The Other Side Of Forty – Coming To Grips With Aging

Aging

Is there a way to slow down aging?

According to one study youth ends at 35 and old age begins at 58. In between – all 23 years – is your middle age.

We’ve known all along that getting older means heading down a path of graying hair, a couple of wrinkles here and there, and a change in the shape of the youthful body we once had. The once perky parts slope downwards. There are stretch marks and cesarean scars, droopy tummies and thighs that move at their own pace.

Despite the efforts of the $249 billion dollar a year anti-aging industry to convince us otherwise, aging is inevitable. This industry does not prevent aging. It just plays to your vanity.

What is aging?

Aging is that which happens to your body over time. It is the progressive decline in the efficiency of your body’s physiological functions over time.

Aging is inevitable. Changes occur, over time, in all of the cells of your body. These changes affect the functioning of all of the organs and systems of your body. The following systems of your body will change and/or slow down as you age

  • cardiovascular system
  • respiratory system
  • brain and nervous system
  • immune system
  • excretory system
  • endocrine system
  • reproductive system
  • digestive system
  • metabolic system

Please note that the anti-aging industry does not offer a single product or service that reverses or slows down the changes in these body systems that occur over time. In effect, their products and services just “paint over the rust”.

There is no way to prevent aging. Mankind has been searching for “the fountain of youth” for aeons.

However, there is a way to slow down aging.

What slows down aging?

There is one system in your body that affects most of the other systems. It is your metabolic system….your metabolism. Metabolism is the process the body uses to convert food into energy.

Most of us think of metabolism as the rate at which we burn calories. That’s only part of the story. Metabolism is not just about burning up the calories from the food we eat, but it is also about how the various nutrients from that food help us to maintain a body that functions efficiently.

Your body acts like an engine that is constantly in operation. Food is its fuel. It burns the fuel to keep going. But your body’s engine actually consists of millions of living cells, which are themselves tiny engines. Each cell in your body requires energy to stay alive. Food provides the energy.

Your metabolism consists of three components

  1. Basal metabolism – You burn most of your daily calories with little to no conscious effort. Whether you’re talking on the phone, working at a keyboard, or just watching television, your body is burning calories just to keep your heart pumping, your lungs breathing, and your organs functioning. The process that provides the calories used to maintain these basic bodily functions is known as basal metabolism.

    Basal metabolism is measured by something called BMR – basal metabolic rate.

    Your basal metabolism consumes between 60 percent and 75 percent of the total calories you use daily, and there’s no physical activity required for this

  2. Physical activity – physical activity uses between 15-30 percent of the calories you consume on a daily basis
  3. Thermic effect of food – about 10 percent of calories you consume are spent processing the food you eat

Your metabolism feeds the other systems of your body with the energy, oxygen and nutrients they need to function effectively.

What happens to your metabolism as you get older?

Your metabolism slows by 5 percent each decade. Compared to age 25, you’ll burn about 100 fewer calories a day at 35 and 200 fewer at 45. As an aside, if you do nothing about adjusting your intake of food and your activity (exercise) level you could gain eight to 12 pounds a year.

Your metabolism slows as you age thanks to a loss of muscle mass — you lose as much as 50% of your muscle mass between the ages of 20 and 90, and the rate of loss is especially pronounced from ages 50–70.

Why is your muscle mass so important to your metabolism? The less muscle you have, the fewer calories you burn.

For women, menopause slows metabolism even more.

Increases or decreases in metabolism lead to increases or decreases in the flow of blood through your body. Your blood carries energy, oxygen and nutrients to all of the cells and organs of your body. As your metabolism decreases, so does the supply of blood throughout your body. This diminishes the efficiency of all of the systems of your body.

How to slow down your aging

The rate at which you age will be determined largely by

  • what you do to relieve the effects that menopause has on your body
  • the rate at which your metabolism slows down

You need only to look at yourself in a mirror to see the effect that menopause has had on your aging. As menopause is a condition characterized by changing levels of hormones in your body and hormonal imbalance, if you re-balance your hormones you will relieve symptoms that have been taking their toll on your body.

Getting your hormones tested and re-balanced is step 1.

Step 2 is to increase your metabolism. When you increase your metabolism, you will increase the supply of oxygen, energy and nutrients to all the cells and organs of your body. This will allow all of the systems of your body to function more efficiently.

There are 3 factors involved in increasing your metabolism. I will discuss them in detail … and what you need to do about each of them … in my next post.

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Menopause Weight Gain: How Menstrual Changes Affect Your Weight

Menopause Weight Gain

I havnt changed my diet … but I keep gaining weight

Prior to perimenopause, you may have dreaded your period …. and the monthly symptoms you experienced with it. But …. did you know that a woman’s normal menstrual cycle helps her to keep her weight down prior to perimenopause?

Perimenopause brings changes to the normal menstrual cycle, culminating in the cessation of periods at the end of perimenopause. This contributes to the menopause weight gain that most women experience.

Throughout a woman’s reproductive years, for two weeks before a period, her body burns an extra 200 calories per day…on average…in preparation for menstruation. Given that the average daily calorie intake for a female is 2,000, this represents burning off 10% of her daily calorie intake — without having to do any extra physical activity! That’s a lot of free calorie burn.

Once your periods become irregular during perimenopause … and then stop altogether at menopause and in postmenopause, you no longer get that “freebie” for two weeks every month.

