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VN Editors
Doctor recommended vitamins and supplements to stop hot flashes, treat menopausal symptoms
Healthy Living
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Menopause can be a difficult time for women — both emotionally and physically. You’ll need help to stop hot flashes and get relief from menopause symptoms like hormonal night sweats. You may need a comprehensive treatment program to replace and supplement lowering estrogen levels in the body — something you’ll need a doctor’s advice to regulate. In addition, many different vitamin supplements can help you balance your body chemistry to help you get through this difficult time.

If you have been experiencing mood swings since reaching menopause, you may want to consider B vitamin supplementation in particular. “Many times, we are deficient in the complex of B vitamins, which help balance our mood. One reason for the deficiency is that B vitamins are destroyed by alcohol, refined sugars, nicotine, and caffeine. Also, the metabolism of some B-complex vitamins may be altered or accelerated in women who are taking certain medications,” says Dr. Holly Thacker, author of Vibrant Nation’s Recognizing and Treating Menopause Symptoms.

Thacker also recommends:

Calcium: “Most women simply do not get enough calcium from their diet. Others are lactose intolerant and avoid dairy products. Unless you drink a quart of skim milk daily (and I’m guessing you don’t), take a calcium supplement to reach the recommended daily amount of 1,200 mg.”

Vitamin D: “All women need to get enough vitamin D; in northern climates with less sun exposure, this can be especially hard to do. If you follow the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) and take only 400 IU, you’re only getting enough vitamin D to prevent rickets. (RDI is the new term for RDA, Recommended Dietary Allowance.) Most bone experts recommend 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily. People who have been low in vitamin D need at least 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily.”

Vitamin E: “Taking 800 IU of vitamin E has been advocated to help hot flashes. A placebo-controlled, randomized study evaluated vitamin E supplements (800 IU/day for four weeks) for 120 breast cancer survivors with hot flashes and found that compared to the placebo, it decreased hot flashes slightly.”

Iron and Vitamin C: “Women lose 15 to 20 mg of iron each month during menstruation. Even if you are past having periods, iron is still vital. The RDI is 18 mg up to age 50 and 10 mg after that.”

Black cohosh: “Some randomized trials suggest that the herb black cohosh is a short-term treatment for hot flashes and night sweats; however, black cohosh’s effectiveness as a hot-flash remedy is debatable. It may reduce sweating, but it will not necessarily treat all your menopausal symptoms. When a woman wants to try black cohosh, I recommend the over-the-counter brand Remifemin, from Germany. The German Commission E (similar to our country’s FDA) approves this form of black cohosh for use for up to six months to relieve hot flashes. Black cohosh and other herbs like valerian root have been associated with reports of liver toxicity, so long-term effects are a real concern.”

Soy isoflavones: “Plant estrogens found in soy foods are thought to have weak estrogen-like effects. Choose soy foods rather than supplements and understand that not every woman’s body converts soy isoflavones into the estrogen-like substance equol.”

Flaxseed: “This is certainly an important food to incorporate into your diet for the overall health benefits of omega-3 fats. Like soy foods, when it’s used to replace animal fats, it may help lower cholesterol levels. Flaxseed is available in whole-seed and oil forms.”

For more great advice to stop hot flashes, download our free special report, 5 Proven Remedies to Reduce Hot Flashes During Menopause.

Barb DePree MD
Yoga for Cancer Survivors
Healthy Living, Love & Sex
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“I cannot give you another regimen that has as many good health benefits as exercise. Hands down. Exercise improves life energy and sexual energy; your body image will improve. I can’t give you a better, free intervention.” So said psychologist Helen Coons in a recent speech to breast cancer survivors.

Any gentle exercise regimen during recovery is good. It helps ease many of the distressing symptoms of cancer treatment: insomnia, fatigue, weight gain, depression, poor body image, sexual dysfunction.

Yet, one of the best forms of exercise, according to several recent studies, is yoga.

Yoga combines gentle stretching and holding of various positions, which helps with balance, flexibility, and muscle tone. But it also involves a meditative component. The breath work in yoga “stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and causes the body to relax and the blood pressure to drop,” says Maureen Ryan, sex therapist and nurse practitioner.

Yoga also encourages a sense of mindfulness—being aware of the moment and present to it. When the recent past is full of pain and the future is full of fear, “mindfulness brings people back to the present moment,” says Ms. Ryan. In one study of women with gynecological cancers who were experiencing difficulty with sex, the most helpful component of the experimental program was the practice of mindfulness.

