Menopausal And Fit As F**k!
You've reached an age where you're starting to feel like you know yourself and you're becoming comfortable in your own skin...
And then your body and mind start falling apart!!!
Imagine putting yourself back together so you're not only comfortable in your own skin, but you've got your body and brain firing on all cylinders..
You'll be UNSTOPABLE!
Unless you've had the foresight to do every right ahead of time (I didn't!), chances are you're having a bit of a ropey time as you go through the change.
I believe that regardless of how bad you might be feeling right now it's possible to get yourself back to your normal self and feeling really well again.
It's my opinion that to feel great at this time in your life what's required is a broad and holistic approach. It's not just about your hormones, although that's an important part.
If you're like most of us chances are it's not just your hormones that could do with an overhaul! There are going to be areas in your current lifestyle that will benefit from some improvement too, which will help you feel better.
I think one of the ways menopause is so harsh is that it's really good at exposing areas of lack in your self-care routine. This is because you've suddenly lost any wiggle room, there's absolutely no slack left in your system due your hormones taking a nose dive.
Although you might be feeling awful right now the good news is there is lots you can do to get yourself back to feeling your normal self again.
Crashing energy levels are really common and a good place to start in getting 'you' back if focusing here. But where does energy even come from?
Where Does Your Energy Come From?
Your body and mind can only be as healthy and energetic as the cells in your body are. When you are healthy and energetic at a cellular level, you’re going to be a vibrant and energetic women – regardless of your age.
Having a peek at what’s going on with your body as a middle-aged menopausal women at the cellular level gives us a lot of insight into what we can do to help restore our vitality.
Your cells produce energy that fuels every single function of your body – growing hair, producing hormones, running your immune system, digesting your food, contracting muscles, thinking, and on it goes.
Nearly all cells contain little structures called mitochondria. Most cells have 100s, but the very active cells in the brain, heart, and liver have thousands. Your mitochondria harness the energy in your food to power your body.
You can only feel as good as the health of your mitochondria. When they start to fail, you start to fail. For example – if the mitochondria in your brain aren’t functioning properly you get brain fog, and find it hard to remember things and concentrate. If they’re waning in your muscles you fatigue easily, have little energy, and may have aches and pains for no good reason.
What’s really interesting but frightening, is that between the ages of 30 and 70 most people’s mitochondrial function drops by a whopping 50%! This is one of the biggest reasons illness becomes more common as you age – your body hasn’t got the energy to repair and maintain itself like it used to, and it starts falling apart. It’s also one of the reasons why menopause can be so horrendous.
The really good news is that by giving your mitochondria what they need to thrive, and taking away the things that are harming them, you can vastly improve your mitochondrial function.
Mitochondrial health is at the route of the health you experience day to day. When you improve your mitochondria you have more energy and bounce through the day, and your brain comes back online – you can focus and remember things again.
What do mitochondria have to do with menopause? An awful lot..
Your mitochondria have receptors for oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. So it’s little wonder that women can suffer hugely with plummeting energy levels with the sudden and severe drop of these three hormones.
I find there’s a lot of stoicism among women regarding their menopause. Many view menopause as a natural thing (which of course it is!) and chose to go through it naturally, no matter how much they suffer. They do this thinking that they’ll come out the other side of it at some point and feel ok again.
The truth is menopause never leaves you.
While some symptoms like hot sweats can get better with time, many others continue to get worse as time goes on. One really common example - I see many women crossing their legs, dashing to the loo, or getting up at night several times. This is all because of the prgressive effects of lack of oestrogen.
Many women lose their strength and get frail as the get older – again due to the cumulative effect of menopause and very low hormone levels. Bone health suffers and older women become very vulnerable to fractures.
It’s well worth considering the long-term effects for menopause before deciding to be stoic.
In my opinion the stoic choice often comes from largely needless fear of HRT, and lack of understanding of the long-term consequences of menopause.
Just as important to hormones, what you're chosing to eat is playing a very big role in how you feel, because it directly effects your mitochondrial function.
Eating To Feel Good
The most important thing for mitochondrial health is what you eat. Improving this makes all other mitochondrial support work much better.
Mitochondria burn both glucose (sugar) and fat for energy. We are basically like a hybrid.
Your mitochondria actually burn fat better and more efficiently than glucose. But with the typical Western diet most people don’t very often burn fat, not even their own body fat. This is largely due to over reliance on carbohydrates and the increasing tendency to be taking in calories for over 12 hours per day.
