As I approached 50, a whole foods diet, regular exercise and meditation had been part of my daily routine for decades. My fine-boned, 5’2″ frame hadn’t varied much from 100 lbs since my late 20s when I began my studies in natural healing. Every 7 to 8 years I would come down with a virus, but other than that enjoyed good health and a comfortable lifestyle. So doing anything but sailing through the “change of life” was the furthest thing from my mind.
Around age 49, when I began to experience insomnia 2 to 3 days prior to my light periods, I did not know where to turn. Since I’ve always had a sensitive central nervous system as well as weaker adrenals because my parents had me later in life, I wanted to nip this trend in the bud.
Some friends recommended I schedule a consultation with an MD in our area who specialized in balancing hormones naturally. The saliva tests he ordered showed lower progesterone levels than he would like to see going into menopause, but aside from that everything looked within normal ranges. At his suggestion, I started on a 30 mg split transdermal dose of progesterone cream.
After a few months, the insomnia was better, but I was thrown a serious health curve when I contracted a severe virus on an overseas plane flight. Due to the severity of my symptoms, I lost over 10 lbs in 5 weeks from my already slender frame despite anything I did holistically or medically.
The sudden drastic weight drop stopped my periods almost instantly and spiraled me into a hellish loop of sleep deprivation, panic attacks, depression alternating with anxiety, awful mood swings, coupled with clothes-drenching hot flashes throughout the day and night. I was really scared because this happened so suddenly.
More saliva tests showed my previously normal estradiol and testosterone levels had plummeted as well as my progesterone. My adrenals took a serious hit too.
My MD doubled my progesterone cream strength, but because of my low body fat coupled with my sensitivity, adding even the smallest amount of either estradiol or testosterone caused such dramatic fluctuations I thought I would go insane. The patch and oral estradiol created similar issues.
Both my doctor and I hoped that gaining back the weight I lost so quickly would right my system. Over the next 6 months I put back most of the weight I lost and saliva testing showed everything was back to low normal range. Unfortunately the symptoms did not abate and worsened to the point that he suggested some counseling, antidepressants and sleeping pills.
I decided to try other alternatives and over the next year went to several other hormone specialists as well as a slew of holistic health care practitioners trying to get some answers and some relief from the debilitating symptoms. Fortunately my husband stood by me, driving me to most of my appointments because I was dingy from sleep deprivation. This was one of the most discouraging things that had ever happened to me. I was unable to even see clients or ride my beloved horses because I was so depleted… and no one could supply any answers or solutions to remedy my situation.
In desperation, I began keeping my own detailed body feedback journals to track my symptoms and spent hours a day researching to find a solution. From the journals, some distinct patterns became clear. Whenever I got stimulated be that from an action movie, too much exercise, a perceived emotional stressor, an inappropriate food choice or even talking on the phone too much, I was sent on a roller coaster ride of heart palpitations, rapid mood swings, anxiety/panic attacks followed by a night of next to no sleep. I suspected my poor central nervous system was on a hypervigilant response loop with a hair trigger adrenal surge that sent my female hormones reeling.
To confirm my suspicions, I persuaded my OB/Gyn to order blood draws every 4 hours for estradiol, progesterone, and cortisol from the time the lab opened at 7am until it closed at 6pm. My MD was shocked to see that my estradiol levels swung from normal ranges of 75 to over 750 during the day with an opposite similar swing in my cortisol levels.
Since my doctor was certain the lab had made a mistake or contaminated the samples, we repeated the experiment…twice, yielding similar results. His suggestion was to put me on “the Pill” to stabilize my hormones, but I declined, knowing then the root cause was my adrenals and central nervous system (CNS).
Over the next year I experimented with many things to support my adrenals and calm my CNS. Fortunately my tenacity paid off and my system came slowly into balance nearly three years after the virus hit.
Even though this was the roughest time in my life, I learned much from my experience and have shared it with clients and friends, sparing them what I went through. So as the saying goes, “everything happens for a reason.”
Following are some of the strategies I utilized to restore balance and to help with the symptoms. Since the root cause of my imbalance was my adrenals looping with a hypervigilant CNS, I took a four- pronged approach of diet, supplements, stress management and mild exercise, with appropriate bio-identical hormone creams support.
The Flexible Dietary Approach
The flexible dietary approach I found helpful is outlined in my booklet, “Eat Your Way To Health, The Natural Immune System Diet,”
Here’s a recipe for “Dr. Bieler’s Soup” that I’ve excerpted from the book. This simple soup became my mainstay, sipped diluted or full strength during the day and whenever I woke up at night to calm my system. Adding a squeeze of lemon also helps the liver to detoxify.
Dr. Bieler’s Soup
16 oz of either fresh or frozen green beans
4-6 medium to large zucchini sliced into small chunks
1 handful of parsley tops
2 stalks of celery with strings removed (optional)
Put all ingredients into a large pot and add enough pure water to cover the veggies. Bring to a low boil and cover, cooking for 15-18 minutes. Put the cooked mixture into a blender slowly adding the pot water to get your desired consistency. Make sure you don’t over dilute the soup with too much water –you can always add more later.
I like to make my “mother batch,” plain, adding herbs, oinion or garlic powder to taste for each serving.
If you have digestive issues or just don’t care for celery, simply omit it from the recipe.
Here are the supplements I found helpful to stabilize my system also help with sleep, anxiety, depression and hot flashes.
- Higher magnesium intake was key for me. I like the tasty powdered mix from “Ionic Fizz” called Cal +. It has a balanced mineral profile as well as 1:1 ratio of Cal/Mag and tastes like raspberry lemonade. I had a portion of this every morning and supplemented as needed during the day with extra “Natural Calm” (just magnesium in a flavored base) if I felt myself getting overwhelmed or overstimulated.
- A basic multi-vitamin for women. Rainbow Light Women’s Daily agreed with my system
- 400-800 iu’s of Vitamin E dose depending on hot flashes
- 500-1,000 mg Emergen C Lite sipped throughout the day
- 800-1,000 iu Vitamin D3
- The homeopathic Valeriana 30X helped me with the hypersensitivity as well as the insomnia and anxiety due to overstimulation. I took 3-4 pills twice daily as a loading dose as well as putting a few pills in a glass of water to sip if I got over revved during the day or woke up at night.
For on-the-spot stress management as well as for a user friendly formal body-centered meditation method, I utilize the simple self care provided by the ancient Asian harmonizing art of Jin Shin Jyutsu. It is easy to learn and an amazingly powerful ally that helps tame the effects of stress and activates your “Inner Healer”.
Hands on sessions from a Jin Shin Jyutsu practitioner, if you can find one close to you, are an invaluable support.
The JSJ books I found helpful are:
- The Touch Of Healing by Alice Burmeister
- Self Help Books 1, 2 and 3 by Mary Burmeister
Nightly warm epsom salt soaks infused with calming essential oils became my favorite ritual. It raises serum magnesium levels as well as helping to discharge the remnants of the day, easing you into sleep. I prefer adding lavender, rose vanilla, or ylang/ylang essential oils for their calming properties. Make sure to use a high quality epsom salt as your skin absorbs whatever you are soaking in.
It is important to find some form of gentle, moderate movement you enjoy to support you in your process. Too much or too vigorous exercise will stress the adrenals when they are already challenged, not allowing them to heal.