Oct 052015

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgOver 64,000 of you know Rachel Bloom as the singing uterus in my “A Singing Uterus Explains Perimenopause and Menopause” video.

Now hold on to your ovaries, just one week from today, Rachel will sing & dance onto Monday night TV in the new musical comedy series, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend premiering on the CW, October 12th! Check your local listing for the time.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a romantic comedy that explores the psyche of a woman who abandons her phenomenal job at a law firm in New York, to find her high school-era ex-boyfriend in West Covina, CA – not exactly paradise!

Rachel is not only starring in the show, she created the show along with Aline Brosh McKenna. You may have heard of Aline, she was the screenwriter of The Devil Wears Prada. I loved that movie!

I fell in love with Rachel in 2010 when I saw her music video (WARNING this video is NOT PG) about Ray Bradbury. Of course, we all know Ray Bradbury who was the recipient of the 2000 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the 2004 National Medal of Arts, and the 2007 Pulitzer Prize Special Citation. Apparently, Ray Bradbury fell in love with the video too (so did almost 3 Million other people!), and subsequently asked to meet Rachel!Rachel Bloom

I know that everyone does stuff, but not like Rachel does stuff.

Regardless of the topic, from menopause to obsessive young love, Rachel never fails to deliver gifted and creative tongue-in-cheek, hysterical comedy. As I watch Rachel’s career soar, I will always remember and deeply appreciate, how she helped tens of thousands of women, both young and not so young, understand and prepare themselves for perimenopause and lives of self-empowerment.

Thanks, Rachel! Next time I visit West Covina, I will be looking for you!

Sep 282015

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgFor most of us, when we hear the words Mona Lisa, we think of the portrait of a woman by the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci. The portrait is of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo. However, it appears there is a new MonaLisa that is quite the talk now. It is called, the MonaLisa Touch (MLT).

This MonaLisa doesn’t hang in the Louvre Museum in Paris! It is a laser device for the vagina! In the spirit of full disclosure here, I am probably one of a very few 62 year old women who has yet to laser her face, let alone her vagina!

I have been inundated with questions about this new device from women who are experiencing vulvovaginal atrophy (VVA) – atrophic vaginitis or as laypeople call it, dry vagina. VVA is very common for post-menopausal women, many breast cancer survivors, and women who have had a hysterectomy. If you are experiencing vaginal atrophy, you are not alone! VVA is estimated to affect over 50% of post-menopausal women.
Mona Lisa
When it comes to the vagina, thin is out! Finally, a body part that is supposed to be fat and plump! VVA can result in the walls of the vagina becoming thinner, pale, and the natural elasticity and blood supply is reduced. The vagina can lose hydration and thickness causing a loss of lubrication – basically disrupting the natural pH balance of the vagina. The vaginal canal shrinks and becomes inelastic and more prone to trauma. This can result in itching, burning, painful sex, and chronic UTI’s. Oh joy!

I reached out to the following doctors to get their take on the MonaLisa Touch laser:
Dr. Michael Krychman* is the Executive Director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine Inc. in Newport Beach, CA. Dr. Krychman co-authored a recent in depth review for North America Menopause Society and subsequently republished by Medscape.
Dr. Steven A. Rabin* owns the MonaLisa Touch laser and is currently performing these treatments in his office in Burbank, CA. In addition, he is a national trainer for the MLT.

Think of me as your laser-focused vagina reporter! Ready……..here we go……… Continue reading »

Sep 142015

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgEver since I was young, I have loved fashion.  At the end of every summer, when I receive the September fashion magazines, I get excited with anticipation of a quiet time when I can read them without interruption and fall into the fashion fantasies of the moment. A glass of wine in hand, I snuggle into my fav comfy chair, the magazines piled high around me (Yes, I still like to hold and touch them! I do not read them online).  I can’t wait to dig in and see what’s new for fall. This is an early September happening and ritual for me.

I am ready!

I think of myself as pretty fashion “with it”…meaning I like to augment my current wardrobe with a thing or two that is “in style” for the season.  Changing it up each season adds a spring to my step.  Whether I am dressed casual, comfy, glitzy or sexy -…for me, clothes are another form of self-expression.

I quickly flip past all the ads and land on the first page of the new look!  This year, excited and ready to nourish myself in fashion, I began reading the first fashion news for fall; “Slip a turtleneck under it”. Wear turtle neck with everything, including under a dress and then “toss on a statement coat for added warmth”.  It is recommended that you must “flash” leg with this look. I am feeling a different kind of flash coming on!  But, I read on…………..

“Tuck it all in” is the next look. Of course, that is what my Spanx are for, right? Wrong, this is not what they are referring to.  “Tuck your chunky knit sweaters” into your skirts and pants for your new winter silhouette.  The silhouette I am now envisioning is causing me to burst at the seams. Continue reading »

Menopause Life’s Cycle and Loss

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Aug 242015

Menopause Life’s Cycle and LossOn July 6th, I received that dreaded phone call.  My beloved Mom passed away in Tucson, Arizona.

Mom started having trouble breathing earlier in the day, and then at approximately 2 in the afternoon, just stopped breathing as she sat in her TV chair.  She had what one would call a blessed passing.  She did not suffer, it was peaceful.

Although she was 95 years young, I was not ready.

As it was with menopause and that stage of life’s journey, no one really prepared me for death and dying.  Frankly those words were not spoken in our household.  My parents had lost their first born, my brother Gary, at the tender age of 4.  He choked to death on a piece of bread.  Tragically, no one knew the Heimlich maneuver in those days. As a parent, frankly, I do not know how they survived that horrific day. My sister was 2.  I was born approx. 9 months later. Then 8 years later my brother was born.