Yoga is so effective because it exercises the body and calms the mind.

A small but significant study found that several weeks of Restorative Yoga, which involves gentle poses, usually with support from pillows and other props, reduced depression by 50 percent in women with cancer. (All had breast cancer; about one-third were still in treatment.)

Another larger study focused on the effect of two types of yoga—Hatha Yoga and Restorative Yoga—on cancer survivors who were having difficulty sleeping, a common problem for survivors and one that isn’t easily alleviated with medication.

Half the group attended 75-minute yoga classes twice a week and also practiced yoga at home. At the end of a month, this group was sleeping better with less medication than the control group. The group also reported less fatigue during the day.

In yet another study, breast cancer survivors reported better body image and less self-consciousness. After doing yoga for two months both at home and in group sessions, these women also had less pain, better muscle tone, more flexibility, and greater weight loss than a control group that had just exercised minimally for 30 minutes a week.

In fact, yoga is seen to be so effective in recovery that several top cancer centers, such as Memorial Sloan-Kettering and Stanford Cancer Center, provide their own yoga classes to patients.

Any form of exercise is helpful, but evidence suggests that the kind of mind-body regimen that yoga offers is particularly effective. Yoga classes are also easy to find—most communities offer them, and they are affordable.

Besides, anything that reduces depression, increases energy, improves body image, and reduces pain has to be good for sex, too.

VN Editors
Use hypnosis to stop hot flashes
Healthy Living
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Women have attempted everything, so why not try getting hypnotized to stop hot flashes? If you’ve thought about soaking your pajamas in ice water, buried your face in the freezer or felt your make-up sliding off your face while you sit in an air-conditioned room, you know that it’s worthwhile to try anything to put an end to the agony.

Hot flashes

Hot flashes are among the most common of menopause symptoms, affecting a majority of women who go through the change. Hot flashes and hormonal night sweats are triggered by signals in the brain, which are misread by changing body chemistry. Hot flashes may occur any time of the day or night, even when you are asleep. When hot flashes occur during your sleeping hours, they’re called hormonal night sweats (as most people sleep at night). A nighttime hot flash can waken you out of sleep, disturb anyone who may be sleeping beside you and disrupt your normal bedtime and sleeping patterns.

You have some control over your hot flashes. Causes and triggers include spicy foods, hot drinks, alcohol and stress. Many women use soothing meditation to manage stress and stop hot flashes before they happen. From meditation, it’s not a huge leap into another form of altered consciousness: hypnosis.

Hypnosis for hot flashes

Studies of hypnosis and hot flashes, while not extensive, are at least promising. One study involving breast cancer survivors showed that hypnosis reduced hot flashes by 68%. Another study, currently underway, is following 180 post-menopausal women. The trouble is, hypnosis is not exactly a controlled science. It’s considered an alternative medicine, and some hypnosis techniques that work on women will not work on others. For some women, hypnosis may not work at all.

There are many different ways to use hypnosis to relieve hot flashes. For some, it is even possible to learn self-hypnosis techniques that help to relieve stress (and by extension, this symptom of menopause). Hypnosis has been employed to retrieve memories, among other uses. Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness, very deep relaxation, that leaves the mind open to suggestion. It’s been used as an act and regarded as a parlor trick, but hypnosis is really a deep form of meditation that can be enjoyed for relaxation’s sake alone.

Other hot flashes remedies

You can use the mind to manage and stop hot flashes, but you can always use the body to manage them as well. The foods you eat and the beverages you drink have an effect on your menopause and your menopause symptoms; it’s why women are advised to avoid certain triggers. But some food items can help to prevent and even stop hot flashes and hormonal night sweats.

VN member Magnolia Miller drank soil milk daily, which “knocked my hot flashes and night sweats out cold (pun intended).” Other soy products may have a similar effect on women. Soy has long been touted as a potential cure for hot flashes, but it isn’t effective for all menopausal women.

For some, soy isn’t even an option. As VN member Haralee points out, many women in the breast cancer community “can not have soy.” Always check with your doctor before drastically changing your diet or introducing new and untried products into your system, particularly if you have an illness or preexisting condition. Many different vitamins and supplements help to ease the delicate imbalance of hormones in the body during menopause. Talk to your physician about all your dietary options to find new options for managing menopause symptoms.

