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~Seek first to understand, then be understood~
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If you're looking for information on a particular topic, type that word in the search box below. If I have written about that subject, a list of posts will appear. If no posts come up, I haven't written about it...yet. Emails, and questions in the comments section for possible posts, are welcome.
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I have a "friend" who shows up once a month. She turns my world upside down, over and over again.
I am a good person, caring and sweet, but when she comes to visit, I could rip off your head.
She takes no prisoners, foul words she does spout, I try to keep the words in, she lets them come out.
People don't understand me, or what this is about, to have this creature inside my head.
I despise who I am, half of the time, I feel sorry for my daughter, family and friends.
There's no way to describe it, for those who don't know, it's a living nightmare, she really needs to go.
~Neysia Manor, Rest in Peace

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What's Special About Progesterone

Getting a late start today. It’s the last week before school starts and all is in chaos :). Today I want to write more about progesterone, since the subject came up. Again, I want to say there I nothing wrong with taking natural progesterone if your progesterone levels are low, but how are you going to know they are low without a blood serum test of your levels, taken during at least two different points in your cycle? Hormone saliva tests are notoriously inaccurate, and if you look closely, you’ll notice most companies that produce these saliva tests also conveniently produce product formulations that you can take to boost whatever their tests determine you are lacking in.

Some other day I will tell you about my experience with saliva hormone testing. Today I want to focus on progesterone and what it does for you.

Actually, it’s a good thing. Progesterone in and of itself is wonderful, and has a wonderful purpose. You know that it rises during the second half of your cycle, starting to rise just before ovulation. And as it does, it settles your mood and slows down your digestive system. That’s right. Just like progesterone smoothes out your mood, it smoothes out the muscles in your digestive tract to allow your body more time to process what you have eaten, and grab every morsel of nutrition it can from the food you eat before sending the waste on its way.

This is a big part of what causes that full, bloated feeling you get the last half of your cycle, and this is what often causes constipation during the same time frame.

Why? Because your body, in all it’s miraculous wisdom, is preparing to sustain a child. Your body doesn’t know (or care) whether you’re trying to get pregnant or not, so every month during your reproductive years it faithfully prepares to sustain a fertilized egg, whether you need it to or not. Slowing down your digestive system is just one way your body has of making sure that baby gets every ounce of nutrition it can get so that it will thrive in your womb.

When no egg is fertilized, the level of progesterone in your body drops, and this causes the buildup of tissue in your uterus to slough off because it isn’t needed, and pass out of your body via the blood you shed during your period.

Unfortunately, it also causes your mood to plummet.

But progesterone has a definite purpose. A purpose that drives women mad on the months when we are not hoping to conceive, because it makes us puff up and think we are fat. But all of that is just our body trying to hold on to the nutrients we have ingested…just in case.

Another time progesterone surges is during the first trimester of pregnancy, and that’s for the same reason. So that the baby growing inside you has the best chance your body can give it of getting all the nutrition it needs to survive.

Now, about those mood swings. During the last two weeks of your cycle, progesterone also causes your brain to at first become more relaxed and sedated, all warm and fuzzy, then gradually (and sometimes not so gradually), as the level of progesterone drops, more irritable, less focused, and a little slower. This is part of why you’re more sensitive to stress in the second half of your cycle.

Then, when no egg is fertilized and the level of progesterone in your system abruptly drops, this leaves your brain feeling somewhat shell-shocked. This is when you start snapping and screaming at your loved ones. Because your brain is feeling the effects of progesterone withdrawal, just like any addict goes through withdrawal when the source of their feel-good drug of choice is no longer available.

Our reactions to this loss of progesterone include feeling aggressive, negative, hostile, and/or even hopeless and depressed. This is when we weep at the drop of a hat, weep uncontrollably, become really obnoxious and confrontational, have panic attacks, and/or contemplate suicide.

Just like an addict.

So when we need it, progesterone is a very good thing.

When we don’t, it causes trouble.

What happens when we get too much?

Please read my previous post.

In closing, please try to be patient with yourself and understand that you really are not in control of this miraculous, yet incredibly frustrating (given our modern lifestyle) cycle that takes place inside your body each month, other than to provide your body with the best possible work and living environment and nutrition that you can--so that your body can do its job the way nature intended for it to do.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Progesterone Treatment for PMDD -- Is it for you?

Update:  I am working on a new post about progesterone, progestins, and bio-identical progestins, to be posted in December of 2012.  In the meantime, my post, What's Special About Progesterone? is good to read as background material.  Thank you, and have a great day!

