Menopause is an inevitable fact of life for every woman. The exact age at which it starts as well as the severity and number of symptoms we experience varies for each individual, but we all know it’s coming. Or, maybe you’ve already been there and done that.
Why do some women seem to breeze right through it with minimal discomfort, while others suffer terrible symptoms such as night sweats, hot flashes, an increase in belly fat, weight gain, sleep difficulties, mood swings, facial hair, vaginal dryness, loss of libido and bone loss? What makes the difference, and what can you do to make the transition easier?
The Passing Of The Gauntlet
First, let’s take a brief look at what’s happening in your body during this process.
The ovaries are responsible for the production of three hormones: estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone. During our fertile years, these are present in amounts high enough to support our menstrual cycles and pregnancy.
In menopause, your ovaries essentially go into retirement. Your levels of estrogen and testosterone drop by as much as 50%, and progesterone by about 70-90%. The adrenal glands take over the duties of the ovaries, as they produce the same hormones, though in lesser amounts (you no longer need as much since you are past the child-bearing years). But if your adrenals are not functioning optimally – and for a lot of us they aren’t – you could have problems.
An Ounce of Prevention
Remember the saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? This is certainly the case where menopause is concerned. The best way to minimize or even prevent symptoms is to support and strengthen your adrenals beforehand so that when the time comes they will be prepared to handle the changes. If you are already in the throes of menopause, or have already come out the other side, here are five things you can do (in no particular order) to help you feel better along the way.
First, adhering to the keto way of eating is a great way to optimize your hormone levels at any age. It’s a very anti-inflammatory diet, which helps minimize menopausal symptoms. Eating a lot of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts) is one great way to help balance hormones naturally.
Next, make sure you are getting enough Vitamin E. Our bodies store a lot less of it after menopause, so we need to get more of it from our diet on a regular basis. Some great keto-friendly food sources of Vitamin E are almonds and hazelnuts, spinach, avocado, turnip greens, olive oil and tomatoes. If you choose to supplement, look for one that contains a natural tocopherol mix and tocotrienols.
Third, eat foods containing isoflavonoids. These can be found in foods such as sea kelp, green tea, red clover, and flax seeds. Something worth mentioning here is that many websites will tell you that soy has the highest concentration of isolflavonoids of any food, and this is true. But the many drawbacks of eating soy outweigh this benefit, so I don’t recommend it.
Next, be sure to eat foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as wild caught salmon, sardines or anchovies, algae, organic pasture-raised eggs, walnuts, flax and chia seeds. There are three types of Omega-3s and different foods contain different amounts of each, so you’ll want to eat as large a variety of these as possible.
A brief cautionary word here: if you choose to use a supplement to obtain Omega-3 fatty acids, I highly recommend using a krill oil supplement instead of fish oil. Fish oil turns rancid very rapidly, and its bioavailability (this refers to our body’s ability to absorb the nutrients it contains) is not very high. Krill oil on the other hand is much more bioavailable and has a longer shelf life. Krill oil harvesting and production methods are also much more environmentally friendly than those of fish oil.
Lastly, find ways to manage and eliminate stress whenever possible to help avoid adrenal fatigue. Cortisol, a hormone caused by stress, is controlled by the adrenals, and an excess has multiple ill effects. When we go into menopause, our level increases even more. Exercise is one great way to manage stress, reduce cortisol and also help prevent muscle loss and atrophy (shrinking of your muscles).
I hope these suggestions will help ease your journey through menopause and beyond. I want you to experience all the benefits of the keto lifestyle every step of the way! Keto on, friends, and have a great week!