404: Perimenopause and Menopause

Jill Chmielewski And Ashley James


  • Perimenopause and menopause
  • Addressing hormone issues would make the symptoms go away
  • Food and lifestyle perspective are going to shift our hormones in different ways
  • Detoxification is a huge part of hormones and hormone balance
  • Good circadian rhythm help with hormonal rhythm
  • Direct correlation between lack of sleep and hormone imbalances
  • Hormone building happens at night when we sleep
  • Stress has a domino effect on every other hormone in our body
  • There is no quick fix for health and hormone balance issues
  • Periods are now considered the fifth vital sign
  • Hormonal decline with your period is normal
  • Estrogen and progesterone need to be balanced in order for women to feel good
  • Balanced hormones are just as critical in midlife and late life as they were in reproductive years
  • Hormones are needed in every cell of the body
  • There's a direct link between healthy hormones and longevity and also degenerative disease
  • Perimenopause begins in the mid to late 30s

In this episode, we will talk about hormones and hormonal changes in the body (perimenopause and menopause). Know how stress and sleep affects the hormone levels in our body.

[00:00:00] Ashley James: Hello, true health seeker. And welcome to another exciting episode of the Learn True Health podcast.

Oh, my gosh. This was such a good interview. I'm really excited for you to hear it today. Jill is phenomenal. I'm not going to give too much away. But basically, every woman needs to listen to this. And men who are very interested in women's health. But you know what? All the advice she gives, which is incredible for women's health, it also applies to men. So just so you know, this is a wonderful podcast for everyone even though the topic is specifically on perimenopause and menopause. These lessons are applicable to creating health at any part in our lives. But even more important, the older we get.

I want to let you know about IIN. Jill and I discussed it briefly. This is one of the trainings that she took. She's a nurse and she has her master's. And then she did IIN to become a health coach., the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. This is the same online school that I went to, to become a health coach. And then she went on to do other programs because she wanted to dive deeper specifically into hormone health and functional medicine and functional nutrition. If you are interested in deeply exploring food as medicine, and emotional, mental, and physical health, and balancing your life, then take IIN's course. You know half the people that take it -and I think it's over 10,000 people a year take their course. Half the people that take it do it for their own personal growth. And I would have done it for my own personal growth as well. But I also did it to deepen my career and my ability to do these interviews. And also, work with clients and help them. But I see that. I see that I would have just done it for my own personal growth. So if you want to really dive into something to get your health to the next level, emotionally and mentally, and also physically, consider doing IIN. It's a wonderful year of your life. It's about 20 minutes a day, basically. So it's totally doable even for busy people, about 20 minutes a day. You can listen to the lectures. You don't have to watch them. You can listen to them while you're driving, while you're exercising, while you're doing laundry, or cooking. And you can absorb all that wonderful information and apply it to your life. It's an entire year to transform your life.

So I highly recommend checking out the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. My listeners get $1,500 dollars off. That's a huge chunk of the tuition. And you can go to learntruehealth.com/coach. That's learntruehealth.com/coach to get a free module and see if it's right for you. You can also Google IIN and give them a call. All the people you talked to on the phone are graduates. That's been my experience. Many of their staff are graduates. I've interviewed their CEO. And I've interviewed several of their staff members. All have wonderful stories. So if you're interested in becoming a health coach, you should absolutely do IIN.

But if you're not interested in becoming a health coach and you just really are focusing on your health and your family's health, IIN is also great for that. It's a wonderful way to really deepen your knowledge and apply it to your life. So check it out. Go to learntruehealth.com/coach and get your free module. See if it's right for you. See if it's something that would enrich your life. It enriched mine. That's why I love sharing it with my listeners. There's been over a hundred listeners who have gone through IIN and have shared with me the amazing changes in their life. Some of them went on to become health coaches. Or some of them were already in the health field and they added this like a tool to their tool belt. And others used it to help themselves and their family. So it's wonderful. And it's not only food. Although they do teach a hundred dietary theories and show you how to use food as medicine. But it's also learning, emotional, mental, spiritual health, and figuring out how to get that balance in your life so that you can increase the joy in your life. Decrease the stress. And feel happy about every aspect of your life.  Feel satisfied and fulfilled and passionate about every aspect of your life. So if you feel like that's missing in your life right now, then consider checking it out. It's a wonderful personal growth and health program.

IIN, Google it or go to learntruehealth.com/coach and check it out.

Awesome. Thank you so much for being a listener. Thank you so much for sharing this podcast. Please share it with everyone, all your girlfriends, especially those in their 30s and beyond, 30s and 40s and beyond. Because we want to do everything that Jill teaches us today right now. Even if you're in your 20s, this is going to help you. Start doing all the steps. She teaches nine points today. And if you do these nine points, you absolutely will see a positive shift in your hormone health and in the golden years of your life. We want to have high, high quality of life for the second half of our life. But we have to prepare for it now. And build a strong foundation of health now. That's what you're going to learn today in today's interview. So enjoy and have a wonderful, wonderful rest of your day

Welcome to the Learn True Health podcast. I'm your host, Ashley James. This is Episode 404.

I am so excited for today's guest. We have with us Jill Chmielewski. Her website is jillchmielewski.com. Don't worry, the correct spelling of that will be in the show notes of today's podcasts at learntruehealth.com.

Jill I'm so excited for today's interview. You have some amazing credentials. Your focus is on helping women to prepare for menopause and to have the healthiest perimenopause possible. And really looking at that later life. I'm about to be 40. So this is, like, definitely on my mind. But looking at starting in our late 30s preparing for how to have a really healthy hormone balance for the rest of our life. And that you teach us how to do that. I know you're launching a new digital course providing support for a whole community of women to help them with all the steps they need to achieve the healthiest hormone balance possible for the second half of their life. And I think that's brilliant. This is a topic that really, really, really needs to get out there.

Especially, because so many doctors, when you go to them, will tell you, “Oh, your symptoms are normal.” Dry vagina or weird PMS symptoms, or weight gain even though you're exercising like crazy, headaches, just the list goes on and on and on. And doctors will just say, “Oh, this is normal.” Or, “Here, take the pill.” And just they'll kind of sweep it under the rug or try to give you a drug instead of really – because they're not truly educated on how to support us in achieving optimal health. They're good at handling infections, they're good at handling emergency medicine. But they're really, really not good at helping us to achieve optimal health.

And you are a specialized in helping women to balance hormones and have absolutely optimal hormone levels their entire lives. So, Jill, welcome to the show. And I'm so excited. You're here today to teach us how to be super duper healthy women.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

[00:07:46] Jill Chmielewski: Oh, my gosh. Thank you for that awesome introduction. I'm so excited to be here as well. And I think you said everything. I mean, you nailed it. It's not that doctors don't care. It's just that they don't know. I think that in their medical training. they're focusing, especially our OBGYNs, are focusing on the reproductive years and helping women have babies or helping them with postpartum. But when it comes to that sort of second half, for most of us it's probably about a third of our lives, that will spend in perimenopause or menopause. They just don't have the education or the expertise to, maybe, help walk women through that period of life or prepare them for that period of life. So I think everything you said is right on point. 

[00:08:25] Ashley James: But even though it's like the last third of our life – and you know what? If we ate super healthy, we have the genetic potential to live to be 120. So it could be like more than half. But think about it, I love that your message and your approach is to prepare. Like preparing our 30s for things like the foundations of health, eating healthy, making sure we are fully nutrified, making sure we're checking in on our emotional and mental health, getting enough sleep. Just these everyday little tiny things will prepare us for better health in the second half of our life. And in our 30s is when we tend to really throw our body under the bus and not listen to the symptoms of our body. And just self medicate with caffeine and alcohol and over the counter medication. Because we want to go, go, go, go, go. And we're robbing ourselves of the quality of life in the second half of our life by neglecting ourselves now.

And so I love that your message is there's lots we can do now.  Even if we're in our 20s and 30s and 40s, there's lots we can do now to ensure that we have amazing hormone health later on.

[00:09:37] Jill Chmielewski: Yeah. I mean, that's so true. And that's something that I don't think even as a nurse – and I've been a nurse for almost 27 years. And I've you know worked primarily in women's health. And this notion that we can do something to actually help support our hormones really never came up in any of my training until I went into the functional medicine realm. And you and I were talking before the show, I mean food has a huge impact. Our lifestyle choices have a huge impact. But I think with physicians, oftentimes, we're looking to our physician for education about what's next. And we kind of see the reproductive years as one segment of life. And then menopause as the next phase. And that doesn't come until we're, you know, 50 or 60.

Well, for most of us, the hormonal changes start to happen in our mid to late 30s. We may be even still getting pregnant in our mid to late 30s. But the hormone changes are starting then that start to kick off perimenopause. And so yeah, there's a whole lot that we can do that we need to start paying attention to much, much earlier than when actual menopause, the point at which we no longer get periods happen. So we'll talk about, I think, a lot of it today during the show.

[00:10:47] Ashley James: Yay. Now, you were a nurse for many years. And then I really want to get into your story. Just before we get into the education part, I want to understand a bit more about your background. And what happened to have you want to become an expert in balancing hormones? So there you were a nurse for so many years. And I know you also have your masters as well. Walk us through your professional life. What happened that had you want to go into health coaching and functional nutrition coaching?

[00:11:22] Jill Chmielewski: Yeah. Thanks. So I think early on, I mean, I can remember even way back in my 20s when I was working in medicine. I was working as a neonatal ICU nurse. And then I sort of transitioned into women's health and infertility, reproductive endocrinology and infertility. And I can remember thinking at the time, that there was just such a huge disconnect. I mean, I felt the disconnect that there was, on one hand, we were just treating women who had infertility with medication. And behind the scenes, we didn't talk about nutrition. We didn't talk about lifestyle. We didn't talk about any of the other things that kind of come into play with hormones. I think that was the first moment where I started to have some of those aha moments about that this was an area that I knew that prevention, and education, and looking at things beyond traditional medicine might be helpful.

And I went on to have four kids really close together. I stayed home for a few years. And then I went back to work and went back into nursing for a while for several years. And what really kicked me off into going into this realm sort of alternative medicine or integrative medicine is my oldest daughter, who's now going to be 20 this year. Struggled her whole life with asthma, and allergies, and digestive issues. And when I was pursuing conventional medicine physicians to get some help for her, it wasn't that they didn't want to help her. I think they didn't know how to help her. They ran a test for celiac disease and said, “Well, you know, she doesn't have celiac.” So kind of like sent us on our way. “She has digestive issues. We'll just kind of send you on your way.” And so I think the mama bear in me started doing some research. And it sort of opened Pandora's box where I knew I needed to know more and learn more to help her.

And once I did and was able to help her, I started wanting to get deeper and deeper into integrative medicine. And so I started actually took my training to a formal venue. And so I went back to school. And I went to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. And when I was there, I would say about halfway through my training there, I had a lecture by Dr. Robin Berzin. And I don't know if you know her, but she's a functional medicine practitioner. She's the founder of Parsley Health, which is an amazing medical practice. And she was the one that really connected the dots for me in terms of what functional medicine was. Which is I know you've had guests on your podcast before that have talked about functional medicine. But for listeners that don't know, it's really just looking at the root cause of symptoms as opposed to just treating symptom by symptom. It's sort of looking at like, what is really causing symptoms in the body. And so she turned me on to functional medicine. And I started down that path and sort of couldn't get enough. And I think just by default, because I was working with clients and I tended to attract women as clients, I started to see over and over and over again that when I was doing their intakes and we would sit and talk through symptoms and health histories, hormones were really at the core of the bulk of their problems and symptoms. And most of these women happen to be in that 35, 40, 45, 50 kind of that perimenopausal-menopausal range. And I started to really, I guess, just get really excited about the fact that, well, just addressing hormone issues would make these symptoms go away.

And so I sort of started to, I want to say, kind of put myself in that hormone specialist bucket. But it's something that I just love. And I think that physicians don't always see the connection when women are being seen. They're often looking at symptoms in a different way. Rather than looking at how a deficiency in one hormone can affect all different systems in the body. And so for me, it just sort of, I think, when I talk about hormones or think about hormones, for me, it sort of brings everything together. And you can see how hormones work so deeply in the body. And so I've really – this is where I feel I where I work with clients and I think that this is where I'll probably hang my hat is really in the hormone world.

