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Autoimmune Disorders — What Your Doctor May Not Tell You   Leave a comment

What Your Doctor May Not Tell You
About Autoimmune Disorders

By Stephen Edelson, M.D.

Read the transcript of Dr. Stephen Edelson (Coming soon)

What Is Autoimmunity?

An Excerpt from Dr. Edelson’s book,
What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Autoimmune Disorders

You’re alone, walking down a dark alley late at night. You’re feeling strong and confident; there’s a spring in your step, and you’re striding with determination. Suddenly, out of nowhere, you’re attacked from behind. Immediately you burst into action. You maneuver your way out of the stranglehold bear hug. You turn and quickly release a strategically placed kick. You send the invader to his knees, then pin him down just as reinforcements arrive to haul him away. And you didn’t even break a sweat or a nail. You just did what you were trained and ready to do: protect yourself.

THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

Protecting and preserving your health is exactly what your immune system is designed to do. Your immune system is a complex network of organs, glands, and special cells that encompass your entire body. Its purpose is to guard you against invaders that can harm you or compromise your body’s ability to function in a healthy way. When your immune system is operating optimally-when all its components are healthy and alert-it can effectively fight off many different types of enemies, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi, and the harmful effects of stress, household chemicals, secondhand smoke, pesticides, and food additives. Like a well-placed kick, the immune system fights back . . . and you win.

Unfortunately, people with an unhealthy immune system don’t feel like their immune system is kicking back. Bea, a thirty-three year-old mother of two girls, says she felt like she was the one being kicked. “I was exhausted and achy all the time,” she says. “I felt like I was letting my husband and kids down because I was always too tired to go out. They were always going to the mall and to the park without me. I even missed my daughter’s school play because I was too tired and depressed to leave the house.”

“I was embarrassed to make any more excuses to my friends,” says Lila, a forty-two-year-old graphic artist. “I had to make sure I was near a bathroom everywhere I went, because I never knew when the stomach cramps and diarrhea were going to hit me. It was safer to just stay home.”

Bea and Lila are not alone. Millions of people are burdened with chronic, life-altering symptoms that often are manifestations of something gone awry with the immune system, causing it to turn against the body’s cells. In Bea’s case, the fourth doctor she saw diagnosed her with lupus before she came to see me. Lila found her way to the Edelson Center before getting a diagnosis, which we identified as Crohn’s disease. Both women responded well to our treatment program.

What makes the immune system turn against the very body it inhabits? To understand this process, it helps to first know how the immune system works when it’s healthy.

Meet the Players

The number and types of players involved in maintaining a healthy immune system are great-greater than can be described in detail here. But a basic knowledge of how they operate is important to understanding autoimmunity and any symptoms you may be experiencing. Therefore we explain the purpose of the main players below, since they are referred to again and again throughout this book.

Just as you would use a certain move to shrug off a bear hug and another to ward off an attack to your face, these players have specific moves that contribute to keeping your body functioning optimally. For example:

  • Thymus. This is the master gland of the immune network. Located above the heart, it secretes various hormones that are responsible for regulating immune system functions. It also produces T-cells, which are another major player in immune system functioning (see below). The thymus is extremely susceptible to damage from stress, environmental toxins, infections, and chronic illness.
  • Skin and mucous membranes. Your body’s largest organ is the skin, which is also its first line of defense against intruders. Whenever it is compromised, say, with a cut, burn, abrasion, or puncture, there is an open door for disease-causing organisms to enter. The mucous membranes of the gastrointestinal tract, lungs, vagina, nose, mouth, and so on, are the body’s “internal” skin, and are also a line of defense against invaders.
  • Bone marrow. The center portion of bone is an area rich in blood vessels and other substances. It is here that many types of immune cells are manufactured.
  • Spleen. This dark red organ, located on the left side of the upper abdominal region, manufactures lymphocytes, attacks bacteria, and recycles damaged blood cells.
  • Lymph nodes. These tiny, glandlike structures are found throughout the body, including under the arms, in the groin, and behind the ears. If you’ve ever had “swollen glands,” what you actually had were inflamed lymph nodes. And the reason they were swollen is because the lymph nodes act as an inspection station for foreign substances, which they remove from the body’s tissues.

The lymph nodes prevent these substances from entering the bloodstream and finding their way to the organs.

