Do you have a case of the "caregiver syndrome?" You know, where you're so busy taking care of everyone else that you forget to take care of yourself?
If you answered yes, then you might be surprised to learn that this could be the root cause of your hormone woes.
That's right, according to world-renowned hormone expert, Dr. Venus Ramos, caregiver syndrome is one of the most common causes of hormone imbalances in women.
On this episode of The Hormone Prescription Podcast, Dr. Ramos shares her insights on how caregiver syndrome can lead to hormone imbalances and what you can do to fix it.
You'll also learn:
-The three most common symptoms of caregiver syndrome
-How caregiver syndrome can lead to hormone imbalances
-The top three hormones that are most affected by caregiver syndrome
-The steps you can take to be free of caregiver syndrome and restore balance to your hormones
-Exercise regimen, and other stress-relieving techniques that can help alleviate caregiver syndrome
-Weight loss tips
-And much more!
So if you think you might be struggling with your hormones and caregiver syndrome , then tune in to this episode of The Hormone Prescription Podcast. You'll walk away with the knowledge and tools you need to start feeling like yourself again.
(00:00): Dr. Ramos says, stay fit, be happy and lead with love.
(00:06): So the big question is how do women over 40, like us keep weight off, have great energy balance. Our hormones in our moods feel sexy and confident and master midlife. If you're like most of us, you are not getting the answers you need and remain confused and pretty hopeless to ever feel like yourself. Again. As an OB GYN, I had to discover for myself the truth about what creates a rock, solid metabolism, lasting weight loss, and supercharged energy. After 40 in order to lose a hundred pounds and fix my fatigue. Now I'm on a mission. This podcast is designed to share the natural tools you need for impactful results. And to give you clarity on the answers to your midlife metabolism challenges, join me for tangible natural strategies to crush the hormone imbalances you are facing and help you get unstuck from the sidelines of life. My name is Dr. Kyrin Dunston Welcome to The Hormone Prescription Podcast.
(00:59): Hey everybody. Welcome back to another episode of The Hormone Prescription with Dr. Kyrin. Thank you so much for joining me today. My guest, Dr. Venus, many of you saw on the Stop The Menopause Madness Summit, and you loved her. So I brought her on the podcast. She is an amazing woman who is a woman of many talents. Let me just say this she's very accomplished. You would never believe that she is the age that she is. She really looks like she's in her thirties and that's cuz she practices what she preaches. She has been a victim, if you will, or subject to caregiver syndrome all while being an elite fitness athlete. And she has thrived through that. Not only survived but thrived. And she's gonna talk to you about how you can start doing that yourself. Maybe you're in that sandwich generation, you've got older parents with health problems.
(01:55): You've got kids also, and that really can take a toll on your hormones and your health. If you're living it, you know what I'm talking about, or maybe you have family members who have lived it, it is a real thing. So I'll tell you about a Dr. Venus and then we'll get started. She's got some solutions for you. Dr. Venus is the biohacking and she's a board-certified physician of physical medicine and rehab. She has a thriving medical practice in California, and she's competed for 20 years as a national level fitness athlete. She's also a fitness trainer, and she's had clients ranging from single moms to professional athletes and an action film star. How exciting she's been a repeat guest on the TV series, the doctors, you might have seen her there , and she's been featured on several other shows, including NBC's today and American gladiators. And she contributes frequently to multiple health outlets, including I, her.com and oxygen magazine. She has a firsthand story of living through and thriving through caregiver syndrome. And we're gonna dive into it now. Welcome Dr. Venus, Hey,
(03:05): How are you doing?
(03:06): I'm doing great. I'm really excited to have you on today. You have such vast experience in so many areas. We had to talk about what to talk about, and I know that you'll weave all of your experience, knowledge and brilliance into the conversation, but I thought it's super important to focus on caregiver syndrome because this isn't something that I haven't ever covered in the podcast. It's part of your personal experience, and you have some great tips to help people. And so I thought we would dive into that first. And I'm wondering if you can talk a little bit about what caregiver syndrome is and a bit about your story.
