If you ask Anita how she's going, she always starts with "I’m fine."
She's a busy mum whose two teenage daughters are a joy to parent, except when they are being very difficult to parent - it's "about 50/50" she says. She works four days "but it feels like full time with all the work I do on the couch at home. Then there's my other full time job - the family."
If you really ask Anita how she's going, you get a different answer. At 48, she struggles with multiple hot flushes a day that make it difficult to get through a work meeting and exercise. She has trouble sleeping - "Some days I feel like the walking dead" - and her libido has left the building.
"I keep it together most of the time," she says, "but when things get on top of me, it's usually my family who are in the firing line. It's not fun for me or them and I always get the guilts afterwards."
After a decade of working with women like Anita, I can tell you that she is not alone. I have written previously about the shift in hormones for women that often begins in their early 40s and is in full swing once they are in their late 40s and early 50s.
Here are some things that women like Anita can do to get those hormones back in balance today and take the power back.
Aim to do regular strength training for muscles to develop and increase muscle mass. Muscle helps reduce spikes in insulin and sugars, especially building muscle in your thigh and glute muscles. Get stuck into those glute bridges and squats, ladies!
Manage your stress well
Every woman needs to find strategies that help them to manage their stress when it arises. For some that looks like mindfulness techniques like meditation or doing yoga or pilates. By doing these regularly you are able to offset stress.
Eat a low sugar diet
Keeping your carb load down helps you reduce unnecessary spikes in extra cortisol (stress hormone). Each time you get stuck into the sweets or crisps you may be contributing to a fat belt around your waist. Weight gain that is insulin and cortisol driven is distributed across your abdomen.
Support liver detoxification
Your liver plays a vital role in balancing women’s hormones and in hormone feedback. It regulates our estrogen and progesterone so it’s important to be nice to your liver. By laying off alcohol and avoiding taking too many medications you can improve your liver’s ability to detoxify and handle your hormones. Another good reason to not drink too much alcohol is because it reduces progesterone production, which leads to surges of a hormones called follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). It’s FSH spikes that cause the menopausal flushes.
Eating broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts helps your liver to detoxify and excrete hormones from your body that you no longer require.
Consider eating more phytoestrogens
For women who are getting into peri menopause territory, having some phytoestrogens in the diet can be beneficial. By having foods that engage the estrogen receptors in the body you can see an improvement in hormonal symptoms.
Red Clover tea, flaxseeds, legumes and soy products all help in this department. I know promoting the consumption of soy is controversial but it can have its place if you are a woman with low estrogen levels. Get your hormone levels tested with a health practitioner before you hit the tofu, and if you are going to eat soy it has to be non-GMO, organic, whole bean products. Drinking soy milk doesn’t count.
Taking these simple steps can make a meaningful difference to improving your hormone picture. If you factor in these lo-fi lifestyle changes and you still feel that things are not quite right, we can then start looking for some any underlying issues that be the drivers.
If you need more help or information, don't hesitate to get in touch.