  • Lymphatic system. This network consists of lymph vessels, lymph nodes, and lymph, a thick fluid that is made up of fat and white blood cells. While the circulatory system is the transportation system for blood, the lymphatic system carries immune cells to parts of the body where they are needed.
  • Lymphocytes. A type of white blood cell, lymphocytes are produced in the bone marrow and are found in the blood and in the spleen, lymph nodes, thymus, and other tissues. Lymphocytes perform four primary functions, all of which must work properly for a healthy immune system. They (1) recognize the invaders; (2) prepare a line of defense; (3) communicate with other essential immune system cells by producing cytokines and deploying them to act against the invaders; and (4) stop the action of the immune cells once their job is done. If any one of these steps goes awry, disease, including autoimmune conditions, can be the result. You’ll be reading more about lymphocytes and their role in autoimmune conditions later. For now, here are some of the major types of lymphocytes and what they do:

B-lymphocytes (B-cells) work along with T-cells as the main line of defense for the body. They look for invading foreign proteins (called antigens) and “tag” or mark them with proteins called antibodies. This tag lets other immune cells know that an invader is in their midst so they can destroy it.

T-lymphocytes (T-cells) reach maturity in the thymus and then circulate throughout both the lymphatic system and bloodstream. They initiate attacks against antigens, direct the fight, and then stop the destruction. T-cells are divided into several types. The ones we will concern ourselves with here are CD4 (helper T-cells), which act as cheerleaders and urge other immune cells to attack; and CD8 (suppressor cells), which make sure the helper T-cells don’t overreact.

Natural killer cells perform the dirty work. While B-cells simply “tag” the invaders, natural killer cells live up to their name and destroy them. They also produce hormonelike chemicals called cytokines.

Macrophages are known as the recyclers of the immune system, because they consume invading organisms, tumor cells, and dead red blood cells. They also produce cytokines.

  • Immunoglobulins. Each B-lymphocyte produces a specific antibody, or immunoglobulin. There are five main types of immunoglobulins, which are named according to their presence in the blood: IgG, IgA, IgM, IgD, and IgE.
  • Interferon. Interferons are a type of cytokine that you will read more about later in this book. There are several types of interferons, including alpha interferon and gamma interferon. For now, it’s important that you know that interferons are powerful antiviral substances and that they are often used to treat cancer and hepatitis.

COMMUNICATION IS THE KEY

These components, along with dozens of others, make up the immune system network. It’s easy to see why with so many components, it would be easy for things to go wrong. For the most part, the immune system functions well because its cells communicate with each other, the brain, and other parts of the system. Their method of communication involves cytokines, hormonelike substances that transmit information among immune cells. Although immune cells don’t have ears, they can detect minute changes in cytokine production, which in turn stimulates them to respond in certain ways, say, by launching an attack against certain invaders.

Some cytokines communicate not only with immune system cells but with nerve cells as well. These specialized cytokines, called interleukins, perform many critical and interesting tasks, some of which help support the idea of the mind-body relationship in medicine. Scientists know, for example, that the brain (a part of the nervous system) plays a key role in controlling our immune system and physical health. (In fact, the microglia in the brain is part of the immune system.) This is obvious when we consider the effects emotional stress and tension have on our body, causing headaches, neck and back pain, stomach distress, and many other symptoms. Thus, interleukins link the immune and nervous systems, a concept that will become more obviously important later when we discuss the effects of stress in people with autoimmune conditions.

Speaking of autoimmune conditions, now let’s talk about when something goes wrong with immune system functioning.

WHEN THINGS GO WRONG WITH THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

Let’s go back to that dark alley. This time your head is down and you’re dragging your feet. You’ve been working hard, you’ve been eating lots of processed fast foods, and you’ve been spending too much time in smoky nightclubs. This time when you’re attacked, the mugger gets the best of you. Your immune cells fight back, but they’re not as effective as they could be. So you get to spend a week feeling miserable with the flu, a stomach virus, or a bad cold.

No one’s immune system operates perfectly all the time. It’s virtually impossible to find a person who has never had a cold, suffered with the flu, had a toothache or ear infection, or gotten an infection from a cut or burn. But in most cases, the body’s immune system eventually overcomes the invaders and the body returns to relative harmony.

