If the hot flashes are cutting into your sleep, and your emotional outbursts have your family running for cover, perhaps it's time to visit Raenel Mathews, the menopause maven of Payson.
Mathews, a pharmacist at Payson Regional Medical Center, earned a certificate in menopause education from the North American Menopause Society. She uses this specialty to help alleviate the symptoms of menopause -- from hair loss to loss of libido -- through natural hormone supplements.
"I have people walk in who are at the end of their rope," said Mathews. "I've had husbands come in and say, ‘Fix my wife.'"
Menopause, otherwise known by its friendly euphemism, "The Change," marks the end of a woman's reproductive years. Menopause can start as early as a woman's 30s, but usually occurs between 45 and 55 when the ovaries slowly stop producing the hormones progesterone and estrogen.
The pituitary gland monitors the level of hormones in the bloodstream. As hormone levels drop, the pituitary gland continues to seek hormones. This in turn irritates the body's temperature control center, located next to the pituitary gland. As a result, women get hot flashes, sleeplessness and a variety of other physical and emotional discomforts.
"Women just start feeling not like themselves," said Mathews.
Hormone replacement therapy puts hormones back into the bloodstream, quieting the pituitary gland thereby easing the symptoms.
Mathews starts with a 45-minute consultation. During this consultation, Mathews constructs a patient profile, assesses diet, medications and activity level, and determines factors exacerbating menopausal symptoms.
Mathews will recommend a special combination of hormones individually suited to each woman's chemistry. She'll discuss her findings and submit her recommendations to the patient's primary care physician or gynecologist, who in turn will write the prescription.
"The vast majority of doctors have been easy and willing to work with me," said Mathews. "They're open to trying this because they don't know how to go about prescribing (the hormones)."
Traditional hormone replacement therapies use synthetic and animal substances, which can have adverse side effects. But Mathews works with soy bean products that have been chemically modified and are identical to the natural hormones produced by the body.
Possibly the most discouraging impact of menopause is on a woman's sex life. A decrease in sexual appetite, vaginal dryness and the inability to climax come with the territory. Mathews also works with testosterone and special external cream therapies to help women enjoy sex again.
"Hysterectomy patients have trouble with their sex drive," said Mathews. "Once you take all the equipment away, you just lose all your sex drive."
Mathews added that many women in the waning years of their reproductive cycle become downtrodden and confused; maintaining a positive outlook is key to getting through it.
"Attitude can be huge," said Mathews. "You can't look at menopause and say, ‘This is the end of the line."
Women who've recently undergone a hysterectomy and those with other hormonal imbalances like post menstrual syndrome will find Mathews' services valuable.
"If you have mild PMS when you're younger, it'll get worse as you get older," said Mathews.
Mathews earned her doctor of pharmacy degree at the University of Arizona where she met her husband Craig, also a pharmacist and manager of the Apothecary Shop. After graduating, she spent a year in residency at the University of California, San Diego.
"I have more experience with making therapy recommendations," said Mathews. "I'm more involved in a patient's treatment than a regular dispensing pharmacist, and I have the authority to modify prescriptions."
The Mathews have three children, and chose Payson because of its cooler climate and friendly community.
Mathews said that insurance won't cover her affordable consultation fee, but most plans do cover the hormone replacement therapies. Many patients, she added, who start a hormone regimen will feel relief from discomfort within a couple of weeks.
"I have women who come back and say, ‘I didn't know how bad I was feeling until I started feeling better,'" said Mathews. "The biggest thing is women need someone to listen. A lot of them feel better knowing they're not crazy."
Mathews will speak more on the subject of menopause at the Women's Wellness Forum, May 14. For more information call the Mogollon Health Alliance at (928) 472-2588.
To make an appointment with Mathews, call the Apothecary Shop at (928) 468-8299.
Name: Raenel Mathews
Employer: Payson Regional Medical Center, Apothecary Shop, self
Birthplace: Tucson, Ariz.
Family: Husband, Craig; Marisa, 7; Hayden, 5 and Sage 21 months
Personal motto: Busy but balanced.
Greatest Feat: Juggling three kids, my husband and my job(s)
Favorite hobby or leisure activity: scrapbooking
Three words that describe me best are ... friendly, laid-back and busy.
I don't want to brag but ... I'm a pretty decent cook
The person in history I'd most like to meet is: Martin Luther
Luxury defined: A day to myself to catch up on the scrapbook
Why Payson? It's smaller and cooler than Phoenix, and it's a great community.