Archive for the ‘stress’ Tag

Menopause and Stress, Adrenal Health   Leave a comment

As a society, we are acutely exposed to daily stresses, be they emotional, physical, or mental. Work situations, family changes and obligations, changes in our bodies and in our health–all of these can contribute to the stress demands on our bodies. Our bodies respond to these stresses in a similar fashion despite the source. Physiologically, each time we are exposed to stresses, our adrenal glands respond by producing certain hormones. One part of the adrenal gland, the adrenal cortex, responds to long and short-term stresses, while the adrenal medulla responds to sudden or alarm situations, producing our “fight or flight” response. With the amount of stress we are exposed to each day, you’d think our adrenal glands were of considerable size, but that isn’t the case. Our adrenals weigh about 5 grams each and reside in our bodies just above our kidneys in the low back area. For small glands, they play an enormous role in our health. Their function also tends to decline over a person’s lifetime, leading some researchers to coin a new term “adrenapause” to define this loss. As such, we need to have ways in which we can keep our adrenal glands healthy.

From a preventive standpoint, we can reduce our exposure to certain stresses, as well as change the degree to which we allow stresses to affect us. This involves making choices about what we subject ourselves to, as well as how we respond to situations we can’t avoid or change. The amounts of hormones, specifically glucocorticoids and catecholamines, that are released by the adrenal glands are directly related to the amount of stress the body endures, and these hormones can affect nearly all the tissues in our bodies. Individuals exposed to long-term stress have higher circulating glucocorticoids than a person who is unstressed does. Certain lifestyle changes, such as exercise, meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga, have all been demonstrated to ease our response to stress. Those who incorporate one or more of these into their days are noticeably more resilient to daily stresses.

We can also address adrenal health through nutritional support and herbs. Vitamin C and the B-complex vitamins are crucial to adrenal health. Being water-soluble vitamins, they are easily depleted and may need regular supplementation, especially in times of stress. Vitamin C is stored in high concentrations in the adrenal glands, which is evidence of its need for this important vitamin. It has been shown that a person’s need for vitamin C varies, depending on what their body is going through at the time. Infection, for an example, can increase the body’s need for vitamin C considerably. Herbs which address adrenal health are referred to as adaptogens, because they help the body adapt to changes, or stresses. Some of the most notable herbs utilized for adrenal support are licorice, ginseng, and astragalus. Astragalus has long been used in Chinese medicine as a tonic. Research has demonstrated its value in enhancing immunity through multiple mechanisms. Ginsengs are commonly prescribed to increase energy and support adrenal function. Research has demonstrated improved functioning under stress as well as increased working capacity following ginseng use. For women, Siberian ginseng appears to be the most appropriate of the ginsengs, as from a Chinese medicine perspective, it is more cooling (less likely to induce hot flashes) and can be used on a regular basis. Borage leaf also provides specific support to the adrenal cortex and can be used daily to support adrenal health.

Diet is another factor that plays a strong role, as it can supply the body with nutrients as well as deplete the adrenals, depending on what choices are made. For example, sugar and caffeine tend to draw energy from the adrenal glands, so stay away from them during times of stress or if you are working at improving adrenal health. In contrast, nutrients that are found in fresh fruits and vegetables supply healthy support for the body. Nutrient-rich foods, like kelp and other seaweed, are good sources of key vitamins and minerals important to glandular health.

A balanced program for supporting adrenal health includes scheduling time to exercise and taking some time for you to be mindful of your stress level and facilitate adjustments when necessary. Remember that treating health holistically means addressing mental, physical, and spiritual aspects of one’s life, for they all affect one another and can contribute to health as well as disease.

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Dry Skin and Menopause   2 comments

Tips For Midlife Dry Skin Issues
by Dearest

Many women at menopause suffer from dry skin problems. I’ve tried everything including the most expensive and promising creams by Lancome, Elizabeth Arden, Estee Lauder — even a cream called — “Very Emollient Cream” by Clinique. The bottom line with moisturizers is that they CAN’T ADD MOISTURE to your skin. What they do is KEEP IN the moisture that’s already there and my question becomes, if it’s not already there, what’s to keep in?

The bottom line is to drink lots of water! Also, keep oil in your diet.

Some of my favorite products for cleansing and moisturizing have water as their #1 ingredient — they are aqueous products. Aqueous simply means that it’s made from, or by means of, water. Water is the most important moisture we need in our bodies, not just applied externally. That’s why drinking as much water as possible is the most helpful thing you can do for your skin externally and your body’s organs internally. If you look at many skin preparations, water is listed almost at the top of the list of ingredients.

You can also start adding oil to your diet. During the menopausal years, our bodies become depleted of oils. You can take a Tbsp of any of the “good” oils, such as canola, safflower, sunflower, olive and swallow it, add it to your salad, or cook with it. Don’t be afraid of oils. This is not the time of life to deprive yourself of oil in your diet. Go to the recommendations page and read about Omega-3 oils and flaxseed oil and how important they are — not only to your heart and general health, but for your skin.

Aquafor is an excellent product for dry skin — probably good because its #1 ingredient is petrolatum, aka vaseline. The only negative about petrolatum products is obvious – they can feel greasy. If you use a petrolatum-based cream, separate a tissue and use 1/2 to gently blot the skin. An excellent product for dry, patchy areas – that you can carry in your purse and apply any time and there’s no greasy residue is Lubriderm’s Advanced Therapy Creamy Lotion for Extra Dry Skin. It’s inexpensive and lubricates nicely. Lubriderm makes excellent products for dry skin. There’s also Moisturel for hands and body. I don’t use any of these for the entire face, but just certain dry, scaly, patchy areas. Another excellent cream is Cetaphil.

