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TMI coming up, men: I officially hit menopause this July, of 2021. I’d hoped it would mean the end of all the perimenopause symptoms: the mild fibromyalgia-like aches and shortness of breath, no more pain in my privates, hot flashes gone, digestion back to normal (my normal, anyway, which is not most other people’s normal!), and so on.

Didn’t happen. Which wasn’t a shock, because I’d read about women into their sixties experiencing hot flashes and other icky symptoms. But I’d hoped it would be different for me,, because I eat healthy and supplement magnesium like it’s going out of style!

In a recent post, I described my brief, ecstatic experience with He Shou Wu. When I couldn’t find a suitable replacement for the brand that had quit carrying it, I decided I needed to find another option.

Just so happens, I already knew about another option. For hormonal balance, anyway. Not to turn my gray hair back to brunette.

What I’m doing to increase my reproductive hormones.

This past summer, I’d been sniffing and inhaling thyme essential oil to alleviate the inflammation at the back of my throat due to allergies. After about three weeks of that, I realized that I was having fewer and less frequent hot flashes. A quick online search confirmed my hunch: thyme essential oil encourages estrogen production. Yay!

Making that discovery, I looked up which essential oils helped with progesterone production.

Clary sage.

And I’d already started using lavender essential oil as it’s supposed to increase the production of superoxide dismutase, or S.O.D.

Oh, what is S.O.D., you ask? An enzyme that breaks down superoxide, which can damage cells if allowed to run wild in the body.  The body’s production of S.O.D. decreases as a person ages. It’s also necessary for catalase, the enzyme that breaks down hydrogen peroxide in the body.

One reason that hair turns white is that as you get older, your body doesn’t produce as much catalase. The excess hydrogen peroxide gets into the hair follicles, turning it white.

Like thyme oil, geranium oil is known to increase estrogen in women. It’s also a much more pleasant scent to have on your hand!

I’m using all those oils topically. I’m not 100%, but I’m doing a lot better.

However, I haven’t told you the whole story…

The secret ingredient?

I decided to try maca root powder around the time I made my discovery about the thyme oil. After I began adding it to my smoothies, my hot flashes diminished even further. It’s not supposed to increase any one hormone, just balance them out.

So, there you have it: my all-natural hormone replacement therapy.

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He Shou Wu: Does it Really Work?

He Shou Wu (or Ho Shou Wu), a Chinese herb, is the cooked and less toxic form, of Fo-Ti. It’s supposed to reverse the graying and thinning of hair, relieve middle-aged women of various symptoms of low estrogen due to its phytoestrogen content, increase energy levels, and increase the libido in both genders. It’s purported to generally slow down aging as it is high in an enzyme that helps reduce cellular damage known as superoxide dismutase.

I’d first heard about the herb on some Aussie’s vlog, and recalled it again in the summer of 2020 because I was dismayed at how thin my hair was getting, as well as the grayness that had seeped into it seemingly overnight. A quick search, and I found a brand with rave reviews. It was an alcohol tincture, the most potent form of herbal medicine next to essential oils.

I’m not sure if it did much for the color of my hair in the few short months I took it, but after using it for only a couple of weeks, my son quit complaining about finding hair in his smoothies…and I quit feeling them sliding down my arm constantly, and seeing them on the floor.

Even before that, within the first couple of days of taking it, I began sleeping better than I had for years.

After about a month, the phytoestrogens kicked in. I’d also been desperate to rid myself of the awful hot flashes (worse, the near-anxiety-attack aura that preceded them). Over the first month of taking the He Shou Wu, they gradually became less intense and less frequent, finally disappearing altogether. Not too much longer, and I realized my digestive system was behaving much better than it had in years, and I was no longer dealing with mood swings. Also for the first time in years, I was feeling happy every single day, all day long. The fatigue was gone, as were most of the random aches and pains.

And then, they sold out.

Long story short, I tried three other brands, one the dried herb in a capsule, one in vegetable glycerin, the last another in an alcohol tincture.

They did nothing.

My husband took the capsule form for a few weeks, because of his thinning hair, and he told me that it did worse than nothing. It kicked away his libido and drained him of energy – the exact opposite the herb is supposed to do!

The brand I’d originally purchased the He Shou Wu from is Herb-Pharm, a reputable company that follows all the rules. I’d wondered how it was that these other companies were managing to formulate He Shou Wu products when Herb-Pharm could not.

