I questioned her as to how she ever gets any work done !
I sat dreamily staring at pink infused tulips and golden orange daffodils. I would get no work done with such a view. I would be lost forever in gazing at the beauty of her garden and listening to the busy chatter of the many birds that visit.
The morning flew, the scones were divine, every smell sensation in my nose and head were fully awaken by the many smells Fiona got me to try…bliss comes in her small bottles.
Years ago in London a colleague I worked with used to joke with me that I was ‘mad into smelling to get well’ . I was indeed and I still am. I love essential oils, I love what they can do for your mind & body. When you spend a morning with someone who is more passionate than you about something…well all I can say is your left smiling, rewarded with increased knowledge and if possible greater passion. Did you know the power of high altitude lavender - I never even know there was a difference….the purest form of lavender when it is grown on high mountain plateaus - imagine the sleep that would give you.
‘The Lavender and Rose farm is up in the Alpes- Maritime above Grasse in France. Visiting it was a sublime experience….one of life’s great gifts. We drove up narrow winding roads, along steep ravines high into the mountains to Jacky and Evelyne’s farm. It was Rose harvest time and the air was perfumed with roses. We walked through the fields surrounded by roses...It was intoxicating! Rose is a very powerful oil. It gives you courage and comfort all at the same time. It is known as the” Mother” oil… as we know… it is all about the Mother!!’ Fiona
What Fiona & I intended to talk about I am sure got well mislaid as we jumped from one oil to another and one subject to another. What we both agree on is how effective essential oils are for anxiety, and with oils less is more - they pack a bunch. I often burn bergamot at home and it only takes about 4 drops for the smell to waft nicely around the house.
Some Practical Home Tips from Fiona
Lavender - add 2 drops on tissue and then wipe over your pillow, this will aid a good nights sleep.
Bergamot - when you travel or stay in a new place this is a lovely oil to bring with you, add 4 drops in a hand basin in your room/ensuite and let the smell familarise you to your surroundings. It will uplift you at the same time. This is a really great oil for anxiety and lifting mood.
Rosemary & Lemon - wake up oils, add a drop of each in the corner of the shower and the steam will send the smell wafting into the air.
Epsom salts - I always thought I couldn’t add oil to epsom salts but Fiona has shown me how you can add a drop of your favourite essential oil into the epsom salts before you add them to your bath.
This is only the tip of the iceberg of the many uses of essential oils we discussed so my next plan is to get a video with Fiona so we can all benefit from her amazing knowledge and love of essential oils.
If you have any specific questions on the use of oils please drop me a message.
When we think of alcohol we often think about feeling more confident, nights out, sore heads...what we totally forget to think about is our body's best friends. The Liver.
I can't talk about alcohol without impressing the importance of the liver - at least once a week I have a conversation with women who forget about the liver and it's importance to our daily functioning. Personally, I see the liver as the body's ultimate protector to illness and disease. The liver works constantly and performs the most efficient job ever...we simply don't stop to think how amazing this organ is. So before I talk more about alcohol read my prior blog on the liver.
Alcohol, I'm Irish..I really wish we didn't have the negative relationship with alcohol that exists in this country, that is a whole other story. However for me I grew up with alcohol - My Parents own a wine shop and at the age of 12 I was thought how to taste wine in France with my Dad...did I often try to swish it longer in my mouth as opposed to spitting it into the tasting bucket...Yes I did :-). That I guess was a natural teenage instinct as I got older. To this day I still love and appreciate a good red wine.
However, this love affair is now totally one sided - it does not love me. When I was younger I could have a few glasses but today one glass is often enough to make me feel the ill effects the next day. As I have gotten older I have become more sensitive to alcohol - this is very common and happens to most people.
So what does alcohol do to your liver and your hormones ?
If you do have a big night some tips to minimise the side effects
So for me it's the 80:20 rule. It's ok to have lapses - it's making nutrition choices that you can support 80% of the time. This is a good rule to follow - we can't spend our lives good every minute so if you can adopt this rule it's a great start. Also like I said above I know my sensitivity to alcohol and we are all different - in Perimenopause no one size fits all. We are all unique in this journey, we will all experience different symptoms and challenges along the way. Listen to your own body and what it is telling you and make your choices based on these internal insignals...our bodies send us symptoms to tell us what needs attention and to help us on the journey.
Panic attacks can be very common in Perimenopause and can be very scary when experienced for the first time, I often see with clients that Panic attacks can happen when they are feeling at their most calmest point and tis creates further confusion as to why they happen.
What is a Panic Attack ?
These are sudden attacks of very intense anxiety or fear during which you feel you are going to die, go crazy or lose control in some way. Panic attacks can happen without any warning, can last for a few minutes or as much as an hour. They are experienced on a very physical level and often start from physical sometimes you may not notice – a clenched jaw, tightness in shoulders, persistent shallow breathing which can lead quickly to a sense of breathlessness. The physical symptoms may have been triggered by anxious thoughts but now the sense of breathing difficulty is causing even more anxiety and panic – a natural response to feeling you can’t breathe.
Other physical triggers for panic attacks can be low blood sugar, extreme dehydration or lack of sleep, which combined or separately can lead to feeling dizzy, light headed, breathlessness and a sudden onset of panic or feeling of loss of control.