[00:15:26] Ashley James: So went to IIN. I went to IIN.

[00:15:30] Jill Chmielewski: I know you went to IIN. That's awesome.

[00:15:32] Ashley James: Yeah. So that was that was your first. Now, you've done other – you have other training that you've taken since IIN. I think IIN is a wonderful school like as a launching pad for people who want to become health coaches. I feel like it's the first thing people should do. And then go specialize in something. So I love that that's what you did. So halfway through the first six weeks in IIN, like halfway through it, that's when you saw this lecture. Was it was it a lecture in IIN or was it something you stumbled upon?

[00:16:08] Jill Chmielewski: It was. It was in IIN. I don't know if you remembered, you probably had the same lecture, I think. It's Dr. Robin Berzin. I think there were multiple practitioners at IIN who presented who talked about functional medicine. But for some reason, something about her and maybe because she had been more of a mainstream physician first. I don't know, everything she talked about really resonate. All of a sudden I was like, “Oh, my gosh.” It was like all the stars aligned. And I feel like the last 20 years, 20 plus years of conventional medicine all made sense or just the body. Just it all came together.

[00:16:40] Ashley James: Yes. I feel like when I did IIN, that's what happened to me too. So much stuff. So many of these separate pieces in my mind just came together and started making sense in a whole new way. It was really cool. I jumped into IIN because of an interview I did. It was within the first few months of launching the podcast. I was interviewing at a health coach. And it's so funny because I never really heard of health coaches. And I'm like. “Who is this guy? He wants to be on the show. He calls himself a health coach.” And I thought that was so hokey. I thought this was something made up. Like, you just call yourself a health coach. And he was great. It was a really, really good interview. And then I said,” Well, how did you become one?” During the interview, I said, “How do you become one?” And he started talking about IIN.

And by the end of it after we got off Skype, I called up IIN. I went to the website. I was really impressed by all the teachers that they listed. And then I called them and after talking to my husband, he's like, “Go for it. Go for it.” I signed him that same day. I was like, “Dang.” I signed up that same day. And I immediately jumped into sort of watching the foundation, like the pre-course that they give you. And I was bawling my eyes out. I felt so inspired. In every single video, I felt like I had found my people. I felt like “Oh my gosh. I belong. This is so great.” So it pulled together a lot of pieces for me.

And what's really neat is during it, because every week you want to try a different diet because you're learning about all these different diets. Food as medicine. But during it, my husband was listening kind of in the background. And he chose to go 100 percent whole food plant based vegan. He was a carnivore. He would only eat meat pretty much. And somewhere during my journey through IIN, he said to me, “I'm no longer eating meat.”

[00:18:30] Jill Chmielewski: Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh.

[00:18:31] Ashley James: So our lives have really changed. That was two years ago. And so our lives have really changed since IIN. Ad I've interviewed a lot of people -a lot of the lectures. So I'm going to have to get Robin on the show now that you say that,

[00:18:43] Jill Chmielewski: Yeah. She's wonderful. Oh, my gosh. She's wonderful.

[00:18:46] Ashley James: So there you were. You watched Robin. And all the pieces came together for you. And then you went on to take some more courses in functional medicine – or functional nutrition specifically. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

[00:19:06] Jill Chmielewski: Yeah. You know, it's funny. And you probably – this probably resonates with you having gone through IIN. Once you know sort of this other side of the world and the side of learning the body and all these things, you just want to know more. I mean, it's almost like you can't stop. And I think a lot of health coaches would say, “It's almost hard to put the brakes on learning.” Even though it's so fun to be a lifelong learner, sometimes you just want to stop and digest and sit with it for a little while. But I think at the point I was at, I was so excited about what I had learned with IIN that I went on. Do you know Andrea Nakayama? I can never say her name quite right.

[00:19:39] Ashley James: Gosh. That sounds really familiar.

[00:19:41] Jill Chmielewski: Yeah. So she has a functional nutrition program. And I did her program almost right after IIN. And I really enjoyed it. I think it was very nutrition focused. Definitely, very, obviously, a lot of biology, physiology, all that stuff. But I had heard about the School of Applied Functional Medicine somewhere in the midst of all this. And so I took just sort of like IIN, a little sample class at the School of Applied Functional Medicine. And that's where I felt like, “Okay. This is it.” Because I think having been a nurse for as long as I have been, I have a pretty – I've been in the medical world for a long time. So I wanted a deeper understanding. Where I think there are people that take these courses who do not have a medical background. But it would be difficult. It's a really big learning curve if you don't have a medical background.

[00:20:27] Ashley James: Right. Whereas IIN, you don't need a medical background at all. But when you get into functional nutrition, definitely you want a medical background or it would help.

[00:20:38] Jill Chmielewski: It helps. That's right. It helps. I think if you're a really dedicated learner, you can do it. But you're listening to lectures over and over and over. And even I have to say, I still go back to lectures that I learned when I was at the School of Applied Functional Medicine just to get one more nugget or piece of information to kind of help me maybe solidify some of my learnings So yeah, I've sort of halted it now. I'm certified in functional medicine from the School of Applied Functional Medicine. And now I'm just taking it and really – I do some hormone – I definitely have done some specialty hormone courses there. And I've done sort of one off hormone trainings. And will continue to do that. But as they say, I think when you are trying to teach other people or educate other people, you just have to be a few steps ahead of them to hold the lantern. I meant that sort of I know a lot. I don't know everything. But I know enough to definitely help women prepare for this time of life and to start to understand what they need to do. It's sort of like what to expect what you're expecting. But we don't think about it that way.

It's like, we'll do everything to prepare for a baby that's coming. Or even a puppy, if we're going to get a new puppy. But when it comes to this period of life, I don't think we think about what we need to do to prepare for this next phase in life. So that's sort of where I step in is really trying to help women understand the changes that are coming so that they can prepare for them. And then helping them to understand what can they do from a food and lifestyle perspective, from a hormone perspective, maybe a hormone replacement perspective. Although I'm not an expert in it but I definitely know quite a bit about hormone replacement. And also, how to find a practitioner that can help guide you through this next chapter of life.

[00:22:22] Ashley James: Do you do any lab tests?

[00:22:26] Jill Chmielewski: I kind of walk a fine line with that because it's a scope of practice issue, where clients will bring me labs and we'll talk about them. I can educate them on generally what labs mean. You know, “Hey, if your white blood count is this, sometimes it can be this.” Or, “If your fasting glucose is elevated, it's probably time to start making some changes in your diet.” So I can do some – I know the information. It's sort of like I need to practice within my scope of practice as a health coach and also as a nurse. So nurses, part of our job is to really educate patients on what's happening in their body. And so I'm very well versed in working with labs. But again, I try to sort of keep the deep lab work to the physicians because I think that's just – from a liability perspective, it's just a better place to be.

[00:23:18] Ashley James: Got it. I'm in the middle of taking this course from Functional Diagnostic Nutrition. I have a feeling this might be the next one you're going to take.

[00:23:25] Jill Chmielewski: Uh-huh. I know that program. I mean, I haven't taken it but I know what you're talking about.

[00:23:28] Ashley James: Yeah. Yeah. I just paused. I was doing it for a few months and then I paused it to launch the Learn True Health Home Kitchen that I was telling you about. Because we've been filming all these great cooking videos and we're going to be launching it really soon. And then I'll go back to complete the FDN. I like that it's student led. But yeah, they teach you how to read labs. Functional labs, like not the regular ones but the hormones and stuff like that. But there's so much you can do without labs. Because you're looking at the lifestyle of the person and you're helping them to fill in those gaps and help them find what's missing.

So let's get into that. Because you got nine steps, the nine different points that we want to make sure we get to that really, really will help set us up for better health. So no matter who's listening – the men that are still here, I love you. I have to say that. The men that are still listening are really awesome because they're probably listening because they're just curious. But they're also probably listening because they want to help the women in their life, which I think is just really admirable and I love you for it. And all the women that are listening, no matter what age you are, you're going to take some great information away. So maybe even if you're postmenopausal or you're 17, it doesn't matter because the stuff that Jill teaches really is applicable to all women. But specifically, it's really going to help women prepare for perimenopause and menopause. So take it away. What things should we make sure that we do or know to best prepare ourselves to have healthy hormones?

[00:25:16] Jill Chmielewski: Well, I think the first thing is just kind of pausing for a second and for women to understand that they are going to have to be advocates for themselves. I mean, healthcare has changed so much since I started as a nurse. And it had already sort of started its transition even back then. But long gone are the days where you sit with your doctor for 45 minutes and have conversations about your health and your mental health and your wellbeing and other things. Unless, you're working with a functional medicine physician and they do design their visits that way. But I think these days the visits are very limited with physicians. It's really not their fault. It's like a ten minute slot. And I have a lot of Physician friends who are, you know, they're burnt out. And they know that they are not able to provide their patients with the care that they need because they're so limited by insurance and other things that dictate care.

But I think women need to know, you have to be an advocate for yourself. And that means you have to start educating yourself. And you don't have to get – it can be confusing. And I think that's the hard part of this time in life that we're so fortunate to have so many resources health-wise and wellness-wise. But there's a lot of wellness noise. And so you get a little bit like, “Okay. Which diet? You know, which -” there's so much going on. You really don't know which way to go. So I think find, I guess, somebody who resonates with you. It could be me, it could be somebody else, who really is geared toward women. And start to learn about what's going to happen in this next phase of life. And to your point, you can start doing this in your 20s, in your teens, just to kind of get prepared for the next step.

But I think women when they feel – women are very intuitive, as you know. And so if you go to your doctor and you feel like something isn't quite right and they tell you, “You know what? Hey, it's part of aging.” And I hear that all the time from my clients who say, “I went to my doctor. I told them I was tired. I told them that my hair was falling out.” Or, “I'm gaining weight.” Or whatever it might be. And they're just told, “You know what? Hey, it's part of aging.” And I think if you understand what potentially could be happening in your body at this period of life, you'll be a much better advocate for yourself. You'll feel more confident standing up for yourself. And you'll feel more confidence saying to your doctor, “You know what? I know there's something else going on. Can you help me with this?” So I would say number one is just having women be strong advocates for themselves.

[00:27:38] Ashley James: I love that you bring up to advocate for ourselves and to build our team. I think we were raised to put doctors on a pedestal and to genuflect to them, to to bow down, and to give over our power. And especially as women, we have to look at where do we lose our power? Where do we give over our bodies to medical professionals? And where do we feel helpless? Because I think in our society, we've been trained to feel helpless. And that's something that we're breaking now. We're breaking through that. It's still left. Like, it's still – there's just a little bit of residual. So we need to look at like, are there ever any times with medical professionals where we feel helpless or we feel like we're children again? I think it's why we feel so warm and fuzzy about hospitals, like they'll just take care of me. Because there's like a child inside us that just wants our parents to take care of us. And I think that's what we do is we project onto doctors this parental role. Like, “Just take my temperature and just give me the medicine, Mommy, Daddy. And just tell me what to do and I'll be fine.”

And this giving up of our power is  something that's reinforced in society because of media, because of the way the AMA wants it. They want – the way the marketing is they want – and this is very setup. This has been set up for over a hundred years, if you look at the history of the AMA and modern medicine in all of their marketing, they want us to put doctors and hospitals on a pedestal. Do not question them. Even if you watch mainstream media and you watch TV shows, they'll make fun of patients who question, patients who step outside the box. And they're just little jabs because they want to continue this narrative that people who advocate for themselves are bad, disagreeable patients. That's actually what they'll put on your chart. You're a disagreeable patient.

You want to be a disagreeable patient and here's why. If you look at the statistics of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, they are ridiculous. They're on the rise. One in three people has diabetes or pre-diabetes. One in three people will have a diagnosis of cancer in their lifetime. I mean, it's astronomical the amount of disease. The number one killer is heart disease. If you want to be a statistic, keep doing what everyone's doing. If you don't want to be a statistic, you have to swim upstream, you have to be a salmon. And that means you have to advocate for yourself. And that doesn't mean we have to be rude. Because I think that we're really afraid as women to be – there's a B word. We're afraid of that. And again, that's society. That's the narrative to keep women in their place. And you do not have to be rude to be assertive. You can be kind, and gentle, and loving, and stand up for yourself, and be firm because you're worth it.