To understand the ramifications of losing that “freebie” on menopause weight gain, it is helpful to review the menstrual cycle.

A synopsis of what happens during the menstrual cycle

There are two distinct phases of the menstrual cycle – the follicular phase and the luteal phase.

The follicular phase is the first half of the menstrual cycle. It is marked by the beginning of your period (day 1 of the cycle) and ends at ovulation (day 14 of the cycle). It is called the follicular phase because the follicle, (which contains the female egg), is maturing during this phase mainly under the influence of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH).

The luteal phase is the second half of a woman’s menstrual cycle. It begins after ovulation and continues until menstruation occurs. It is marked by ovulation and the subsequent transformation of the follicle (sack containing an egg) into the corpus luteum once the egg is released.

Your metabolism during the menstrual cycle

Your metabolism is a collection of chemical reactions that takes place in the cells of your body. It converts the fuel in the food you eat into the energy needed to power everything you do.

The efficiency of your metabolism is measured by your metabolic rate. Metabolic rate is the rate at which your body uses energy to perform all the different types of work necessary for maintenance, growth, repair, etc.

Your body operates at a different metabolic rate during each phase of the menstrual cycle. Your body burns more calories during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. This is because there is more hormonal and cellular activity during this phase than during the follicular phase.

How menstrual cycle changes cause menopause weight gain

You will gain weight if you consume more calories than you burn. One pound of body weight is roughly equivalent to 3500 calories, so eating an extra 500 calories per day will cause you to gain 1 pound a week. You will also gain 1 pound per week if you burn off 500 fewer pounds per day or 3,500 fewer pounds per week.

Let’s assume that you have reached menopause – no more periods. Let’s also assume that your caloric intake remains as it was prior to menopause. Let’s also assume that the calories you burn from your activity level remains as it was prior to menopause.

You will no longer burn off 200 calories a day during the 2 weeks that previously led up to menstruation. This means that over the course of 1 month you will not burn off 2,800 calories (14 days x 200) … that you had been burning off when you had your normal menstrual cycle.

In a year, you will have burned off 33,600 (12 months X 2,800) fewer calories. As one pound of body weight is roughly equivalent to 3500 calories, you will gain 9.6 pounds (33,600 divided by 3500) …. just as result of no longer having your period. Over 5 years, your menopause weight gain would be almost 50 pounds!

This is what will happen if you continue to eat and continue to engage in the same level of physical activity … as you did prior to menopause.

Menopause weight gain, due to changes in your menstrual cycle, is not inevitable. It can be avoided by decreasing your caloric intake and increasing your activity level (burning more calories).

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Menopause Weight Loss: Count Your Hormones, Not Your Calories

Menopause Weight Gain

My belly just keeps growing

Sorry ladies……you cant blame menopause weight gain on hormonal changes. Men can gain as much weight as you do at your age. The main cause of your menopause weight gain is a slowing down of your metabolism.

However …. the hormone changes in your body during menopause do contribute significantly to weight gain during menopause. There are 7 hormones that contribute to menopause weight gain

  1. estrogen
  2. progesterone
  3. cortisol
  4. thyroid
  5. insulin
  6. ghrelin
  7. leptin

If you want to stop the menopause weight gain and start to lose weight, it is vital for you to understand how each of these hormones contribute to your weight gain. They also prevent you from losing weight.

It begins with changes in your levels of estrogen and progesterone

Your body functions like a full sized symphony orchestra. In such an orchestra, all players are finely attuned to one another. The various parts of your body are like the musicians and your hormones are like the conductor of the orchestra.

Hormones are chemical messengers that direct your body to perform specific tasks. A balanced hormonal state is essential to all functions of your body, including growth and development of the cells and tissues of your body, how your body uses food for energy, your mood, and your sleep.

Prior to perimenopause, your hormones worked in harmony by co-existing with one another in a certain ratio. This keeps your body healthy and functioning.

During perimenopause, your ovaries produce less estrogen and less progesterone. While estrogen levels fall from their premenopausal levels during perimenopause, progesterone levels fall further. In terms of the ratio between them, there is greater percentage of estrogen in your body, relative to progesterone.

Estrogen dominance is a condition in which your body does not have enough progesterone to balance out estrogen levels. Estrogen becomes dominant. Estrogen dominance disturbs the balance between all the hormones in your body.

The falling levels of estrogen and progesterone, and the changing ratios between them, kick starts a hormonal cascade in your body. The changing ratios between estrogen and progesterone, gives rise to changing levels of other hormones, which in turn sets off changes to the levels of still other hormones….and so on. This is what is called hormonal cascade.

The end result is erratic production of all of the hormones needed by your body to manage all its processes normally. This effects your weight management.

How changes in cortisol levels contributes to menopause weight gain

Estrogen dominance causes cortisol levels to be erratic during menopause.

In addition that, menopause is a time of increased physical, mental and emotional stress. When you experience stress, your body automatically goes into a hardwired inbuilt survival mechanism called “fight or flight”, to help you deal with a threat. It produces increased amounts of cortisol, which is known as the stress hormone.

But when stress is continuously present, as it often is during menopause, your body reacts as if you are constantly under attack. The fight or flight response stays turned on. The long term activation of the stress response system results in an overexposure to cortisol.

When your body produces too much cortisol, you get fat. It causes fat to be stored around your waist. High levels of cortisol also prevents weight loss.