Autoimmunity

Unfortunately, there are millions and millions of individuals whose immune systems do not respond normally to an attack. Instead of attacking foreign invaders with antibodies-substances produced by the immune system to fight invaders-the immune system components attack the body’s own healthy cells-perhaps bones, joints, blood, brain, nerves, or other body parts-as if they were the enemy. When the immune system reacts in this way, it is producing autoantibodies-substances that attack healthy cells instead of foreign invaders. This situation is known as an autoimmune response.

More than eighty separate medical conditions have been recognized as being the result of an autoimmune response. Some of them are quite common; others are rare. In this book we concern ourselves with the more common conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis), hyperthyroidism (Graves’ disease), Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, type 1 diabetes, autism, chronic fatigue syndromes, ankylosing spondylitis, autoimmune hepatitis, autoimmune kidney disease, polymyositis, scleroderma, silicone immune toxicity syndrome, Sjögren’s syndrome, and vasculitis.

On the surface, these conditions seem to be quite different. The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (inflamed, painful joints, limited mobility) are different from those common to Crohn’s disease (chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever). Yet the vast majority of autoimmune diseases share several important similarities:

  • a genetic susceptibility for specific autoimmune conditions. It is unknown how many people have a genetic predisposition for autoimmunity and who will experience an autoimmune response; and
  • environmental toxins that trigger the autoimmune response

It is these similarities, which we will discuss in the pages that follow, that have drawn me and other like-minded health professionals to successfully treat these autoimmune conditions using techniques not normally employed by conventional physicians. While conventional medicine simply treats the symptoms, we heal the body by going directly to the origins of the disease-the autoimmune response at the cellular level. To get a better understanding of how we do that, it’s first important to understand why autoimmune conditions develop in the first place. The reason, I believe, is simple: direct damage and free-radical damage to cells from environmental toxins (heavy metals and chemicals).

Free Radicals

Free radicals are highly charged molecules that have an unpaired electron in their outer orbit. They are naturally present in the body and, in relatively small numbers, they perform essential tasks, such as destroying harmful bacteria. But when they increase in number, they can damage DNA, cell membranes, enzyme systems, and immune system functioning.

Because the natural order of the universe is toward balance, and free radicals are unbalanced molecules, they constantly steal electrons from other molecules, which in turn creates more free radicals. Unfortunately, our environment is increasingly becoming tainted with free radicals because of environmental toxins, such as pesticides, radiation, household chemicals, viruses, secondhand smoke, toxic waste, food additives, alcohol, and drugs. When these and other free radicals invade the body, they go on to create even more free radicals and thus have the potential to cause much damage to the body’s cells. The damage that free radicals cause is called oxidation. (Such damage can be avoided or reduced if the body produces or takes in enough protective molecules called antioxidants.

Our bodies are constantly under attack by negative environmental factors, which means we are constantly fighting the effects of oxidation. Being in this state of oxidative stress is what makes us sick. For some people, for various reasons we will discuss later, free-radical damage and oxidative stress cause an autoimmune process and autoimmune disease.

By Power-Surge guest:
Stephen Edelson, M.D

Read the transcript of Dr. Stephen Edelson (Coming Soon)

Hypothyroidism, The Many Myths by Kenneth Blanchard, M.D.   1 comment

THE MANY MYTHS OF hypothyroidism
By Kenneth Blanchard, M.D.

Read the transcript of Dr. Kenneth Blanchard (coming soon!)

blanchardchatThyroid disorders are extremely common and, in my opinion, are often undiagnosed or poorly treated due to a total reliance on laboratory testing and some-long standing but fundamentally flawed principles of treatment. Of the many standard teachings in this area, I believe the most common mistake physicians make in every day practice is to “rule out” hypothyroidism on the basis of laboratory tests .alone, especially use of the TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) test. There are few teachings in medicine more sacrosanct than an elevated TSH test as the “gold standard” for a diagnosis of hypothyroidism. I believe that there are millions of patients (mostly women) who would benefit from thyroid hormone but who are not treated because of results from this test.

A common story in popular magazines is “The Diagnosis your Doctor Will Probably Miss”. The story is that many individuals (mostly women) with symptoms like fatigue, depression, muscle aching, constipation, etc., see a physician who orders a T4 test and, on the basis of this, are told that hypothyroidism has been “ruled out”. The “smarter physician” also orders a TSH test because this is more sensitive and often reveals an abnormality even when T4 results are normal. While this scenario can happen, I believe it is far more common to find both T4 and TSH tests registering normal in the face of significant clinical hypothyroidism. In my practice, if the medical history and physical findings are highly suggestive of hypothyroidism, patients are treated with a therapeutic trial of the hormone and the results are overwhelmingly positive. As of early 2001, opinion in this field is still that the TSH test is absolute, although the upper limit of normal has been questioned, which is starting to include more individuals in this diagnosis.