And you're allowed to fire your doctor and go find another one. You are allowed to. And you're allowed to find a team and build the team of experts that are in alignment with your values. And that practice informed consent. And what that means i,s the doctor does not pressure you into a therapy or a medicine. If you ever feel guilted or shamed or pressured into anything by a doctor, then you need to leave that doctor and go find one that actually practices informed consent. Which means, they inform you of the positives and the negatives of the treatment, or of the procedure, or drug, or whatever avenue you're choosing to take. They give you the entire story and they let you make the decision for you. And building a team of holistic health professionals and your MD, the whole team together and your OBGYN, building the team that empowers you and that they get that they're not on a pedestal, then you are empowered the entire time. And then that way, you'll also be informed the entire time. Because you can go to them and ask them questions and get them to inform you. And you can bring information to them that you hear on podcasts, or books, or read,studies and things like that. And you bring that information to them. And then if you've chosen your team well, they'll be receptive to that information. Because they're science minded, they'll look at it and help you to decipher whether that's a good approach for you or not based on the science.

So it does take an effort to build our team. But once you have, it's just so wonderful. It feels so great to have these health care professionals who are empowering you towards better health than just giving up your power I've seen so many people put on the wrong medications and they suffered for it because they gave up their power and they didn't advocate for themselves. So I love that this is your first point.

[00:33:10] Jill Chmielewski: I mean, you said it so well. And I think it's a partnership. So I think, thinking about it that way that it really isn't meant to be, like you said, somebody is on a pedestal and somebody is sort of down here. We're equal trying to – I mean the goal at the end of the day is always that this person can be healthier and can be their best self. And if you have a Physician who is open and willing, they're going to be working with you in partnership as opposed to trying to strong arm you or tell you what to do. So I couldn't have said it better myself. I think that was great.

[00:33:44] Ashley James: Awesome. Well, I love it's your first step. So now step number two.

Photo by CATHY PHAM on Unsplash

[00:33:48] Jill Chmielewski: Okay. So step number two is probably the one that is, I think women are the most resistant to, and that is lifestyle. And I mean, I kind of will buck it. Lifestyle, food, all of that stuff, kind of into one. I think that women have this very unrealistic expectation that we can skip on sleep, we can eat crappy food, we're going to keep, exposing ourselves to toxins, we're going to over schedule ourselves, we're going to be 24/7 on our devices, we're going to eat inner minivans on the go, we're going to be stressed all the time. And at the same time, we're going to be thin, we're going to have great se, we're going to beautiful hair, we're going to have great relationships, we're going to have this really smooth transition into perimenopause and menopause, and everything's going to be great.

You can't have both. And I think you were talking earlier about kind of that giving somebody a pill to fix something. That we're looking a lot of times women are saying, “What pill can I take for something?” And I think this is where lifestyle comes into play deeply. Because hormones, even if you give someone, let's say, hormone replacement or something that may help to boost hormones. At the end of the day, biochemically in the body, the body is always trying to find a balance in hormones. So it's going to shift hormones in the direction that it thinks it should go, regardless of what you give somebody. So sugar causes women oftentimes to make more testosterone. So different things that we do from a food and lifestyle perspective are going to shift our hormones in different ways. So we can't just take a pill. We can't just take supplements. We can't just say, “I'm going to ignore the natural rhythm of my body.” Especially at this point in life and I think this is really that key point in life where everything comes to a head. If you've been ignoring these signs and symptoms along the way – and women often say to me, “Well, I just didn't really pay attention.” And the thing is if you were to stop and listen, our body is constantly communicating with us. And it's constantly sort of tapping us on the shoulder, giving us little whispers. Maybe not saying it outright but it is telling us in different forms. Like when we gained weight and we've changed nothing else, that's telling us that something is happening in the body. When we're fatigued, that's telling us that something needs attention. If our hair is falling out, if we have really irregular periods, if we have really cloudy periods, heavy periods, terrible PMS, whatever it may be, that's a sign that something is happening. And that's how our body communicates with us. And it's trying to say, “Hey, listen, I need help.” And if we keep ignoring it, which is what women often do.

And I think you said that in sort of your opening remarks that, we're running around and we just kind of ignore ourselves. We ignore it. We put everybody else first. The kids come first. The kid's schedules. We'll sign the kids up for a million different things. But we won't take time for ourselves. We won't pay attention to our symptoms. We won't actually make – we don't have time for those lifestyle changes. And, unfortunately, we're going to have to make time for those lifestyle changes if we want to feel good in perimenopause and menopause. It's truly a must. I mean, there's no way to actually make it through perimenopause and menopause well-unscathed to the other side and feel good and actually remain with our health intact without making some lifestyle changes. So that's a big one. And I'm sure that's probably a hard one for, maybe, your listeners to hear. But it's something I think we're – perimenopause is a five to 15 year transition. And I think that's nature's way of giving us a very generous window of time to kind of get our act together, slow it down, start to really think about what we need to prepare for this next phase in life.

[00:37:28] Ashley James: Yeah. What we need versus what we want. I want to stay up late but what I need is to go to bed.

[00:37:36] Jill Chmielewski: Exactly. And we all do it, right? We all do it at certain times. We just have to not do it daily.

[00:37:40] Ashley James: Totally. Totally. Like, you know what? The binging Netflix or Hulu, keep it to once a month or something. The staying up until 2:00 in the morning, maybe keep it to like – you know, limit that. I think it's really easy to put the kids to bed and then be like, “Oh, now It's me time.” And I'm totally guilty a bit. But I see so many of my mom friends up at midnight because this is the time when it's like, “The house is quiet, we can do things.” Or just stay awake not doing anything but just have fun. And I know that on the days that I go to bed even with my son, if we go to bed early, even go to bed like at 9:00 or at 7:00, we go to bed really early, we are so much more productive and then so much happier the next day.

And I think that when we tend to stay up late and binge TV or whatever, that that shows that there's – and I'm talking totally from personal experience – that shows that we feel like there's a deficiency in joy in our life. You know what I mean? Because I think – what I would I do is I go, “Oh, this is my me time.” Or, “I'm going to have some fun now.” Or I'll stay up like I did last night I stayed up working on this membership site that we're launching really soon. And it's temporary because we're going to get it launched and then I don't have to stay up really late working on it. And I'll be able to work on it on normal business hours. So there's times when we do it. But just this idea in my head I had to figure out, “Why am I staying up late every night?” I had to ask myself this. Like, “Why is it that I'm not going to bed at 9:00 or 10:00?” We really want to be asleep by 10:00.

They show that if you can be asleep by 10:00, you get the most amount of healing done, like the lungs. I think it's between 10:00 and 1:00 or midnight where the lungs heal. And then other parts of the body are healing. And the brain really needs to go through two full sleep cycles. And if we go to bed at like midnight, we're not getting those two sleep cycles. And I don't I don't set an alarm clock anymore because my son is our alarm clock. So I don't get to sleep in. So a lot of families don't get to sleep in. So really, if you go to bed early – and I did this with one of my clients who would stay up late working on her business after she put the kids to bed and then be exhausted the next day. And then it was really hard for her to make healthy choices or have enough energy to cook healthy food. And it compounded and it all started with making one change. And I said, “What if you went to bed with your kids.” Because, obviously as adults, we'll wake up before the kids. And then you did all this work. Although the busy work like the emails and stuff you were going to do late at night. You do them at 5:00 in the morning with your tea or your coffee in the morning when you're waking up. And she did that one change. And it was the domino effect that put everything in place in her life. She had more energy. She had more mental clarity. She actually began to lose weight. And of course, inflammation. She lost all that brain fog. She found that she was more productive in the morning. Like all the work that would take her two hours to do at night, actually took over a half-an-hour In the morning. Because she was fresh.

And so there's so much to say about when you say that changing your lifestyle, like just these little changes. Like, what if you went to bed like two hours earlier and did everything you wanted to do. Just rearrange it and really put your sleep as priority. What if you just did this one change this month and just made sleep your priority? And then you could see what's the ripple effect for the rest of your life. Because if you have the energy, then you might eat a little bit better, then you might exercise a little bit more, then you might be a little happier. And it can just compound from there. So I think that just saying something as simple as making sleep a priority, step one. So great.

And then like you said, not eat crap food. But you know what? When we're tired, it's really hard – it's harder – I should say, it's harder to make better health food choices when we're walking zombies. So I really do think it starts with the sleep. And then after you've got sleep under control, then it's the eating healthier. And then you said, limit exposure to toxins. And then don't over schedule yourself. So ask yourself, what do you what do you need instead of what do you want. And then and then don't stay connected 24/7. Put the phone down. And go for a walk in the forest with your kids. Do that on a regular basis. Like, get disconnected. So I love that you talked about that. Because that chronic stress – stress isn't an emotion. But that chronic stress we're putting on our body, we don't feel it as an emotion. But we'll feel it when our body is at its breaking point. So we have to address the stressors. Knowing that we actually don't feel it. We don't feel it necessarily. But you know what we do? We do feel it when it's gone. Like when you're on vacation, you're like, “Oh, my gosh. This is so amazing.” You just feel so good. That's because the stressors aren't there. So we can feel it when it's not there. But when we're habituated, were adapted to constant chronic stress, that's our new norm. So then we're like – I've had so many people say to me, “I'm not stressed. I don't feel stressed.” But they make these changes and then they're like, “Wow. I can't believe how much stress I was under. I didn't know that.”

So I love that you pointed that out that this makes a big difference. Can you talk a little bit about why – biochemically, why does sleep and toxins and food and stress, why does that affect hormones and hormone health specifically?

[00:43:40] Jill Chmielewski: Well, I mean I love that you brought up sleep is that kind of first step. Because typically, when I work with clients, that's always the first step. And I should say to that it can take – there's no commitment. I think sometimes when you say to somebody lifestyle is something – we need to kind of work at lifestyle. They get like, “Oh, my gosh. She's going to ask me to make a million changes at once.” And I think,like you said, slow, simple changes are really the best way to start. Because they sort of get themselves. You start one and then you do the other. I think sleep is one of the number one factors. Because sleep is when we do our critical metabolic waste cleanup of the day. We build hormones at nighttime while we're sleeping. I mean, we're making hormones, we're detoxifying, we're getting rid of things.  And detoxification is a huge part of hormones and hormone balance. We need to have really efficient detoxification to have really good hormone balance. And we need sleep – really adequate deep sleep. Really that sort of, I mean – ideally, we are – you know, this doesn't happen. But ideally, we're really sort of mimicking this – have a really good circadian rhythm where we are rising with the sun and sort of going to bed with sunset. Now, we don't do that anymore. But the closer we can get to that, that's going to definitely help with hormonal rhythm.

So the women that you were just alluding to – and I have a lot of friends too, where I'll all get emails from them. I'll look and it's like 1:30 in the morning, “What is she doing up?” And it's the same – I always get emails from her at 1:30. Every night to be cutting into sleep like that, you're really just sort of wrecking the hormonal rhythm of the day. Cortisol – there's a lot of different hormones that are involved. And they follow that sort of circadian rhythms. So when you're cutting into sleep, that's a big reason why sleep in and of itself, I mean, studies – there's probably now hundreds, if not thousands, of studies that show a direct correlation between lack of sleep and hormone imbalances. There's so many different reasons. But I would say, just the fact that we're detoxifying and that we've got just so much going on with our circadian rhythm during the day and at night has a huge impact on our hormonal balance.

[00:45:59] Ashley James: You said that we make hormones at night. Do we make more hormones when we're sleeping? I mean, if someone were to pull an all nighter, do they make less hormones? 