How changes in thyroid levels contributes to menopause weight gain

Thyroid hormones regulate your metabolism. Think of your metabolism as the “boiler room” of your body.

Your metabolism slows down as you age. It is the cause of menopause weight gain. While this is happening, estrogen dominance causes your thyroid levels to be erratic during menopause.

The changing ratio between estrogen and progesterone affects the functioning of thyroid. It causes it to be less effective and your metabolism slows down even further. Slower metabolism = weight gain and fat gain. It also makes it more difficult to lose weight.

When thyroid functioning diminishes, it brings about the condition known as hypothyroidism. It is estimated that 25% of menopausal women experience hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism increases insulin resistance.

How changes in insulin levels contributes to menopause weight gain

Estrogen dominance causes insulin levels to be erratic during menopause.

Insulin is a hormone produced and released by your body, when you eat. It breaks the food you eat down into glucose, which is commonly called blood sugar. Glucose provides your body with energy, without which it could not function. Think of the relationship between glucose and your body, as being similar to gasoline and your car.

Your body can be either insulin sensitive or in insulin resistance. If it is insulin sensitive, insulin is doing the job it is intended to do. If there is insulin resistance, your body will not be getting the “fuel” it needs. The body then produces increasing amounts of insulin, to try to give it the energy that it needs.

High levels of insulin in your body causes fat to be stored on your body. It also prevents fat burning from occurring. In other words, you cant lose fat.

Almost all menopausal women have insulin resistance to some degree.

How changes in ghrelin and leptin levels contributes to menopause weight gain

Ghrelin and leptin are known as the hunger hormones. They manage your appetite.

When you havnt eaten for a certain amount of time, your stomach secretes increasing amounts of Ghrelin. Ghrelin makes you feel hungry. It is the cause of your stomach growls and hunger pangs.

Leptin is your appetite suppressor. After a meal, leptin signals to the brain that the body has had enough to eat. Increased amounts of it are secreted from the fat cells of your body, telling your brain that you have enough energy stored in your fat cells to engage in normal metabolic processes. It tells your brain when you are full and that you do not need to eat any more food.

Ghrelin and leptin levels are indirectly affected by estrogen dominance. They have relationships with cortisol, thyroid and insulin.

In the presence of stress, your body produces increasing amounts of ghrelin, as well as cortisol. Higher levels of ghrelin stimulate your appetite. You will eat more to provide you body with energy it needs to deal with the threat. Ghrelin, like cortisol, causes your body to store fat.

A study has found that high levels of ghrelin slows your metabolism. This means that ghrelin interferes with the functioning of your thyroid hormone. A less than optimum functioning thyroid is associated with weight gain.

Both hunger hormones have a significant influence on the functioning of insulin. Ghrelin levels are high during times when your body is getting a reduced amount of food, like when you are dieting to lose weight. The decreased amount of food, brings about a drop in insulin levels, because the amount of insulin released depends on the amount of food you have eaten. The low insulin level causes a rise in ghrelin, which makes you hungry and it makes you want to eat.

Suffice it to say that if you get your hormone levels tested and then re-balanced, it will help you to curtail menopause weight gain and it will help you to lose weight.

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6 Factors That Contribute To Menopause Weight Gain

Menopause Weight Gain

I havnt changed what I eat…yet I am piling on weight!

One of the most common concerns expressed by menopausal women is how easy it is to gain weight and how hard it is to lose weight.

On average, women gain 12-15 pounds during menopause. Many women gain much more than that. 90% of menopausal women gain some weight between the ages of 35 and 55 and around 30% of women aged 50 to 59 are not just overweight, but obese.

Is menopause really the cause of this weight gain? Its easy to blame your weight gain on menopause because it happens at the same time that women experience menopause symptoms.

Two events — menopause and the natural aging process – coincide at the same time. Both of these events contribute to menopause weight gain. One of them is the real cause of weight gain during menopause

How menopause contributes to weight gain

There are 3 factors associated with menopause that contribute to your weight gain

  1. changing levels of your hormones during menopause
  2. stress
  3. changes in your menstrual cycle

Prior to perimenopause, your hormones worked in harmony by co-existing with one another in a certain ratio. This keeps your body healthy and functioning.

During perimenopause, your ovaries produce less estrogen and less progesterone. While estrogen levels fall from their premenopausal levels during perimenopause, progesterone levels fall further. In terms of the ratio between them, there is greater percentage of estrogen in your body, relative to progesterone.

Estrogen becomes dominant. It creates a condition in which your body does not have enough progesterone to balance out estrogen levels. Estrogen dominance disturbs the balance between all the hormones in your body. Your hormones collectively control all of the processes in your body.

Estrogen dominance leads to erratic production of insulin, cortisol, and thyroid hormones. Each of these hormones control major processes in your body that have a significant impact on your weight.

A majority of women experience protracted periods of stress during menopause. When you are under stress, your body produces cortisol ….known as the stress hormone. Protracted stress results in high levels of cortisol in your body. High levels of cortisol in your body causes your body to store more fat. It also prevents your body from burning fat.

During perimenopause your periods become irregular and permanently disappear at menopause and thereafter. The cessation of menstrual periods is a major factor contributing to weight gain after menopause.

Throughout your reproductive years, for two weeks before a period, your body burns an extra 200 to 300 calories per day in preparation for menstruation. That’s a lot of free calorie burn — without having to do any extra physical activity! Once those periods stop, you no longer get that “freebie” for two weeks every month.