Another common teaching that I believe to be fundamentally wrong is that all treatment should be done with 1OO% T4 hormone L-thyroxine (Synthroid, Levoxyl, etc.). The normal secretion of the thyroid gland contains small amounts of the T3 hormone (triiodothyronine) and I believe that giving some T3 is an important part of effective treatment for most individuals. The standard medical view is the T3 is unnecessary because T4 is converted to T3 in the body. But many patients taking the standard 100% T4 hormone report chronic fatigue, depression, menstrual abnormalities, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), restless legs and other complaints, and these complaints are almost always better when some T3 is added. This particular teaching in medicine has been breached by a paper appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1999 in which patients on standard 100% T4 were given some T3 and all patients felt better mentally and physically. The use of T3 has been standard in my practice since 1990 and I am quite sure it will be routine in the near future, although many physicians at this point still do not use T3 in addition to T4.

Thyroid hormone activity has a variety of complicated interactions with other hormones. For instance, I believe that thyroid hormone treatment is effective in PMS (premenstrual syndrome) despite the fact .that there are major studies in the literature which say this is not true. It is most likely that PMS fundamentally represents a deficiency of progesterone production prior to menstrual flow, but I believe that normalization of thyroid deficiency enables the woman to make more progesterone, thus relieving the symptoms. The woman in her mid-forties who is just starting to have irregular periods and notices some hot flashes, sweats and sleep disturbance at night can often be treated simply by optimal thyroid replacement, specifically including some T3. While such symptoms are commonly regarded as estrogen deficiency and will respond to the use of estrogen, I find that many such women have normalization of symptoms on proper thyroid therapy alone. The fundamental reason for this may well be that normalization of thyroid function enhances estrogen production by the ovaries themselves and by, the increased production of estrogen in fat tissue from adrenal hormone precursors.

If a woman at this age has frequent migraine headaches that are clearly related to the menstrual cycle (essentially premenstrual), these will often respond to balanced T4- T3 treatment, again possibly because of raising and/or stabilizing levels of estradiol. While clinical depression is not an integral part of menopause, there are many issues at this time of life that can cause emotional upset or depressed feelings. Again, use the T3 hormone in a physiologic way can be very helpful. Indeed, much of the current use ofT3 is in the hands of psychiatrists, who. use it as an adjunctive treatment for depression that is not responding well to standard antidepressants. Although this can be extremely effective, psychiatrists tend to use pharmacologic doses rather then physiologic doses. In other words, they exceed the amount needed to reproduce normal hormone balance. For virtually every purpose, a physiologic dose is desirable since excessive doses yield no additional benefits. I also disagree with the use of Armour thyroid by itself for the same reason, that it does not contain a physiologic balance of T4 to T3. The human thyroid produces roughly 95% T4 and 5% T3. Armour thyroid is an animal thyroid that contains 80% T4/20% T3. People who take Armour thyroid usually feel better for a short period of time because they were deficient in T3 but, after a period of time, the Armour thyroid will cause a T4-T3 imbalance at tissue level and a variety of undesired symptoms can then develop over time. One can get a better balance by giving some T4 with the Armour.

Some doctors are reluctant to prescribe (and some women reluctant to take) thyroid hormones in the belief that this will somehow increase the risk of osteoporosis. . I personally do not believe that there is good evidence for this, although my guess would be that excessive thyroid hormone does contribute to bone loss. Since there is no benefit in going above the normal physiologic levels of thyroid hormone, following the TSH result and clinically monitoring the patient will prevent overdose and resultant adverse effects.

Every organ system in the body is affected to some degree by treatment with thyroid hormone. I believe that the proper treatment of hypothyroidism with physiologic amount ofT4 and TI is critical in managing many complex medical problems at mid-life. If treatment is carefully monitored, there are no adverse effects. Management of hypothyroidism with T4 and TI is significantly more complicated than the standard 100% T4 therapy that has been used for the past 30 years or so. TI dosage must be monitored and altered precisely for optimum effect and this must be done by the use of compounded T3 time-release capsules. These are almost always made in units of 1OO capsules for practical reasons. Patients are initially seen every three months in order to adjust the dosage for the next prescription of T3. Another practice that will eventually become standard in this field is the adjustment of thyroid dosage for seasonal change, i.e., higher dosage in the colder weather and reduced dosage in the warmer weather.