While people often describe panic attacks as ‘coming out of the blue’, there will often be an underlying trigger or combination of triggers, which have not been identified. Tracing back and knowing the triggers allows you to put steps in place to avoid them.
What can trigger a Panic Attacks ?
Common triggers would be facing a challenge and feeling overwhelmed by it, for example if fearful of being alone at night, driving on the road alone would seem daunting or if you have a fear of social encounters, making a trip to the supermarket might be an obvious trigger. In some cases, people feel a tightness in their chest or throat or churning stomach, which can lead them to believe they are in the grip of heart attack or a serious life threatening illness, thoughts that quickly escalate the sense of panic.
The panic stems from the confusion you feel and the feeling that you are losing control; the accompanying adrenaline surge affects any rational thinking during a panic attack. It is only when the adrenal gland becomes totally exhausted that the attack subsides as it cannot release any more. This is why, when you start managing panic, that light exercise (walking around the room) is such an effective treatment – it helps exhaust the adrenal gland and dissipates the panic.
Panic attacks are very common: it’s estimated that one in five people will have at least one in their lifetime. After experiencing one panic attack, it’s normal to worry about having another, You might start avoiding situations or activities that you think might trigger an attack, like shopping centres, public transport, airplanes, lifts or being alone. If you can observe that pattern, it’s a good time to have a panic management plan in place.
In some cases panic attacks can be a result of an underlying physical condition like thyroid issues, low iron, and heart and lung imbalances - and so for this reason we would always suggest a checkup with your doctor to rule out any physical causes.
Step by step guide for Panic Attacks
§ Breathe – use any of the techniques outlined for breathing that you like. The clenched fist and progressive muscle relaxation techniques are great ones for panic attacks. Breathing into a paper bag can also really help, you are breathing in the air you have just breathed out which stops you form losing so much carbon dioxide and reduces the symptoms of low oxygen.
§ Try not adding in negative internal dialogue in your head.
§ Remind yourself a panic attack is an excess of adrenaline in the body due to chronic underlying stress
§ Ice cube tip – if you have access to an ice cube try chewing one and also rubbing it on your inside wrist and the back of your neck (some people find relief from this).
§ Exercise: Pace the room, walk during a panic attack. Just try it – it works! You will burn off excess adrenaline which will shorten the attack; physical movement can help the body while it is in fight/flight mode.
§ Write down the thought and images going through your mind
§ Remember: It will pass
I often find some weeks a specific symptom comes up again and again in client consultations - this week I seem to have been attracting heart palpitations. A feeling of giddiness and heart palpitations can be very common in Perimenopause and very scary too.
What is a heart palpitation?
This is when you feel a fluttering or pounding heart beat - you will feel your heart is racing and beating much faster than normal. You heart can also skip a beat at intervals during palpitations. This intense feeling can extend from your chest up to your neck and throat.
This can be extremely frightening to experience even if just for a few minutes. In most cases palpitations are not usually a sign of an issue with your heart but very often due to other lifestyle factors.
Often to make things trickier they can happen at the same time as a hot flush.
What can cause palpitations?
From my experience with the women I have worked with lifestyle factors are the biggest cause and primarily ongoing chronic stress and anxiety. This is why I think we see it so much in menopause because we know this is a time when anxiety is heightened and the physical manifestation can be palpitations. The fall in oestrogen in these years also compounds the issue.
There are other factors too that can cause palpitations-
Smoking - this is one of the biggest enemies to menopause
Low blood sugar levels or low blood pressure
Irregular heart rhythms
Some cough and cold medicines which contain the ingredient Pseudoephedrine
What to do:
The very first step is to look at your lifestyle and really take stock - are you under stress ? Are you anxious ?
Smoking - If you spoke please talk to your doctor about ways to stop, it really is no friend to you. Research also suggests that women who smoke will have menopause earlier and with greater symptoms.
Alcohol & Caffeine - reduce, eliminate if you can, either in excess again will make the journey harder.
Exercise - incorporate activity into your daily life, this will help you in so many ways - stress, anxiety, weight all benefit from daily exercise. It doesn’t have to be a marathon gym session but a brisk walk or something you enjoy even for just 15 minutes per day will help you.
Sleep - ensure you get a good nights sleep.
Incorporate relaxation techniques into your life - breathing, yoga, meditation are all really good
Diet - more fruits, greens, whole grains. Try reduce salt & sugar.
When to see your Doctor:
If the palpitations don’t happen very often and only last a few seconds when they do then you can help this by making some of the lifestyle changes above. Especially look at anxiety & stress - bear in mind too the catch with palpitations is that they can happen when you're at your calmest but underneath, like the iceberg analogy, there is loads going on.
However if they start to happen more often and last longer with each episode then it is worth ruling out - overactive thyroid / anemia / or other heart issues.
Your Doctor will generally take full bloods and if warranted recommend an ECG.
Remember heart palpitations are very common in perimenopause and many women find once they make small tweaks to their lifestyle it can make a huge difference.
Remember too that just because you have finished menopause and enter the Post Menopause period this doesn’t mean you can stop thinking about your heart health - it is just as important and again lifestyle factors mentioned above are key.
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