(03:51): Caregiver syndrome in general is just all of the symptoms that you experience when you have a physical, emotional and mental exhaustion from caring for somebody. Now of course, this can be caring for a loved one, or it can be caring for someone on the job for people who actually act as caregivers. A lot of times people think about caregiver syndrome being a lot of the fatigue and the overall fatigue and lethargy that you feel when you are caring for an elder. But certainly caregiver syndrome could be for new mothers who are caring for their children. So caregiver syndrome can affect pretty much anyone when they are directly involved in caring for someone else.
(04:38): Okay. And so who's mostly affected by caregiver syndrome. What happens? Why does it occur and how might someone know that they're having this?
(04:48): Well, oftentimes, especially when you're talking about caregiving for a loved one, this is something that happens because you are so intent. You are oftentimes so emotionally
involved in making sure that your loved one is being taken good care of. Oftentimes you start to neglect those very important things that you must do in order to care for yourself, you will perhaps not eat as well. You don't dedicate enough time to relaxing and getting enough sleep on your own. These are things that often may happen because you're very concerned, which it's important to do so about making sure that your loved one gets the care that you want them to have. You may be feeling very exhausted. You may be feeling very frustrated. You may start feeling that you're noticing that your clothes are fitting more tightly because you simply are putting on more weight. These are all the things that can happen. You may be more irritable. You might notice that you are starting to become more irritable with taking care of your loved one. And that's actually something that I started noticing in my own life when I started taking care of my father. And that's when I knew immediately at that particular moment in time that I needed to make a change.
(06:09): Yeah, I remember a client. I had, we were working on her health. She had all kinds of cortisol problems. Her weight was going up. She was really struggling with that. Her doctor was treating her for anxiety and depression and then she was having trouble sleeping and with her sex drive and it was just all these things. And she really was the only one taking care of her mom, even though she had siblings. And when we talked about it, she was getting so much resentment that her siblings weren't helping her at all. She was just saying that she felt so put upon and she almost had become like a martyr and used it kind of that anger and resentment. And then her mom wasn't nice to her too. So put that on top. So there was a lot of conflict there. She was struggling sticking to the things that she knew she should eat to benefit her that were nurturing versus junk food.
(07:05): And so that was one thing that we talked about and she hadn't really seen this as a syndrome of any type, but she was the only one. So when we had the conversation about, wow, this is really common. It affects a lot of women in the 40 to 60 year old range. And it affects on men as well. And one of the ways that it often shows up is that people start having health problems themselves. And they don't realize how much of a stress, particularly on their cortisol, the actual physical caregiving, the emotional caregiving, the mental, the spiritual what a toll it's taking on them until they really talk about it and unpack it. And I find that it's not necessarily a common topic of conversation. Did you feel like that when you were going through it and as if you weren't supported by the public in general, it's not a topic of conversation. People didn't know what you were going through.
(08:07): Well, I thought for myself, I felt myself slipping into this hole or falling into it and staying there of apathy where I really didn't care about myself or my help. And I just kind of stayed in this pit. And for me it was almost like there was an element of shame to it as well, because this happened to me and my family because my father had a stroke as a rehab physician. This happens to be one of my specialties caring for, for stroke patients and making sure that their families are educated in what's involved in caring for a loved one who has stroke. So this is something that I specialize in and when it happens in my own family and I find myself very protective of my father, knowing that I know how things are supposed to go. So this is how it's going to go.
(09:03): And I need to watch to make sure that everything is going the right way. I became very involved in making sure he had the best perfect caregiving after his stroke. And of course, I'm the only one who can give that, right? Because I'm the doctor <laugh>, I should be able to do this and no one else can do this. Only you Venus <laugh> only you only me and being a fitness competitor as well. I had done this actually almost 20 years. I knew about nutrition. I knew about training. I knew how to stick to any nutrition and exercise program, despite whatever kind of crazy schedule I had, cuz I'd been doing this for 20 years. So me thinking I was the authority in taking care of a stroke patient and the authority in staying fit and healthy, I should be able to handle this no problem, but very quickly I began to just forget about myself because the work of maintaining my medical practice and making sure that my father was getting the perfect care from me was just too much for me to also squeeze in all of that nutrition and exercise stuff that I knew about as well.