Once dosage has been adjusted over 3 to 5 3-month visits and everything appears stable, visits are done at 6-7 month intervals. Patients must be ready to keep their appointments and take the medication exactly as directed. At the present time, there are many patients on a waiting list so that patients who drop out of the treatment plan fall back to the end of the list. Patients who have difficulty with the practices outlined above should stay with their current therapy.

By Power-Surge guest:
Kenneth Blanchard, M.D

Read the transcript of Dr. Kenneth Blanchard (coming soon!)

Read the Power Surge disclaimer

The 34 Symptoms of Menopause – what they are and how to treat them   30 comments

MaryO’Note: Links are removed from this list


There’s been a list of the “34 signs of menopause” circulating for years. The list originated with Judy Bayliss’ wonderful newsgroup, The Menopaus Listserv (That’s Menopaus without the “e” at the end).

I’ve taken the liberty of adding my own Notes to the original list. You’ll find hundreds of articles pertaining to menopause symptoms, treatments and menopause / midlife-related health and emotional issues including articles on midlife relationships, weight and fitness issues, intimacy, psychological problems associated with menopause in Power Surge’s, “Educate Your Body” extensive library.

I suggest you begin with the comprehensive article explaining what menopause is: in “An Introduction To Menopause: Signs, Symptoms and Treatments”

You’ll find remedies for most of these symptoms on the Recommendations page.

Here is the list of: “The 34 Signs of Menopause:”

1. Hot flashes, flushes, night sweats and/or cold flashes, clammy feeling (related to increased activity in the autonomic / sympathetic nervous system). Without becoming too, technical, messages are sent to the hypothalmus because of declining estrogen production via neurons which result in vasodilation — widening of the lumen of blood vessels (lumen being the cavity of a tubular organ, i.e., the lumen of a blood vessel,) which, in turn, causes flushing or hot flashes. Tips for treating/minimizing (and even avoiding) hot flashes: Power Surge’s Menopause Survival Tips. Also, read the Power Surges (hot flashes) Forum

2. Bouts of rapid heartbeat (related to increased activity in the autonomic / sympathetic nervous system)

Note: Along with rapid heartbeat (palpitations), women can experience skipped heartbeats, irregular heartbeats. These are generally normal vasomotor responses experienced during menopause – usually due to fluctuating hormone levels. However, if these problems continue, it’s always a good idea to be checked by your health care practitioner. An echocardiogram is a common procedure to tell the doctor what he needs to know about your heart. If your health care practitioner doesn’t suggest it, ASK FOR IT! Read the Palpitations, Heart Issues, Hypertension Forum

3. Irritability. Note: Along with irritability, a host of “anger” problems can develop during menopause. Just as a perimenopausal woman can find herself suddenly crying for no apparent reason or provocation, so can she find herself reacting to given situations in an angrier manner than she normally does. This anger can sometimes feel like “rage.”

Again, this is hormone-induced, but for some women, the anger can become inappropriate and a woman can feel like she’s out of control. There’s nothing wrong with seeking counselling to discuss these issues with a mental health professional. This is a challenging time of life and some objective outside help can be tremendously useful in helping a woman cope with all the emotions she’s feeling. Remember, menopause isn’t simply physical changes, but emotional and spiritual changes as well. There’s an excellent forum on the Power Surge Message Board that deals with the issues of Anger / Mood Swings / Rage.

4. Mood swings, sudden tears. Note: Mood swings can include anything from mood shifts (happy one moment, depressed the next) to sudden bouts of crying when nothing overt has occurred to cause the crying. Mood swings can and have been misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder because one can feel such extremes of emotions due to hormone imbalance. Anxiety, depression, panic attacks and even feelings of agoraphobia aren’t uncommon during menopause. The panic attacks often can develop with the onset of hot flashes. For some women, hot flashes can be severe and quite frightening.