There was a beautifully framed picture of a little boy on my Mom’s dresser. It never moved and no words were ever spoken of it. I knew it was something very fragile – never to be touched. It took me years before I got the courage to ask my maternal Grandma who was that boy in the picture.  It was Gary.

In my teens, I first experienced loss when my maternal Grandpa died.  I was scared at the funeral, and had no idea what to expect.  I accidentally looked at the open coffin.  That’s something I will never do again.  It took me years to erase the picture of dead Grandpa from my memories.

I adored my father, but sadly he battled terrible heart disease and he passed away at the young age of 58. My Mom’s love for him was unmatched, beautiful and beyond most couples’ wildest expectations. David and I had just had our daughter, Sarah.  She was 3 months old, and was born on my parent’s last anniversary together.  I was 27, devastated, and not prepared to lose my father.

My husband was loving, patient and a rock for me during those dark days.  However, I think having my new little baby girl to take care of is what got me out of bed in the morning. Holding her, that baby smell, her giggles, and need for love and mothering surrounded me with the joys of life. Some days I would nurse her with tears running down my face, but her little face, tiny fingers, and helplessness would bring me back to life again.

When our son was born two years later, I named him Jack after my beloved father.  A few months later, my Grandma passed away. My Grandma was my confident and definitely my biggest fan. Having my new beautiful son in my arms and a two year old toddler running around the house got me through the grief of losing my sweet Grandma.

My beloved Mother lived a sharing, caring and charitable life with effortless grace and tremendous modesty.  Although she was petite, refined, and delicate – she was strong and wise. She adored her parents and her brother, Jack, who is 90 and lives in Flint, Michigan. Mom’s entire being was devoted to her family. Every breath she took was dedicated to all of us.

Sarah is the mother of our first grandchild, Aviva. In March of this year, on Mom’s 95th birthday, she was able to meet Sarah and Sol’s new bundle, Aviva. Aviva just sat on the arm of Mom’s chair with her little hand on Mom’s shoulder – they were both completely smitten with each other.

At her burial, as I watched my Mother’s grave be covered in dirt, I started having trouble breathing. My son-in-law, Sol, gave me Aviva to hold and immediately I calmed down.  It was as if he gave me a tranquilizer.  As Aviva squirmed in my arms all giggles and smiles, I was once again comforted by the circle of life…a baby – a new life – love, hope, and joy. I feel blessed to have Sol as a member of our family.

Lucky for me, in June I read the fabulous free eBook, Love on the Other Side by Arielle Ford. This is a must read! Thanks to this beautiful book, I know that my Mom and Dad are in each other’s arms again. This brings me great comfort.

Towards the end of my Mom’s life our daily phone calls were brief – her short term memory was gone, but she was still aware and alert…. I always ended with, “I love you, Mommy.” She replied, “I love you too, Ellen Gail.”

I had no idea July 5th would be the last time I would hear her voice. I am going to miss our daily phone calls so much. I know that in time, I will stop reaching for the phone to call her.  I will forever look at the world partly through her eyes and hear her words of wisdom and guidance.

My husband is circling me with love and encouragement to grieve …to just be.  I am so fortunate I can speak openly and honestly with my children, Sarah (35 years old) and Jack (33 years old), about life and death as I cherish their love, support, and wise words of wisdom.

This is hard for me….I am not used to feeling so sad, so numb, so detached.

My favorite scholar, Pooh Bear once said, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

Yes, Pooh’s right.  This is very hard.

However, once again I am reminded about the circle of life.  Sarah, Sol and Aviva moved back to San Diego mid July. Lucky me! On August 8th Aviva was 1.

It seems so fitting that when the grief comes and the tears flow, it is my sweet little granddaughter, Aviva who helps me feel joy, giggles, and happiness again. She reaches out her hands for me to hold her, but in truth it is she who is holding me as life circles on………….


Menopause Infographic – Loss of Libido

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Aug 172015

Weight GainDo you find yourself suddenly needing to mop the kitchen floor or organize the recycling when your spouse suggests it’s time for bed, hoping he or she will have fallen asleep before you get there? Do you find yourself wondering whatever happened to that wildcat who couldn’t wait to get her partner alone? And more importantly, do you find lack of intimacy time is creating an emotional chasm with your partner? Thanks to the changing levels of hormones women experience during menopause, your libido may be taking a nosedive.

You may have noticed the countless television and print ads for pills and creams and power drinks that support a man’s virility—there’s that “little blue pill” and that couple who inexplicably watch a sunset in separate bathtubs (last time I checked, you need to be in the same tub if you want to get busy).

So where’s the help for women? Research shows that sexual dysfunction occurs in about 30% to 50% of women (and that’s just those who report it). Common complaints include low sexual desire, difficulty attaining or maintaining sexual arousal, and inability to achieve an orgasm.

Are we meant to resign ourselves to live out the second half of our lives as though we’re holed up in a convent? No! Just because you’ve reached a certain age, it doesn’t mean you no longer have a need for good sex in your life. In fact, some people find mid-life sex far better than the sex they had when they were young. “As we age, most of us become more aware of what we need in the bedroom and how to get there. We feel more deserving of sexual pleasure and are more willing to ask for what we want from our partners,” says Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center. “In our 50s we are more likely to focus on our pleasure than in our 20s, when we tend to focus almost exclusively on his experience.”

Women have the right to toe-curling, earth shattering orgasms, just like men. But due to this double standard, having a fulfilling sex life after menopause may not be a reality for all women.

However, all is not lost. Read on.

If your sex drive seems to be firmly stuck in park—or worse, reverse—and you’re worried that it may never come back, there are several things to consider.  Is low estrogen to blame or could something else be going on? Dr. Hutcherson suggests for many women it’s just boredom, although “Medical problems and medications certainly can wreak havoc on desire.” Whatever you do, don’t fake it! “Faking orgasms will guarantee that your sex life with your partner never improves,” she says.