How aging contributes to weight gain

There are 3 factors associated with aging that contribute to your menopause weight gain

  1. your metabolism
  2. your diet
  3. the amount of exercise that you do

The actual cause of menopause weight gain is aging. You gain weight during menopause because your metabolism slows considerably during the years of menopause

  • your metabolism actually starts to slow down sometime in your 30s
  • the reason for this decrease in your metabolism is a decrease in your muscle mass
  • you tend to lose a 1/2 pound of muscle a year after the age of 30. Between the ages of 30 and 70, you are likely to experience a 40 to 50% reduction in your muscle mass
  • loss of muscle mass decreases the rate at which your body uses calories
  • as you lose muscle mass, you gain weight in fat

Your diet … and the amount of exercise that you do … become even more important in fighting menopause weight gain than they were prior to perimenopause.

Because your metabolism is continually slowing during the menopause years

If you continue to eat as you had done prior to perimenopause (even if you adhere to a healthy diet) and you continue to exercise as much (or as little) as you had done prior to menopause, the same caloric intake is not going to burn off. Those unburned calories will be stored as fat, resulting in menopause weight gain.

Based on a large study of more than 100,000 men and women reported in the prestigious New England Journal Of Medicine, you can expect to gain weight every year of your life from now on, unless you make lifestyle changes.

Menopause weight gain, and weight gain thereafter, is not inevitable. Many women have prevented it and many others have lost the weight they gained during menopause

In subsequent posts, I will provide you will more detail about each of the factors that contribute to menopause weight gain. I will also reveal how to deal with these factors … to enable you to lose the weight that you have gained and to maintain a healthy weight for the rest of your life.

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Will You Be Fat For Life …. After Menopause?

Weight Loss During Menopause

I cant seem to lose this ….. no matter how much exercise I do

Maybe you will be fat for the rest of your life …. after menopause …. and maybe you wont. It will be determined by the choices that you make …. and not by menopause.

On average, women gain 12 – 15 pounds during menopause. Many woman gain much more.

However, weight gain during menopause is not inevitable. Menopause does not cause weight gain, despite what you may think. See below.

Whats more, many woman have achieved weight loss during menopause … and they keep it off. These woman lost weight by changing their diet and exercise routines….in addition to doing one other thing.

I have heard so many of my patients say something to this effect

I have not changed my diet or exercise routines during menopause…but I have gained weight

The reason they have gained weight during menopause is precisely because they have not changed their diet and exercise routines. You need to change your diet and exercise routines … not keep them the same … to achieve weight loss during menopause. If you keep them the same, you will continue to gain weight.

There is one other factor that, that you probably are not aware of, that contributes to weight gain during menopause …. stress. It needs to be reduced, or you will not lose weight ….even if you exercise for an hour every day and eat well.

If menopause does not cause weight gain, what does?

Most women think that menopause causes weight gain. It does not. A comprehensive review by the International Menopause Society has found that going through the menopause does not cause a woman to gain weight. However, the hormonal changes at menopause are associated with a change in the way that fat is distributed, leading to more belly fat. Prior to perimenopause, women tend to store fat on their hips and thighs. During perimenopause, and after it, women tend to store fat around their mid-section.

Two events — menopause and the natural aging process – coincide at this time. Menopause merely becomes the suspect because it happens, as many women notice weight gain. The actual cause of weight gain during menopause is aging. However, the symptoms of menopause do contribute to it.

Aging is associated with a slowing of the body’s metabolism

  • your metabolism actually starts to slow down sometime in your 30s
  • the reason for this decrease in your metabolism is a decrease in your muscle mass
  • you tend to lose a 1/2 pound of muscle a year after the age of 30. Between the ages of 30 and 70, you are likely to experience a 40 to 50% reduction in your muscle mass
  • loss of muscle mass decreases the rate at which your body uses calories
  • as you lose muscle mass, you gain weight in fat. If you do not change your eating routines, the same caloric intake is not going to burn off. Those unburned calories will be stored as fat

If you continue to eat as you always have and don’t increase your physical activity, you’re not likely to experience weight loss during menopause.

How do your menopause symptoms contribute to weight gain?

A majority of women experience protracted periods of stress and disturbed sleep during menopause. Stress and disturbed sleep have a significant impact on your weight.

When you are under stress, your body produces cortisol ….known as the stress hormone. Protracted stress results in high levels of cortisol in your body. High levels of cortisol in your body causes your body to store more fat. It also prevents your body from burning fat. In the presence of high levels of cortisol, regular exercise will not burn fat and you will not achieve weight loss during menopause.

Protracted disturbed sleep leads to insulin resistance. It also leads to high levels of cortisol. High levels of cortisol brings about insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance, is a condition where the cells of your body become insensitive to insulin. Insulin is the key that unlocks body cells to allow glucose inside. Glucose provides your cells with energy. Your body makes glucose from the food that you eat. When your cells won’t ‘open’ for glucose, the glucose gets stored…..as fat. Insulin resistance also prevents fat loss. Even if you exercise daily, you will not lose weight.

