Fibromyalgia + Menopause = Double Whammy of Hell

In Blog by Alyssa Reid1 Comment

Although fibromyalgia can be present in children and men, it is estimated that up to 90% of it’s casualties are women. And the average age from onset to diagnosis (a whopping 5-8yrs) is 45 years old. The average age of menopause is 51 yrs old.  So basically, there’s no denying it, we are in the thick of it when it comes to fibromyalgia + menopause = a double whammy of hell, no doubt about it.

Fibromyalgia alone has over 200+ co-existing conditions and symptoms to deal with on it’s own…and now we have menopause to look forward to…Yay! (Not!).

A few years ago, I was struggling with horrid night sweats (like having to shower 2-3x a night, strip my side of the bed and lie on towels, basically, a nightmare to deal with on top of high pain levels). My GP decided to try me on the pill to even out my estrogen.

Unfortunately, it didn’t even out my mood and I was a suicidal thinking bitch from hell that gained weight very quickly.

Peri/Pre-Menopause

I wasn’t menopausal but peri or pre-menopausal – as in getting my period, irregularly but still arriving a few times a year – to be menopausal you need to have a year clear of having no periods. Which you might think, ‘Yay!  Can’t wait! No more periods.  No more PMS and cramps and and and…’

But guess what?  On top of fibromyalgia and all we go through with it, the stuff you are going to have to contend with for pre-menopause and menopause is a whole new arsenal of hellish experiences… (Booo!)…so I thought I would share with you the route that I took to reduce the symptoms as much as possible.

Pre-Menopause Symptoms:

  • Vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex
  • Breast tenderness
  • Worse PMS symptoms
  • Hot flashes
  • Lower sex drive
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular periods
  • Urine leakage when coughing or sneezing and urinary urgency (need to go – STAT!)
  • Mood swings
  • Trouble Sleeping

How to Tell If You Are Starting ‘The Change’

Your doctor can run blood tests to track your FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone).  Some doctors can also do avaginal pH test. When  you are in your reproductive years your pH should be around a 4.5, however, when menopausal this changes to about a 6.  For more information on the tests and questions your doctor will ask, go here.

You can actually, easily do an FSH test in the comfort of your own home with an FSH urine test (just like a pregnancy test).  For well under $10, too.


Your doctor most likely be interested in prescribing you HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy).  All I can tell you is to PLEASE research this before starting. HRT has had disastrous long term effects in regards to the increase of breast cancer, cardiovascular stuff – even dementia.

On top of this HRT can also affect gut health, which in turn has widespread effects including a negative impact on auto immune conditions (which some experts believe fibromyalgia falls into this category).

There ARE Natural and Holistic Alternatives Out There…

I hated the fact that my body was going through these things and the medical answer was to throw me on some (more) meds.

I had had enough in regards to all the medications I had been on for my fibromyalgia -and how they really screwed my body up both physically and mentally.  From a 60lb weight gain  to concerning suicidal thoughts. Thank you pregablin, amitriptyline, duloxetine and gabapentin.

Most important was the fact that these medications weren’t doing anything any more to help with pain and sleep and I was quickly on the max dose of everything (and double the max dose for duloxetine and amitriptyline, set by the pain clinic I was seeing).

I decided to make the (what I consider brave) move to discontinue all my medications and take an alternative approach to my care.  In other words, I did my research, made my choice, worked with my GP to get off the meds with the least amount of withdrawal as possible and ultimately take over and self-manage my health.

When it came time to deal with menopausal stuff I took the same approach.  I decided to do some research and found that there was help in regards to bio identical hormones.  Wild yam cream that mimics progesterone, in fact.

Incredible Results

In 2 days my night sweats stopped and my mood was evened out. The bio identical progesterone hormone cream made from wild yams certainly helped me hugely in regards to PMS, mood fluctuations, menopausal stuff (night sweats, hot flashes) and it can also help in regards to fertility, too.

Since using bio identical progesterone I have not had night sweats or hot flushes for the past two years.  Not once.  Seriously.  Considering every night was a nightmare to having my night sweats literally eradicated, it felt like a miracle!

This is the stuff I use:

Please know that I am NOT an endocrinologist (hormone doctor).  However, I am on a quest to take care of my health and my medical needs as best as I possibly, where at all possible.  And that means educating myself as much as I can.  (Thank you Google and Amazon!).

Here’s an interesting chart about progesterone and estrogen…

Estrogen Effects Progesterone Effects
Stimulates breasts cysts Protects against breast cysts
Increases body fat storage Helps use fat for energy and keep it off hips
Salt and fluid retention Natural diuretic (water pill)
Depression and headaches Natural anti-depressant
Interferes with thyroid hormone Facilitates thyroid hormone action
Increases blood clotting and risk of stroke Normalizes blood clotting
Decreases libido (sex drive) Increases libido
Impairs blood sugar control Normalizes blood sugar levels
Loss of zinc and retention of copper Normalizes zinc and copper levels
Reduced oxygen level in all cells Restores proper cell oxygen levels
Increased risk of endometrial cancer Helps prevent endometrial cancer
Increased risk of breast cancer Helps prevent breast cancer
Helps decrease bone loss slightly Increases bone building

The book that I used to assist me in understanding what bio identical hormones to use and to get the dosages right (very important, obviously) is this:

(I would have taken a picture of it, but it seems that in my fury of getting rid of absolutely everything I don’t use on a daily basis, I have given it away to charity).  This is an excellent book, ok a bit technical, but better that and to be on the money that not the amount of important info as needed.  This doctor also wrote a book on menopause (which I shall be ordering shortly!). Dr Lee is considered to be THE leading authority on menopause and bio identical hormones.