There is some good news for women!  For women who experience what the experts call hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD),  we finally have a “pink pill”. Addyi (pronounced add-ee), known generically as Flibanserin, is the first ever FDA-approved treatment for women’s most common form of sexual dysfunction made by Sprout Pharmaceuticals. It is a once-daily, non-hormonal pill.

Dr. Michael Krychman, Executive Director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine in Newport Beach, California, explains, “While estrogen is critical, it is my belief that there is interplay between lowered estrogen and lowered testosterone levels in women as they age.”

Here is a testosterone 101, courtesy of Dr. Krychman:

Testosterone is part of our hormonal makeup. Testosterone is a steroid hormone primarily found in men, but smaller amounts are also produced in women’s body: one specific place is the ovaries. Testosterone is necessary for muscle tone,  a healthy libido, and strong bones. Women begin experiencing low “T” during their menopausal journey, which may begin a decade earlier than when menstrual periods stop.

Testosterone isn’t just for guys. Women with low testosterone levels can experience depression, fatigue, weight gain, bone and muscle loss, and cognitive dysfunction. Then there is the whole “loss of  libido” issue, which can be dramatically decreased. As for orgasms, if we have them, they can be more “ho-hum” than “woo hoo!” if your “T” level is down, according to a report from the North American Menopause Society.

There are many benefits of testosterone supplementation. Supplementing with testosterone can benefit your heart, mood, energy, and bone and muscle health.  Additionally, testosterone can sustain skin elasticity and tone, encourage heart health, boost libido, help prevent osteoporosis risks, decrease body fat and increase muscle strength.

Here are some tips to help you find that lost libido:

Schedule a visit with your menopause specialist to rule out any other medical problem. Underactive or overactive thyroid, for example, can also affect your energy level, libido and general physical health or well being.

Talk to your specialist about testosterone testing. Total testosterone and  “free” testosterone are typically measured and calculated.  Free testosterone, measures your levels of bioavailable testosterone that is not bound by the blood proteins. It is the active portion. Ranges vary between post-menopausal and premenopausal women, with a gradual decline as we age, says Dr. Krychman. However, he adds, “I advise treating symptoms, not lab values. A comprehensive assessment with a good differential is the rule. Testosterone supplementation is not the panacea.  It is important to remember that this there is also approximately 40% placebo effect.”

Discuss the various treatment options with your menopause specialist. If your testosterone levels are below norm and you have the symptoms, your health care professional may suggest an “off-label use” of testosterone, with or without estrogen. Why “off-label? Because the FDA has yet to approve any testosterone drug for women. According to WebMD, when you take it orally (by mouth) and it gets processed by the liver—which can result in a change of cholesterol levels. But that same effect doesn’t occur when testosterone is administered by skin patch, gel or cream (a.k.a. transdermal) or in pellet form (the size of a grain of rice) inserted under the skin. “What form to use depends on many facets including patient tolerability, patient price, side effects and clinician preference,” says Dr. Krychman.

Weigh the risks vs. benefits with your menopause specialist. Dr. Krychman has a frank and candid conversation with his patients about the benefit versus the risk – safety and efficacy are always balanced, he states. He further recommends that before starting therapy you are aware of the benefits and risks and that once you start therapy, you need to have regular blood work to keep track of your levels. It is important to monitor your blood count and lipid panel, coupled with testosterone levels.
For some women, the sex drive is fine, but the ability to cross the finish line is a problem. If you’re having trouble achieving orgasm, or your orgasms aren’t as powerful as they once where, there are several ways you can strengthen your Big O.

  • Strengthen and tone the pelvic floor muscles with Intensity, an intimate health and stimulation device that improves a woman’s sexual experience by exercising the pelvic floor muscles and providing targeted stimulation to specific areas of the anatomy. Intensity is scientifically designed to restore intimacy and pleasure.
  • To strengthen pelvic floors to prevent unexpected bladder leakage, turn to Apex, an automatic pelvic floor exerciser. It’s a medical device that will strengthen and tone the pelvic floor muscles to eliminate accidental bladder leakage. You’ve been told to “do your kegels,” but actually doing them correctly is tricky. This is the first in-home device that exercises your muscles correctly, every time.
  • Recurring vaginal dryness can make everyday comfort and sex painful and can put unnecessary strain on your relationship. As baby boomers reach menopause, they are saying no to “sandpaper sex.”

Get the info you need to take charge of dealing with your faltering sex drive.   Remember, sex is more than just fun. It’s integral to most intimate relationships, and it’s also great for your overall health (but, yeah, it’s also really fun). Check out these benefits you probably weren’t even thinking about when you started reading this chapter!

Stress relief. When you have an orgasm, the hormone, oxytocin, is released from the hypothalamus of the brain into the bloodstream. This creates an instant feeling of release and relaxation. And what better way to start off a good night’s sleep than with an orgasm?

Pain relief. Research shows that endorphins can help women increase their pain tolerance by as much as 75%. So rather than popping pain-relieving pills for your headache, try a little self-pleasure instead.

Improved creativity. Increased blood flow to the brain helps it to receive the nutrients and oxygen it needs to function at a high level. So if you’re in need of some fresh ideas, want to rejuvenate your artistic goals, or want to be able to express yourself more freely, try getting it on more often.

The old motto “use it or lose it” is still true, so you might as well enjoy every second.

Click here to download my free eBook, MENOPAUSE MONDAYS: The Girlfriend’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving During Perimenopause and Menopause.
Aug 102015

Weight GainWelcome to the Sisterhood of the Shrinking Pants!

If you’re anything like me, you woke up one morning and suddenly nothing in your closet fit. Has an alien mysteriously entered your closet during the night and shrunk all your clothes?