Look for products containing at least one of these ingredients fairly high on the list: petrolatum, water, lanolin, and/or mineral oil. Another excellent product for very dry skin is Eucerin. Their original moisturizing cream or their dry skin therapy plus intensive repair cream.

A REALLY IMPORTANT TIP: After cleaning your face, leave a little of the water on your skin — and then apply the moisturizer while your skin is still damp.

I wash my face with an Aqueous Cream, which I found in England. What I like about an aqueous cleanser is that I can rinse it off with water and it still leaves my skin feeling dewy and clean. Many women don’t care for cleansing creams because they feel greasy even after you tissue off the remaining residue. There are cleansing creams you can either tissue or wash off. One of them is Adrienne Arpel’s Signature Club A’s various Meltdown creams. However, there are many good cleansing creams available. There are other aqueous cleansers, such as Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser.

During perimenopause, I developed dry skin on both sides of my nose, under my eyebrows and on my chin. What I’ve found helps more than anything else is regularly using an exfoliant to peel away the layers of dry, dead skin. I regularly use a gentle Buf-Puff around those dry areas. A product helpful for these areas, and for anti-aging, is called Olay’s Regenerist cream or lotion. You’ll pay almost $20.00 for it in a retail store. I bought 3 bottles for under $30.00 on Ebay. I, personally, prefer the creamy lotion to the cream.

Among my favorite products for skin are those by Adrienne Arpel. She’s been around for many years and is one of the nation’s leading skin experts. In fact, I remember having a skin analysis done by HER at Macy’s years ago. She used to appear at the various department stores demonstrating her products. I’ve never seen a savvier businesswoman in my life. Her skin products are the only thing I’ve ever bought from Home Shopping Network on cable TV. They also they have a Web site. Her products are called “Signature Club A” by Adriene Arpel under HSN. I especially like her Five Essentials Face Cream with Retinol and Alpha Hydroxy and her Advanced Formula – Five Essentials Face Cream with Vinoplex and Grape Polyphenols. At the top of each container of cream is an eye formula as well. I also use her Alpha Hydroxy and Retinol Soft Scrub with Vanilla Bean, which is also an exfoliant. It’s an excellent exfoliant containing little microbeads that clean away dry/dead skin.

Another good exfoliant is Neutrogena’s New Deep Clean Gentle Scrub. It does a nice job exfoliating and the beads are large and powerful (unlike Olay’s exfoliant). I realize you can fill your house with thousands of these products until you find the best ones, which is why I’m sharing the names of those I’ve found that work best.

For dry and normal skin, after using a good cleanser, you should use a toner — even if the dryness is around the mouth. A toner will set the ph of your skin back to the proper balance and make it more receptive to the moisturizer you’re going to apply and at midlife, women really need a good skin moisturizer.

You can also use an exfoliant on your hands. They’re great for making your hands look less dry and, therefore, younger. Take a look at your hands right now. See the small dry lines and how much older they look then they did a few years ago? That’s aging. Exfoliants can work wonders. I use Olay’s Regenerist Cream on my hands and forearms every day.

I’ve also used Lancome creams for years. I started 25 years ago with Progres Cream, which is no longer available. Now that I’m in my 50’s, an excellent Lancome moisturizer is called Renergie – Double Performance Treatment, Anti-wrinkle and Firming Cream. Your skin feels incredibly dewy and soft. If you purchase it in a department store, such as Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s or Nordstrom, the cost for a 1.7 oz. jar is approximately $70.00. I’ve purchased it on Ebay for less than half the retail cost.

It’s important to alternate skin care products and shampoos periodically since our skin and hair have a tendency to become immune to them after a while, and they lose their effectiveness. I recommend alternating the products you use. Also, avoid any shampoo that says “detergent” on it.

For severely dry skin and chapped lips, someone recommended a product called Bag Balm. Believe it or not, Bag Balm is primarily used to keep a cow’s udders moist. While doing some research on the product, I was astonished at how many people used it on their skin. When I’ve developed severely chapped lips that haven’t been helped by the traditional Chap Stick or Blistex, Bag Balm has worked.

Needless to say, continual and/or severe dry skin problems should be looked at by a dermatologist. Dry skin can also come from various medications, from not enough water and/or lubrication in the body and, of course, from low estrogen levels. If skin problems persist, or are aggravated by the use of OTC preparations and creams, see a dermatologist. Dry, patchy, scaly skin could be indicative of any number of health issues including anxiety (yes, anxiety can cause dry skin), allergies, eczema, psoriasis, seborrhea, rosacea and many other skin disorders for which there are numerous OTC and prescription creams.

Important Tips for Midlife/Menopausal Skin:

  • Drink plenty of water (at least 5 – 8 oz. glasses a day)
  • Incorporate *healthy oils* into your diet
  • Cleanse your skin morning and night
  • Avoid soaps, especially deodorant soaps
  • Apply moisturizer morning and night
  • Avoid too much sun exposure
  • Wear sunscreen with at least an SPF25 whenever possible
  • Try to avoid stress
  • Other options for skin improvement: Soy Protein / Isoflavones
    and natural, plant-derived bioidentical hormones.