[00:46:08] Jill Chmielewski: They make less hormones. We make hormones at all different times, obviously, throughout the day. I mean, it's a 24/7 type of situation. But a lot of the building happens at night when we sleep. Because our bodies are at rest. And so our body can focus on more important things. During the day, we're running around like fools. And so nighttime is when our body can actually sort of – it's like this workshop that's kind of happening behind the scenes where we're able to actually work on building hormones. A lot of our appetite hormones. Like you alluded to earlier, the appetite hormones, ghrelin and leptin, are critical that we get sleep at night. Otherwise, you do end up the next day with this sort of – we've all experienced that we're up all night and you walk to the fridge every hour or the pantry looking for something to eat because those hormones are not in balance. So it's sort of the signaling is off. So we need to sleep because the signaling is off as well. So we probably would need hours to get into all of the biochemical reactions behind it all. But I would just say sleep in and of itself is huge for building hormones, and for balancing hormones, and for ensuring that communication with hormones among hormones with each other, with different tissues of the body is happening and happening well.

[00:47:27] Ashley James: I think we could do an entire episode just on this number two – this section two. Because you mentioned toxins, toxic exposure and there's like an entire episode right there. And I've had other guests talk about it. But the toxins like Bisphenol A, for example, or endocrine disruptors. And now there's obesogens and there's microplastics in water. Like, don't drink bottled water that's in plastic because there's microplastics that are obesogens. And there's estrogen mimicking plastics and toxins. There's over 80,000 toxins in our food and water and air. And many of them are endocrine disruptors. And it's scary because it could be your mattress could be off gassing obesogens. Your carpet could. Your furniture, if it has the flame retardants. And all cosmetics that are in plastic bottles, artificial fragrances and household cleaners, if they're in plastic bottles, off gas and get into our air. The air quality in our home is ten times worse than the air quality out on the streets. And we're breathing in these chemicals that are toxic to the body. And we don't feel it on a regular basis. But it's slowly disrupting our hormones and increasing our chances of cancer and hurting the thyroid. There's so many things.

So really, like you said, lifestyle is huge. And as part of that sleep, eat healthier, don't eat crap food, and reduce your toxic exposure. Don't  over schedule yourself. But each one of these points could be like a whole episode. But it's so critical. So I love that you addressed this. And that this is something that takes seriously. And again, it's that shifting our mindset as women who – I'm totally guilty of this – shifting our mindset from putting ourselves last and dragging ourselves through the mud because we have kids, because we have a husband, because we have a career, putting everyone else first because we can. And this is also what we're taught to do in society. We don't celebrate taking time off to nurture ourselves. In society, it's celebrated to burn the candles at both ends. And that's because if you look at it, women are trying to – and this is over the last, you know, 30,40 years. Women are trying to make sure that we can have a career, that we can have everything we want, and we also want to have a family. And that means the we're still kind of like holding on to this like 1950's idea of what being a mom is. And this like 1980's idea of like what being a career woman is. And try to do both at the same time and it just doesn't work. So we have to lean – what we need is we need like the 1800's idea of what it is to be a woman where we know that we're not an island. We're not doing this alone. We have to do this in a village. And we need to lean on each other.

And maybe that means that all of all of your girlfriends get together and you guys take turns carpooling and you take turns cooking dinners. Maybe you get five girlfriends together and each one of you cooks for the whole group. Or you get together once a week. My friend does this. She gets together with a girlfriend and they do meal prep. They do one day of cooking together and they cook all the meals. And they prep all the meals for both their families. So there's ways that we can do it. But we have to do it together as a community. And find the girlfriends in your life that want to get healthy together and see how you can lean on – you know, lean on family and friends but don't do this alone. Because that's  going to help you to reduce the stress is to not do this alone.

[00:51:32] Jill Chmielewski: Yeah. I mean, it's such a great point. And I think the supporting – women with other women – and I find this and you, too, as a mom probably have seen this. I think really when a woman says, “No. I can't do this.” Like let's just say, of course at school, they're always looking for volunteers or whatever it may be or signing kids up for things. When women say no, we need to respect that they just have enough on their plate. And I hear this from women all the time that there's just this guilt that they should be doing this, and they should be doing that, and they shouldn't be doing this, and all these things. And I think at some point it's not selfish to think about yourself. It's actually selfless. Because if you're not here in good health, your whole family's going to suffer. So you need to worry about yourself. So I think giving each other permission – because I hear it all the time where women ask another woman, “Be on this board with me. Or can you be on this committee or coach or this?” And somebody says no, and they're like, “Can you believe she said no?” And it's like, you know what? We, as women, need to support each other and respect that. That might just be one too many things for her right now. And that's okay. And so taking that pressure off of each other will help a lot of us to feel less guilt about saying yes to things that we know are really outside of our bandwidth.

[00:52:49] Ashley James: Guilt and shame are as unhealthy as smoking. We have to get that to look at what we need versus what we want. I love that you said that. Because what we want is clean the entire house and do 25 things on our to do list. That's what we want. But by the end of the day, if we've only done four, then we feel kind of defeated and we feel guilty or shame. And that is like we just sat down and started smoking cigarettes. It's shame and guilt are really unhealthy. And they actually will hurt our hormones.

Can you explain why being in stress mode, and guilt, and shame – these are emotions. They're not tangible. They're not like this is a desk This is real. So we often don't think that emotions can affect something physical like hormones .But can you explain why there's a real link between staying in an emotionally stressed state and having poor hormone health?

[00:53:47] Jill Chmielewski: Yeah. So I think when you think about stress or when I talk with women about stress, I think they automatically think it's just the stress of everyday living. Stress from your body's perspective, I think there's just one stress response and that is the fight or flight mode, which most of us have heard of. And all that is, there's a huge surge of adrenaline when something stressful happens. You're walking across the street with your three year old, a car comes out of nowhere, luckily, we have the stress mode in our body so that we can very quickly get our child out of the way and everybody is safe. And so that's kind of that short term stress mode. When we're in long term stress, which is the case for most of us. I mean, our bodies are designed to be in short term stress. Quick bouts of stress and then we go back to a more relaxed state. And I don't mean relaxed, like you're kicking your feet up. But you're not in constant, constant stress mode. When we're constantly stressed, which we are, we have to think about stress in a different way. It's the same fight or flight response.

So we get this huge surge of adrenaline. We get tons and tons of cortisol, which is our long term stress hormone. And cortisol affects all of the other hormones of our body. It affects progesterone, which is one of the hormones we make when we ovulate. It affects estrogen. It affects our thyroid hormone. It really has this huge effect. Our blood sugar hormone. So it really – stress in and of itself kind of throws us into a tailspin and we don't even know it. And I think we often think of just those kind of overt stresses, like walking in front of a car coming out of nowhere. Or, “Hey, I got a really stressful email from my boss.” But emotional stress of maybe something that you can't let go of from, maybe a friendship, something happened and there's this thing kind of lingering or family member. Or it could be the stress of something physical. Maybe you have a food sensitivity or, you and I, were talking about dairy before the show, maybe dairy in your body creates an immune response and inflammatory response in the body. That's actually stressful in the body and will also produce the stress response. So there's a multitude of things that are constantly producing the stress response in our body. And every time we release these stress hormones, it's like a domino effect. I mean, I think of it is like, you know, if you think of a symphony playing beautifully together, all of these different instruments. If one plays out of tune, it kind of ruins the whole piece. That's how hormones work. If cortisol is up, up, up all the time, the rest of the hormones are going to be all over the place. And they're going to be out of whack and out of balance. That's why when we're working with women, when I work with women, to help balance hormones, we can't ignore stress or sleep. But stress is such a big factor because it literally has a domino effect on every other hormone in our body. So we have to address that.

[00:56:34] Ashley James: I love it. And it starts by doing little things. I think we could like get stressed out about stress.

[00:56:40] Jill Chmielewski: Yes. Very good. That is true. That is true. Don't do that. Don't do that.

[00:56:44] Ashley James: Yeah. No. It takes little changes. Like I said, try to go to bed an hour earlier or two hours early and just see what happens. Or just make those little changes. But I think starting – you're right. Starting with sleep is the best because then we'll have a little bit more energy and mental clarity to start making better food choices. And then we can start looking at the cleaning products in our house. And then we could just go down the list. So I know that you're giving us this sort of checklist of things to do. Okay. What's the point number three?

[00:57:14] Jill Chmielewski: So point three is, I think just the notion that there is no quick fix for health and hormone balance issues. And that you're probably going to have to do some investigative work if you have had long standing hormone issues. And what I mean by that is, one of the best ways to know if you've had hormone issues coming into perimenopause is have you had irregular periods, funky periods, heavy periods, cloudy periods, skipped periods. I mean, periods, they're now considered the fifth vital sign. So they are literally a reflection of what's happening on the inside of our body.

So during the reproductive years, in general, if you're having a period pretty regularly, we're going to assume you're ovulating. Some people aren't ovulating. That's a different conversation. But in general, if you're getting a period, let's say, with a lot of regularity it's pretty manageable. If you're not getting a lot of PMS, there's nothing really crazy and symptomatic about it. Your hormones are probably pretty balanced. Because when you come into perimenopause, your hormones are going to start changing and periods may change. And that's actually a normal part of perimenopause. But if you are coming into it and you've had period issues for years and years and years and years, it's something that requires some attention. I would say to your listeners, if you're in your 20s, early 30s, mid-30s, and you're having period issues and you've had them for a long time, you probably want to start doing some investigative work now. Because those issues are only going to get worse. In perimenopause, you can expect hormone imbalances. And again, there is no quick fix in that moment. There are things that we can do to help support hormones. It's going to be a little tumultuous and it's going to be a little bit rocky just like puberty was. Because we think about perimenopause as sort of like reverse puberty. It's like in puberty, your hormones are going on the up and up. In perimenopause, they're on this kind of slow decline. And sometimes it's a quick decline. But in most cases, it's a little bit of a slower decline.

But I think this is that period in life where you're going to want it sort of investigate anything that has been going on. Understand that there are no quick fixes. And that once you'll want to probably – I think this is where building your team even before you hit perimenopause is really important. Because you want to address things that are happening now so they don't get worse in perimenopause. And then as perimenopausal issues arise, and they will, I think there's – I can't imagine there's a woman out there that has not had some type of a symptom during perimenopause. Some women go through rather unscathed. But most women are definitely dealing with hormonal issues at certain times. Sometimes worse than others. I mean, sometimes it's going to be worse than other times during that perimenopausal journey. But I think addressing those things when you can, and then building your team, and understanding that there isn't a quick fix. I think that's a really good mentality to walk into perimenopause with.

[01:00:01] Ashley James: I love it. Awesome. All right. Point four.

[01:00:04] Jill Chmielewski: Point four, so kind of along the same lines. Understand that change is inevitable. Like, this is coming and you do have to prepare. So like I talked about earlier, like the puppy or the baby that's coming, you get car seats and you have showers. And you do all these things for this baby that's going to come because it's so important you read every baby book. And then once the baby comes, you're reading sleep books. Or maybe it's some discipline books when they're little, how to handle temper tantrums, and things like that. We tend to really, when it comes to other people in our life, will read, read, read, read. Or if somebody is second or life, will help investigate and see. Google, anything we can about whatever diagnosis they just got. But when it comes to perimenopause, we don't prepare. It's back to that whole notion that everyone else comes first and we come last. And I think part of it is the inherent nature of the fact that, we really didn't even have – I don't know when the word perimenopause sort of came to be. But I think, traditionally, when I was growing up and going through nursing school even, there was the reproductive years and then there was menopause. And there wasn't perimenopause. So part of the issue is that, I don't think women understand that there's this period of time. It's not like you're a reproductive aged woman and all of a sudden one day you're menopausal and hormones dropped off. But I wonder if that is how. I mean, I don't know. Maybe that is the perception of some women.

