By Carol Anthony 15/10/2020

Menopause is no longer a limiting factor for women in their 40’s and 50’s. We have realised we can still be young, energetic and competitive in sport. We are living our best life, refusing to get old. We are determined to age with grace, yet remain active, athletic and young at heart.

What we cannot deny though is that changes do occur in our bodies, hot flushes, night sweats, disrupted sleep, mood swings, thinning hair, headaches, loss of libido are all a reality of this phase of our lives. Although these are unpleasant there is a lot we can do to manage these symptoms of menopause naturally through dietary and lifestyle changes.

There are 2 important principles to bear in mind at this stage of our lives; the importance of regulating blood sugar and healthy adrenal support. Optimal blood sugar regulation is essential in avoiding adrenal stress.  Let us examine these a little closer.

Regulating Blood Sugar

During perimenopausal years insulin resistance is common and, as a result, carbs are no longer tolerated as well as they used to be. An excess of blood sugar wrecks hormonal havoc resulting in menopausal symptoms: hot flushes, emotional upheavals, fatigue, poor concentration and commonly, weight gain.

A typical cycle of disrupted blood sugar levels occurs as follows: waiting too long to eat, blood sugar levels drop resulting in low energy and cravings, more often than not sugar cravings. The typical go-to pick-me-ups are sugar (chocolate or sweets) or caffeine. In the short term this seems to relieve the feeling of discomfort as energy levels spike. But, unfortunately, this boost is short lived and followed by another slump. This becomes a vicious cycle of energy highs and lows. Not only does this cause adrenal fatigue but often results in weight gain, belly fat in particular

Adrenals and cortisol

Before menopause, estrogen and progesterone are produced mostly by the ovaries and to a far lesser extent, the adrenals. Once ovary activity declines, the adrenal glands become the sole producers of estrogen and progesterone, in far smaller amounts. As the adrenals are the only producers of these hormones in menopausal years, adrenal support is essential for negating hormonal fluctuations.

Cortisol is the stress hormone produced and released by the adrenals in response to danger and stress, blood sugar levels are boosted and your heartrate is revved up. This is good in the face of harm or a stressful situation, but not beneficial to long term physical, emotional or mental stress.

A stressful lifestyle means that cortisol stays high robbing the body of hormones (DHEA, progesterone, estrogen testosterone), a rise in blood sugar levels and an increase in belly fat along with other undesirable symptoms like night sweats, hot flushes, mood swings and finally burn out, all as a result of high cortisol.

Lifestyle and dietary changes can do a lot to manage and minimise the symptoms of menopause.

♥ Eat a wholefood diet.

Vital for stabilising blood sugar is eating clean, unprocessed whole foods. Overly processed, sugary foods result in unregulated blood sugar. They pick you up and drop you down quickly, leaving you feeling hungry and wanting more. Cravings are common when a diet is high in processed foods. As the body searches for nutrients, we erroneously perceive this as a craving for sugar, salt or other non-foods. Wholefoods are filling, nutrient dense and generally lower in calories. But most important, the maintain stable blood sugar levels.

♥ Limit caffeine intake.

An excess of caffeine, being a stimulant, places the body in a constate state of fright or flight. This is exhausting on the adrenals and results in cortisol being released. Even the slightest amount of caffeine can raise cortisol levels and disrupt sleep. Disrupted sleep is stressful, more stress = more hormonal imbalance and out of control menopausal symptoms. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and don’t forget that coffee, tea and green tea are all high in caffeine. Limiting caffeine may also reduce the incidence of night sweats and hot flushes.

♥ Reduce alcohol consumption

That means a maximum of 2 to 3 drinks a week. Alcohol is one of the biggest deregulators of blood sugar and disruptors of sleep. An excess intake of alcohol usually leads to a craving for high carb foods further disrupting blood sugar levels. Excessive alcohol intake comes at a high cost to your health and weight loss efforts.

♥ Take sugar and sweeteners out of the mix

When is comes to sugar, good sense seldom prevails and moderation is non-existent. As a result of the addictive nature of sugar, a little will inevitably lead to more. It is better to cut it out completely. Our bodies do not need processed sugar in any form. Natural sugars from fruit are far healthier and have less effect on our blood sugar levels.

♥ Stay hydrated

Thirst (and low energy levels) are often mistaken for hunger. Minimize cravings and drops in blood sugar levels by drinking 2 liters of clear, good quality water a day. This excludes hydration from food, especially fruit and vegetables.

♥ Exercise

Regular exercise is a multi-pronged attack during menopause. It keeps hormones balanced, stabilises blood sugar levels, released feel good hormones and is a great stress releaser. It is also essential for retaining muscle and bone density both of which become compromised in menopause.

♥ Intermittent Fasting (IF)

A 12 to 14 hour window is ideal between your last meal at night and first meal in the morning. Avoid eating close to bed time. It places stress on your digestive system, may cause heartburn and disrupts sleep. Stop eating by 7pm and have breakfast 12 or 14 hours later. This will also eliminate night-time snacking which leads to weight gain.

♥ Sleep

Adequate sleep during your perimenopausal or menopausal year is essential. Insufficient sleep is stressful and further stresses the adrenal glands. Unfortunately, as melatonin and GABA decline during these years, getting to sleep and staying asleep is challenging in itself. Exercise good sleep hygiene, limit screen time for 2 hours before bed and avoid drinking caffeinated drinks after midday. Also reduce fluid intake closer to bedtime to avoid too many trips to the bathroom.

♥ MACA

Maca is a great hormone regulating supplement. It controls blood sugar levels and insulin and gives you energy to train. It has also been found to balance estrogen and progesterone while easing night sweats, insomnia, anxiety, palpitations and depression.  You may want to consider adding MACA to your day’s supplements.

Making these simple dietary and lifestyle changes will do a lot to make menopause more manageable.

 

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