I spent an enjoyable hour with Dr. Mary Murray, discussing the ways in which women’s aging bodies fall apart.
Dr. Murray, an OB-GYN at Southern Connecticut Women’s Health Care Associates, has practiced medicine for over 20 years and is an expert in minimally invasive gynecological surgery. Women see her for numerous reasons, ranging from cancer to abnormally heavy menstruation or difficulty losing weight.
When diagnosing her patients she incorporates elements of Eastern/holistic medicine, focusing on the entire patient, not just the specific ailment. “I’m a doctor but I’m also a partner in helping women figure out a good path,” she explains. “I peel back the layers of onion and try to figure what else comes up.”
I asked her what is the most common auxiliary complaint among her Westport patients. Without hesitating, she indicated stress: insomnia, fatigue, and general frazzlement (my word, not hers.)
Women tend to rush family members to a doctor at the merest hint of an illness or the thinnest thread of anxiety. Meanwhile, they ignore their own tension until it manifests into something painful (migraines), gross (irritable bowel syndrome) or worse.
We discussed some stress indicators and how women can fix them without swallowing tablets and capsules.
Dr. Murray starts with sleep. “I ask, ‘How are you sleeping? If not, why?’ We detox while sleeping, it’s how your brain gets rid of free radicals and rejuvenates itself.”
In the short-term it makes one cranky and short-tempered.
Longer term, it can lead to increased risk of Alzheimer’s, dementia, cancer, and heart disease.
If your brain has a few minutes of quiet everyday, “It changes your outlook, helps you make choices and cope with things,” she indicates. “Meditation slows the aging process, promotes healing and boosts the immune system.”
Better coping skills and increased positivity help lower stress and facilitate sleep. But, if you’re like me, “slowing the aging process” is all you need to know.
“A lot of this is related to diet,” Dr. Murray says, “Junk food, ‘health’ bars and processed stuff: these contain so much sugar and sodium. Sugar is like crack for brains.”
Figure out what you’re eating and eliminate the bad stuff. Too much diet Coke? Carbs? Alcohol? Everything we put into our mouth affects our microbiome positively or negatively.
“You can’t eat like you did when you were 20,” Dr. Murray contends. Though she recommends seeing a nutritionist, some balk at the price tag. “You get botox for $600,” she retorts, “spend that money on a nutritionist instead!”
According to Dr. Murray, “A good habit takes 21 days to instate.” Consider going on a 3-week cleanse or detox program which eliminates trigger foods such as wheat and sugar, then slowly introduces them back into your diet. You’ll be surprised how a healthy diet improves the way you look and feel.
Just as you shouldn’t eat the same way you did when you were 20, you also shouldn’t take the same medications.
“A 40-year old comes in with debilitating migraines,” Dr. Murray exclaims. “She’s still taking the birth control she was taking when she was 21. She has no inventory of what she’s putting in her body and it could be catalyst for migraines.”
See a neurologist! Tell her what you’re taking and re-evaluate prescriptions every few years to ensure they work for your changing body. Newer and better medications come on the market all the time; take advantage of these medical advancements.
These solutions are not panaceas, nor are they intended to minimize what could be a more serious problem. Moreover, more than one symptom may be alleviated by more than one solution. For instance, what helps insomnia might also help fatigue and vice-versa.
And if you need a pill, you need a pill. If you need surgery, you need surgery. But choosing to ignore what your body is telling you is one problem that has no solution.