So I think knowing that you have this period of time is coming and you need to start preparing for it. And I think when you're prepared, like anything else, you're just going to do better. Because one of the symptoms that comes up a lot, I've had clients that will just be in panic mode about irregular periods. “All of a sudden, I had really regular periods and then they're irregular now.” And they tell their doctor and the doctor sends them for a vaginal ultrasound and then a biopsy. And then they put them on the birth control pill and all these things. And actually, irregular periods during perimenopause is normal. It's a sign of hormones changing. So I think if we can take some of the panic out of the things that are coming and understand that some of these things are normal. Yes, you want to investigate if something seems like it's really out of whack. But irregular periods, for instance, that is something we would expect in perimenopause. And if you know that, you can prepare. So when that starts to happen, you're not freaking out and feeling like you need to have these really crazy tests done and all these other things. So I would say preparation is probably your next one.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

[01:02:34] Ashley James: I like that you bring that up that it's a window. Because you mentioned, when we prepare for a baby, we're having a baby shower. And I would just imagine having this like menopause shower or perimenopause, shower. Like, what if we celebrated it? Like, “I got the news from the doctor already. I'm going to have a party with my girlfriends because I'm in perimenopause.” But it's a slow transition. Your body slowly transitioning over.

When I was younger back in the 90s, Oprah, I guess she was going through menopause.

[1:03:06] Jill Chmielewski: I remember that. Yeah.

[01:03:07] Ashley James: And that was unheard of, to talk about menopause on TV. It was something that was shameful that you whisper it behind closed doors. It was not celebrated. And she brought it out into the open. I mean, she exposed a lot of stuff, hoarding, rape, incest, abuse. She exposed so much that's in our culture as women and we felt ashamed to talk about it. And I love that. I love that she brought minute pause out into the open. I really feel that she single handedly brought it out into the open like Goddess out of the dark ages. And made it so we could freaking discuss it and  not be some this point of shame. And that it is something that we can actually celebrate.

And when we look at ancient cultures, because I've studied ancient cultures and ancient religion, before Christianity – and I'm not bashing any religion at all. It's just looking at the history. But before like the Crusades, before Christianity, women in many cultures were the – I don't want to say rulers – but the older women were the healers. The grandmothers were looked to, were the elders, were the leaders, they were looked to as women who were in their power. And when a woman went into menopause or was beyond the childbearing years, in certain cultures, they were actually revered and looked at that they stepped into their power. That something happened to women when they went through menopause and post menopause where they had access to universal energy and access to healing energies. And they had stronger intuition. Stronger ability to practice healing and to guide the tribe or guide the people. So there are cultures that saw that women stepped into their power. And that was the meme that menopause meant you stepped into your power.

And I'd love for us to now make that part of our idea. You're not losing something by going into menopause. You're gaining something. Because I think some women are afraid of going into menopause. It means we're getting older. We're frail. We're going to lose our bones. We're going to have osteoporosis. We're just looking at the mainstream media version of it or that narrative that we just get old and weak and frail. Instead, how about we're these super strong women that step into our power and step into our intuition. And like the light bulb goes on in our body and we become even stronger and healthier because we're figuring out stuff. We're taking the wisdom of our years and we're applying it.

So I'd like for us to shift that, yes, it takes about 15 years, like you said, ten to 15 years to shift into it. And in that time we get to prepare. And that we can actually look forward to it. Because there's so much that good that happens that so many ancient cultures saw that there's good that happens within us as women when we step into menopause.

[01:06:21] Jill Chmielewski: I so agree. I couldn't agree with you more. And I think a lot of it has to do with, obviously, our society that reveres youth is beautiful. And aging is sort of like, “You're kind of washed up and over the hill.” And tossing women to the side. When I think, like you said, a lot of these cultures have really always put aging women at the forefront and really valued all that their life experience can now be bestowed on the next generation and share it. And it would be really nice if we could see that shift here.

[01:06:50] Ashley James: Now, you have mentioned earlier that watching your periods as a vital sign is important. Like the quality of the period, whether it's heavy or light. What about PMS? What about even like a week before the period, if cravings get stronger? Or if their boobs are more tender than normal? Or if they're way more irritable than normal? Or just like, are really, really exhausted in the morning? These symptoms leading up to their period, what about that? Is that a sign that something is off balance or off kilter or is that normal?

[01:07:27] Jill Chmielewski: You know, typically, I mean, in the ideal – optimally, we would have uneventful periods. I mean, aside from the fact that when you get your period itself, your uterine lining sheds because your hormones, progesterone and estrogen, have really fallen. And so when we don't have our hormones, we feel it in terms of we feel more tired, we don't feel as energetic. We want to maybe kind of sit on the couch day one and day two or maybe even day three of our period. That part of sort of the hormonal decline with your period is normal. I would say the period leading up to that, so that transition of time where women say, “Oh, my gosh. I am just like out of my mind the week before my period.” Typically, there is a hormonal imbalance. And more times than not, it usually means that there's not enough progesterone to balance estrogen.

So I don't know if your listeners have heard of estrogen dominance. That word is tossed around a lot these days when we're talking about hormones. But estrogen and progesterone really need to be balanced in order for women to feel good. And for a really uneventful period, estrogen and progesterone, need to be balanced. And oftentimes, I think alluding back to a lot of the toxins, a lot of the hormone disrupting chemicals, a lot of those chemicals contain like estrogen mimicking chemicals. So there's a lot more estrogen in the environment than there once was. And so women tend to have higher estrogen in relation to the amount of progesterone they have. And that's typically – typically, again, why women would have sort of eventful periods, PMS, the bloating, the moods. All that stuff is typically more related to progesterone, maybe, being on the lower side or, maybe, not being enough to balance out estrogen.

[1:09:13] Ashley James: So if women have these symptoms and then they confirm that with bloodwork that their progesterone is low, what do you recommend they do to support the body in increasing its progesterone to normal levels?

[01:09:26] Jill Chmielewski: I mean, it depends. I mean, I think with hormones, usually if somebody has really not great PMS or they really noticed that, in general, we're doing a hormone panel. A combination of serum testing, which is lab testing, and doing a urine test at home. Typically, we do like, what we call, a 24-hour urine, where we're actually looking at hormones and their metabolites. It gives us a lot more information. So it's hard to say specifically without knowing what someone's results are. In general, I would say if somebody says, “Hey, if you were just kind of saying hey [inaudible] [01:10:00].” What would you say to somebody or group of women who have really, really significant PMS? I would say, number one, you definitely want to look at the toxins in your environment. I think a big source of estrogen coming in is going to be, obviously, in dairy. Because all dairy is coming from the milk of a lactating mammal. A lot of our [inaudible] [01:10:18] because a lot of them are injected with antibiotics and hormones. Definitely, pots and pans, plastics, the microplastics as we know, our beauty products, et cetera. I mean, they're everywhere. They're kind of everywhere.

So doing your best to kind of start decreasing estrogen coming in that way. Because our bodies are smart. Our bodies really probably know. They know how much hormone is needed and how much should be released. So if we have imbalanced hormones, oftentimes with estrogen. it's coming from an outside source or it has more to do with detoxification, really sluggish detoxification. Because we're not, maybe, breaking down estrogen properly. And so we're holding on to some of it and recycling it. For women who are constipated and they're going to the bathroom every three days, your livers breaking down estrogen. It has to get out of your body. And the only way can do that is for you to go to the bathroom. Well, that's going to be a problem. You're definitely going to be holding on and recirculating estrogen in the body.

So I always tell women, look at some of those kind of food factors. First, look at kind of your gut health, see what's happening there. There are supplements that can be taken. But they're very, very targeted to what's happening once we see the hormone panel. From a progesterone side, you're going to want to do things that are going to optimize isolation. And that would be things like there's definitely herbs that will do that. But I think from a lifestyle perspective, stress is going to be huge for ovulating. I mean, our bodies are not going to want to bring a baby into this world if it's stressed out. And even if you don't want a baby, your body's purpose of ovulation is to create a baby. I mean, that's we're primarily designed so that's why we ovulate. So from your body's perspective, it's always thinking how to procreate and how am I going to bring a baby into this world. Well, if you're stressed, it's not going to do that very well. Hormones are going to be off. So anything you can do to decrease stress is going to improve progesterone. That includes things like exercise. Because I think we think of exercise is good. But I find with this kind of type A mentality we have and the go, go, go. And then we go to orange theory – and I'm not picking on orange theory. But we tend to be in this rush state all the time. And then we go in our workouts or like maniac workouts that actually stresses us more. We may feel relief when we leave. But from our bodies perspective, it's just more stress. Too much exercise can definitely impede progesterone as well. So I always tell women, you definitely want to look at what you're doing to support optimal progesterone, optimal ovulation, and things like that. And then there's also, obviously, some herbs and nutrients. Getting the right vitamins and the right diet on board to make sure that you're optimizing hormones will really go a long way to help with your period health.

[01:13:08] Ashley James: All right. Next point, number five.

[01:13:10] Jill Chmielewski: Okay. So this is probably my biggest beef, I think, with practitioners. Sorry, practitioners. But balanced hormones are just as critical in midlife and late life as they were in reproductive years. So I think, this is where conventional medicine and functional medicine sort of part ways. And in fact, I just received my North American Menopause Society Clinicians Guide. The Menopause Practice Clinicians Guide this year. And still, I mean, it's 2020 – and I guess, it was the 2019 release. They're still talking about the advice to clinicians, you know, conventional clinicians, is hormone therapy is just for symptom relief during perimenopause and not to be considered. Essentially, we really don't need it later in life. And I think, you know – and we won't don't have to get into the hormone replacement discussion today But I guess the point is, hormones are needed in every cell of the body. I mean, it's sort of absurd to think that we only need hormones for making babies. And so that's been this sort of the conventional way of thinking. Well, you don't really need your hormones anymore. I mean, you probably had friends as well or you know people who've had a hysterectomy and they're told, “Hey, you know what? It's fine. Just take it out. You don't need in any way.” Well, that's absurd. That's absolutely absurd. You're like castrating someone when you take their ovaries out. So it's that same notion that these hormones, we have hormones work like – hormones work with receptors. And so it's sort of like a lock and key type of system. So within our body, hormones swim in our bloodstream to different receptors. And they kind of wiggle into receptor. And then that causes an action to happen in the body. Whether that is, maybe, it's swimming into a uterine lining receptor and it's building the uterine lining, maybe it's estrogen that's gone there to build the uterine lining, or maybe it's swimming up to the breast and it's growing breast cells, or to the brain and it's helping the brain to think more clearly.

I mean, we have hormone receptors all over our body from head to toe, from our brain to our heart, to our skin, to our vagina, to our urinary tract, our blood vessels, our bones, everywhere. So the notion that once we hit this phase of life, we no longer need hormones so we're just kind of ignore people that are having hormone imbalances is really insane when you think about the systemic effects that hormones have on the body. And we know from looking at hormones that having balanced hormones, they systemically protect our brain, our heart, our bones, our bladder, our skin, our gut, and I mean so much more in our body. So keeping that in mind, it's not just about making babies. You knew that didn't you?

[01:15:50] Ashley James: Well, I love that you're saying this because we want to live as long as possible, as healthfully as possible. We want the golden years to be super healthy. Just as healthy as when we were 30. When I lived in Las Vegas with my husband back in 2009-ish, I had this functional doctor. She's awesome. She was in her 70s and she did not look like she was in her 70s. She's the doctor who diagnosed me with chronic adrenal fatigue. I had been feeling so guilty and so shame – like I felt so much shame for how exhausted I was. And I thought I was just lazy. Because if you looked at me, you'd think I was lazy. But really, my adrenal fatigue was so bad. And I did the saliva test with her, where you spit in a tube all day long – different tubes and then they send it off to the lab. And she had been in the Olympics twice in the summer – Winter Olympics. She had been in the Winter Olympics twice. And she said, “The only time I've ever seen cortisol levels this low was right after I finished the Olympics.”  And she said, “You are walking dead.” And she showed me the chart – the graph where, normally, it's supposed to start really high in the day and go down. I would start the day lower than when people are sleeping. My cortisol at the beginning of day was lower than people who are sleeping. And it would just sort of creep up and then just barely creep up to what you would have as normal levels at the most tired part of your day was my maximum amount of energy, basically. And she showed me that and she goes, “You know,no wonder you actually have some energy and some mental clarity about like 6:00 p.m. And then it's hard for you to sleep at night because your body is just struggling all day long to make some cortisol. And you finally have some at night.”