5. Trouble sleeping through the night (with or without night sweats). Note: This can develop into insomnia or just waking at 2 in the morning for an hour. Relaxation and breathing exercises can be useful at this time — many women may log onto the Power Surge message boards and are surprised to find so many other women there in the middle of the night. More help on the Insomnia, Sleep Disorders Forum

6. Irregular periods: shorter, lighter or heavier periods, flooding, and phantom periods. Note: A phantom period is when you experience all the symptoms you’re accustomed to having before you menstruate — but… no period comes. This is a common experience during perimenopause before a woman’s period actually stops.

7. Loss of libido (sex drive). Note: Not every woman loses her libido entirely during perimenopause, although some may temporarily. Many women simply have a decreased interest in sex – often it’s simply because they generally don’t feel well and sex is the last thing on their mind! Also, bear in mind that there are many medications that can affect one’s libido, including the anti-depressants some women take to cope with the depression and anxiety associated with menopause to anti-hypertensives.

8. Dry vagina (results in painful intercourse) Note: Click here for an excellent article about vaginal dryness, sexuality and midlife relationships. Recommended: Sexual Issues/Libido Forum

9. Crashing fatigue. Note: I’ve never been able to determine if the “fatigue” associated with perimenopause is a symptom in and of itself, or if it’s a side effect of the cumulative symptoms and general exhaustion (from them) many women experience. Take all the symptoms and “dump” them on one person — is it any wonder perimenopausal women are so fatigued? If you can, try to find time to grab a nap.

One of the things that helped my fatigue, and it’s all chronicled in my personal odyssey to find remedies, is the use of considerable amounts of soy isoflavones and protein, which I found in R Soy. I can’t say that it specifically targetted and relieved the crashing fatigue, but it helped so many other symptoms and gave me a burst of energy, that I feel comfortable in attributing the fatigue relief to R. There are various vitamins, such as those in the “B” family, that can help with fatigue as well. Also, increased amounts of vitamin C. The Recommendations page lists numerous vita-nutrients that can be useful in treating fatigue and other symptoms associated with perimenopause.

10. Anxiety, feeling ill at ease. Note: One of the biggest complaints during menopause. Read the Anxiety/Stress Forum

11. Feelings of dread, apprehension, and doom (includes thoughts of death, picturing one’s own death). Note: It’s possible that this can be a manifestation of depression associated with menopause, or possibly feelings that come from going through daily discomfort through a difficult menopause transition that can last anywhere from 3-12 years.

A woman living under these circumstances can feel totally overwhelmed and frightened by the physical, psychological and spiritual changes. When there seems to be no reprieve from the suffering, for some it can leave them feeling drained wondering when and IF they’ll ever feel well again. It isn’t unusual for women at this time of life to have thoughts about dying. One phase of their life is coming to a close (not soon enough for many). There may be apprehension and fear about moving on to the next phase of life and wondering whether things will get better or worse. Helpful: The Panic Attacks / Disorder / Fear / Apprehension Forum

12. Difficulty concentrating, disorientation, & mental confusion. Note: Forgetfulness during perimenopause is often referred to lightly and humorously as “brain fog” but it’s not always funny. Note: An excellent article, Menopause And The Mind. Also, visit the Memory Loss, Foggy Thinking, Forgetfulness, Verbal Slips Forum

13. Disturbing memory lapses. Note: See #12

14. Incontinence — especially upon sneezing, laughing: urge incontinence (reflects a general loss of smooth muscle tone).

15. Itchy, crawly skin (feeling of ants crawling under the skin, not just dry, itchy skin Note: the feeling of ants crawling on your skin is called “formication”) Visit the Your Skin: Dryness, Itching, Vaginal Dryness, Disorders, Discomfort Forum

16. Aching, sore joints, muscles and tendons. (may include such problems as carpal tunnel syndrome). Note: Osteoarthritis can develop during perimenopause – and those with existing arthritic and/or rheumatic pain may find it’s exacerbated during the menopausal transition. See the Joints Aches and Pains/Arthritis Forum

17. Increased tension in muscles.

18. Breast tenderness. Note: Breast swelling, soreness, pain.

19. Headache change: increase or decrease. Note Many women develop migraine headaches during perimenopause. However, if one doesn’t have a history of migraine headeaches, they’re generally a short-lived experience of perimenopause. Also see the Headaches, Migraine Forum

20. Gastrointestinal distress, indigestion, flatulence, gas pain, nausea. Note: For nausea, try some ginger or, as I use, boiling hot water with a few teaspoons of lemon or lemon juice concentrate in it. Many women also develop acid reflux (Gerd). For some, it can be an uncomfortable feeling of severe burning sensations in the throat. If it persists, see your health care practitioner.