Maybe you try to cut back on the M&Ms and ramp up your exercise routine, but still the pudge keeps on coming.

Regardless of what number she sees on the scale, a woman’s weight through menopause and perimenopause is largely determined by five factors: hormones, diet, exercise, stress, and genetics. Though you may not be able to control all of these factors on your own, a healthy weight is certainly within reach.

Here are five steps to help you shed those extra menopausal pounds (a.k.a. the menopot belly):

  1. Don’t let your hormones get the best of you. Research shows that estrogen receptors located in the hypothalamus of the brain control food intake, energy expenditure, and body fat distribution. When estrogen levels in the brain dip during menopause, this control panel increases hunger, slows metabolism, and encourages fat gain around the waist. Hormone therapy could potentially be used to   keep the brain’s estrogen receptors from promoting hunger, a sluggish metabolism, and a growing waistline during menopause. HT may prevent abdominal fat gain, according to research from Gunma University School of Medicine in Japan.
  2. Quit dieting! Seriously, diets don’t help.Deprivation diets cause weight gain, not loss. Since they don’t provide your body with the energy (a.k.a. calories) it needs, they can cause your body to slow the metabolism to conserve resources, according to the Mayo Clinic.On the flip side, in one study of 465 overweight and obese postmenopausal women by the University of Pittsburgh, women who simply ate more fruits and vegetables while reducing their consumption of desserts, meat, and cheese, not only dropped pounds, but maintained that weight loss for four years.If you are looking for an actual program to help you eat healthier, Weight Watchers is frequently recommended by physicians and has topped US and World News Report’s “Best Diets” list for weight loss. (My husband and I tried it with great success. At first I was reticent, as I would rather have a Pap smear than have to add up points, but if you use the Weight Watchers app, all the adding is done for you. WW taught us a new way of eating that was both size shrinking and life changing.)

Continue reading »

Aug 032015

InsomniaYou’re in the middle of a conversation with a colleague, and lose your thought halfway through a sentence. You call your children by the dog’s name. (If you name your dog after your first born, you might save yourself some embarrassment!). Your desk is plastered with sticky note reminders. You find yourself asking your significant other, “Honey, can you call my phone? I can’t find it.” You wish you could do the same with your keys and wallet.

It’s not in your head: Menopausal memory loss is real.

As hormones fluctuate in your body during menopause, cognitive functions are affected.  Doctors say self-reported memory problems are common in women 33-55.  Many menopausal women have trouble with working memory, as well as keeping themselves focused, says a study from the University of Rochester Medical Center and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Additionally, the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) showed that cognitive decline is common, and that it can be more difficult to learn new things as you go through menopause.  That translates to problems with even some of the most basic real-life tasks, like calculating a tip after a restaurant meal or adjusting an itinerary after unexpected flight changes. (Take a look at this clip of a Menopause Monday event on the TODAY Show discussing the research!)

FYI, the study says hormone therapy works better when you begin early on, say before your last period or by 53 years of age.  There might be a detrimental effect if you begin hormones much later in the game—three or four years after your last period.

“If a woman approaching menopause feels she is having memory problems, no one should brush it off or attribute it to a jam-packed schedule. She can find comfort in knowing that there are new research findings that support her experience. She can view her experience as normal,” lead researcher Miriam Weber, Ph.D., said in a statement. Between one-third and two-thirds of women report forgetfulness and other memory difficulties during perimenopause and menopause, according to Weber.

Still, “normal” doesn’t always mean “good.” And it definitely doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Continue reading »

Jul 272015

InsomniaOne minute you’re screaming at a colleague to get that project done now! The next you’re in tears over a cat food commercial. WTF is going on? Women often hear the word “emotional” used interchangeably with “hormonal,” and it’s not usually a compliment. But there are legitimate reasons why your emotions are in upheaval during the process of menopause.


“Menopause, itself, is a stressful life event because of the various types of change that occur,” says Dr. Jeff Brown, a professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School

Hot flashes are tightly linked with stress and anxiety, according to a six-year study published in Menopause. Researchers found that anxiety and stress preceded hot flashes among perimenopausal and post-menopausal women.

Stress is your body’s reaction to any kind of demand—good or bad. Acute, or brief stress can make us more efficient and effective (think: deadlines), too much stress or chronic stress, on the other hand, can be harmful to your mental and physical health.

What’s more, chronic stress can compromise our immune systems, making us more prone to illness. Between 50 and 60 percent of all medical issues originate from stress or stress-related events, he says.

So how can you tell the difference between a stressful situation and a real stress rut? Signs that you’ve hit your acute-to-chronic tipping point include changes in appetite and sleeping patterns, headaches, crying, irritability, and even panic attacks, according to Brown.

“When it comes to stress and menopause, it’s crucial to keep your finger on the pulse of physiological, psychological, and relationship aspects of your life. Change is occurring and knowing yourself well is vital,” he says.

Of course, you likely won’t feel the exact same way pre-menopause as you do post-menopause, and some of that is natural. But there’s no need to feel like a totally different woman, especially if that woman is stressed all of that time. You can slash your stress levels. Remember, though, that while your old stress-busting tactics like bubble baths, exercise, and meditating still work, you might have to go above and beyond them to beat stress during menopause, especially when menopause is the actual stressor. Continue reading »

Jul 202015

InsomniaLet’s face it, love can hurt. And I’m not talking about the he-left-me-for-a-younger-model-and-broke-my-heart kind of hurt. I’m talking about the physical pain that can be associated with intercourse during menopause.