But I was really messed up and she was the first one to show me and affirm that, “Yeah. You're not lazy. Your hormones are way out of balance.” And what I loved about learning from her is that she became this example of health to me. She was like mid-70s. She would run – she did Iron Man's in the desert. She would do triathlons in the 115 degree heat. She looked absolutely amazing. And she did not prescribe to the idea that when we're older, we need to be frail. She's in her 80s now and she just moved to Illinois to start a ranch. And she's not ever going to stop. She's super healthy. We're friends on Facebook, still connected. And she believes that food is medicine. And take supplements when needed to fill in the gaps of nutrition, like minerals. And use your body in a way that builds health.

And so having an example, I think it's really good to find someone – find an older woman who's in their 70s or 80s that is an example of prime health. And then just model that and look at her and help you shift your belief system that you can be active and healthy. And not catching the flu, not at risk of dying of influenza because you're a senior, not a risk of having your hip break. But really, that's not – and shift our belief system. Look in your mind and go, “What do I look like in my mind's eye? What is my belief system about being 85 years old?” And if you see yourself in like a home in a wheelchair, that thing need to change. If that's your belief system, if that's sort of this carrot you've dangled out in front of you, you want to be imagining yourself running marathons at age 99. Because there are women out there. Go on YouTube and look up 100 year old woman running marathons. There are women that do that. And I love these videos of these women in their 90s that run these marathons. And they say, “Oh yeah. When I was 75, I started running.” It's just like they weren't doing it their whole lives.

But shifting our mindset to have the idea that when we are 80, 90, and 100, that we are healthy and active and still using food as medicine and still getting out there. And that is the norm. That's the idea we want in our mind to move towards. Because I think if we have a belief system that when we're older, we become frail. Then we just kind of give in when your medical professional says, “Okay. Well, you're in menopause so, you know, we don't really have to look at this anymore. It doesn't matter what kind of estrogen you have. You're in menopause.” It's ridiculous. Because estrogen and progesterone actually play a role in longevity. And if we have healthy hormones in our 50, 60, 70s, 80s, 90s, 100s, we'll live longer and not die of a degenerative disease. And women who have poor hormone levels will die of a degenerative diseases. You just look at the statistics and see. So there's a direct link between healthy hormones and longevity and also degenerative disease.

I know a woman in her 70s who got her period back and actually got pregnant. What happened was, so this doctor – one of the doctors that trained me as a Naturopath. And he's an old school Naturopath. I think he's in his 80s now. But he's an old school Naturopath. And he got this woman on supplements and changed her diet. And he said to her – she was 70. H said to her, “Now watch out.” What happened was she told him, “Hey, I had a period. That was weird.” And she said, “Watch out, you're fertile now.” And she laughed at him. She's like, “I'm 70. There's no way”. And he said, “You got to start using protection with your husband.” Because he'd seen it before. Because some women, when they get so healthy, that you can actually reignite your hormones again. And it's totally possible. And so she didn't listen to him. She got pregnant and she had a completely healthy child.

[01:22:25] Jill Chmielewski: Wow.

[01:22:26] Ashley James: It is absolutely possible to, I guess, reverse to come out of menopause. So the thing is, I agree with you, it takes like 15 years or whatever. And we kind of go into and then we're in menopause. But at the same time, I have this idea in the back of my head that we could – we're seeing women get into menopause in their 40s now because they're triggering it too early. So I'm not saying menopause is bad. But I think that menopause is bad when it's too early.

[01:23:03] Jill Chmielewski: Yes.

[01:23:04] Ashley James: And it's kind of like the body goes, “Oh, well. I'm kind of exhausted. I don't have the nutrients. I'm stressed out. And now, I have to go into this phase because I'm depleted.”  And so we kind of want to stave off menopause as long as possible and keep our hormones as healthy as possible so we could be in pre-menopause for longer. And maybe go into menopause in our 60s instead of our 40s. But more and more practitioners are seeing women in their 40s go into menopause, not because it's not healthy menopause. It's premature unhealthy menopause because they're depleted.

And so I kind of want to have you talk a little bit about how can we support our health now to delay menopause until when it's actually healthy to have it? Does that make sense?

[01:23:56] Jill Chmielewski: Yeah. I mean, I think a lot of it. I mean, it sort of sounds a little bit redundant but I think it comes down to, it's really the food and lifestyle choices that we make. I mean, even food as we know, so much of our soil is depleted. And even if we're eating the right foods, they may not have all the nutrients that they should have because of whatever, the farming, whatever it may be, whatever is happening. So oftentimes, we do need some targeted supplementation to help bridge that gap, like you alluded to earlier. So I think, balanced hormones are all about nutrients. Nutrients are the building block of hormones. So in theory, if we can get those building blocks of hormones in place, we will at least be able to build hormones for as long as possible.

And you talked about I know with adrenal – going into adrenal fatigue. I think that's been a really big one even if it's not a full blown adrenal fatigue diagnosis. A lot of women are having trouble with their adrenal glands because of all the stress that we're under. And again, not just the stress of everyday life but the exposure to toxins which is seen as stressful from the body's perspective. Or I think there's a lot coming out now about electromagnetic fields in our cellphones, in our computers. And we have to kind of stand back and say, “Here's how our body was designed.” It was really designed to, again, be in this sort of – we're still kind of primarily designed, where we have not evolved as quickly as society is about, especially in the last – oh, my gosh – think about the last even 25 years or even the last ten years. I think it was 2007 when the iPhone came out . So that's what not – my math is not very good right now, 12 years. Just knowing that our lives have changed so dramatically since the iPhone came out where we have 24/7 accessibility, and computers, and internet, and all these things. So I think a big part of it is going to come down to food and lifestyle is probably the best thing to help support hormones and perpetuate our own internal hormone production for as long as possible before our body kind of says, “Okay. You know what? Now, it's sort of done.”

Genetics play a role, for sure. I mean, a lot of women will sort of follow suit with what happened to their mom. If their mom was 52 when she went through menopause, they may be 52. So we do see that genetics play a role there. But I think we're seeing girls in their early 20s that have hormones of a 50 year old. I mean, it's because of the way that we're living. I think we're seeing such drastic issues with hormones, probably early menopause, like you alluded to as well.

[1:26:36] Ashley James: Number six.

[01:26:38] Jill Chmielewski: So number six – we won't go into great detail here because it's kind of a very long topic. But I just want to myth bust the notion that estrogen is bad. I think we are – I don't know if your listeners are familiar with the Women's Health Initiative. But it's a study that was done many, many years ago, that sort of put a really negative spin on estrogen. And it did not – the study did not – it was a long term study with thousands and thousands of women who were studied, really, probably for the first time. It's one of the first studies that was done looking at hormone replacement therapy. And essentially, there was a really negative result as a result of this study. And in fact, the study was stopped early. And the women in this study had more heart disease, breast cancer, strokes, blood clots, et cetera. They were placed on estrogen but it was a synthetic form of estrogen. Not the estrogen that we make in our body, which we call bioidentical estrogen, which is available through compounding pharmacies. It was not that. It was an estrogen that's made from the urine of pregnant horses. And it was combined –

[01:27:44] Ashley James: Sorry to interrupt. But I just want to say one thing about that, about Premarin and any kind of hormone that comes from horses. If you knew the conditions – mostly it's made in Canada. I've been told about the conditions because I was a practitioner who went and saw where it was made. But they keep these horses in a factory. They're never allowed outside. They're not allowed to move. They're hooked up. And they're constantly pregnant. And then they take their babies away from them and they're not allowed to see their babies. And if their male horses, they just slaughter them right away. And they're tortured for their urine. So they keep the horses pregnant for their urine so they can make hormones out of them for us. And it is disgusting and deplorable to know that these hormone drugs are coming from the suffering of these beautiful horses. So it's really, really, really bad. And if everyone saw this, no one would buy this stuff. And there are other ways. So you're saying there are other ways. I want to point that out because a lot of women go and get Premarin or Gambino, get hormone replacement stuff that comes from horse urine. And just know that if you actually knew the conditions that lead to making it, you would not want to take this. You wouldn't even want it in your body.

[01:29:13] Jill Chmielewski: No. One hundred percent. It's not even – I mean, the other thing is, aside from the terrible conditions of the horses, absolutely. And I've read a lot about that as well. It's made from – again, it's the horse'ss estrogen, not human estrogen. So it doesn't – we're always looking for – anytime we replace hormones in the body, we want to use something that is what we call bioidentical. And that just means that the chemical and molecular structure looks just like our own hormones and acts just like our own hormones, if they came in the body. So when you bring a bioidentical estrogen on board, it knows exactly what to do. It swims to that estrogen receptor. It knows exactly what to do. I kind of consider these – I don't even call them hormones. They're synthetic chemicals. It's probably the best word for them. But this study, unfortunately, sort of it had some really, really poor results but it had nothing to do with bioidentical hormones whatsoever. And unfortunately, the publicity and the fallout of that was sort of like, estrogen is bad, estrogen is bad, estrogen is bad. And so practitioners, even still Physicians – not all. I'm not bucketing all physicians. But there are still Physicians where this has been perpetuated, and they still think estrogen replacement is bad. And they're thinking about the Women's Health Initiative that used this fake estrogen.

So kind of putting that aside, our bodies – we make estrogen and we make progesterone. So our bodies would never make something that was harmful, right? That's part – so you just have to kind of think about it logically. So I just want to bust that myth just because I think women oftentimes will say, “Okay. I'm suffering deeply with symptoms in perimenopause.” And I can definitely relate to this because I'm 48. I'll be 49 this year. I've been in perimenopause for a while. I'm kind of on the tail end. I saw a huge kind of decline last year. And my hormones are very normal for this period in time. And I chose to use bioidentical hormone replacement because I saw the numbers. I know my symptoms. I'm working with a functional medicine practitioner. Point being that, when these hormones decline, you're going to feel it in your body. It's not just about periods. It's about your brain health, your bone health, everything else, bladder health, vaginal health, you name it, your blood vessels. So it's okay to consider hormone replacement. I think there's a lot of sort of this black cloud hanging over estrogen because of this study. And if estrogen replacement, bioidentical hormone replacement, estrogen replacement, which should never be used without progesterone. They're always used together even if you don't have a uterus. If they're used properly and you are monitored properly, you can really reap the benefits. But I think a lot of women just don't even want to go there with the conversation. They'll just suffer through the symptoms even if they've made a lot of the food and lifestyle changes and nothing else has changed. And perhaps it's time to consider hormone replacement, the word estrogen just makes them think cancer. And there's a lot more that goes into cancer or other types of negative outcomes from estrogen or the wrong kind of estrogen than estrogen itself.

So I just want women to understand that we're not  – when we're talking about hormone replacement, we're talking about estrogen is not bad. Progesterone is not bad. You have huge amounts when you're pregnant. Huge amounts during the reproductive years. So if they were bad, we would all have cancer when we were pregnant. You know what I mean? So keep that in mind.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

[01:32:44] Ashley James: Well, one thing is the estrogen is a catch all. It's a catch all for many different hormones. So we think estrogen is one thing. It's actually not. It's a bunch of different – like, there's estradiol. There's a bunch of different estrogens. I'm sure you know way more about that than I do. But I thought it was fascinating that there's many estrogens. And that when the body wants to get – when the body is sort of like, “Okay. We're going to clear out this estrogen.” It's been used or whatever. The levels need to be cleared out. The liver takes the estrogen and then converts it into an inert form and puts it into the bile to be released into the poop. So we're going to poop it out. Really interesting though. And I thought this was fascinating.

I learned this from one of the guests that I interviewed that when we have constipation – and most people in westernized nations who are eating the standard American diet have constipation and don't know it. And when you have constipation, actually the gut reabsorbs and reactivate some of that estrogen and can lead to estrogen dominance. And it's a type of estrogen that is unhealthy now. It's become – it's an imbalance of the estrogens, basically. It's now not healthy version of the estrogens within us from doing that. And so we can get estrogen dominance in an unhealthy way. You know, tummy fat can lead to increased estrogen dominance, those other things, blood sugar dysregulation. But constipation, if we don't poop two to three times a day, we're not actually getting the hormones out of us. That they're getting reabsorbed in an unhealthy way. And the toxins as well. So getting enough fiber to go to the bathroom two to three times a day – I've got a whole episode on how to have the perfect poop. It's a big topic.