Because, I finally concluded, they were either not using the herb at all, or were obtaining an inferior quality of the herb.

I also have to wonder at the four- and five-star reviews of those other three brands.

So, does He Shou Wu work? In my experience, yes.

But I don’t know if, in the U.S., we’ll ever be able to get our hands on the good stuff again. I’ve found other means to raising my estrogen levels – though not stop my hair from turning gray – and I’ll talk about that shortly.

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When my husband and I declared financial independence, he being age 42 and I nearing age 44 at the time, we’d never even heard of FIRE. That is, the movement birthed by an online personal finance guru encourage millenials and Gen-Zers to retire super-early. All we knew was, three years before making that oh-so-controversial declaration, my husband had had enough of his job and didn’t want to wait until his mid- to late-fifties to retire. I had already quit my job to be a stay-at-home mom, but I’d been ready to leave my career for years, so I completely understood where he was coming from.

So we took a long, hard look at our finances, and began to work toward building a nest egg big enough so that our investments would provide us with a decent living. Only after we left the suburbs to move out into our dream home of a rural property in the woods did we learn that other people were doing what we’d done, only beginning at a much younger age, with the intention of leaving the work force before age forty.

“FIRE” in this context stands for “Financial Independence, Retire Early.” In essence, it’s about working to build up a large nest egg much earlier than is conventional so that you have the freedom to walk away from your job or career in your thirties or forties, instead of having to wait until age sixty or older.

However, the meaning of the phrase “financial independence” can be interpreted differently than that. Yes, it typically means that a person has enough money saved and invested so that their money produces enough interest to cover their annual living expenses.

However, you can also define “financial independence” as the state of not needing any money, or needing very little of it. Some people prefer to live off the land in a tiny house, bartering for what they can’t produce themselves rather than paying money for items in a store. Such people need very little money in order to live their preferred lifestyle.

But that’s not most of us. Most of us consider a million dollars the minimum needed to to declare financial independence, a little less for single people, somewhat more for married couples with more than two children, the number varying depending on where you live and that standard of living you want to maintain.

Those who are part of the FIRE movement are endeavoring to grow their nest egg to that number before the age of forty-five. Which leads us to the second part of the anacronym, “retire early.”

Save up a million dollars between the ages of twenty-two and forty? That sounds next to impossible! And what about inflation? What about paying for higher education for your children?

In future posts about the FIRE movement, I’ll be addressing those issues. Right now, I’ll just tell you that no, it’s not impossible, or even next to impossible, for most people with middle-class incomes to achieve early financial independence.

And there you have it: the nuts and bolts of the FIRE movement. Interested in knowing the exact steps it takes to build a large nest egg relatively early in life? Check out my book, Hatching The Nest Egg.

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IBS: Could THIS Be The Reason For The Misery?

My entire adult life, I’ve suffered from hormonally-induced IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Like clockwork, I would experience issues right before ovulating and several days before my period started.

Now that I’ve passed through menopause, I’ve noticed that I suffer several days before the new moon and full moon, as well. In fact, I’m wondering now how much a woman’s supposed P.M.S. is hormonal, and how much is due to the gravitational pull of the moon.

A subject for another post, but during the past few days, with no aggravating moon phase in sight, I’ve alternated good digestion days and bad ones.

I recently found out that probiotic supplements can cause an imbalance of gut flora, and thus cause IBS-type symptoms.

Interesting. I’ve learned that low estrogen levels cause serotonin levels to drop, and serotonin, normally associated with happiness, is necessary for proper functioning of the digestive tract. So I figured my problems were due to low levels of serotonin.

But I’ve been in a pretty good mood most of the time lately. And since starting to use thyme and other essential oils, my hot flashes have almost disappeared, indicating a rise in both estrogen and progesterone levels.

Could it be that the mysterious digestive condition we call IBS is largely an imbalance of bacteria in the digestive tract? Too much of a certain kind in the wrong place, not enough of another kind where it’s supposed to be?

Aging could be a factor, as well as low estrogen. Though my symptoms are better, they still pop up and are never all completely gone. Back to the moon – I’ve read that the gravitational pull can stimulate parasite activity. Why might it not affect probiotic activity, as well?

What do you think? Have I solved the deep  mystery that not even the smartest doctors and scientists have been able to figure out? 😉

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