Menopause Symptoms

Here’s where it gets even more fun…because on top of our fibromyalgia and the aches, pains and joint stiffness that it causes, menopause adds to the pre-menopause list by also causing:

  • mood changes, such as low mood or anxiety
  • headaches
  • palpitations– heartbeats that suddenly become more noticeable
  • joint stiffness, aches and pains
  • reduced muscle mass
  • recurrent urinary tract infections (UTI’s) and cystitis
  • weight gain and the inability to lose weight easily

Fan flipping tastic!

Research, Research, Research

Research everything‘ is my mantra!

It’s just great that we all have the ability to research like we can now with the internet.  I think that it is imperative for all of us to take a pro-active role in our care – and self-care/self-management.

By taking this approach in our care also means that we are more in sync with our bodies. Something that I think over the years of Western medical care we have somehow taken a passive role in (which is crazy!  It’s OUR bodies after all – nobody else’s!).

I can hand on heart state that I know more about fibromyalgia than my GP (and in fact several specialists I have seen).  And I know that I am not alone in regards to this statement.  When I do see my doctor I tend to bring in articles I have printed out for her to read.  (She seems to appreciate this – that or she’s just super polite!).

I am on a mission to not only take better care of my own health by self-managing, but to educate others – including my doctor -with the hope of making a difference in other people’s lives.

Standing Up For Ourselves

Chances are great that if you have fibromyalgia, you are not unaccustomed to taking a stand and pushing to get the help – and indeed answers – that you need.  We are our biggest advocates – and we must continue to do so in regards to taking a stand with our health when going through pre-menopause.

What I have learned over the past few years is this:  Just because your doctor prescribes something for you doesn’t mean that it is safe.  (I will save my Big Pharma rant for another day).

Ultimately, we are the only ones who can truly take charge of our lives – and this means one thing.  RESEARCH.  And hey, if you are reading this, then you have the ability to do just that online.  Google is my bestest friend!

For an excellent resource website, please check out The Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research (CeMCOR),

The Holistic Route

In the USA, you have an amazing advantage in regards to the wealth of functional medicine and holistic doctors available to you.

Many of these doctors deal with bio identical hormone treatment. If you have the funds to be able to take this route – or if your insurance covers it – I highly, highly recommend investigating this approach in order to get the proper guidance, diagnosis and tailored treatments specifically for your needs.  (For those of us who do not have this option, then all I can say is what I said above – be your biggest advocate – research and take more control back of your life and your body.)

Conclusion

There ARE options available to you in regards to what you can do to gain back better control of your health.

If  you are interested in tracking your symptoms for fibromyalgia or in fact any health condition, including menopausal stuff, please check out our  award winning app (HealthLine 2014/2015), FibroMapp, which you can personalize to fit your exact needs.

Award winning app for fibromyalgia

Award winning app for fibromyalgia

FibroMapp app tracks pain, mood, fatigue, medications (with alarm), other symptoms, activities, flare ups, a journal and much more.  All of which is collated into a handy dandy report – helpful for you and for your medical professional.

Yep, there’s no doubt about it.  Fibromyalgia is hell.  Menopause and pre-menopause can be hell.  And together?  A double whammy of hell! However, you do have the ability to take charge, educate yourself and have an opportunity to gain relief from menopausal symptoms naturally.

Comments

  1. Dear Alyssa,
    I came upon this article at just the right time. Bless you. I’ve had (that which is called Fibro) for 20 years. It was a sudden onset accompanied by strange autonomic nervous system problems like urinary retention, loss of orgasm reflex, fasciculations, and the more traditional symptoms like extreme fatigue, widespread pain, poor sleep quality, etc. Now at 52, I am one year without menstrual cycles and officially menopausal. I’m aware that it’s my endocrine system causing the hell im going through, but it makes it no less depressing. I feel awful every day of my life, awaking with excruciating pain and collapsing into bed at night. I am still working full time (from home mostly), but bring electronically chained to a desk most of the day has made me fat, stiff, and hypertensive. I look forward to trying a natural approach and hope I’ll find a physician who can work with me (as opposed to thrusting scripts in my face). I have to chuckle when I led myself to believe that menopause might actually “cancel out” the fibro. That sort of thinking is akin to believing a Diet Coke will negate the effects of a Big Mac lol.

    Thank you for taking the time to write; there is very little information on the web for fibromites who are in menopause, so I was delighted to find your blog.

    Best Regards,
    Ree

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