But just something as simple as making sure that we're having healthy bowel movements will help us support balance hormones. So I thought that was really fascinating. But I love that you're saying that estrogen is not unhealthy. Yes, you can have estrogen dominance. And that's a different – that doesn't mean estrogen is unhealthy. That means that there's – it's like the smoke, not the fire. Estrogen dominance isn't the fire. It's not the problem. It's a symptom of a lot of stuff that's out of balance.

[01:35:17] Jill Chmielewski: Yes. Exactly. Yeah. You said it perfectly. So I think just know – for women not to be scared of estrogen is probably just a huge factor right now. Because it's important to, I think, consider and be open to all options when you're going through perimenopause and menopause. And just get educated about it. And there's a lot of good information out there that will help you to do that.

[01:35:40] Ashley James: I've had several listener – so we have a Facebook Group. There's 3,500 listeners right now in the Facebook Group. And we have a lot more listeners that download the show. So I'm like, “What are you guys doing? Join the Facebook Group. Come on. Like, you guys are just listening. So the people who haven't joined the group yet, join the group. It's a lot of fun.” So there's 3,500 very active and wonderful people in the Facebook Group. And several women have asked over the last year about hysterectomies. Several women have had either partial or full hysterectomy and they're wondering if they should get on hormones. And I thought that I didn't – I said I can't offer advice about this but you should definitely find a functional medicine practitioner. And if you're going to get on bioidentical – but people with full hysterectomies – women with full hysterectomies no matter what age, do you believe they should get on bioidentical hormones?

[01:36:29] Jill Chmielewski: I do. I do. Yeah.

[01:36:30] Ashley James: Can you talk a little bit about that?

[01:36:32] Jill Chmielewski: Yeah. We really we produce the bulk of our hormones before menopause in our ovaries. Once we hit menopause, that sort of shifts. So we go from ovarian production of hormones to adrenal production of hormones, which is why – and it probably gets a little bit too deep. But that's why, especially when we're hitting this time in life, when we're stressed to the max and our adrenals are already tasked with producing stress hormones. Okay. Now they got to take over whatever sex hormone production they can. It gets a little dicey. Something is going to suffer. So that's why it can be really, really dicey to have a lot of stress at this point in life. But my point being is our ovaries are really responsible for the bulk of our hormone production. So when they're taken out – now, there are studies that show even if you just had your uterus taken out, and let's say, you're able to keep your ovaries, still you got to think about it. I mean, there's still been a pretty big shift with your sex organs that, typically, hormone production goes down a little bit. By how much? I don't know. And I can't recall. I don't have the studies offhand. I'll have to maybe dig for those a little bit. But that's something that, typically, if you're going to have a full hysterectomy with your ovaries removed, absolutely. Even progesterone.

And a lot of practitioners will say, “Well, you don't need progesterone anymore because you don't have a uterus.” Well, again, if we go back to – if we understand that hormones have systemic effects in the body, just because you don't have a uterus doesn't mean you don't want progesterone for your brain, and your blood vessels, and your bones, and for other places in the body. So I typically – I mean, I'm a fan of really doing hormone replacement for both estrogen and progesterone even if you don't have a uterus. And, again, doing really good follow up. So it can take a while. I think, for your listeners to know, that when you start hormone replacement, it's not a one and done kind of scenario. You build up – the ideal scenario is you go really slow hormones. You always want to go low and slow and build up over time. So you'll probably need a few follow up visits. A few extra lab tests with your doctor and whatnot until you get to kind of the right level. So people kind of have to be patient and understand that it's a little bit of a process to get hormones right. But yes, absolutely, especially in the case of a hysterectomy.

[01:38:48] Ashley James: Back when I lived in Vegas, so this is like ten -12 years ago, someone gave me a CD. It actually might have been that doctor I talked about. Gave me a CD of a lecture back when we had CDs, right? Gave me a CD of a lecture of a doctor who has since passed. And I think he was in his 80s. But he was kind of like the grandfather of hormone replacement therapy, Dr. John R. Lee.

[01:39:17] Jill Chmielewski: Oh, my gosh. Yes.

[01:39:18 ]Ashley James: So I highly recommend, like, YouTubing Dr. Lee and progesterone and see if you can find his lecture. It was like an hour long. And it was it was really interesting. I'd love to a hold a [inaudible] [01:39:32] or a time machine or something to interview this guy. Because he was really interesting. But what I loved about his story is he was a conventional doctor for, like – I think it was over 40 years. And he was the kind of old school doctor that would sit down with his patients and spend a lot of time with them. And he had this joke, because he graduated top of his class from Harvard. And he worked his butt off because his family was very poor. And he got scholarships and he worked his butt off. And he said, “What do you call the guy in medical school who came in last?” And you say, “What?” And he says, “A doctor.” He said, there's so many doctors out there that are – even you think about it, the doctor that just barely passed who isn't really smart versus the doctor who worked his butt off and is super smart, they're both doctors, right? So you don't know if you got the dud or the stud. Like, you just don't know. And the reason why he was kind of bashing his own colleagues was that he was seeing that back then they were poopooing progesterone and putting women on estrogen only. And he actually did the opposite.

Because one of his patients came to him who was in amazing health and had reversed many of her symptoms and she was using progesterone cream. And he went, “Wait a second, what's going on?” And so he started using progesterone cream and he poured through the research and the science. And he saw that it helped so much to do progesterone cream. And then he started talking in conferences. And all of the doctors were like, “You're crazy. What you're doing?” And it's frustrating because when one of the doctors or scientists figure something out, their profession will pull them back like crab in the bucket. The profession marches slowly. This is a quote from a Naturopath I've learned from. He says, “The medical profession progresses slowly one death at a time.” It does not learn very easily from its mistakes. And it really progresses slowly.

So that's why we have – going back to, I think, it was point one or point – yeah, point one. We have to advocate for ourselves because this profession is way behind and does not learn well from all of the information. A good example is the book Proteinaholic. I absolutely love it. I highly recommend downloading and listening to it on Audible. Proteinaholic is probably the best book I've ever listened to. And he cites over 50 pages – because I also bought the book. He has over 50 pages in the back in small print of references. Because he pulls together all the science about using food as medicine and why we're actually eating too much protein. We're actually toxic levels of protein and how it contributes to the diseases of today. So I thought it was really interesting that these doctors who are seeing the science, like Dr. Lee and Dr. Garth Davis, the one that wrote the Proteinaholic. They're seeing the science. They're pulling it together. And then their colleagues are poopooing it. Because they're stuck to what they learned in school 20 years ago and what the textbook said. And they're not actually spending time looking over the latest studies. Or even analyzing the studies to the point where it's like, “Well, who funded the study? And what kind of study was it? What was the quality of the study?” So we really have to be careful about the cognitive dissonance that our health professionals may have, because we're all human. And we all make mistakes.

But I love that I learned that from Dr. Lee. I love that he showed me that many doctors are stuck in some way. You know, we all have blinders, right? We're all here. We all have blinders. But that when we give up our health over – we give our health and our body over to a medical professional, we assume that they know the latest information and the best information. And Dr. Lee taught me they don't. That most don't. And so that's why we have to advocate. And then he also said that, progesterone cream is like God's gift to women. And he thought it was the world's best thing. So I just thought that was really interesting. But we don't want to be allopathic, which is reductionistic. So he's reductionistic. And he was like, “Okay. This one thing is the best thing in the world.” We can't be reductionistic and think that one thing is going to solve our problems. But we want that tool in our tool belt. So I like that you brought that up that, estrogen is not dangerous. Progesterone is great too. But we want to do the hormone testing, the appropriate hormone testing, like you said. But we shouldn't just do it willy nilly. Don't just go to the store, buy a bunch of hormone creams, and start slathering yourself. Because too much is just as dangerous as too little.

[01:44:40] Jill Chmielewski: Yeah. And you know, hormones, I think people don't realize that you can give somebody hormones but our body is smart. It's going to always do what it can to regulate the hormones. So if you give somebody too many hormones, it's going to shut down some of these receptors. It will find – there's different proteins that can increase that kind of locks some of the hormone up. So more isn't always better. That's why I think it's always – my approach is always the Goldilocks principle of hormones, which is not too much, not too little, just right. And it's different for everyone. So it's different for you than it is for your neighbor that it is for your best friend. Which is why you really want to work with someone who really, really understands hormones and understands the testing and the follow up and what's really needed to kind of – and is willing to work with you to make sure that you get to a place where you feel really, really good.

[01:45:27] Ashley James: I'm really excited for point seven because so many, so many listeners in the Learn True Health Facebook Group have asked this question. So take it away, point seven.

[01:45:38] Jill Chmielewski: Okay. So the point seven, I almost have to like take a deep breath before I say this.

[01:45:43] Ashley James: Everyone just take a deep breath.

[01:45:45] Jill Chmielewski: It's kind of my contention points with my Physician. So the pill is not – and whenever I'm saying “the pill,” I'm talking about the birth control pill. It is not a good solution to worsening PMS or erratic periods during perimenopause. We're going back to the pill in and of itself. Patients are always told, “Here's the pill. It has estrogen, it has progesterone.” The pill has neither. The pill has synthetic chemicals in it that are nothing like the estrogen and progesterone in your body. And in fact, most sort of functional medicine folks would kind of characterize the pill as putting you into chemical menopause. It's essentially shutting down your hormone production. And bringing in synthetic chemicals that do not have the same actions that your own hormones do in your body

So when I'm explaining hormones to people, I kind of explain – and I think I read this – I thought it was a good explanation from Dr. Lindsey Berkson, who I love. She's a hormone scholar. She's just awesome. And she always explains this hormone and receptor as, think about your hormone receptors as being very promiscuous. And they will kind of let anybody wiggle in on them including toxins, like estrogen mimicking chemicals. They look a little like estrogen so they can wiggle in. Those receptors are like, “Okay. You look okay.” And that's how the pill is. They're the same thing. It's these chemicals that look a little bit like our hormones but they're not our hormones. And so they wiggle in and they take an effect on ourselves, and our tissues, and our organs of our body. But not necessarily an effect that we want.

I think that conventional medicine physicians like the pill because, basically, it manages “a period.” It will regulate the period. They like the certainty and the predictability of this every 30 day cycle. But what we're missing here and what women are missing is that, it's not a real period. It's a fake period. It's not the real thing. It's not the result of your hormones. It's really a withdrawal bleed from hormones. That's all it is. It has nothing to do with the uterine lining and the natural hormonal actions that are happening in your body. So I think the idea here is we want to perpetuate our own hormones or our own in internal hormone production as long as possible so that we can get systemic benefits for as long as possible before deciding what we want to do in terms of do we want hormone replacement? Do we not? Do we want to do food and lifestyle choices? What do we want to do? And the pill essentially puts you into chemical menopause. So you don't get the benefits. You won't get the systemic benefits of progesterone and estrogen like you would if they were your own.

And I think women to, back to kind of one of the earlier points, it's like, we want this quick fix. We don't want to deal with erratic periods. We don't want to deal with a heavy period. It's too cumbersome for us with our very busy life. When, again, the period is your fifth vital signs. So it's telling you something's up. And while it's natural and normal in perimenopause to start having longer periods, or shorter periods, or skip periods, or heavier periods, or lighter periods because there's hormonal fluctuations happening. It is smart to do a little bit of investigative work. And if you're having really significant symptoms, you need to see somebody. A functional medicine practitioner who really gets it. There are ways to help, I want to say, control your period. But really help you get a better period, a less eventful period, even in perimenopause without going on the pill. So I think the pill is not the route to go.

And you know, people go on the pill – I don't want to bash all pill users – you want to weigh the risks versus the benefits. For some people, it's more about birth control than anything else. But if it's about period – and there's other much better, I think, birth control options out there if you're trying not to muck with hormones. But we won't get into that today. But I think if we're talking about period management and just – it's just this irritating period that I have and recursing our periods, the pill is not the way to go. And I think, but doctors kind of tell us it is so that's what we do. And that's definitely –

[01:49:45] Ashley James: And they don't practice informed consent. They do not practice. So they just put you on the pill. Informed consent, they would actually tell you all of the side effects and all of the long term, very detrimental effects the pill has. I am not bashing anyone on the pill. But I am bashing the pill. I think it is a toxic and harmful thing to put women on. And most of the time, doctors will put 15 year olds on it because they have acne or they have out of control – they have got really bad PMS or whatever. And that is not – I don't think the pill should be used in any event. And I understand the need for birth control. Like you said, there are many really good options for birth control.

