Tag: women’s health

Menopause, Part II: Psychological Well-being

In our previous menopause post, I mused on some perspectives of menopause that are positive and affirming for women. However, I don’t want to downplay the fact that many women experience menopause as a difficult, frustrating, and even disempowering time. (Again, I am using “menopause” to include the perimenopausal period.) As I mentioned in the last post, some researchers estimate as many as 75% of women experience some type of “menopausal distress,” and we don’t talk about it enough. Today I want to examine some of the psychological and emotional facets of menopause. In the final post of this series, we’ll look at self-care techniques and non-hormonal therapies that seem to be the most beneficial.  What Research Suggests About Emotional Well-being During Menopause Obviously menopause is a major life transition—significant biological changes wrapped up in a complex web of personal and sociocultural beliefs, fears, stressors, and stories. It can be a time of great apprehension, confusion, even despair for some women. Others pass right through menopause with hardly a bat of an eye. Still, others welcome and embrace it.  It’s extremely understandable why this would be a challenging time for women. Menopause can be a perfect storm of physical discomfort and cognitive symptoms (brain fog, forgetfulness), sleep deprivation (thanks to those night sweats and hot flashes), and emotional fluctuations. Besides how they feel, these symptoms can affect women’s personal relationships, ability to perform their jobs, and sense of self-worth and self-confidence.  For many women, menopause also coincides with the dual stressors of aging parents and raising teenagers or having a newly empty nest. Plus, menopause is an unmistakable marker of aging, which can evoke complicated feelings as well.  Overall, stress, depression, and anxiety seem to be fairly common during menopause. Recent Guidelines for the Evaluation and Treatment of Perimenopausal Depression commissioned by the Board of Trustees for The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) and the Women and Mood Disorders Task Force of the National Network of Depression Centers describe perimenopause as a “window of vulnerability for the development of both depressive symptoms and a diagnosis of major depressive disorder.” It’s difficult to know exactly how many women are affected. Studies of depression and anxiety are usually conducted on women whose symptoms are severe enough to seek help from their doctors. Researchers estimate that up to 40% of women will experience depression at some point during menopause; it’s unclear how prevalent anxiety might be.  It’s easy to assume that some women become depressed and anxious during menopause because their symptoms are so gnarly. To some degree, that narrative is probably true. Studies do find that women who experience more severe symptoms such as frequent hot flashes also exhibit more depression and anxiety. This makes sense—being physically uncomfortable and unable to get a good night’s sleep can certainly set the stage for poor psychological outcomes.  On the other hand, it’s likely that for some women, depression and anxiety exacerbate the physical and emotional symptoms. That is, depression and anxiety might be a … Continue reading “Menopause, Part II: Psychological Well-being”

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Menopause: Beyond the Stereotypes

Disclaimer: I have not gone through menopause. I am, however, turning 40 this year. Statistically speaking, this is the decade in which I’m likely to enter perimenopause, so I have a vested interest in understanding what might be in store for me. 

I’m all too familiar with the stereotype of the belligerent, out-of-control menopausal lady plagued by hot flashes and mood swings, bewildering her poor, beleaguered partner. [Note that for convenience I am going to use “menopause” to include the perimenopausal period as well.] Frankly, this narrative doesn’t suit me at all. I know very well that hot flashes and mood swings can be a part of menopause, but obviously there’s a lot more to it than that. 

Of course, I want realistic view of what lies ahead so I might prepare mentally, emotionally, and physically. However, I also want the nuances. Plus, as an optimist I want to know the good, not just the bad and the ugly. To my mind, any major life transition is a chance at a reawakening of sorts, even if the road through it is rocky. My natural tendency is to find the silver lining and reframe situations as growth opportunities. 

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Collagen vs. Whey: Which Protein is Best For Your Needs?

Collagen or whey. Which should you choose?

For years, collagen/gelatin was maligned by bodybuilding enthusiasts as an “incomplete protein” because it doesn’t contain all the essential amino acids, nor does it contribute directly to muscle protein synthesis.  There’s definitely truth to this. If you ate nothing but gelatin for your protein, you’d get sick real quick. That’s exactly what happened to dozens of people who tried the infamous “liquid protein diet” fad of the 70s and 80s, which relied heavily on a gelatin-based protein drink. Man—or woman—shall not live by collagen alone.