There’s actually a medical term for painful intercourse: dyspareunia (really??) If you’re experiencing pain during sex, you could be suffering from vaginal atrophy or VA (I used to think VA stood for Virginia, which ironically, is for lovers.). VA is also known as vulvovaginal atrophy or VVA. The latest appellation, courtesy of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), is genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM), a blanket term to describe menopausal symptoms that occur to the vulva, vagina, and lower urinary tract as a result of estrogen deficiency. Who makes up these words? Once again, the vagina gets the short end of the stick! I can’t even pronounce “genitourinary”! Perhaps NAMS should call in the Opi Nail Color Labeling Committee?

Anyway, vaginal atrophy is just that: a thinning of the vaginal wall thanks to a drop in levels of estrogen, whose job it is to maintain the structure and function of the vaginal wall, elasticity of the tissues around the vagina, and production of vaginal fluid.

We seem to hear more about hot flashes, insomnia, and memory loss, but vaginal discomfort is every bit as difficult—and critical—to deal with as other menopausal symptoms. Vaginal symptoms can negatively impact not only on your relationships and sexuality, but your quality of life and self-image.

In my experience, most women don’t even know what VA is, nor understand that it is a chronic problem that requires ongoing treatment and IS treatable. Continue reading »

Jul 132015

InsomniaAre you experiencing your own internal heat wave? Do you wake up at least once during the night in a sweat? Do you have to get out of bed, towel off, change clothes and then try to get back to sleep, only to experience a repeat performance? Do you have to prod your partner to move over a bit to avoid sleeping in the “wet spot.” (No, not the fun one.) Do your nights of interrupted sleep seem endless?  If so, you’re not alone, and this is not being caused by global warming.

According to the North American Menopause Society, about 75 percent of women report perimenopausal symptoms such as night sweats and hot flashes. If you’re one of them, you know it’s more than a seasonal heat wave. And you know that the symptoms — a flushed face, drenching sweat and rapid heart rate — will only be compounded as the numbers on the thermostat continue to climb. Before you move to the North Pole, let’s examine this common symptom a bit further.

What exactly is a hot flash?

During perimenopause and menopause, the body’s  levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone begin to fluctuate. When estrogen levels go down, they can trigger your body’s thermostat to send a signal that you are overheated. This causes your body to send out an all hands on deck alert: your heart pumps faster, the blood vessels in your skin dilate to circulate more blood to radiate heat, and your sweat glands release sweat to cool you even more. Like so much about the process of menopause, there is no “one size fits all” for the timing, duration, frequency or pattern of menopausal hot flashes.

So what does this hormonal meltdown feel like?

You may experience one or more of these:

  • flashes of heat spreading over your skin
  • skin flushed red or blotchy
  • racing heartbeat like you’ve just run a 100-yard dash
  • sweating a lot
  • dizziness

These episodes:

  • last from 30 seconds to 5 minutes
  • occurring in upper or lower body
  • occur during the day and/or night (night sweats)
  • are infrequent (several per month) to frequent (several per hour)
  • are followed by a feeling of being cold and clammy once the hot flash has passed

Fortunately, there are lots of options for treating hot flashes beyond wearing easy-to-strip-off layers, or attaching a small fan to your forehead. Since every woman is different, you will have to explore which options work best for you with your menopause specialist. Continue reading »

Jul 062015

InsomniaAre you Sleepless in Seattle? Does Disney’s Sleeping Beauty make you hostile? Does the sight of a blissfully snoozing infant make you weep? Do memories of teenage sleepathons that last 12 hours make you misty with nostalgia? Take heart, you’ve got a lot of company.

Insomnia is a problem many women encounter when they enter perimenopause. I have always been a very busy, multitasking kind of person, who worked hard in the daytime and slept hard at night (including falling asleep mid-conversation, but we don’t need to get into that). All of a sudden in my forties, not only was I having trouble sleeping, but multitasking became more difficult, too. My focus and memory kept failing me. I felt like an alien had taken over my body and I was no longer in control. My insomnia was getting the best of my … what was I just about to say?

If you’re suffering through insomnia, you are not alone. Only 45% of peri-menopausal women report getting a good night’s sleep almost every night, says the National Sleep Foundation. Hormones connect your brain and body. When they change, the way your brain and body function does, too. Progesterone is a very important hormone for sleep, but progesterone levels drop when you enter perimenopause, making your body chemically less capable of sleeping well.

The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) lists trouble falling asleep as one of their main five symptoms of menopause. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), most women complain of sleeplessness during perimenopause to post-menopause, with about 61% of post-menopausal women having issues with insomnia.

A study conducted in 2013 by scientists at the University of California San Francisco found a lack of sleep can put adults at risk for a variety of chronic health issues. A report published in Harvard University’s Harvard Women’s Health Watch in 2006 says adults who sleep less than six hours a night can suffer from such issues as memory loss, poor cardiovascular health, irritability, and problems with their metabolism and weight. Continue reading »

Jun 152015

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgMy husband David and I met 39 years ago on a blind date.  Yes, ladies go on those blind dates!  You just never know, you might meet your soulmate!! David is my life partner. Over the many years we have been together, we try to encourage each other to lead healthy and rewarding lives. I came to the marriage with high cholesterol and David came with periodic migraines.

I take great care to eat healthy and exercise. David supports me in this by doing the same. Over the years, David has found a fabulous migraine specialist who has figured out the right protocol to take care of those migraines when they hit. This is all well and good, but now that we are in our 60’s, I wanted to figure out if there was something we could do to help prevent  those migraines instead of managing them after they occur.  So, with that in mind, David made an appointment for a consult at Scripps Integrative Medicine.

The doctor suggested that David try TM, (Transcendental Meditation). He explained the science behind it and added that he and many medical professionals, corporate executives, even celebrities mediate twice a day for 20 min. I was a bit skeptical, but willing to try anything that would help David. On the way home in the car, I called the TM center and made an appointment for us to have the training. I thought if I did it with him, it would help David do it.