VN Editors
4 questions to ask before you start hormone replacement therapy
Healthy Living
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Dr. Holly M. Thacker, Director of the Center for Specialized Women’s Health at the Cleveland Clinic, believes hormone replacement therapy is generally the best option for treating menopause symptoms. But she also knows that every woman must work with a knowledgeable physician to determine her own best course of menopause treatment.

Here are four questions she thinks you should ask a knowledgeable menopause physician before you start HRT.

  1. Do hormones affect the heart?
  2. Can breast cancer survivors use hormone therapy?
    Generally, HRT it is not prescribed for women with breast cancer or who are breast cancer survivors, because some breast cancers may grow when exposed to the hormone estrogen.

    But for survivors who have debilitating symptoms of menopause, there are alternatives to regular HRT. Certainly, most breast cancer survivors can use Estring, a locally applied vaginal estrogen, to restore the integrity of the vagina, as local estrogen therapy does not increase the body’s overall exposure to hormones. Many progressive breast cancer specialists allow this use by their patients, and there is also the option of vaginal DHEA as well as many non-hormonal medicines that treat and prevent osteoporosis (Actonel, Boniva, Fosamax, Reclast, Evista, Fortical, Forteo, and Prolia). There are non-hormonal agents that can treat hot flashes and hormonal night sweats as well.

  3. Does hormone replacement therapy prevent osteoporosis?
    If the only reason you are considering taking HRT is to prevent osteoporosis, you should know that you can use other products to manage rapid bone loss. However, estrogen is the only agent shown to reduce all types of fractures in women who have normal bones and thin, osteopenic bones, as well as in women with osteoporosis.
  4. Can we predict who will benefit from hormone therapy and who will be harmed?
    Genetic testing and evolving research will probably allow us to determine in the future who will benefit from long-term HRT, as well as those few women who are predisposed to clots and could potentially be harmed. Individualization, monitoring, and reevaluation are critical. While there is no time limit to hormone replacement therapy, periodic reassessment is needed.

Don’t miss our FREE special report on treating menopause symptoms, 5 Proven Remedies to Reduce Hot Flashes During Menopause.

Charmaine Coimbra
Daily Good #161
Home & Garden
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A local “Women’s League” raised $10,600 for Enhancement, Inc., a nonprofit that promotes wellness for breast cancer survivors.

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Vitamin D, the Darling Vitamin in Breast Cancer Prevention?
Healthy Living
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Have you been tested for a vitamin D deficiency?  Most physicals for women now include a blood test for vitamin D levels. It appears that many of us are not getting enough Vitamin D naturally, out in the sun. Many make-up formulas include sun screen. Many moisturizers include sun screen. What this all means is the 10-15 minutes outside every day that is recommended for natural Vitamin D absorption just doesn’t happen.  For women with a history of skin cancers, being out in the sun is not a good idea.

Vitamin D deficiencies have been associated with breast cancer. Research continues. I heard a lecture about recommending Vitamin D to breast cancer survivors and on the way home; the store I tried to buy was sold out. The other 1,000 women at the lecture evidently had the same idea!  How much to take has to be determined from your blood test and your physician. The good news is the blood test can be part of all the testing for your annual check-up and the supplements are inexpensive.

There is a new study out and here is a quick take away:

“Women who are diagnosed with late-stage and aggressive breast cancer are more likely to have a low vitamin D level than women who have less aggressive cancer. Women who had blood plasma concentration of less than 20 ng/mL were eight times more likely to be diagnosed with regional or distal spread of cancer when compared to women who had normal vitamin D levels. The study also found that African American women were four times more likely to have low vitamin D levels compared with white women.”
 Here is a link to the entire study.

Here is another informative synopsis:

One More:

Conclusion? Have the blood test for Vitamin D next office visit, especially if you are a breast cancer survivor.




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Kitty O'Keefe
Do Not Start With the Redhead Having a Hot Flash
News, Work & Money
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The first thing that caught my eye was Senator McCain’s assertion that a “$300,000 . . study whether . . yoga can be . . effective . .to reduce the severity of hot flashes in breast cancer survivors” is “waste.” Then, I find that the total for the 100 stimulus projects that he and Senator Coburn describe as having “questionable goals,” that are “being mismanaged or were poorly planned” and are even “costing jobs and hurting small businesses,” is 1/2 of one percent of the Federal Stimulus package.