As for whey, it’s an extremely complete protein. It’s one of the most bioavailable protein sources around, a potent stimulator of anabolic processes and muscle protein synthesis. I consider it essential for people, especially older ones in whom protein metabolism has degraded, and for anyone who wants to boost their protein intake and get the most bang for their buck.

This said, which is best for your needs today? Let’s take a look….

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Is 50 the New 70? How the Modern Lifestyle Is Remaking Middle Age

“Do not go gentle into that good night.” That’s one of my favorite lines in all of literature, and it informs my outlook on health, life, wellness, and longevity.

Live long, drop dead. Compression of morbidity. Vitality to the end. All that good stuff.

But I’m sorry to report that Dylan Thomas imploring you to assail life with boldness is becoming harder for the average person to fulfill and embody. People more than ever before are heading into middle age with a head-start on the degenerative changes to body composition and function that used to only hit older folks. They may want to go boldly into that good night, but their bodies probably won’t be cooperating.

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Diastasis Recti: What To Know

Today’s post is part two of a postpartum series inspired by a reader question. You can read part one here.

Diastasis recti (DR) is usually described shorthand as a separation of the ab muscles. More accurately, it’s a deformation of the linea alba, the line of connective tissue that runs down the front of your torso from your ribcage to your pelvis. The linea alba is basically where all the abdominal muscles meet in the middle; I think of it like the spine of a book. When the linea alba becomes deformed for reasons I’ll discuss in a moment, the rectus abdominis muscles, aka your “six-pack” muscles, pull apart. This is the (often visible) sign of DR.

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Does Diet Influence Menopause Timing?

Last week, I linked to a story about a popular vegan blogger, author, and influencer who found herself going into menopause at the age of 37 despite doing “everything right.” She exercised, she ate raw, she avoided gluten and refined sugar, and, most importantly, she avoided all animal products. Now, this wasn’t a randomized controlled trial. This wasn’t even a case study. But it was a powerful anecdote from someone whose livelihood depended on her remaining a raw vegan. It wasn’t in her interest to make it up.

So, it got me wondering: How do diet and lifestyle influence the timing of menopause?

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Postpartum Body Image: Primal Perspective

Today’s post was inspired by a question that came in from a reader who is struggling with depression and body image issues after having children. I asked my colleague Dr. Lindsay Taylor, being a psychologist and a mother herself, to step in.

Having witnessed all the wondrous changes that women’s bodies go through during and after pregnancy with my wife Carrie, I’d like to add my support and encouragement to my readers who struggle with these issues.

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Keto and the Menstrual Cycle: Is There Reason To Worry?

It seems every “keto for women” forum abounds with stories about menstrual cycles gone wild in the first few months of keto. Irregular cycles, breakthrough bleeding, and periods lasting much longer than normal are common complaints. Sometimes these stories are cited as evidence that keto isn’t good for women, at least not premenopausal women, and that we need carbs for healthy hormones. Yet, many women don’t notice any changes in their menstrual cycles at all, while others report improvement in PMS symptoms and cycle regularity from the get-go.

What gives? Why do some women’s cycles apparently become wacky when they start keto, while others feel like keto is the key to period bliss? Can keto “mess up” the menstrual cycle?

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Dear Mark: Iron Followup

Last week’s post on iron levels got a big response and garnered a ton of questions from you guys. Today, I’m going to clarify a few things and answer as many questions as I can. First, do iron and ferritin levels mean different things for men and women? If so, how do those differences manifest? What about premenopausal women vs postmenopausal women? Second, what do we make of the fact that ferritin is also increased in times of inflammation? Is there a way to distinguish between elevated ferritin caused by inflammation and elevated ferritin caused by high iron? Third, is desiccated liver a good option for liver haters? And finally, I share some exciting plague news.

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Explaining Keto and Hair Loss (and Why Any Dietary Change Might Cause It)

So you start your keto diet, and things are going well. You’re dropping excess fat, your carb cravings are noticeably reduced, your energy is steady throughout the day… and then one day you start to have the sneaking suspicion that you’re shedding more hair than usual. After a few days, it’s unmistakable: your hair is definitely falling out at an alarming rate.

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