How to achieve weight loss during menopause

At the risk of sounding trite, weight loss during menopause does come down to diet and exercise, plus stress reduction. However…….you have to know HOW to diet and HOW to exercise. While diet does involve what you eat, another major component of diet is HOW you eat

  1. include a stress reduction technique in your life. Do yoga or meditation, or some other stress reduction technique, regularly. This will help to modulate the cortisol level in your body. It will also help you to sleep better
  2. eliminate all processed food from your diet. They contain sugar, which exacerbates insulin resistance. Eat only real food. Real food does not need labels – ie – unprocessed meat, fish, milk, eggs, legumes, fruits, grains and vegetables. You will find real food in the outer aisles of your supermarket. Stay away from foods in the inner aisles. They are the processed foods. Try to eat organic as much as possible
  3. time management of eating – do not eat 3 meals per day. You should be eating something every 2-3 hours, during waking hours. Eat a smaller breakfast, lunch and supper, than you have been accustomed to eating. In between each meal, and also after supper, eat a healthy snack…ie a piece of fruit, nuts, yogurt etc
  4. do not eat double carbohydrates in any meal. Do not eat bread with meals containing potatoes or rice or pasta. Eat just 1 of those carbs per meal. Another no – no is cereal and toast for breakfast. Just have one or the other
  5. reduce your consumption of alcohol. Keep it to a minimum
  6. do at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity/exercise every day. It is best to do it in the morning, if your schedule permits it. To achieve weight loss, the intensity level MUST be moderate. Do not do high intensity exercise for weight loss. You will lose more weight faster, if you can fit in 2 daily sessions of aerobic activity/exercise …. even if the second session is only for 15 minutes

You must adhere to each of the 6 points above, to achieve weight loss during menopause. If you only implement 1 or 2 of them, you will not lose weight.

Good luck!

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How To Prevent Menopause From Being A “Hell On Earth” Experience

Menopause Symptoms

women who exercise tolerate their menopause symptoms better

Menopause is a “hell on earth” experience for many women. It is the worst thing, by far, that has ever happened to them. But….it doesnt have to be that way.

Scientific and medical researchers have conclusively found that menopausal women who

  • eliminate processed food from their diet
  • exercise daily
  • do a stress reduction technique regularly

experience less severe and fewer menopause symptoms.

Each of these actions can reduce specific menopause symptoms. If you do 1 or 2 of these actions you can reduce some of your symptoms, but not all of them. If you want to reduce all of your symptoms, you need do all 3 of these actions.

This post focuses on the effect that daily exercise has on your menopause symptoms.

Exercise…..you must be kidding

You may have the following thought right now

Give me a break! With the way that I feel, exercise is the last thing that I want to do. I am exhausted …. I have no energy and my body aches

However exercise reduces these menopause symptoms and many other symptoms as well. Here are some of the menopause symptoms that can be reduced by exercise

  • mood swings
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • anger
  • rage
  • irritability
  • inability to fall asleep
  • inability to stay asleep
  • memory loss
  • inability to concentrate
  • fatigue
  • exhaustion
  • weight gain
  • joint aches and pains
  • weaker bones (osteoporosis)

The word exercise has different meanings for different women. For some women it may evoke images of profuse sweating; for other women it may evoke images of moderate or mild sweating.

If the word exercise has a negative connotation for you, it may be helpful to think about doing physical activity instead of exercise. Physical activities can include doing housework, doing chores for your children or elderly parents, working in your yard, walking to your local store, strolling in a local park or forest or countryside, dancing, engaging in a sport that you enjoy, or any number of other activities in which you exert yourself physically to some degree.

I will use the term exercise, or aerobic exercise, in the remainder of this post, but you can think in terms of physical activity … if that helps you.

Stress, your brain chemistry, and your menopause symptoms

During menopause, women experience an increase in physical and emotional stress. When you experience stress, your body automatically goes into a hardwired inbuilt survival mechanism called “fight or flight”. It produces increased amounts of the hormone cortisol, which is known as the stress hormone. Increased levels of cortisol in your body exacerbates your menopause symptoms.

Stress also triggers a disruption in an entire chain of biochemical activity in your brain, which in turn affects the production of mood-regulating chemicals, including serotonin and endorphins. The end result of this also is an exacerbation of your menopause symptoms.

Exercise reduces stress by increasing the brain’s production of serotonin and endorphins, the feel good chemicals. This reduces the severity and frequency of your menopause symptoms.

The effect that exercise has on specific menopause symptoms

  • Studies show that 30 minutes of aerobic exercise improves sleep. By lowering stress and cortisol levels, it reduces sleep disturbance
  • Exercise replenishes depleted neurotransmitter levels that are involved in regulating mood. Researchers recommend that 30 minutes of aerobic activity every day is the best dose of exercise to relieve depression, and mood swings, and keep them at bay
  • Here is what the Mayo Clinic says about exercise and joint pain

    Though you might think exercise will aggravate your joint pain and stiffness, that’s not the case. Lack of exercise actually can make your joints even more painful and stiff. That’s because keeping your muscles and surrounding tissue strong is crucial to maintaining support for your bones. Not exercising weakens those supporting muscles, creating more stress on your joints.