And I've had other guests talk about this and there's great books out there on all the different forms of birth control. The pill is probably the most toxic out of all of them. There is an IUD that has hormones that's probably up there. But the pill has been proven to be incredibly toxic. It has heavy metals in it. So it'll increase the heavy metals in your body. It changes the biochemistry of your brain. You become a different person. It actually changes your personality. And there have been people who got a divorce after they got off the pill. Because it actually changes your brain, people have gotten married – fallen in love and got married on the pill. Going off the pill, back to who they were before being on the pill. And realized that they married – they didn't marry that person. Because the pill artificially makes you attracted to different things. Really. it hijacks your personality. It can send women into a different set of emotions and emotional responses. So people see complete personality changes. But when you're the taker of the pill, you don't notice it. The other people around you go, “She is not herself.” Because it hijacks the brain. It's artificial. Its chemical. It's like castration in a chemical castration in a sense. It's very harmful to the body and very toxic. And taking it long term can increase cancer, blood clotting, you could die of a stroke. I mean, there's a lot.

So if you could practice a different form of birth control that is non-toxic than the pill – oh, my gosh – please go for that. And please, I would just say for everyone listening who's on the pill, look into true informed consent is seeing all of the side effects. Because most doctors are not practicing informed consent. And they are not even aware of all the negative effects. And then look at an alternative that can complement what you want to achieve. And whether it's getting rid of acne, controlling your PMS, or actually not getting pregnant, there's so many other options out there that are healthy. So I just hear over and over again how devastating pill is for people. And so many clients and also guests on the show have told me their horror stories that started with being on the pill. And that that actually led them to being unhealthy. And for me, I got on the pill as a teenager. And I can say that it's one of the factors that triggered many of my health issues. So I've seen it in myself. I've seen it in others. So I'm kind of warning – I want to warn people because I don't feel like we're being warned enough. And this is again, that point where we have to advocate and stand up for women. This is where I feel like I'm a feminist in a sense where I feel like – I never identified as a feminist at all but this is where I feel like women need a voice. And they need to be advocated for. And this is one of those points the birth control pill is toxic and damaging. And it's being sold to us as this, like, wonderful thing.

And the morning after pill – that's another one – is very, very harmful and detrimental to the body. And of course, there's times when a woman needs to make their choice. And I don't think that choice should be taken away from them. But I think that informed consent needs to be practiced where we need to know all of the very long term and harmful side effects that can occur. So we want to know everything up front. And so I think that when you're messing with your hormones, you're messing with your brain, you're messing with your future, your chances of other diseases, you're messing with your personality, your quality of life. It's not as simple as just take a pill and not have a period or not ovulate. It's not that simple. So thank you for advocating for us.

[01:54:43] Jill Chmielewski: Well, thanks for your chiming in. Because I think everything you said is really right on to. It is. It's all about informed consent. And we need to know what we're getting ourselves into so that we can make a really good decision.

[01:54:54] Ashley James: Yeah. Yeah. Let's make really good decisions. Let's inform ourselves. Okay. Point number eight.

[01:55:01] Jill Chmielewski: Okay.  So just sort of as an FYI, perimenopausal symptoms hide in plain sight. I think that is something where, I think, a lot of women get missed. It's little things. It's going to come as soft whispers initially. It'll be in the form of, “In my mid-30s, all of a sudden I'm not sleeping quite as well.” But it's not something that necessarily you would make an appointment to go see your doctor for. But I want your listeners to kind of start taking note that hormones start to decline. Progesterone, in particular, starts its decline in our mid-30s. So that's the hormone that's going to go first, followed by estrogen. And estrogen will typically go on kind of a wild ride, soaring sky high one minute and then they rock bottom the next for a while before it starts to make it steady decline down. So you're kind of dealing with a bunch of different sort of hormonal changes that are going to happen over a period of time. The period of time will be different for everyone. So the symptoms will start at different points for different people. And they will kind of pop up. And I think they have pop up ever so slowly where, like I said, it starts with a sleepless night or two. Then maybe it's, “You know what? I can't lose weight.” Or, “I'm gaining weight and I'm not doing anything differently.” Then maybe it's fatigue. Maybe it's a libido issue. Maybe your hair is thinning out a little bit. Maybe you feel a little bit more weepy or you have a little more anxiety or a little more depression. I mean, all of these things really point to changes in hormones.

But I think what we end up doing is, maybe we get to a point where we say, “You know, I'm really tired now. I'll go see my doctor.” And we don't even really mention the other stuff because we don't think it's related. Or maybe we feel like we have some anxiety so we go and we see somebody in the mental health group. And yes, there are treatments in that route. But I think if you look at hormones, they have a lot to do with our mental health state. So I think, just for your listeners to know that, these symptoms will start to creep up slowly and they matter. And so when you're talking with your doctor, make sure you're mentioning sort of the collective. Even if they don't seem like they're related, a lot of times, they are related. They may be in different body organs and different systems. And you might think, “Well, this one I should go to the orthopedic for. And this one, I should go to the endocrinologist for. And this one to the OB.” But really, functional medicine will look at you as a whole person. All of your systems are connected. And so these symptoms probably have a lot to do with hormonal decline or hormonal changes overall.

[01:57:27] Ashley James: All right. We're in the homestretch.

[01:57:29] Jill Chmielewski: I know. We're almost there. We're at the final point.

[01:57:32] Ashley James: We're almost there We're almost there. Yes. I like it. And I like that you brought that up that it's, again, reaffirming that we need to advocate for ourselves. And don't just sweep these symptoms under the rug. Listen to your body. Listen to the changes in your body and don't be afraid of them. But advocate for yourself. So I like that you – if you're coming at it from different angles, to help us shift our mindset into a healthier mindset. I like it. Okay. Last point. Number nine.

[01:58:00] Jill Chmielewski: Okay.  Number nine. Last point is, perimenopause begins in the mid to late 30s. I think that's super critical to understand. And we talked about it earlier. But understand that even when it comes to hormone replacement, a lot of women will say, “No way.” But Dr. John Lee was probably one of the first ones to say, “You know what? Even women in their mid to late 30s would benefit from a little bit of progesterone.” A lot of doctors will say, “We're not even going to address hormone replacement until you hit actual menopause.” Which means you haven't had a period in a year. Well, by that time, you've been going through – you've been on this perimenopausal journey for a long time. Hormones have been declining, symptoms may be really heating up. So understand that even though you may be just getting pregnant at 35 or 37 or 38 or 40, you can be pregnant and still be going through perimenopause. You can be just going through perimenopause. For most women, it is those hormonal shifts will begin with, like, a couple of cycles where you don't ovulate. That's where it kicks things off. So you can still have a period very regularly and be in perimenopause.

So that's why I really just want women to be aware that this period of life will kind of start. You almost think I just finished having babies or I'm just about to have a baby. But it does happen. It seems like it's too soon. But the studies show that this is when hormones start to shift. So just know that so that you can start to kind of keep track of symptoms. See if you need something sooner. Maybe you need that functional practitioner sooner. I would recommend most women to start meeting with someone earlier rather than later so they can kind of help walk them through and guide them through this perimenopausal journey.

[01:59:43] Ashley James: I love it. Yes. Wherever you are, start now. Start building your health up with all these points that we brought up today. Start building your team of holistic and integrative practitioners today. Start advocating for yourself today. Start everything and little steps no matter where you are, you're going to build up better hormone health. And hormones, like you said, I love that you pointed out, hormone receptors are on every part of your body. So estrogen levels affect your brain, affect your breasts, affect your calves. I mean affect every part of your body. Awesome.

So I want to ask you is – we've gone through so much and this is really jam packed. But is there a question that I haven't asked that you would love to answer?

[02:00:40] Jill Chmielewski: I mean, I think that we hit – I really do think that we've hit most of it. I don't know. I can't think of anything.

[02:00:46] Ashley James: Yeah, well, I got you to empty out. So I totally emptied out your brain. And I tapped you for all this great information. It's been wonderful. I had you talk for almost two hours straight. This is fantastic. I know. So let's make sure that listeners know how they can follow you. How they can keep learning from you.

[02:01:06] Jill Chmielewski: Sure. Yeah. So I know you mentioned the website. So I would say I'm very active on Instagram and my handle is just jill.chmielewski, so my last name. I do a lot of education. I really use Instagram as sort of those quick snippets of information. I do have a website. It's just www.jillchmielewski.com. I used to do – I just really stopped seeing one-to-one clients as of just this past year. I'm shifting to – I'm going to be launching a course called Perimenopause Redefined later this year. I do on my website. I also have – I very frequently write blog articles. Very educational in nature. A lot of the stuff that we talked about today but I really try to address women's biggest symptoms and biggest issues. I recently created a private Facebook Group that if people get on the mailing list, they'll get that information. And that's for just some more deep dive hormonal stuff. I kind of call it like, All Things Puzzle. We're going to talk about everything that has to do with anything that's puzzle related.

And then I have a shop tab on my site that has – I've got some downloadable freebies. I've got a couple of paid really pretty low entry types of paid things that people can get. But I also have links to products. I'm always looking for resources and things for women because I think when we talk about, especially, toxins, women don't know where to go. So I have links to cleaner beauty, to better cleaning supplies, to laundry detergent, to different things. I'm always adding more resources in lab testing so that women know sort of where to go to get some products that are a little bit more trusted and are clean and aren't going to be mucking with their hormones. So they can find all of that on the website. That's probably the best place to go for sort of everything. And there's a tab where they'll see they can sign up to get on my email list. And I just do about one email a week. I try not to overload anyone's inbox because I know how busy women are. But I do try to provide some really targeted important information about once a week to the people in my community.

[02:03:08] Ashley James: Great. And I'm going to have all those links in the show notes to today's podcast at learntruehealth.com. But I will spell it for those who have a pen right now. Get your pen. Get your pen. J-I-L-L-C-H-M-I-E-L-E-W-S-K-I.com.

[02:03:26] Jill Chmielewski: Awesome. Thank you. This has been so much fun. Thank you so much for having me.

[02:03:32] Ashley James: This was great. And you should totally come back. Come back and teach us more.

[02:03:34] Jill Chmielewski: I'd love to. I'd love to.

[02:03:36] Ashley James: Wonderful. Awesome. Well, I'm excited to move gracefully into my puzzle years. So thank you. I appreciate that.

[02:03:43] Jill Chmielewski: [Inaudible] [02:03:42] if you have any questions.

[02:03:45] Ashley James: I'm sure. I'm sure I will.

[02:03:47] Jill Chmielewski: We covered everything, right?

[02:03:49] Ashley James: Yeah. Okay. Well, you'll come back on the show and we'll go, like, part two. We'll dive even deeper. That would be great. Awesome.

[02:03:56] Jill Chmielewski: That sounds great. Okay. Good. Thanks so much.

[02:04:01] Ashley James: Thanks.

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Ashley James

Health Coach, Podcast Creator, Homeschooling Mom, Passionate About God & Healing

Ashley James is a Holistic Health Coach, Podcaster, Rapid Anxiety Cessation Expert, and avid Whole Food Plant-Based Home Chef. Since 2005 Ashley has worked with clients to transform their lives as a Master Practitioner and Trainer of Neuro-linguistic Programming.

Her health struggles led her to study under the world’s top holistic doctors, where she reversed her type 2 diabetes, PCOS, infertility, chronic infections, and debilitating adrenal fatigue.

In 2016, Ashley launched her podcast Learn True Health with Ashley James to spread the TRUTH about health and healing. You no longer need to suffer; your body CAN and WILL heal itself when we give it what it needs and stop what is harming it!

The Learn True Health Podcast has been celebrated as one of the top holistic health shows today because of Ashley’s passion for extracting the right information from leading experts and doctors of holistic health and Naturopathic medicine


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