A couple of weeks ago I received a comment from a reader, suggesting I look into saliva hormone testing and progesterone creams if I intend to give advice on how to manage PMDD. To that reader I want to say thank you for speaking up, because it gives me a direction to go in today. My blog is still young, only three months old, and with posting only once a week I’ve gotten nowhere near to telling you about all the things I have tried, experienced, researched, and discovered in the past ten years. But questions or comments give me an idea of what people are interested in reading about, so I very much appreciate them.

One thing you’ll notice on my blog is I don’t recommend something unless I’m sure it will be helpful to a lot of women. I know how busy you are, and how desperate you are for relief, so I don’t want to waste your time, or send you on any wild goose chases that will only further demoralize your efforts to be well.

Part of what convinces me something is helpful is when I read about a type of treatment from an unbiased source. In my reading and experience, the proponents of progesterone treatment (both synthetic and bio-identical) are anything but unbiased. This makes me naturally wary of them. In my day job, I edit books, and as an editor, particularly an editor of crime fiction, suspense thrillers, mysteries, and whodunits, it’s almost second nature any more for me to spot inconsistencies in a story. My son goes crazy when we watch NCIS and after the show, I say, “Yes, but what about…?” and I show him how the plot was manipulated to suit the episode.

In general I’m a trusting person, but when it comes to my wealth or my health, I am biased toward the skeptical. Nobody is going to look out for my financial welfare or health and well being better than me. And if I don’t do it, don’t set the example or standard of what I will or won’t go for, no one else will.

Why should they? It’s not their pocketbook or health being depleted. No skin off their nose, right?

So…back to the progesterone question. This week I collected all my books on women’s health and wellness, and hormonal imbalances in particular. Put them all on the same shelf, so that I can easily find what I am looking for. One of these days I’ll print a list of all the books I’ve read, but I won’t recommend them unless I know they can be of specific help to YOU, or whoever is asking a particular question or needs advice. No need to encourage people to run around buying and reading books that won’t do them any good anyway. And I’m not here to impress you with my hormonal library. I’m here to help you if I can.

To that end, I’ve read at least 12-15 books on women’s hormones, and hormonal imbalances alone. Unfortunately, in every one I’ve read that recommends saliva testing and/or progesterone creams, they also happen to have a financial interest in the outcome of your testing and the product they are promoting.

I have yet to find one book-writing or online-type doctor who recommends progesterone treatment for the sake of progesterone treatment alone.

On the other hand, I have yet to read from one unbiased doctor—meaning one who does not also sell supplements and/or progesterone cream—that progesterone treatments work to eliminate PMDD.

The best (meaning unbiased, so I consider it reliable) information I have come across is that progesterone cream relieves some of your PMDD symptoms, while it can and quite often does make other symptoms worse. Why? Progesterone decreases serotonin. What creates the first D in PMDD? A dip in your serotonin levels. Serotonin lifts depression.

So while studies have shown progesterone has a Valium-like effect on the brain and some women will feel relief from pre-menstrual anxiety and tension--you know, that fear, that panic, that wanting to jump out-of-your-skin edginess, that feeling that makes you want to hit somebody--anybody--that irritibility that has you snapping for no logical reason at all at your co-workers and loved ones--increased progesterone can also have negative effects, including

headaches
mood swings
irritability
breast tenderness
bloating
increased appetite
food cravings
feeing fat
and no sex drive

In other words, PMS symptoms. But isn’t that part of what we’re trying to get away from to start with?

The bottom line is this: If you’re using progesterone cream and any or all of these things are happening to you, that may be why. Ditto if you’re taking progesterone orally, be it alone or as part of a birth control pill or some other form of hormone replacement therapy.

But beware: if progesterone treatment is stopped abruptly, it can produce withdrawal symptoms similar to that of benzodiazepines, barbituates, and alcohol.

So if you’re taking it orally, and want to stop, you need to withdraw slowly, and under your doctor’s supervision.

Note: Studies show that synthetic progestins in birth control or hormone therapy regimens can increase the frequency and severity of headaches in women, including migraines. Progestin-only types of contraceptives, like Norplant and Depo-Provera, you especially need to watch out for.
But back to the question of progesterone cream. I myself tried progesterone cream, looking for that magic bullet. I tried it for four months. Any and all of the programs that promote it say you should notice a discernable change within three months, even if you have severe PMDD. I noticed a lessening of some symptoms, a pleasant steadiness in my mood, but it did not seem to have any overall effect on my PMDD. It still comes around like clockwork, and when it comes, it hits hard.

Part of the problem with the creams is that they are not regulated. So you never know how much you are getting in a dose. Or even if you’re getting what you’re supposed to be getting, depending on what brand you use. Never get one that is not pharmaceutical grade micronized progesterone, and those easily run $30 to $50 a tube or bottle.

Some on-line doctors have gotten around this uneven dosage problem by providing pumps that supposedly pump out the exact dose you need, or by providing pre-packaged doses guaranteed to contain 50 mg of micronized progesterone in them. If one packet or squirt doesn’t work—try two that day, or more.