When we arrived for the training, we were each taken to a different room with a different trainer. There was something very calm about this place.  I couldn’t put my finger on it.  As I sat with my trainer, I thought, this is so easy and is going to be so helpful to David.

After maybe a minute, I was quite sure that the 20 minutes was almost up. When was the last time I sat calmly for 20 min? I was perplexed by how relaxed I felt. I learned to let go and just “be”, something not very familiar to me, or for that matter, our culture as a whole.

That’s when it hit me…….perhaps it wasn’t just David who needed to learn to meditate! OY!

TM where have you been all of our lives!!?? Continue reading »

Jun 082015

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgOnce in a while, when I can’t remember where I put my keys or forget someone’s name, I think about my brain, and wonder if I take good care of it.  After all, it is one of our biggest organs, weighing about 3 pounds. I think my hips are next in weight, but not defined as an organ….but I digress!

A few years ago, I needed an MRI of my brain as I was having some sudden scary dizziness (fortunately it turned out that I just needed to tweak my thyroid medicine…who knew??). After I got off the MRI table my first thought was that I was relieved they found a brain in there! Good to know. As a boomer, sometimes I experience things that make me think mine is shrinking.

Our brains have a HUGE job! The brain consists of some 100 billion nerve cells. It is comprised of two kinds of matter…gray and white. (mine probably has orange in it-my fav color). The brain houses our thoughts and highly coordinated physical actions, and regulates our unconscious body processes, such as digestion and breathing. It gives us the capacity for creating and enjoying art, language, moral judgments, and rational thought. It’s also responsible for our individual personality, memories, movements, and how we sense the world.

So what happens if that brain becomes injured? How does it heal? How do you find your path to being “Okay” again? Ruth Curran, author of Being Brain Healthy shares the car accident that resulted in her brain injury and then she meticulously walks us through the recovery from that injury and how it taught her how to build better thinking skills and changed her life. You feel like you are inside her brain, experiencing it all firsthand. Continue reading »

May 042015

http://ellendolgen.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/EllenJack.jpgI am in the menopause business. No, this was not my major in college. This is my encore career! My husband has nicknamed me the “Vagina Whisperer.”

Menopause education is my mission. Spurred by my own experience struggling with the symptoms of menopause, I have devoted the last ten years of my life to helping other women during this often difficult time. I am not a doctor or scientist, but I have “talked the talk” with countless menopause experts, so that I can “walk the menopause walk” with you and share the keys to this menopause kingdom.

Together with my son, Jack, we have created a FREE eBook, MENOPAUSE MONDAYS The Girlfriend’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving During Perimenopause and Menopause, a comprehensive guide to all things menopause—the symptoms, treatments, and long-range effects on a woman’s health.

Presented in an entertaining and informative way, we share information and expertise from numerous specialists, replacing the confusion and embarrassment so often experienced with medically sound solutions. You’ll find detailed descriptions and treatments for the symptoms you or your loved one may experience, from hot flashes and mood swings to mental fogginess and loss of libido, and lots more in between.

In addition to sharing the latest research and proven treatments, you will find tips on how to find a menopause specialist who’s right for you, and a clear explanation of what tests to ask for. You’ll also learn about the latest studies on hormone replacement as well as alternative therapies and remedies. Finally, we share the real-life experiences of women—and those who love them—as they traverse the crazy ups and downs of perimenopause and menopause.

The FREE eBook format will allow us to periodically do updates with the latest studies and information.  In that sense, it will be a living text that grows as the information grows.

Help me with my mission! Spread the word!


Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!

Jan 262015

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgBefore I tell you all about this fabulous new eBook I’m releasing -for FREE– I want to take a moment to reflect on what the Menopause Mondays blog, and all my work in educating women and men on perimenopause and menopause, has meant to me, and to thank YOU for everything you’ve given me.

As I walked down the stairs to my computer this morning, I began reminiscing about these past years of writing and blogging about perimenopause and menopause.

My morning usually begins at 7AM.  I love the quiet of the house and the sunlight peaking in as I raise the blinds. I yearn for my morning coffee, but these days it is a few steps behind my probiotic (who knew we need to balance the good and bad bacteria?!!) and a large glass of ice water.

I try to do my morning 20-minute meditation, but frankly my need to check my emails resulting from my weekly blog posts usually wins out.  What if someone is suffering in another time zone? I don’t want them to wait too long to get support.  I remember how alone I felt when my perimenopausal symptoms were running my life. More like ruining my life.

Some of the emails contain just one line: “Help, I am depressed!” or “I can’t sleep anymore. Am I in perimenopause?” Others are very long journals of very trying, difficult emotional highs and lows, severe depression, insomnia, or shockingly severe issues with sex and libido that are causing marriages to fall apart. Continue reading »

Jan 192015

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgIn today’s over-prescribed, oversized yet undernourished society, we often find ourselves plagued with inexplicable ailments. I’m not talking about the hot-flash-weight-gain-tender-breast-migraine symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. I’m talking about more chronic, everyday symptoms.

As with menopause symptoms, many people are seeking out alternative treatments to prescription drugs. Interestingly, while people often look to eliminate troublesome foods from their diet, it’s less common for them to add certain foods to help alleviate symptoms.

For those who suffer from histamine intolerance, many have found relief through a combination of physical and mental “treatments.” By regulating diet and using the brain to heal, many sufferers have alleviated their symptoms.

Although histamine intolerance may affect only about 1 percent of the population, its symptoms are often confused with other maladies, such as food allergies. The majority of those diagnosed with histamine intolerance is women in their 40s. Guess what? Hormonal imbalance can trigger histamine intolerance in women who previously did not suffer from it prior to menopause. Continue reading »

Jan 122015

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgThink back to your PRE-menopause days. If someone told you they could trigger menopause for you, you’d hardly have jumped at the chance, right? But that’s exactly what many cancer survivors younger than 50 – or even younger than 40 – experience.

