Why shouldn’t your pre and post-menopausal years be the happiest, most vibrant, and most fulfilling years of your life?
Menopause is a natural female transition. It is not inevitable that you will experience negative health impacts. With personalized, targeted intervention there is no reason why you cannot feel great during the transition and beyond. In our clinic we look at the individual addressing key imbalances to optimise health and function.
Menopause is so much more than simply the end of fertility. The metabolic and endocrine changes that occur can have profound effects on women’s bodies.
As women go through the menopausal transition it is common for hormones to fluctuate widely and with it hormonal imbalance can be more evident. During this transitional phase, or perimenopausal phase the number of eggs and quality declines which in turn results in massive disruption to hormonal production. In part these unpredictable hormone fluctuations contribute to the well-known menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, headaches, fatigue, and mood disorders. The perimenopausal phase, which can last many years can vary in severity from one women to another. Some women experience minor symptoms while others find it dominates their life for years.
Menopause is officially defined as a period of 12 months with no vaginal bleeding. At this point the ovaries no longer produce any oestrogen or progesterone. It is this loss of oestrogen that has profound effects on women’s health and weight.
Importance of Oestrogen
In the female body, oestrogen is a master hormone. Oestrogen has receptors on virtually every organ of the body, which means every body system in a woman relies on a natural oestrogen rhythm to function properly.
Oestrogen controls metabolic health including insulin sensitivity, immune function, digestion, cardiovascular performance, mood, and brain health. So is it any surprise that as levels of oestrogen begin to fall women lose the wide range of health benefits tied to oestrogen and to some extent progesterone too?
As oestrogen is so involved with our metabolism is it also no surprise that women find it harder to lose weight and the distribution of fat changes.
After menopause, women have high rates of cardiovascular disease and strokes. Women have more gastroesophageal reflux after menopause, higher rates of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions, greater problems with sleep, depression, mood and cognitive function. So you can see that menopause and the transition is a total body system change. For that reason it is important to look at the whole body and any potential imbalances that may occur.
Lab testing can be particularly useful in this respect. I like to run comprehensive panels for women that take into account all body systems. This may include markers of inflammation, hormone levels, thyroid function, vitamin and mineral status, cardiovascular markers, gut health, genetic SNPs, liver function and blood glucose balance.
Sleep & Menopause
It is not just weight that bothers women through the menopause. Sleep can be profoundly disrupted. Ever feel like you are in permanent jet lag? It may be your circadian rhythm is out of whack.
Did you know that every organ, system, and cell in your body operates on a day-night, 24-hour rhythm? This is our circadian rhythm and it is the cornerstone of a healthy metabolism and good health. Crucial for women oestrogen plays a key role in maintaining their circadian rhythm. Our master clock in the hypothalamus is the primary driver of our circadian rhythm. It controls all of the clock genes in our body and oestrogen helps maintain this master clock. When we lose ovarian oestrogen, the levels of oestrogen decline throughout our body including in the brain which in turn impacts the function of the master clock.
There are many ways we can help to reset our circadian rhythm. Diet and timing of eating can play a key role. For example our gut microbiome has its own clock and can be influenced by the timing of eating and fasting and by what we eat. This is why I recommend time restricted eating in our menopause programme for example. It is also why periodic fasting like the fasting mimicking diet can be so beneficial. A periodic fast, one lasting for a few days, improves your metabolic health and may improve blood sugar control, lower hypertension, improve cognition and lower inflammation too. I recommend FMD and you can purchase it through PROLON using my code 2F16 Christine Bailey
In addition as the gut microbiome can play a role in our circadian rhythm ensuring plenty of prebiotic and probiotic foods can be beneficial. In fact a more plant based focus to your diet will ensure plenty of fibre to support gut health and plant compounds including sulforaphanes to support healthy hormone detoxification. Other dietary components can also be beneficial during the menopause transition. Plant-based foods known as phytoestrogens, can support the gut microbiome and lower systemic inflammation. Common sources of phytoestrogens are ground flaxseeds and soy like miso, tofu and tempeh. Avoid inflammatory foods or any known food allergens. Watch the sugar intake, processed foods, damaged fats and refined carbohydrates – anything that may affect blood glucose levels and insulin health.
There are additional lifestyle factors too – exposure to bright light in the morning can be a way to help reset the circadian rhythm and I discuss other sleep hygiene techniques in my blogs and webinars on sleep. Remember good sleep is essential for good health so make this a priority and tackle any stress factors that may also be playing a role. Exercise has to be a priority at any time of your life but particularly as we get older. Use it or lose it!! Muscle loss is common as we get older so if you want to really make a difference to your body composition and how you look and feel you need to lift weights and move more.
Want to transform your health and feel vibrant again? Then sign up to our 4 Week Menopause Programme and Lean & Nourish Club