Seems rather hit or miss to me. And one doctor I recently read (I wish I could remember which one right now) said you’d have to practically bathe in the progesterone cream to make any difference if the real underlying problem was a progesterone deficiency.

So that’s why I don’t recommend it. I won’t recommend anything here that I am not absolutely, positively sure will help women. We’ve been led astray too many times already by people more concerned with their bottom line than the state of our pocketbook or health and well being. When I read the blog comments on other blogs by women suffering from PMDD I can see right away things that are contributing to their PMDD that their doctors refuse to acknowledge or simply don’t know or care about.

I won’t do that to you here. Here you will be listened to, and I will answer you to the best of my ability. If I don’t know something, I will tell you I don’t know anything about that, and then I will stay up nights looking it up in order to provide an answer at a later date. If there’s a need, I will do what I can to fill it. We’re all in this boat together, and what I learn while researching your question, may in the end help me or others as well.

So it’s all good.

Thank you again for your question, and anyone else who has a question, please either leave it in the comment section, or email me privately at info(at)livingwithpmdd.com. Your privacy will always be protected. Even if you give me your name, I won’t use it here in my blog.

Until next week, be informed, and be well :).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Liana's PMDD Website Finally Launched!

I’ve been working on a book about PMDD for the past year and a half. For a time I had an agent interested, but in the end, she said it was a niche book, (meaning it wouldn’t have mass market appeal) and she passed on it. One of the drawbacks, she pointed out, was that I don’t have any sets of initials behind my name, so can’t claim I’m an expert on the subject.

Funny, how living with something for forty years, day in and day out, doesn’t qualify you as an expert on the subject. But there you have it. The bottom line was I didn’t have the right credentials or a platform--also known as a ready-made audience just waiting to grab my book off the shelves.

Now, six months later, I can see why she said what she did. I’ve bought and read countless books about PMDD and women’s hormones in general, and quite frankly, the information is already out there. Some of it highly technical, some of it garbled and distorted along the way, some of it just plain off-the-wall wrong, and some of it a thinly disguised marketing ploy to sell drugs or supplements and such, but overall, the information you need to manage your PMDD is out there.

On the other hand, you can go to the loops and forums and blogs, and read heartbreaking stories of women crying out for relief from their PMDD. Women with their lives and relationships in chaos. Women considering, planning, and attempting suicide because of it.

My question was (and is) why isn’t group A, those who suffer from PMDD, connecting with Group B, those who write about it and have information that would help women to understand and manage their PMDD?

I’m all about connections, networking, and relationships, so I’ve put my book on hold and shifted my focus to create this blog and a matching website to bring the two together. The website launched this week and is very incomplete, as I’m still writing the content for it, but I wanted you to be able to finally see what I’ve been working on these past few months and where I intend to go with it.

How did this all of this come about? Well, one day in April (a few weeks after the agent rejected my book proposal) I’m walking at the Y, participating in my 100 miles in 100 days challenge, just going around in circles around the track and letting my mind wander, when all of a sudden an image of a water lily comes to me, fully formed, along with the words, Living on a Prayer, Living with PMDD.

I don’t know why that happened, or how, but when I stopped to think about it, I realized that’s what it’s like for me, living with PMDD. Some days I feel like all I’m doing is living on a prayer, getting through by the grace of God. If nothing else in the past ten years, I’ve learned nothing short of my faith is going to get me through this debilitating disorder that can and does lead other women to attempt suicide.

Anyway, I finished my walk, then went home and hit the internet, looking for pictures of water lilies. I found the perfect one three pictures in, but of course (being slightly OCD), had to keep looking to see if there were any better ones available.

There weren’t any better ones, but there were a ton of options. And so my idea began to expand. I contacted my favorite web designer, and she said to send her the pictures I’d chosen and we’d come up with something. In the end, I think we’ll use all the pictures I chose, because to me, each one represents a different facet of having PMDD.

But once that was done, all the pictures were chosen, I wanted to know…Why a water lily? I’m not really into flowers, and don’t like the water at all, especially dark, murky water, so I looked up the symbolism of water lilies.

This is what I discovered: Lotus: Water Lily: The Lotus flower is symbolic of rebirth, but in addition to its religious meaning, the lotus is also a symbol of all that is true, good and beautiful, representing good fortune, peace, and enlightenment…In modern times the meaning of a lotus flower links closely with religious symbolism and meaning. A lotus represents life in general. As the lotus flower grows up from the mud into an object of great beauty, people also grow and change into something more beautiful. So the symbol represents the struggle of life at its most basic form.

Lotus flower symbols are also popular for people who have gone through a hard time and are now coming out of it. Like the flower, they have been at the bottom in the muddy pond, but have risen above this to be an object of beauty or represent a life of beauty as the case may be.