  • Researchers have found that exercise boosts blood flow to the brain area involved in cognitive function. Regular exercise releases brain chemicals that are key for memory, concentration, and mental sharpness
  • Researchers reviewed 70 studies that examined the effect of exercise on 6,807 subjects who were fatigued. 90% of the studies showed that exercise reduces fatigue by as much as 65%. They found that exercise increases energy by 20%
  • If you do weight-bearing exercise, it will help to prevent osteoporosis. It makes your bones and muscles stronger and helps prevent bone loss. Walking, jogging, playing tennis, and dancing are examples of weight-bearing exercises
  • To lose weight, do at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity/exercise every day. It is best to do it in the morning, if your schedule permits it. To achieve weight loss, the intensity level MUST be moderate. Do not do high intensity exercise for weight loss. Combine this with a diet that is based on real food. Real food does not need labels – ie – unprocessed meat, fish, milk, eggs, legumes, fruits, grains and vegetables

Dr Wulf Utian, M.D. and executive director of the North American Menopause Society, says this about exercise

Women who exercise seem to tolerate the symptoms of menopause better; I think it’s that they have a better self-image and sense of well-being

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Why Dont Women Do These Things To Reduce Their Menopause Symptoms?

Menopause Symptoms

Could the foods that I eat worsen my symptoms?

Scientific and medical researchers have conclusively found that menopausal women who
  • eliminate processed food from their diet
  • exercise daily
  • do a stress reduction technique regularly

experience less severe and fewer menopause symptoms.

Each of these actions can reduce specific menopause symptoms. If you do 1 or 2 of these actions you can reduce some of your symptoms, but not all of them. If you want to reduce all of your symptoms, you need do all 3 of these actions.

This post focuses on the effect that processed food has on your menopause symptoms.

What is processed food?

Processed food is natural food that has been stripped of its nutritious, raw and fibrous elements to give it a longer shelf life. It has preservatives added to it, to make it last even longer. It has coloring added to it to make it look better and added sugar to make it taste better. All foods in cans, plastic containers or plastic packaging are processed foods. The majority of the shelves of your supermarket contain processed food. When you fill your shopping cart, chances are that it contains mostly processed food.

Why is sugar added to processed food?

Sugar is used heavily in processed foods to make them taste better. Sugar has been added to 75% of the 600,000 processed foods available in supermarkets in the US. It is found in breads, cereals, soups, crackers, hot dogs, salami and other packaged meats, juices, sodas, sports drinks, peanut butter, ketchup, mayonnaise, and salad dressings to name a few foods ….. not to mention cakes, cookies, candy and a Starbucks cappuccino.

Reading food labels will help you find out how much added sugar is in the foods you eat. The names of added sugar on food labels include

  • Brown sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • dextrose
  • fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • glucose
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • lactose
  • maltose
  • Malt sugar
  • Molasses
  • Raw sugar
  • sucrose
  • Sugar
  • syrup

Be particularly wary of low fat and no fat foods. The fats in food gives it its taste. Food that has had fat stripped from it, tastes bland. If you look at the ingredients labels of such food, you will see that sugar has been added to give it flavor.

How much sugar is added to processed foods?

This WebMD article reveals how much sugar has been added into everyday foods. It may shock you. The added sugar content is expressed in grams. To put it in perspective for you……4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar.

The average 12-ounce can of soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar. A typical 20-ounce soda contains 17 teaspoons of sugar. If people thought about eating 17 teaspoons of sugar, they’d become nauseated.

What is the link between processed food, sugar and menopause symptoms?

Added sugar in the diet is the major cause of insulin resistance.

Your body secretes insulin in response to the foods you eat. Insulin breaks down the food you eat into glucose, which is commonly called blood sugar. It also enables the cells of your body to receive glucose. Glucose provides your body with energy, without which it could not function.

Your body can be either insulin sensitive or insulin resistant. If it is insulin sensitive, insulin is doing the job it is intended to do. If it is insulin resistant, your body will not be getting the energy it needs.

Your body does not process the large amounts of added sugar in processed food …. efficiently. Your body secretes increasing amounts of insulin in an attempt to energize the cells of your body, but this fails. Insulin becomes ineffective. When this happens frequently, the result is the condition known as insulin resistance.

Which menopause symptoms are affected by the consumption of processed food

The consumption of sugar is a trigger for hot flashes. When you ingest sugar, there is a spike in blood sugar which then elevates your body’s temperature. In addition, sugar has a vasoconstriction effect. Vasoconstriction is the narrowing (constriction) of blood vessels by small muscles in their walls. When blood vessels constrict, the flow of blood is restricted or slowed, which increases your blood pressure and your heart rate. This increase in body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate triggers hot flashes.

Added sugar in processed food increases the severity and frequency of mood related menopause symptoms. There is a direct link between sugar consumption and depression, irritability, anxiety, anger, rage, feelings of panic, and aggression. The added sugar will also make you feel tired. Eating lots of sugar is going to give you sudden peaks and troughs in the amount of glucose (blood sugar) in your blood. Since your brain depends on an even supply of glucose, it is no surprise that it brings about these symptoms.

Added sugar in processed food exacerbates joint aches and pains. These become more severe when blood sugar levels are high.

Last but not least, you do not need me to explain the effect that sugar has on weight gain.

How to eat to reduce your menopause symptoms

Eliminate processed food from your diet. Base your diet around real food. Real food does not need labels – ie – unprocessed meat, fish, milk, eggs, legumes, fruits, grains and vegetables. You will find real food in the outer aisles of your supermarket. Stay away from foods in the inner aisles. They are the processed foods. Try to eat organic as much as possible.

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Are Your Symptoms Caused By Menopause Or By An Underactive Thyroid?

Underactive Thyroid

Is it menopause....or my thyroid....or what?