Being a woman in her 50s with 20 + years of moderate to severe hot flashes has made me somewhat of an expert in what is, and is not effective in reducing them. Your opinion of my expertise aside, I can assure you with some conviction that it significantly exceeds that of both Senators McCain and Coburn. When I read that the Senators thought it wasteful to study yoga as an effective methodology to reduce the severity of hot flashes in breast cancer survivors, I thought perhaps the honorable gentlemen would have found the study less wasteful had studied reducing symptoms of discomfort for prostate cancer survivors.

No matter, Senators. You have my attention.

And I have a calculator.

  • FLASH – Whether you agree or not with their conclusions of wastefulness, the totality of the programs in their 55 page report is one-half of one percent of the total Federal Stimulus package.
  • FLASH – If I were running a business with gross revenues of $200,000, and wasted 1/2 of 1 percent of that money, that would be $1000, or $83 per month. I do not actually have gross revenues of $200,000, but I do waste $3 per day, and consider myself a very non-wasteful person.
  • FLASH – From another perspective, if Senators McCain and Coburn were to write a 55 page analysis for every $7 billion in the stimulus package, their report would be 9,428 pages long. 62-year-old Coburn may live to see the publishing of that report, but I don’t believe it could be completed in the remaining lifetime of soon-to-be 74 year-old McCain.
  • FLASH – This is a mid-term election year. Voters may be polarized, angry, out of work and disappointed, but, by enlarge, can tell the difference between something of real importance and of a politically motivated attack. There are plenty of relevant political issues that differentiate the parties. This is not one of them.
  • FLASH – Do not tell women that a study to minimize the discomfort after breast cancer surgery is wasteful. We are more than 50% of the population and it may infuriate us. Those of us over 40, actually having these symptoms (who choose NOT TO take hormone replacement therapy because it has a statistically significant increase in instances of breast cancer) will not only not vote for you, but may actually become quite vocal and tell others what you have done. You can’t afford to lose more than half of your voters. If you do, you will lose, and be forced to stay home with your middle-age wife who may also find this subject very irritating.
  • FLASH – Some of us have calculators. And we know how to use them.

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Charmaine Coimbra
She walks the walk to end breast cancer
Home & Garden
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New Year’s Eve 2003 was forgettable. January 2004, however, remains branded, framed, and highlighted.

Two weeks into January I felt a painful lump in my breast. Little did I know on Dec. 31, 2003 that if I was one in seven women lined-up I’d be awarded the pink ribbon.

Over 40,800 women died of breast cancer in 2004. Fortunately my diagnosis was DCIS: ductal carcinoma in situ—unlike my half-sister who recently died from metastatic breast cancer. Breast cancer also killed our great-grandmother.

So when I met Christel Chesney in 2008 and breast cancer came into our conversation, Christel asked, “Are you a survivor?” I answered yes, and her eyes lit up. Her Texas twang sweetened her voice and she asked, “Well, I’d like to add your name to my shirt.”

Christel wears her Susan G. Komen white T-shirt when she walks, walks, walks, to help fight breast cancer—a cancer that will strike about one in eight women in America this year.

Presently, embroidered in pink are 11 breast cancer survivors or in-treatment names. That’s just one side of the shirt. The other side exhibits 14 black-embroidered names. “These are my loved ones and good friends who cancer killed,” Christel explained. After a pause, she added, “I’ve got two more names to add in black.”

Christel now trains for her second three-day walk with Team Robin in San Diego this November.

Christel and I met when we signed up to volunteer as Friends of the Elephant Seal docents (Central Coast, California) at the same time.

One morning we took a failed hike—we both wore the wrong shoes and I tired quickly from an arimidex side effect.

We found a shady bench and waited for the rest of the hikers. Christel shared her enthusiasm. “I helped my friend redo her flower beds before her mother-in-law’s 80th birthday party. She told me about this amazing 80-year-old, Maija Grendze. Maija first walked the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure™, 20 miles each day, at age 77, then again at ages 78 and 79. At 80 she didn’t feel she could do that any longer, so I said that we should continue Maija’s legacy.

“Besides, it was a good way to honor my mother-in-law who died from breast cancer in 1992. I thought, how hard could this be if a 77-year-old could do it.”