21. Sudden bouts of bloat. Note: Bloating, water retention are common complaints during perimenopause. Also, Acid reflux and heartburn are very common during perimenopause. Treat them as you would if you weren’t going through menopause.

22. Depression (has a quality from other depression, the inability to cope is overwhelming, there is a feeling of a loss of self. Natural hormone therapy, ameliorates the depression dramatically). Note: There are various natural methods of treating depression. Read Power Surge’s Menopause Survival Tips.

Also, many women using progestins or progesterone supplementation experience “depression” as a side effect. Power Surge recommends only naturally compounded, bio-identical hormones. Naturally compounded estrogen and progesterone supplementation doses can be individually adjusted to suit each woman’s needs. So, if a woman is experiencing depression from progesterone, the level of progesterone supplementation can be reduced until the compounding pharmacist comes up with the right blend. The combination of estrogen and progesterone is important in achieving the desired results. Other remedies, such as St. John’s Wort can be very effective in alleviating the depression associated with menopause.

My personal experience was that my perimenopause-related depression was eliminated when I started using R Soy Protein. R is excellent for mood swings, but I was astonished by the impact it had on the hormone-related “lows” I experienced before using it. Also recommended, The Depression Forum

23. Exacerbation of any existing conditions. Note: Often, conditions women had prior to entering perimenopause become
exaggerated (worse) during the menopause transition.

24. Increase in allergies. Note: Many women who suffer from allergies develop worse allergies during the menopausal years. Many women who’ve never had allergy or respiratory problems may develop them for the first time. Many people don’t realize that histamine levels are affected by hormone levels. Women can develop wheezing, coughing and a host of respiratory problems. This generally disappears as the hormones level out once a woman becomes menopausal.

25. Weight gain. (is often around the waist and thighs, resulting in “the disappearing waistline” and changes in body shape.) A good read, Weight Gain and Fitness Issues

26. Hair loss or thinning, head or whole body, increase in facial hair. Note: There is often a loss of pubic hair during menopause. Many women are more comfortable simply shaving their pubic area instead of having patches of hair.

27. Dizziness, light-headedness, episodes of loss of balance. Note: Although common complaints during menopause, I always recommend anyone suffering from dizziness, dysequilibrium have her blood pressure checked just to be on the safe side. However, women can experience these symptoms during perimenopause without having hypertension.

28. Changes in body odor. Note: I wouldn’t be too concerned about this one. It can happen, but in 13 years of running Power Surge, I’ve heard of relatively few cases of developing body odor during menopause.

29. Electric shock sensation under the skin & in the head (“take the feeling of a rubber band snapping against the skin, multiply it (exponentially, sometimes) radiate it & put it in the layer of tissues between skin & muscle & sometimes a precursor to a hot flash.”) Note: Those buzzing sensations, as though you’ve put your finger into a live electrical socket, can be frightening. They’re all part of the hormones, nerve endings and electrical waves running through our bodies when our hormones are constantly fluctuating. Many women experience this during perimenopause, but it eventually passes.

30. Tingling in the extremities (can also be a symptom of B-12 deficiency, diabetes, or from an alteration in the flexibility of blood vessels n the extremities.)

31. Gum problems, increased bleeding.

32. Burning tongue

33. Osteoporosis (after several years)

34. Brittle fingernails, which peel & break easily.

Some additional signs from Dearest:

  • Internal shaking / tremor-like feelings. Read the Internal Shaking Forum
  • Acne and other skin eruptions
  • Itching wildly and erratic rashes
  • Shoulder pain / joints / arthritis development or flare up in
    preexisting conditions
  • “Heart pain” – a feeling of pain in the area of the
    heart (if persistent, get checked by your health care practitioner)
  • Acid reflux / heartburn / difficulty digesting certain foods

Some of the 34 signs may also be symptoms of one of the following:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Diabetes
  • Depression with another etiology
  • Other medical conditions (see The Educate Your Body Library)

If you have reason to believe you may have one of these conditions, see your healthcare practitioner for treatment.

Dearest

Note: Remember that although these may be common complaints during menopause, they might also indicate some other health problem. Be sure to consult with your personal health care practitioner before attributing these symptoms to menopause.