It’s actually quite easy to get your body to burn more fat, it just takes a bit of knowledge and a simple tweak.
Can Supplements Help?
It's a sad fact that the food we eat today is not as nutritious as it was years ago. This is largely due to modern intensive farming methods. Mineral depletion in the soil is a big problem because it makes the food grown on it deficient.
Magnesium is a good example. It's estimated that 75% of people are deficient of magnesium. It's one of the minerals mitochondria need to function properly and it was one of the first supplements I added in to my routine.
Ever have a twitchy eyelid? It's a classic sign of magnesium deficiency, along with other muscle twitching and cramp.
Bearing in mind there is a natural decline in mitochondrial function with age it's worth considering selective supplement to support them. This is especially true these days when we can't rely on getting everything we need from food.
Watch out of more info on supplements soon.
Sleep disruption is really common, sometimes due to hot flushes, and sometimes independent of that. This obviously makes a bad situation much worse!
Sleep is a time for restoration and repair, without it things like brain fog, low mood and anxiety, and aches and pains get even worse.
HRT can help a lot with sleep, especially if hot sweats are the cause, but it’s often not the complete answer.
As you get older sleep quality does tend to fall off, so bad sleep hygiene that you used to get away with needs to be cleaned up now if you want to enjoy rejuvenating sleep again.
This biggest mistakes I hear women making include:
- Not having enough lights out time – aim for 8 hours.
- Not sleeping according to your chronotype (your natural body clock).
- Blue light exposure 2 hours before bed time.
- Too much caffeine and not enough time to clear it before bed.
- Not having a totally dark bedroom.
- Bedroom not cool enough, 18C is optimal.
It's common for people to feel stress these days. Unfortunately stress is really aging and bad for your physical and mental health.
Before modern life we'd only get properly stressed when there was a good reason, e.g. we're about to explode into action and catch dinner, or run away to escape from being someone else's dinner. This would trigger the stress hormone cortisol to be released, and after the chase it would go back down to normal.
These days we're always having this fight or flight response triggered. Two effects of cortisol being raised too often are weight gain around the middle and sleep disruption. The last things a menopausal women needs.
Cortisol plays its part within the sympathetic nervous system - this is stimulating. When we're balanced it works in perfect tandem with the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the relaxing part.
Most of us are experts at overstimulating the sympathetic part of this system, but fall short when it comes to the other side of the coin. Learning how to activate the parasympathetic part calms stress in your mind and body. This will reduce cortisol which will help with weight loss and sleep.
Great ways of activating the parasympathetic nervous system are having quiet times during the day - I achieve it with my yoga and medication practices.
Exercising For Energy
Depending on how rubbish you feel this might be something that you add in after you get your energy levels sorted out. That said – walking is a great way to keep your body moving and getting some outside time in natural light in the morning will help set your body clock which helps with sleep.
The best type of exercise for a menopausal women is the type that promotes mitochondrial health, bone health, and muscle mass. Even better if you can make it fun by doing it with your mates. That's exactly what's kept me at it.
As women go beyond the menopause they’re vulnerable to sarcopenia (muscle loss) and osteoporosis (loss of bone density). Both of these are accelerated due to do crashing hormones.
You can prevent this, and reverse it if it's started already.
The best types of exercise for women at this age are:
- Plenty of low level activity - like walking.
- Resistance training with weights to preserve muscle strength.
- Short bursts of high intensity training.
- Something to preserve muscle and joint mobility, e.g. yoga.
This might look like a lot, but it isn't. I've made huge gains with doing a short resistance program once per week. I also do high intensity running just once a week too. I do both of these with friends so there is more fun than pain involved 🙂
What To Learn More?
I'd like to see women learn more about what's possible for them at midlife - believe me it's so much more than you think.
I've been banging on about this with my friends for the past year, and lucky for me those of a certain age are joining me in getting fit as f**k. We intend to feel as good as possible, so we can live as full as life as possible.
The fact women around me are getting healthier makes it much easier for me to do too, we help each other.
I'd love more women to join me with this.
Early in 2020 I will be starting Menopause Workshops to share what I'm doing and offer support to other women who want to feel great.
Make sure you're on my email list so you don't miss out - a good way of doing that is grabbing a copy of my free menopause guide. You can find a link on any of the menopause blogs.
I'll be back with more info for you soon!
Dr Julie x
PS Please do ask an questions, or leave any comments below.