Posts made in May, 2008


Posted by on May 31, 2008 in women's health | 1 comment

This is a picture of my favorite wooden rollercoaster. It’s in Coney Island, New York. I haven’t ridden it in awhile but I remember that the seat bar was always so loose that you had no real security during the ride. It was even worse in reverse. So it was always hard to know what to expect, when to expect it, and truly, what to do…other than hang on for dear life and hope for the best. But somewhere, in the recesses of your mind, you knew that the ride would end eventually and you’d be fine.

Just like perimenopause.

I’ve posted a few times about acupuncture, herbs, and most recently, about discerning information that comes out of studies. To help clear the confusion a bit, I spoke with acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Specialist, Elaine Stern, L.Ac. I’ll be posting that interview over the next couple of days. Stay tuned! Oh, and have a hot dog on me!

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Dazed and Confused

Posted by on May 29, 2008 in women's health | 0 comments


A gal pal mentioned to me this morning that she often feels so confused about study findings proving or disproving the value of certain medications or herbs that she often just throws up her hands and does nothing. Many of us are as dazed and confused as she is so that I thought that a few key points about clinical studies might help.

Mike Clarke from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Trinity College in Dublin wrote a great article last year about the need to standardize results of studies for a specific disease ( in this case, rheumatoid arthritis). He defined the problem as follows:

“Every year, millions of journal articles are added to the tens of millions that already exist in the health literature, and tens of millions of web pages are added to the hundreds of millions currently available. Within these, there are many tens of thousands of research studies which might provide the evidence needed to make well-informed decisions about healthcare. The task of working through all this material is overwhelming enough without then finding the studies of relevance to the decision you wish to make…”

So what do you do? A few key points:

  • Consider that every study has the potential for bias. Perhaps researchers are using 7 instruments to measure depression and only highlight findings from 3 of these in order to preserve the most positive or significant results. Clearly, the reader is being led towards certain outcomes and away from others.
  • Study designs, types of patients studied, age of patients studied, gender, you name, can differ so it’s difficult, if not impossible to draw definitive conclusions when comparing results of one to another.
  • Another issue of great interest to practitioner of Western medicine is whether or not a study is controlled. This means that two groups are compared that are identical in every way except one group is given an experimental treatment and the other, a placebo or standardized treatment. Note that often, real world conditions are often recreated rather than conducted in a real world setting and many studies are not controlled, meaning that the science behind the findings is questionable.
  • Alternative and complementary medicines are still incompletely understood among many practitioners of Western medicine. What’s more, products are not regulated as carefully as medicinal agents and manufacturing practices vary. Consequently, studies of these agents or modalities are often inconclusive. And of course, often underfunded and under-appreciated.

No wonder we all feel so dazed and confused!

I’ve written several times about the importance of consulting a practitioner or medical expert before embarking on any regimen for perimenopausal symptoms. Even if you only see someone once, at least that dialogue may be useful for defining a regimen that may work best for you and what you’re going through. And if you live off the beaten track without access toa good practitioner, well then excellent resources like Medline or the American Botanical Council may be be of help in discerning what’s what.

The short answer is that there are no short answers. But with careful guidance and a bit of prudence, you may just be able see the light and smooth out the bumps on this rollercoaster ride we’re all on.

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Needles anyone?

Posted by on May 28, 2008 in hot flash, sleep disturbance | 0 comments

According to a study in Holistic Nursing Practice, acupuncture directed at menopausal-specific sites can substantially alleviate hot flashes and sleep disturbances. Too good to be true? I think that this is a topic that deserves a lot more attention. Stay tuned!

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Posted by on May 27, 2008 in heart disease, women's health | 0 comments

Seems that moderate alcohol consumption helps overall well-being among perimenopausal women!

Recent study findings show that women undergoing the menopause ‘transition’ who consume alcohol at moderate levels (~ one drink daily), don’t smoke and exercise feel better than those who don’t drink. What;s more, another study suggests that older (i.e., 70 to 75 years of age) women who do not drink have a greater risk of death and poorer health-related quality of life than women who consumed one or two drinks a day.

Back in March of this year, I also reported that researchers had found a link between moderate alcohol intake in middle age and a decreased risk of heart disease, even among individuals who never drank before this time.

That’s part one of this story. Strangely enough, having risk factors for heart disease increases the likelihood for an earlier menopause. These data in particular, compiled from the landmark Framingham Heart Study and reported by the American Heart Association, actually go against common beliefs that a depletion in hormones causes an increased risk for heart disease in women after menopause.

Granted, one study does unequivocally prove something. But what is apparently clear from these three trials is that one or two drinks a day, especially red wine, may prove to help women decrease their risk for heart disease and also, provide a counterbalance for symptoms that cause moods to run amuk.

Sounds like good news to me. Cheers!

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Partly cloudy

Posted by on May 25, 2008 in emotions | 0 comments

[Credit: ‘Depression.’ Bronze. 2000. Created by Susan Paloschi.]

[Special thanks to Susan Paloschi for permission to use this image. Please visit her website to see the rest of her works.]

Last week I posted information about a small study that shows that depression during the perimenopausal years can be alleviated by exercise. I believe that this topic is truly worthy of further exploration.

Seems that women entering the perimenopause have a two-fold higher risk of developing significant symptoms of depression than women who are not undergoing this transition. This is especially true of women already experiencing hot flashes. What’s more, this risk tends to occur in women who had never previously experienced any depressive symptoms. While fluctuating hormone levels may not be the only culprits, research suggests that they have a direct involvement.

So in addition to exercise, what can you do to counteract occasional or persistent feelings of depression? Firstly, take comfort in knowing that these feelings, like your declining hormones, are transient and may eventually dissipate. If symptoms are severe enough, a low-dose antidepressant can definitely help as well. In fact, I know quite a few women who have gone on antidepressants to help stabilize their moods during the perimenopausal period. A thorough evaluation by a gynecologist, followed by a session by a psychiatrist, can determine if a short-term of antidepressants may help.

If you prefer to go the herbal route, St. John’s wort might be of help.  St. John’s wort has been used for centuries for mood disorders, and while data suggest that it might not be effective for major depression,  there is solid evidence from clinical trials to support its use in milder cases. Be aware that you may not exeperience relief immediately since like many herbal therapies, it takes awhile to kick in. Again, it’s best to see a specialist in herbal medicine who can guide you with regards to dosage and regimen and also advise  on possible contraindications, if any.

I’m a true believer that the sun can shine through on partly cloudy days. When the blues hit, well, there is definitely some steps you can take. It’s all about finding an approach that works for you.

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