Did you know that many of the symptoms of menopause are also symptoms of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)? Did you also know that 26% of menopausal women have an underactive thyroid condition?

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include

  • Exhaustion
  • Brain fog
  • Poor memory
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Low energy level
  • Dry skin
  • Hair loss
  • Sleep Disturbance
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Heart Palpitations

In addition, heavy menstrual flow, irregular menstrual cycles, low libido, and fluid retention are also symptoms of low thyroid function.

It is no wonder that many women can’t figure out whether they are coming or going during menopause.

What is the relationship between menopause and an underactive thyroid condition?

Women in their 40s and older are actually the group at highest risk of developing an underactive thyroid condition. Of course, this is also the age when women are experiencing menopause.

Prior to perimenopause, your hormones work in harmony by co-existing with one another in a certain ratio. This keeps your body healthy and functioning. During perimenopause, your ovaries produce less estrogen and progesterone. While estrogen levels fall from their premenopausal levels during perimenopause, progesterone levels fall further. In terms of the ratio between them, there is greater percentage of estrogen in your body, relative to progesterone. This not only disturbs the balance between estrogen and progesterone, but it disturbs the balance between all the hormones in your body….thyroid hormones included.

Thyroid hormones regulate your metabolism. Think of your metabolism as the “boiler room” of your body. As such, these powerful hormones affect nearly every cell, tissue, and organ in the body.

The changing ratio between estrogen and progesterone affects the functioning of your thyroid. It causes it to be less effective and your metabolism slows down. When thyroid functioning diminishes, it brings about the condition known as hypothyroidism. Symptoms of an underactive thyroid condition often worsen during the onset of menopause, due to hormonal shifts.

Rather than suspecting thyroid problems and getting the proper tests and evaluation, however, women are often being given estrogen and progesterone hormone treatments (HRT), antidepressants, or sleeping pills — which miss the real problem entirely, or even make symptoms worse. When HRT is given to a woman with hypothyroidism, it causes further hormone imbalance and destabilizes the thyroid even further.

How can I tell if I have an underactive thyroid?

The following checklist has been compiled from details provided by the Merck Manual, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, and the Thyroid Foundation of America. It will help you to determine if you have an underactive thyroid.

____ I am gaining weight inappropriately
____ I’m unable to lose weight with diet/exercise
____ I am constipated, sometimes severely
____ I have hypothermia/low body temperature (I feel cold when others feel hot, I need extra sweaters, etc.)
____ I feel fatigued, exhausted
____ Feeling run down, sluggish, lethargic
____ My hair is coarse and dry, breaking, brittle, falling out
____ My skin is coarse, dry, scaly, and thick
____ I have a hoarse or gravely voice
____ I have puffiness and swelling around the eyes and face
____ I have pains, aches in joints, hands and feet
____ I have developed carpal-tunnel syndrome, or it’s getting worse
____ I am having irregular menstrual cycles (longer, or heavier, or more frequent)
____ I am having trouble conceiving a baby
____ I feel depressed
____ I feel restless
____ My moods change easily
____ I have feelings of worthlessness
____ I have difficulty concentrating
____ I have more feelings of sadness
____ I seem to be losing interest in normal daily activities
____ I’m more forgetful lately

I also have the following additional symptoms, which have been reported more frequently in people with hypothyroidism:

____ My hair is falling out
____ I can’t seem to remember things
____ I have no sex drive
____ I am getting more frequent infections, that last longer
____ I’m snoring more lately
____ I have/may have sleep apnea
____ I feel shortness of breath and tightness in the chest
____ I feel the need to yawn to get oxygen
____ My eyes feel gritty and dry
____ My eyes feel sensitive to light
____ My eyes get jumpy/tics in eyes, which makes me dizzy/vertigo and have headaches
____ I have strange feelings in neck or throat
____ I have tinnitus (ringing in ears)
____ I get recurrent sinus infections
____ I have vertigo
____ I feel some lightheadedness
____ I have severe menstrual cramps

What to do if you think you may have an underactive thyroid

If this checklist leads you to believe that you may have an underactive thyroid, ask your doctor for a TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) test. The conventional normal values are between 0.35 – 5.0. When the TSH levels are within this normal range, it is assumed that the thyroid gland is healthy and functioning normally.

However, this “normal” range of health is often considered too broad. Some physicians suggest that TSH results of less than 1, combined with the presence of the above symptoms, shows that there is a thyroid dysfunction, which may require treatment.

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Why Grandma’s Menopause Was Easier Than Yours

Added Sugar

hmmmm....I dont pay enough attention to the ingredients in the food that I eat

Chances are that in your life, you have enjoyed a higher standard of living than your grandmother experienced. However, despite the fact that your grandmother may have lived through the tough times of the great depression years, followed by World War ll, she probably ate more nutritious food than you eat now. She ate more natural food than you eat. You very likely consume more processed food, more junk food and more sugar.

Unfortunately processed food has become a staple in most of our lives. It has increasingly become part our lives since the 1950s. Processed food is natural food that has been stripped of its nutritious, raw and fibrous elements to give it a longer shelf life. It has preservatives added to it, to make it last even longer. It has coloring added to it to make it look better and added sugar to make it taste better. All foods in cans, plastic containers or plastic packaging are processed foods. The majority of the shelves of your supermarket contain processed food. When you fill your shopping cart, chances are that it contains mostly processed food.