Each year in the U.S., almost 50,000 women younger than 50 are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. Nearly 10,000 of them are younger than 40. During chemotherapy, women may have irregular menstrual cycles, amenorrhea (disappearance of menstrual periods), menopausal symptoms or be thrown into actual menopause. Menopause may be immediate or delayed, permanent or temporary when triggered by chemotherapy.

I reached out to the Yale Cancer Center and spoke to Dr. Erin W. Hofstatter, Assistant Professor of Medicine (Medical Oncology); Co-Director, Genetic Counseling Program, and Dr. Elena Ratner, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, to shed some light on issues of concern to my readers. They graciously provided me with philanthropy of their knowledge!

Tomosynthesis Mammography

Dr. Hofstatter flatly responded, “I am a huge fan.” More and more data shows that this 3-D mammography cuts false-positives and call-back rates, and is picking up a few extra cancers per 1,000 women screened. It is a small amount of extra radiation compared to the usual 2-D mammogram, but is well worth it since it reduces call-backs and need for diagnostic mammograms (which are a lot more radiation than a screening 2-D mammo). Continue reading »

Jan 052015

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgWhen menopausal symptoms plague your every waking hour during the day…and night…it’s likely time to investigate whether hormone therapy (HT – formerly referred to as HRT) is the right decision for you. However, there are so many options not only in what kind of hormones you should take, but also which type of pharmacy—traditional or compounding—you want to frequent to get those meds that keep you feeling like your new and improved self.

Maybe you’ve already gone to your regular doctor to ask about how to keep your hot flashes, flashpoint temper, and insomnia at bay, but you might still be confused about the different forms of HT– bioidentical vs. non bioidentical options.

Conversely, you might be wondering if you should just ‘go it alone’ and use a combination of what you know makes you feel better, such as diet and meditation. No wonder you’re confused about what to do!

Whether it’s a patch, gel, drops or pills, hormones are available in all varieties and forms. In addition to the manufactured meds that maybe your mom took, bio-identical hormones are popular because women want something to mimic the hormones made in their own bodies, such as estradiol that naturally decreases as you go through menopause

Now throw the idea of a compounding pharmacy in the mix vs. the conventional corner drug store and you might wonder if you should go back to ‘eeny, meeny, miny moe’ game to make the final decision. Continue reading »

Dec 292014

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgIf you haven’t made a resolution yet to keep your weight in check, there’s still time! Jan. 19-25 is Healthy Weight Week, celebrating healthy lifestyles for life. This annual celebration is a time for everyone to be active, eat well and feel good.

Menopausal women may be more cognizant of their weight than other age groups. Our reduced metabolism is tipping the scales — and not in our favor! Women don’t have a monopoly on this; middle-aged men also suffer from the shrinking-pants syndrome.

Expanding middles are more than about appearances. They are about your health, and can put you at greater risk for heart disease, diabetes and other conditions.

Francie Berg, MS, is chair of Healthy Weight Week. She is a licensed nutritionist and adjunct professor at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine. In 1986 she created the Healthy Weight Network, which sponsors Healthy Weight Week.

As national coordinator of the Task Force on Weight Loss Abuse for the National Council Against Health Fraud, she maintains an extensive collection of questionable products and bizarre gadgets that Americans use in their battle of the bulge. Continue reading »

On the 12th Day of Christmas, My Hormones Said to Me…

 Menopause Mondays  Comments Off on On the 12th Day of Christmas, My Hormones Said to Me…
Dec 222014

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgThis Christmas, it’s a hormone-filled holiday, thanks to our old friend’s perimenopause and menopause. Pour yourself a cup of spiked eggnog and sing along with me.

On the first day of Christmas, my hormones gave to me: a bladder bursting with pee.

On the second day of Christmas, my hormones gave to me: two tender breasts and a bladder bursting with pee.

On the third day of Christmas, my hormones gave to me: three big zits, two tender breasts and a bladder bursting with pee.

On the fourth day of Christmas, my hormones gave to me: four extra inches, three big zits, two tender breasts and a bladder bursting with pee.

On the fifth day of Christmas, my hormones gave to me: five months of bloating, four extra inches, three big zits, two tender breasts and a bladder bursting with pee.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my hormones gave to me: six chin hair sprouting, five months of bloating, four extra inches, three big zits, two tender breasts and a bladder bursting with pee. Continue reading »

Dec 152014

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgSuffering from menopausal hot flashes? No problem! Just take some opium and call me in the morning. Or perhaps you’d prefer a little cannabis?

Sounds crazy, huh? But back in the 1800s, that’s what doctors prescribed for their menopausal patients.

References to menopause can be traced far beyond the 1800s. In fact, Aristotle supposedly referred to menopause, saying it began at 40 years of age.

If you’re wondering where the term “menopause” came from, it was coined in 1821 by French physician Charles Pierre Louis De Gardanne (la ménépausie). What I’m wondering is why a woman didn’t name it. Then again, us women are known to call it MANY (unrepeatable) things, which is probably why it was left up to a man.

Societies have been dealing with menstruation and menopause since biblical times. Anita Diamant, author of the bestselling novel The Red Tent, said in an interview with Ms. Magazine that menstrual tents and huts were all over the world in various premodern societies. However, the “red tent” referred to in her book was a fictional one that she created.

She’s not that far off, though. In some religious practices, women immerse themselves in a ritual bath following their menstrual periods or after childbirth in order to become pure and permitted to resume sexual activity.

