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Hamster Cheeks

Why have I developed "Hamster Cheeks"?

Question

Can you tell me why, although I'm not at all over night, I have puffy fat in my jowls -hamster cheeks! This problem started after I had part of one ovary removed. I've heard that it might be to do with the ovaries not functioning. Would a facial muscle-toning machine help? Short of liposuction, what can I do? I’ve started taking the herb agnus castus but haven't noticed any improvement yet.

Answer

Your puff cheeks could indeed be related to your hormonal situation. The ovaries produce oestrogen, the main hormone involved in a woman's reproductive functioning. Oestrogen is also responsible for your feminine characteristics, such as soft, smooth skin, gentle voice, breasts and lack of facial hair.

When ovarian function declines, oestrogen levels drop and a lot of changes begin to take place in a woman's body. Usually the cause is the beginning of the menopause, but sometimes, as in your case, the woman has had surgery which interrupts the oestrogen production from the ovaries. Although the supply of oestrogen drops, the demand from the body is still high. Initially, the body responds by trying everything within its powers to maintain the production of oestrogen.

The first thing it does is to deposit soft white fat (cellulite) at various places on the body, such as the lower abdomen, outer thighs, cheek and chin (as in your case), forearms and below the breasts, These deposits can be isolated. The white fat - which is different from normal yellow fat that is deposited on the whole of the body when you eat too many carbohydrates, fats and oils and don't exercise - is converted into a substance called oestrone, a form of oestrogen. So the body responds to a drop in oestrogen from the ovaries by setting up another supply. Unfortunately these deposits can look unsightly and cause distress, as you are experiencing. Removing them by liposuction (melting and suctioning off the excess fat using keyhole surgery) will deprive the body of its last chance of producing the oestrogen which is so necessary for normal functioning of the female body and mind, and also for strong bones. You may find that using a facial muscle toner will help.

The white far deposit is a side effect of the body's struggle to compensate for the decreasing level of oestrogen. In order to raise this level and to suppress the production of white fat, you should take phyto (plant) oestrogens to help stabilise your hormonal functioning. You should continue taking the agnus cactus.

Here are my general tips:

  • Eat foods containing natural phyto oestrogens, particularly soya (tofu), yams, asparagus and rhubarb.
  • Eat organic chicken, game and eggs. Some animal products are essential because oestrogen is manufactured from cholesterol, but choose organic because non-organically reared birds are fed on hormones and antibiotics that disrupt the delicate hormonal mechanisms. Vegan or strict vegetarian diets are not beneficial, in my view. However, if you are a strict vegetarian, you must eat protein in the form of almonds (soak in water at room temperature for a day), soya, organic milk, ghee, avocado, cottage cheese - and take a protein supplement.

To help balance hormones, take the following:

  • Shatavari tablets: one twice a day for four months; Dong Quai by Vega capsules; one a day for two months, and Kolonji oil half a teaspoonful with a little manuka honey daily for three months.
  • For the areas of cellulite, massage the skin firmly between your thumb and fingers, pinching it slightly, with Dr Ali's Cellulite Oil or Cellulite Treatment Oil by Tisserand from high street chemists and health food stores. Do this for two minutes at bedtime. Wipe off the excess oil.
  • Massage the neck and shoulders to improve blood flow to the pituitary gland, which controls the main reproductive hormones in the body. You can do this yourself or ask someone to do it for you.
  • Practise Yoga. Join a local class with a qualified teacher and/or try the exercises for the menopause in Therapeutic Yoga, the book I co-wrote with Jiwan Brar.

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