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Rushing Woman's Syndrome: what is it and are you a sufferer?

15 July 2014

Dr Libby Weaver

Libby Weaver (above): It is unfortunate that there has been some confusion surrounding what Rushing Woman’s Syndrome is. Rushing Woman's Syndrome is actually the name of the second book I wrote in 2011. The book initially evolved out of my observation of a shift in women's health and behaviour in my practice over the previous 16 years. Having done a PhD in Biochemistry I wanted to further understand and explain what was behind this.

Never before in my work had I witnessed so many females in a rush to do everything and be all things to all people. Never before had I seen the extent of reproductive system and sex hormone challenges that I was seeing. Women were wired. Many of them tired too. Tired yet wired. And this relentless urgency, this perception that there was not enough time, combined with a to-do list that was never all crossed off is having such significant health consequences for women I had to write about it. I didn’t want these amazing mothers, sisters, daughters, friends and colleagues to compromise the quality of their lives in order to live up to this perceived urgency.

Not that long ago in human history women were given the opportunity to do what had traditionally been their father's jobs, while maintaining what were traditionally their mother's responsibilities and what has unfolded for too many women is a frantic double shift, of work day and night, with very little if any rest.

We’ve made more progress in the workplace than we have in the home. Research shows that if a woman and man both work full time and have one child, she does twice the amount of housework and three times the amount of childcare he does. So essentially, she has three jobs and he has one. It is time for the dawning of new era for women, which means it has to be for our men as well.

The perceived need to rush, whether a woman displays it on the outside or keeps it under wraps, is changing the face of women's health as we know it in a detrimental way; from PMS to IBS, from losing our tempers to feeling like we can't cope.

Rushing Woman’s Syndrome describes what is scientifically known as Sympathetic Nervous System Dominance and the biochemical changes this drives in the body. I wanted women to understand the significant way stress can impact the chemistry of their body, the many body systems it can affect, and offer them practical solutions to this.

Ruby Connection: Does RWS exist in the medical texts? Why have you labelled it a syndrome and could/should it be termed differently or are you conducting scientific research and working to get it added formally to the medical terminology?

LW: RWS does not exist in medical textbooks nor have I ever claimed it did or needed to be. I used the word syndrome in the title of my book based on the Merriam Webster definition of the word: “a set of concurrent things (as emotions or actions) that usually form an identifiable pattern”.

It is the title of my second book and it is a layman's expression for a more complex scientific pattern, known as Sympathetic Nervous System Dominance (SNSD) and the biochemical changes this drives. As a scientist, I felt that the majority of people would have no idea what SNSD meant, hence the need to translate this to a term that would resonate with people and give them insight into how their body works.

I was invited to do a TEDx presentation earlier this year. My address goes some way to summarising some of the challenges facing women’s health. The YouTube link for the talk is here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJ0SME6Z9rw 

RWS Symptoms

RC: What should women look out for in relation to RWS symptoms and what are your top tips for treatment?

LW: RWS typically shows up as any or all of the following:

Sex hormone imbalances which can lead to PMS, mood swings, irregular periods, heavy clotty painful periods, debilitating menopause, tender breasts, fluid retention, and “unexplained” weight gain

Stress hormone over-production or adrenal fatigue which can lead to “unexplained” weight gain or an inability to gain weight, a feeling of panic on the inside, puffy eyes, over-reacting to situations, an amped up feeling, fatigue, poor sleep quality, non-restorative sleep

Thyroid dysfunction which can present as an inability to lose weight or “unexplained” weight loss, deep fatigue or feeling “wired” or swinging between both states, hair loss

Digestive system challenges which can present as regular bloating, particularly through the afternoon, irritable bowel syndrome-type symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation or intermittent bouts of both, feeling like you react to a variety of foods and this seems to be getting worse

Nervous system on red alert which feeds the dysfunctions in all of the above body systems

Top 3 Tips to Get You Started on Road to Recovery

1. Get honest with yourself about how much caffeine you consume and how it affects you.

You know better than anyone if it needs to be reduced. Because caffeine leads the body to make adrenalin, sometimes we are better able to respond calmly to situations when we don’t have the added load of adrenalin from too much caffeine.

2. Explore your perception of pressure.

Not so long ago, stress and pressure arose, for example, from a beloved being unwell. Now when I ask people about stress and pressure they regularly relay stories of 300 new emails arriving over the weekend and never catching up. You care about emails because you have a beautiful heart and don’t want to “let people down” – but it’s time to reassess what is real pressure for you and what is a busy, rich, opportunity-filled life.

3. Restorative practices.

If you live on stress hormones, your body can think your life is in danger and sex hormone balance can be compromised. Embracing breath-focussed practices can help reassure your body you are “safe” and allow your body to regulate its own hormone balance.

RC: What, in your experience, does treatment involve?

LW: It is different for each person. My approach to RFushing Woman's Syndrome has three prongs to it:

1. The biochemical, which explains, for example, how stress hormones can interfere with sex hormones

2. The nutritional, which covers the foods and nutrients necessary for the optimum functioning of each body system as well as the substances that can take away from the optimum functioning of each body system

3. The emotional, which helps people answer the question, “why do you do what you do when you know what you know?” For example, it is not usually a lack of education that leads someone to polish off a packet of chocolate biscuits after dinner. No one does that thinking they are going to feel fabulous after they do so. It’s biochemical or emotional or both.

In exploring an individual’s perceived need to rush and their need to do all things with urgency, the best outcomes are achieved when all three prongs are addressed. 

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