(10:15): So that's where it started to become the caregiver syndrome, where I started neglecting some of my nutrition. I started neglecting the exercise that had become such a habit in my life. It was no longer a habit because my whole life kind of got flipped upside down into adding this whole other person that I was taking care of as perfectly as possible because I'm supposed to be the expert. So there was a, a bit of shame on my part in accepting the fact that this is where I had slipped to and fall into because I had held myself to a, a certain standard. So for me there was shame involved. But the thing that turned it around was that I was so tired. I was so exhausted. I had started gaining weight. I was sitting on the couch for just a little bit of a breather.
(11:07): When I heard my father ring the bell that calls for help whenever he needed something. And that bell triggered such a feeling of anger and frustration in me. And as I walked up towards his door, his bedroom door to take care of whatever he might need. I realized that there was this tension in my face that there was anger in my heart. And I realized I did not wanna enter that room, looking that way, feeling that way. Cuz I knew that was something he would certainly be able to sense and I never wanted him to feel like he was a burden to me. And that's when I realized I needed to do something to take better care of myself. So I didn't have those feelings. I didn't wanna feel frustrated, irritated, angry, or looked that way either.
(11:56): You know, I love that. And I think that sometimes what might be part of the difficulty with caregiver syndrome is that children and their parents can be, haven't worked through any conflict that they've had throughout their lives, that this situation could escalate it. And so I always encourage people in that situation to unpack any unresolved issues to iron them out so that they can be there for their loved one from a place of love and from a place of being grateful to have the opportunity to provide care in that way. This was part of my client's story. When we talked about it, she had a whole lot of unresolved resentment towards her mom. And so that was getting heaped on top of the fact that she really did come from a good place. She wanted to be there for her mom and she had all these unresolved issues. So when you take that and then the burden of having to spend so much time and energy every day, it really did get to a place where she was resentful of her mom every day. So was that the breaking point for you where you decided I have to do something different?
(13:09): It absolutely was. I knew that I did not what my father himself to fall into any kind of a depression again, I was kind of, for me, the motivating factor was love for my father. I did not. I wanted him to get the very best care and I felt like by ignoring my own care, I was not able to do that for him. That was really what I felt as my motivation, but it absolutely made me want to do something to get back on track for me. I had to start with just the simplest of things and all I did the very next morning was just get on my recumbent bike and I started just pedaling away for 10 minutes in the morning. The first thing I did, that's basically all I could
(13:54): Do. Okay. And so you had had a pretty rigorous health routine prior to all this and you had gone away from it. So you said, okay, what's one thing I can do today. You got on your RECU bike and how did that start changing things and what did you do next?
(14:12): Well, I really felt like it was important for me to do something, something that was more mobile than what I had been doing. And really that was how I started. I started with just 10 minutes a day. I slowly started to increase it by five minutes, 15 minutes. And then I went to 20 minutes. I just started becoming a little bit more mobile as I became more mobile and started increasing some physical activity. I felt myself feeling better and I felt myself even more motivated to do even more, which is of course the natural thing that happens in a human body when it becomes more physically active. So that's when I decided, okay, I've got this, I'm doing full half hour in the morning. Oh my goodness. I'm starting to get back there now. So let me start focusing on nutrition. So I decided I was just gonna start with, let me just focus on having the best breakfast that I can every morning and just make a healthier choice in the morning, rather than just stopping by to grab a coffee and donut on the way into the office. So that was my next step to just make a healthier choice for my first meal of the day.
(15:27): Okay. So little steps. And then what started to happen? What changed first?
