Part two: Perimeopause and Menopause: What the Frick to Do?!
MAKE SURE YOU READ PART 1 FROM LAST WEEK!
Today we are diving into part two for what can cause symptoms of menopause and how you can take stock of things in your life (lifestyle) to help reduce these symptoms.
4. LOVE YOUR LIVER
Your liver is an absolute beast of an organ that does so much rad stuff. It functions as a detoxifier in your body whereby it flushes out and balances hormones in your bod. But although it wants to do this job for you it is also very affected by hormones. Estrogen is the main hormone that hangs with the liver. The liver (metabolism of estrogen takes place in the liver) can change hormones but hormonal changes will also decide how the liver will behave and do its job.
Sooo if estrogen is unable to be detoxified because the liver isn’t working properly this means there may be excess estrogen hanging around in your body, therefore can cause weight gain.
Whew. Everything is connected right?
But wait for it: that weight gain can cause more estrogen creating a hormonal imbalance and a cycle that is hard to break. The estrogen is unable to be flushed out by the liver not being able to do its job properly so this is where weight gain can fall under the symptoms of menopause.
Soooo how can we give the liver some lurve? We need to look at the common stressors that can cause our liver to not work optimally:
Long-term low-fat diets
High alcohol consumption
Eating packaged or processed foods
Environmental toxins (plastics, cleaning products, beauty products)
Poor quality water
Long-term medication use (prescription meds, birth control)
Now, what to do?
Do what Grandma would tell you to do: eat leafy greens, fruit and veggies
Eat healthy fats and cholesterol (especially egg yolks, liver)
Decrease alcohol to 1-2 GLASSES a week (note not days a week!)
Some supplements you could try (but ONLY if all the above are taken care of first!): dandelion tea, milk thistle, liver support supps.
5. BALANCE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR
Here at Olivia Park Coaching I’m ALL about having women focus on getting strong and not concerning themselves too much with weight, because when we focus on the ability of our body to be strong and do amazing things the body composition changes generally do come along with the actions you take (wanting to nourish your body with good food, strength train, movement, sleep, etc).
BUT having some context for why things happen is equally important.
And managing your blood sugar to help with weight gain during perimenopause or menopause is key and can help give more framework to unexplained weight gain.
Increased abdominal fat and weight gain is experienced by nearly 90% of women at this time. But, like I said last week, it’s not necessarily perimenopause itself that causes this BUT can be connected to blood sugar irregulation. (This is also relative to women of all ages and phases!)
Let’s talk about insulin resistance.
Your blood sugar levels are responsible for giving you stable energy and a feeling of overall balance throughout the day.
Insulin resistance 101
Insulin is a hormone responsible for controlling your blood sugar balance. It kinda tells your body HOW to use the food you eat.
Insulin ensures just the right amount of glucose (sugar) and energy (food you eat) is in your blood at one time. Butttt if we have too much insulin circulating in the body at once (insulin resistance), fat storage and menopause-like symptoms of blood sugar imbalances are common byproducts.
How do we get insulin resistant?
Frankly: poor nutrition or an imbalance of macronutrients, a battling gut and elevated cortisol (stress) levels. It’s not about just eating junk food that can cause you to experience this. I will tell you first hand the last six months I have been monitoring my blood sugar and it is extremely elevated alll the time unless I get a solid night of sleep. Why? Stress, friends.
This is also why I will recommend my clients (as is commonly known) to have carbohydrates after a workout (especially one that is tough, high intensity or taxing) because carbohydrates blunt cortisol meaning they can come back to a rest and digest state. If you go hard in the gym then walk straight out and into the madness of daily life or what you have going on next without cooling down or recovering with food your stress stays elevated and can be a major contributor to whacky blood sugar.
Let's look a little deeper into what can cause it:
Not eating balanced meals that include enough protein for YOUR body and healthy fats to provide your cells with longer lasting energy (than carbohydrates).
Undereating (one of the most common things I see with women I work with).
Restricting carbs (too much) and not eating enough fat to support low carb intake (at the end of the day it is the overall energy balance and if you are dropping carbs fats need to be increased and vice versa).
You have a gut that is struggling which prevents your body from absorbing the energy and nutrients you do give it.
Cortisol levels rise and fall in response to stress. As mentioned above, cortisol feeds of sugar, it tells insulin to go into hyperdrive in order to support it with enough energy.
When you are going through menopause or perimenopause your body is more sensitive to the impacts of stress because of the hormonal changes. So it’s common to see insulin resistance and blood sugar imbalances. But here are some things you can do RIGHT NOW to take stock of these things. Control what you can control!
Eat healthy fats with each meal to keep energy stable (eggs, nuts, seeds, avo, olive oil, coconut oil, fat fish, etc)
Eat your starchy carbs around your workouts (pre and post) to help recover. Carbs are necessary but the overall balance of energy intake is moreso.
Keep caffeine low (avoid coffee after 12pm and limit to 2 a day)
Replace ‘diet’ foods or low fat snacks and food with protein, healthy fats and veggies at meals. For snacks grab something that is high in protein and has some good fat.
Eat balanced meals throughout the day (protein, fat, carbs, veggies)
Get your H20! Shoot for 2-3L at least.
Aim for 30-60 minutes of movement each day (NB this is not purposeful exercise but movement, move more)
Do strength training 2-3 days per week to support insulin levels (make sure you’re on the waitlist for the Boldness Project!)
6. HMMMMM HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY
Many women are encouraged to just ignore the symptoms that can come at this time of their lives and use HRT to improve symptoms.
This is 100% your choice and consulting with your doc is of course the first port of call. HRT can significantly reduce perimenopausal symptoms by redcing the extrmes of symptoms with the decline of sex hormones. But it can also make it worse in the long run if the CAUSES of hormonal imbalance (stress, gut health, adrenals, liver health and blood sugar) are not addressed in the first place.
I’m going to leave the discussion of HRT here as there are many different and interesting thoughts around it and at the end of the day you have to do what is right for you. But I do highly recommend you take full stock of all the lifestyle things that you can control in order to understand what is going on in your body and do what you can for you.
Some things for you to check out to educate yourself further (always look for opposing opinions to form your own view!):
People: Dr Sara Godfried, Doctor Jolene Brighton
This season of life can be unpleasant for many women but the underlying causes of hormonal imbalances must be considered in order to control what you can control. Although it may seem overwhelming to have to manage so much stuff, it doesn’t need to be. Taking stock of one stressor at a time and move yourself into a place of taking control over your own health.
This is equally important for women who might consider this all irrelevant because they are far off this stage. But developing solid habits around your lifestyle now is going to set yourself up for a smoother transition. Have any questions, queens? What strategies or tips have helped you in this time?