Christel let out a hearty laugh. “I opened my mouth and inserted my foot! We had a year to get in shape for the walk—so no big deal. Well, it was maybe the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

Christel started training in February for her 60-mile walk scheduled for August 2008. By April 2008, she completed her first 10-mile walk. Trouble followed.

“When I hit 10 miles, my left foot started giving me problems. After a walk…I could not walk on it at all.” Her podiatrist diagnosed a bunion and Morton’s neuroma.

Bunion or not, Christel kept training with cortisone injections to end the pain.

By June’s end Christel logged 16.4 miles every other day for a month just prior to the August walk. “Those extra four miles I figured the adrenaline would get me through each day,” she said.

Christel recalled the first day of the 3-day walk, “I was overwhelmed and proud, but I was also surprised to see so many injuries. People in cars honked their horns. People in neighborhoods turned their water sprinklers on, even let women use their bathrooms. Complete strangers handed us popsicles and ice water.” The adrenalin Christel hoped for got her through her first 20 miles. At day-one’s end, they pitched their pink tents, shared stories and dreamed about conquering day-two.

Bladder infections on a walk like this are not abnormal. Just three-miles short of Christel’s second 20-mile round, friends rushed her to the nearest emergency room. Antibiotics did their job and Christel spent the night in her pink tent again.

“Never, not once, did the word quit ever pass through my noggin.”

But at this point, Christel said that her emotions were raw, her feet maxed out, and her sense of humor flew south. She said she would have finished the walk as a crawl and “…on my knees if need be.”

“The last two miles were horrific. This walk was kicking my butt. I couldn’t walk in a straight line and I’m not sure if I even knew what I was doing by then. I cried, prayed and tried to ignore a fever that returned. A couple who showed up to walk the final few miles, held my hands to keep me upright. They feared I’d step off of a curb and hurt myself.”

The threesome walked to the end together. And then Christel started dancing! “My walking buddies were shocked.”

Emotion got the best of her. “There are really no words to describe it other than it changed my life forever. For the first time in my life I felt I contributed something powerful to my sisterhood.”

And she did. Along with her teammate, Nancy Grendze, they raised $11,300.

When the Susan B. Komen fundraising efforts began, breast cancer research and treatment fell out of the stiff bra and into the future health of survivors like myself.

The $11,300 raised by Christel and Nancy has gone into research. “Every advance in breast cancer has been touched by a Komen grant,” said Susan B. Komen spokeswoman Emily Callahan.

In 2007, the organization refocused its research money to concentrate on more focused areas, such as finding biological signs that can help predict cancer before symptoms appear.

I now celebrate each New Year’s Eve as another year of cancer-free and cancer survival for me and for so many more women who have benefited from the efforts of people like Christel Chesney who literally walk the walk.

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Through the dark
Healthy Living, Home & Garden
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Day 171

Have you walked for charity? The last time I walked for charity I was in high school. This year, I’m a team captain bringing a dozen people together to raise money to fight cancer. 

The Relay for Life is a 12-hour relay walk from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., which is meant to symbolize the cancer patient’s long journey from darkness into dawn.  

On MyBigWalk relay team are four breast cancer survivors and one devoted caregiver. There are Relay for Life walks all across the country — if you’re a walker, and even if you’re not, you can get involved: organize a team, sponsor a friend, or bring the Relay for Life to your town next year.

There are few things in life more rewarding than bringing people together for a good cause.

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Living an unplanned life
Work & Money
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I have always been organized and never a procrastinating person. I had a plan for my career, my vacations, and my life. You can imagine my surprise when I received an invasive aggressive breast cancer diagnosis. Breast cancer was not in my plans. It wasn’t even on my radar. I was forced to open up my plan book and add a new chapter.

As breast cancer awareness month winds down I wonder how many other women felt like me? How many other families had to cancel vacations, alter their roles, or give up careers? How many other women added not a new chapter to their life but a whole new book as I did?

I never would have thought that my breast cancer diagnosis would lead me to a new career path. A life threatening diagnosis can bring out different responses in different people. For me the response was to look at this life plan I had and not just edit it but start fresh. Starting my own Sleepwear Company gave me a new path, purpose and career. To be able to be my own boss, to be able to do something that helps others and to be able to give back to charity is the new plan for my life.

Change is difficult but achievable. Change in health, family, career, and income can all cause stress to a well planned order life. The joy is taking the changes and making a fuller life. I wish all breast cancer survivors the joy of survivorship in their new lives.

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