(15:33): Again, more and more. I started feeling better. I felt like I was starting my morning off better. I had more physical activity now I was adding another element of eating healthier and that just again, one step at a time I started changing what I was doing. Then I started making better changes, healthier choices at lunchtime. And again, it was very, very simple to do. And then I was able to add some of the strength training that I was used to doing. Again, I was squeezing this in, but I was making a conscious effort to start adding strength training by doing just simple body weight exercises. And this was as simple as going to the kitchen and adding squat routine in right before I decided to do the dishes cuz I was squatting to load the dishwasher anyway. So again, there was just basic things that I was doing, but it would stimulate my brain to remember, okay, this is what I'm going to do now.
(16:35): Cause the other thing that's important to remember is I couldn't just jump into the gym and well I could have, but I couldn't just jump into the gym and return to that really rigorous and vigorous exercise routine that I had been used to when I was competing for fitness competitions, that type of routine likely would've led me to be extremely sore immediately after. And when that happens, it's super easy just to say, oh, forget this. I'm not going to exercise anymore. And that could delay you for another couple of weeks and it's easy to, to fall back off the wagon when you overdo it in the beginning.
(17:12): Mm-Hmm <affirmative> right. That's a great point. I'm just wondering on average, how many hours a day were you spending, helping your parents? I think that the amount of time that you spend really can put a crunch on your free time. So how much time were you personally spending and then how can someone proactively navigate this journey? If they know, oh, I'm gonna have to spend two hours with my parent every day and a half hour getting there and a half hour back. So that's three hours as it's gonna cut into their time. What information can you give people to help them consciously navigate this? So they don't end up having caregiver syndrome, but maybe they could avoid it.
(17:52): Absolutely. I think that it's really important to calculate how much care is really involved. If I had to add it all up, I would say at least six hours in the day I actually moved in with my parents. I had a home for both my mom and dad when they moved out to join me here in California and I moved into that home so that I could help my mom take better care of my father. I did have a caregiver to assist my father at something of course that we recommend for patients once they leave the rehab hospital after a stroke. So I did have a caregiver, but again, me being very overprotective, I felt like I wanted to oversee so much of it when the caregiver first came over. So there was an element of trusting the caregiver that was involved. And again, this was a lot to do with me, just recognizing that I didn't have to be the only caregiver who was there physically to make sure things were run perfectly. And again, this is all about having the right team around you, involving my mother, involving the caregiver, making sure that I'm comfortable with their knowledge, by giving them the appropriate training on how to provide that care. So understand how much time you do have in the day, how much time you can allocate and then work with a team of some sort, whether it's a hired caregiver, whether it's your family and work together so that you really trust each other to take care of the person that you want to make sure gets that care.
(19:41): Yeah, because if you don't take care of it, then it can end up in burnout. I guess it goes past just caregiver syndrome to caregiver burnout. And nobody wants that. My client was really on the verge of that. So now along with your career, as a physician and helping with your father and helping families who have, because you're in the rehabs medicine sector, you help families to rehabilitate and help their loved ones to recover. You're a fitness model for many years and you help people with weight loss and you have a lot of tips. And I think that people would love to hear, how did you maintain your weight and your health? I mean, we heard about you had slacked off a little and you started back on the bike and doing squats with the dishwasher. I could visualize that <laugh>, I'm thinking, could I squat and load the dishwasher? I don't know. I'm gonna have to try it. <Laugh> and so what are some other things that people can do? Maybe they don't have a loved one that they're caring for, but they want to lose weight. And I know that's something you help people with, or maybe they have a lot of pressures. Maybe it's not a loved one. Maybe they just have a very demanding job or a lot of social activities or obligations. What are some of the main tenants that you give people to follow to help them maintain or lose weight?
(21:08): Well, I think that especially coming outta the whole caregiver syndrome life that I had and trying to resume some semblance of self care, I realized how important it was to have a lot of that knowledge that I had prior to that in really optimizing my fitness level for competition and being able to squeeze that into a busy work schedule. So being able to have that knowledge was certainly really important for me in resuming any kind of training of any kind. And I think that it's important to really understand how to negotiate, that, how to fit a fit lifestyle into a busy schedule. And that's what I like to do for all of my clients and even my patients when I'm trying to encourage them to incorporate exercise and nutrition into their life, because of course doing that can help my rehab patients and my pain management patients that I see in the office as it decreases inflammation in the body.