Thus the lotus flower or blossom can also represent a hard time in life that has been (or can be) overcome.

I’d say that captures my (or any woman’s) struggle with PMDD perfectly.

Take care and God bless, and may your week be a happy one.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Summary of What A PMDD Woman Needs to Avoid So Far...

Today I’m going to do a summary of the past few blog posts. I’ve chosen to start with sharing what NOT to do if you want to feel better as opposed to starting with what you CAN do to feel better. Why? Because even if you do the kinds of things which in a perfect world should make anyone feel better--such as eat whole foods, drink plenty of filtered water, exercise, and get plenty of rest—as long as you’re still doing the kinds of things that can make your PMDD worse all your positive efforts won’t matter. At best you’ll be canceling out the good with the bad and will still feel miserable and won’t have any idea why. You only get even more frustrated because your well-intentioned efforts to the good don’t seem to make any difference, and you might want to give up on trying, and then give up on hope.

Never give up hope. Never. This disorder can be managed, and it can be done without surgery or drugs.

You just have to be very careful about the way you live your life. You have to increase your awareness of the world around you, and you have to make conscious choices as to what to accept and what to avoid. If you don’t make your own health and wellbeing a priority, nobody else will, and that’s a fact. That much is true for anyone with any kind of condition. Nobody is going to do the hard work for you. You have to do it for yourself. PMDD is no different from any other disorder in that regard.

Fortunately, a lot of what contributes to overall health and wellbeing—and what detracts from it—is the same no matter what your condition. But in the case of a PMDD woman, since we are extra sensitive to just about everything, we need to be extra careful with what we eat, drink, and ingest.

That said, just a few of the things we need to avoid in order to feel better are listed below:

1. Chlorinated pools
2. Alcohol
3. Caffiene—this includes energy drinks as well as caffeinated coffee, tea, and cocoa
4. Chocolate—with the exception of a small piece of dark chocolate daily
5. Nicotine
6. Refined sweeteners—including sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, or any processed sweetener.
7. Sugar-Free Food and Drinks
—including Splenda (Sucralose)—(you know what gives Splenda that lovely granulated look that reminds you of sugar? Chlorination!)--Nutrasweet and Equal (Aspertame)
8. Prescription Drugs in General, but especially
9. Anti-Depressants
10. Birth Control Pills, Yaz in particular (see video at the bottom of the page)
and
11. Artificial Hormone Replacement Therapy
(not bio-identical hormone replacement therapy)
12. Over The Counter Drugs in General
13. NSAIDS in particular
14. Processed food—anything containing sugar, corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup in particular
15. Low Fat Everything -- just eat less instead of buying all that low-fat stuff—studies show it doesn’t work to help you lose weight anyway
16. Artificial Anything

This is impossible, you say. I can’t avoid all of that. Fine. Don’t. Keep putting stuff in your body that makes you feel rotten, then going to doctors for drugs that aren’t helping and in fact make you feel even worse. It’s your choice. All I’m here to do is make you aware that you do have other choices. They are hard choices, to be sure, and confusing choices at times, because of all of the conflicting information out there, but you know the truth. Your body tells you the truth every day. It tells you by the way you feel. Your body knows you CAN live without all these substances you’ve come to depend on to get you through your day, and you CAN feel better.

Put it this way:
What do you have to lose by giving up any or all of the things listed above?
What do you have to gain?

Think about it. Awareness is the key. I can’t say that enough. I still drink an occasional diet soda, take the occasional ibuprofen, eat the occasional piece of pie. But I do it knowing what I’m putting into my body, and knowing I will pay for it later. I make that choice consciously and as time goes on, the longer I am away from any of the substances listed above, the worse it makes me feel if I one day decide to have something I know I shouldn’t.

I’m not here to tell you what to do. I’m writing this for the women who don’t even know or realize these things are a problem, and are contributing to their misery. For women who want to understand what’s wrong with them and want to find out things they personally can do to feel better.

Sometimes it’s easier to give up something (like cookies or wine or NSAIDs) than to start something new (like meditation or exercise or taking a daily nap). So pick something to give up, just one thing for now, and let me know how it goes. In time, you’ll be able to pick another, then another. But for now start slow. Doing so gives you a much better chance of success. Too much change at once will only overwhelm you until you feel deprived and cranky and throw up your hands in defeat and frustration. Been there, done that. Who hasn’t?

If you have any questions, please ask them here (in the comments section) or send me an email at info (at) livingwithpmdd.com. I will address your question either privately via email or here in general (no names mentioned) in a future blog. I want to know what you want to know about.

Have a blessed week, and if you do nothing else, simply take a moment to stop be aware of what you reach for in the course of a day.