Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Taking Time to Listen to Your Body

I'm going to have this post do double duty, since I'm still recovering from vacation. This will also be posted on my PMDD site, but applies to women's hormonal health and the need to listen to and take care of our bodies in general. That said, here goes:

I’ve been scanning the PMDD loops and forums, and there are so many women out there crying out for help. As I read the posts, I can pinpoint some things they are doing to make their PMDD worse, without even realizing it. Nobody intentionally wants to make themselves feel badly, especially a PMDD woman. We know—even if at times it seems only like a distant memory—what it feels like to feel good, and we want to feel that way all the time.

As I said last week, the information is out there. The problem is it’s scattered all over the place, and some of it isn’t quite true. Some of it is slanted toward getting us to purchase products in which the author of that information has a financial interest. In the interests of my research I’ve bought several books and tapes and products designed to make me feel better, even “cure” my PMDD. Most have failed, because the information they are based upon is faulty to start with.

For instance, there is one doctor who insists over and over again in his literature that PMDD is caused by using birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy. If that is the case, I shouldn’t have it, because I’ve never used either. But a vast majority of women have used one or the other, and so by claiming that they cause PMDD, he is guaranteed to have a wide range of women wondering if that is the cause of their PMDD and flocking to buy his products. Instant consumer base.

Based on the scientific information I have read, in particular the information produced in the past five years—information which is not referred to at all in this doctor’s literature--it’s clear that birth control pills and hormone replacement therapies worsen your PMDD, but do not cause it. The studies I have read indicate that overall there is some relief in the initial months when using these methods to treat your symptoms of PMDD—and that is all you can do with these methods—treat the symptoms—because neither of these treatment methods address the underlying cause of PMDD.

But after a certain period of time—usually several months—both clinical studies and anecdotal stories show that birth control pills and hormone replacement therapies make your PMDD worse. And if that’s not enough misery for you, when you stop taking these drugs for your PMDD, your PMDD worsens even more. Because your body has to do all that additional work to recover from the damage that was done to your hormonal balance through using these methods of treatment. The bottom line is you end up feeling worse than you did before you started these treatments.

Realize now that the failure was not yours. The failure was in the treatment, which is at best a one-size fits all treatment for what is a highly individualized disorder.

I have not used bio-identical hormone replacement treatment, so can not address that subject here. At this point I’m still on the fence about that. I have been able to manage my PMDD symptoms through rest, diet, nutritional supplements, and exercise. I still have episodes, but they are mild compared to what they once were, and more than manageable. I would like to make them go away completely, and in the interests of doing so (and research!) hope to try bio-identical hormone replacement therapy in time, but have yet to find a doctor in my area who will prescribe them. So for now I muddle along, but again, my symptoms are mild and more than manageable.

Two other things that make your PMDD worse are:

Any prescribed drug, including anti-depressants.
Any over the counter drug, including NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs—that’s right—ibuprofen. That wonderful substance that does wonders for our cramps and sore joints only adds to our PMDD burden.

I’m not saying to never take drugs again. There are genuine disorders, diseases, and conditions that can not be managed any other way. I’m saying you need to be aware that these things make your PMDD worse, and that it’s not just you and you’re not crazy.

For instance when you reach for that bottle of ibuprofen, you need to reach for it knowing you’re making a trade off…relief from your cramps now, or relief from your PMDD later.

Just knowing this makes me pause, and decide whether my cramps and aches are really bad enough for me to need that ibuprofen. Or do I really just need some rest and relaxation to give my body the time it needs to deal with the inflammation on its own?

Dealing with PMDD is more about awareness than anything else. It’s making ourselves aware of what our body is trying to tell us. For example, we need magnesium—chocolate craving—we need carbs—to boost the level of serotonin in our brain—we need sleep—to allow our brains can naturally re-regulate themselves.

Our bodies are designed to heal themselves naturally, given the right nutrients and rest. In our busy society, more often than not, we don’t have the time to stop and listen to what our bodies are telling us. We’ve been conditioned to carry on, no matter what, and consume whatever pill, food, or drink is handy to get us through. Recently I heard an ad on the radio for some kind of product you can puff into your mouth that brings you up to five more hours of energy. It has some nutrients in it to make it sound healthy, but it also has a heavy dose of caffeine—which cancels out any questionable benefits of the nutrients added. Never mind that a PMDD woman needs to avoid caffeine like the plague.

This company promotes their product as something you can take in the afternoon to get you through the rest of the day. So you can be even more productive than you already are. It’s touted as a good thing. Something to make you virtually indefatigable. In our case, a superwoman.

But if you’re tired, your body is telling you that you need rest, not that you need something to override your body’s natural warning system that you’re heading for a breakdown.

So sure, if you use this product--or any of the countless ones just like it you can find next to cash registers at any number of stores--you get the added boost for that particular afternoon. But what about the damage you are doing to your body, which is already screaming for relief? What about the price you will pay with a whopper of a PMDD episode down the line?

Is it really worth it? Or don’t you deserve any better?

1 comment:

jodi said...

I saw that commercial. Nothing like being all tired--and then all refreshed, just in time to work harder. *sigh*

I had the most horrible caffeine headache the other day...