(22:16): So probably the number one tip I start off with for everyone. And we've touched on this a little bit already, is to make sure that you are managing your cortisol levels, that you are managing the stress in your life because it's so very important because cortisol and all of its pathways that it acts on in your body can do so much to basically counteract anything that you're trying to do in terms of staying fit and being healthy and losing weight. If that is your goal. So start off with a very specific plan on being able to manage that. And a lot of that, I tell people as they're about approaching any kind of a health and fitness plan, they get concerned about, oh, I need to do an hour of cardio a day. I need to be prepping all my meals. I need to know exactly how many calories of this I'm doing.
(23:15): I need to make sure I'm, there's so much that they get worried about that. They become overwhelmed with their diet and their nutrition and you get these spikes of cortisol and then your cortisol levels remain high and there's no balance there. And then they're struggling trying to figure out why is this not working? Well, you're all stressed out. <Laugh> it's not gonna work out if you're not, if you're all stressed out. So definitely having a, a plan to manage that is gonna be very important right off the bat. Even if you're starting with a very simple, deep breathing exercises sometime during the day on a daily basis, that at least is a starting point. The other thing I like to talk a lot about is making exercise manageable, cuz I think these are the things that are often hard for people to do because they say, I need to spend that hour on the treadmill, but it's not necessary to do that.
(24:12): You can start with just breaking it up into 10 minute chunks in a day, cuz you can get health benefits from that that's been shown. But what I like to do when you're really ready to take on more and get a little bit more intense with your exercise regimen, I like to tell people about doing high intensity interval training. This is something that people have heard a lot about. They've heard about interval training hit is often what it goes by high intensity interval training. But what I do notice is a lot of people don't really know what that is or they're doing it because they heard that it's what they're supposed to be doing. And then when I see what they think is a hit routine, it's not <laugh>. So I think that education about that is, is really important. And the reason why hit has become so popular is because it can be done in shorter amounts of time. You can achieve really good benefit towards weight loss by doing a hit routine. But if you're not doing it correctly, then you're not getting the benefits that you think you're getting really intense exercise in short periods of time. And that short period of time is often the appeal that you're able to get. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> a good workout in such a short period of time. And
(25:30): So when you say they're not doing it right, can you tell people, cause some people are listening and going, am I doing it right? Tell, so tell us Dr. <Laugh>, how do they know?
(25:39): Well, high intensity interval training when you're speaking of any kind of interval training you're you're talking about exercising at a very high intensity and then breaking it up, alternating it with exercising at a lower intensity so that you're exercising a lot of people. If you're talking about even doing sprints, running on a treadmill, basically running at a high level on a treadmill and then slowing it down and going to more of a moderate level on that treadmill, just breaking that up and going back and forth. That's interval training. Now, if you are doing high intensity interval training correctly, that means that you are performing as high and as maximum of your performance level as possible. When you hit that high interval and then going to your low interval, you have to do that low interval for a long enough period of time that your body is able to recover, recover enough that you can truly reach that maximum potential.
(26:42): Again, when you are exercising, I often see people doing intervals with a ratio of maybe let's say 30 seconds, that you're exercising at a high intensity for 30 seconds. And then you're going back down to a lower intensity for another 30 seconds. Then you go up to a higher intensity again for another 30 seconds and you're alternating back and forth. Now in general, most people are not gonna be able to get full recovery, to be able to achieve that high intensity, that maximum intensity in just 30 seconds. That's just a one-to-one ratio in order to do high intensity interval training that you would generally need to spend more on the line of a one to two or as even as long as a one to six ratio. So if you're going to be doing a high intensity for 30 seconds, most people are gonna need a full 60 seconds of a lower intensity to get enough recovery time to hit that maximum potential again on their next high intensity interval. So it's the ratio. That's gonna be very important.
(27:48): So if people are going to some type of gym where it's a workout, that's being given to them, how can they know if it's true hit or not just by the length of the intervals and the capacity that you're using?