Similar restrictions have been placed on menstruating women by other major religions of the world. They have addressed menstruation and its negative effect on women. This has led to prohibitions on physical intimacy, cooking (I can deal with that prohibition!), attending places of worship, even requiring women to live separately from men during their cycles. In some religions, menstruating women are considered “impure.” In others, menstruating women are thought to lose qi or chi (life force). Continue reading »

Dec 082014

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgThe medical community has placed a great deal of emphasis on heart health, from preventive measures such as exercise and nutrition to recognizing the symptoms of a heart attack. Unfortunately, much of that emphasis has focused on men’s health, not women’s.

Heart attack is the number one killer of women. And, because symptoms can be quite different in women than in men, it’s extremely important that we recognize those symptoms.

Men typically experience chest discomfort/pressure (akin to having an elephant sit on your chest), discomfort in other areas of the upper body and shortness of breath. Women, on the other hand, can be suffer a heart attack without having any chest discomfort.

Women’s heart attack symptoms

I can’t stress enough how important it is to recognize the other symptoms, as listed by the American Heart Association:

  • Discomfort in the middle of your chest (pressure, squeezing, fullness, pain) that continues for more than a few minutes, stops, then comes back
  • Discomfort or pain in the jaw, neck, back, one or both arms, or stomach
  • A cold sweat
  • Vomiting/nausea
  • Fainting or lightheadedness
  • Extreme fatigue

Don’t overlook the last four symptoms listed above. These often are confused for something less serious, such as the flu or indigestion. If you have these symptoms and think you’re having a heart attack, here’s what to do, according to the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School:

  • Don’t wait – call 911 immediately.
  • Chew, not swallow, a regular dose 325-mg aspirin.
  • If necessary, have someone drive you to the hospital.
  • If no other options are available, drive yourself to the hospital.

Continue reading »

Dec 012014

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgNo sooner did you catch a passing glance at the autumn leaves, than it’s time for the holidays—stressful under the best of times but even more so when menopausal hormones wreak havoc with your mind and body.

This season, you committed to hosting the holiday dinner. So, in between frenetic shopping, cookie baking, house decorating and an endless round of parties, how do you keep it together, so that when the doorbell rings, you’re not wishing you had a ticket to Tahiti?

First of all that ‘I’ve got to be perfect,’ mantra needs to take a hike because sometimes good enough is perfect.

Give Yourself a KISS

Don’t let your Type-A personality take over. My motto for holiday hosting is: KISS: Keep it Simple Sistah!

Creating an innovative theme for your holiday meal can change things up a bit and not over tax you or your wallet. One year, I only made the turkey and asked everyone to bring a favorite dish (along with their partner)! I asked the guests not to tell me what they were making! I wanted it to be a surprise. The guests brought their surprise food offering covered with tin foil. Once I put all the dishes on the buffet table, cocktail in hand, we unveiled the dishes and guessed who made them. Can’t get any more KISS than this!

I have to admit, that at most holiday dinners I do find myself over eating (shocker!) Usually, sneaking off to my bedroom to rip off those pesky Spanx! So one year, my holiday gathering was a Pajama Party. Everyone came comfy and relaxed. That holiday dinner was a huge hit! Warning: it was hard to get everyone to leave! I had to remind them it was not a slumber party. Continue reading »

Nov 242014

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgThe holidays are upon us. The grocery stores are buzzing with turkey orders, neighborhood pumpkin patches are being converted over to Christmas tree lots (I prefer the evergreen smell over the hay), everyone is talking about where they’re celebrating and who they are going to be with for Thanksgiving this year.

It’s not enough to just have Thanksgiving.  According to the stories on the radio, TV, newspapers, magazines and online, you must have THE BEST THANKSGIVING EVER! You can spend hours just focusing on your turkey. (I always stuff my turkey with apples and oranges because it helps keep the cavity moist. Do not use this idea on your vagina…it will not work!


So what else is the menopausal woman focused on this Thanksgiving?

– She is focused on how she is going to remember to even buy the turkey?

– She is focused on her stomach and her hips — wondering how she is going to fit into last year’s holiday clothes.

– She is focused on how to keep her uncontrollable emotions in control when normal family holiday stress kicks in.

– She is focused on sleep – she needs it!

– She is focused on trying not to be a bitchface with her loved ones. Continue reading »

Nov 172014

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgSo, you’ve soldiered through the hot flashes and weight gain associated with menopause for months and just when you thought you were on top of things, things on top become your new focus. Menopausal-related hair loss can come as a big surprise…and not necessarily one that’ll leave you smiling.

As you travel through menopause, your hair has a tendency to pack its bags and go away leaving you with a receding hairline, widening part and maybe even some tiny patches on your scalp. Couple this with the multitude of new coarse hair growing on your lip and chin and suddenly you’re seriously wondering how to cope.

Your hair has long been a critical ‘supporting character’ in your life story. That’s why when you first notice shedding on your brush, followed by hair going down the drain, it can be devastating.

Bad Hair Days

Dr. Nicole Rogers, prominent hair transplant surgeon and board-certified dermatologist says this menopausal hair loss can be traced back to the same thing that triggers many menopausal symptoms: fluctuating hormones.

“As estrogen levels drop, normal circulating levels of androgens might be unmasked. This can translate to unwanted facial and chin hairs, as well as hair thinning for some women,” explains Dr. Rogers.

“Female hair appears as a localized thinning the front portion of the scalp, or can occur diffusely over the entire scalp.”

This ‘diffuse generalized hair loss’ is present in 26% of post-menopausal women over the age of 45, according to the British Association of Dermatologists’ study. That includes hair not just on the top of your head, but also near what they term ‘androgen-sensitive sites,’ or the hair ‘down there.’ It thins out, too, even as facial hair gain takes root in most women: 40% attested to that in this particular study. So, in essence, thick hair where you don’t want it and thinning where you want the hair to stay put and grow. Continue reading »