It is harder to find a definition for the term junk food. Generally it means food that is low in nutritional value, but high in caloric value. Most people agree that candy, pretzels, chips, soda, ice cream, donuts, cookies and cake are junk food. Many people would also include fast food as junk food.

The most significant difference between grandma’s diet and yours has to do with added sugar in the food that you eat. In the decade between 1950-1959 USDA says that annual per capita consumption of sugars was 109 pounds. By the year 2000, USDA said that per capita consumption of sugars was 152 pounds.

What is sugar?

There are 3 forms of sugar. The form of sugar you may consume as table sugar, cane sugar, or white sugar is called sucrose. Then there is glucose. This type of sugar comes from eating carbohydrates such as such as rice, pasta, grain, and potatoes. Your digestion process converts these foods into glucose. Lastly there is fructose. The main food source for fructose is fruit. All fruits contain fructose. Fructose can also be made from corn. This is an important fact, as you will see.

Why are you consuming more sugar than your grandma did?

Sugars are used heavily in processed foods. Sugar has been added to 75% of the 600,000 processed foods available in supermarkets in the US. It is found in breads, cereals, soups, crackers, hot dogs, salami and other packaged meats, juices, sodas, sports drinks, peanut butter, ketchup, mayonnaise, and salad dressings to name a few foods ….. not to mention cakes, cookies, candy and a Starbucks cappuccino. Reading food labels will help you find out how much added sugar is in the foods you eat. The names of added sugar on food labels include

  • Brown sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • dextrose
  • fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • glucose
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • lactose
  • maltose
  • Malt sugar
  • Molasses
  • Raw sugar
  • sucrose
  • Sugar
  • syrup

Why has sugar been added to processed food?

In the 1970s, medical researchers ERRONEOUSLY determined that the major cause of escalating cardiovascular disease (heart attack and strokes) was saturated fats in our diet….. much of which comes from the process food that we eat. Processed food manufacturers then embarked on a campaign to reduce and eliminate fat from their processed foods….hence fat free and reduced fat foods.

However, low fat food tastes like cardboard and the food industry knew it. It wouldnt sell. So what did they do? They developed an added sugar from corn, known as high fructose corn syrup (hfcs). Hfcs was sweeter than sucrose, which appealed to the sweet palate of Americans, it costs less than sucrose, and it lasts longer.

What does this have to do with my menopause?

Added sugar in the diet is the major cause of insulin resistance.

Your body secretes insulin in response to the foods you eat — particularly the carbohydrates. Insulin breaks down the food you eat into glucose, which is commonly called blood sugar. It also enables the cells of your body to receive glucose. Glucose provides your body with energy, without which it could not function.

Your body can be either insulin sensitive or insulin resistant. If it is insulin sensitive, insulin is doing the job it is intended to do. If it is insulin resistant, your body will not be getting the energy it needs. Your body does not process large amounts of fructose efficiently. So when the added sugar takes the form of hfcs, which is used extensively in processed food, insulin becomes ineffective. Your body secretes increasing amounts of insulin in an attempt to energize the cells of your body, but this fails. When this happens frequently, the result is the condition known as insulin resistance.

It is estimated that 25% of Americans are insulin resistant.

As you know, all of your menopause symptoms are caused by hormone imbalance – particularly imbalance between estrogen and progesterone. The way to relieve/reduce your symptoms is to re-balance those hormones. You cannot re-balance them, when the condition of insulin resistance exists. You must first address insulin resistance.
You do this by eliminating junk and processed food from your diet and basing your diet around real food. Real food does not need labels – ie – unprocessed meat, fish, milk, eggs, legumes, fruits, grains and vegetables. You will also improve the balance between estrogen and progesterone, if you eat real food.

A series of posts will follow soon about how sugar affects specific menopause symptoms.

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Weight Loss: Why Diet, Exercise, And Willpower Is Not Enough

Hunger Hormones

Too full to eat any more

Have you been experiencing any of the following signs?
  • weight gain around your middle
  • abdominable fat that wont shift with a healthy diet and exercise
  • low thyroid symptoms
  • sugar and food cravings
  • stress eating
  • late night eating
  • yo-yo dieting

If you have, you may be interested to learn the real cause of these signs.

Weight gain, and difficulty achieving weight loss, is primarily caused by hormones in your body known as hunger hormones, and the effects that they have on your major hormones …. insulin, thyroid and cortisol.

Ghrelin and leptin are the most important hunger hormones. They manage your appetite.

When you havnt eaten for a certain amount of time, your stomach secretes increasing amounts of Ghrelin. Ghrelin makes you feel hungry. It is the cause of your stomach growls and hunger pangs. I have already covered ghrelin in another post.

Leptin is your appetite suppressor. After a meal, leptin signals to the brain that the body has had enough to eat. Increased amounts of it are secreted from the fat cells of your body, telling your brain that you have enough energy stored in your fat cells to engage in normal metabolic processes. It tells your brain when you are full and that you do not need to eat any more food.

Of the two hunger hormones, leptin appears to be the bigger player in weight control and in the energy management of your body. It may be helpful to think of your body as a car and the level of leptin as your gas gauge. The gas gauge in a car lets you know how much fuel the car has. Leptin levels signal to your brain how much energy is stored in the cells of your body. Your two hunger hormones work together. When your brain detects low levels of leptin, your stomach secretes increasing amounts of Ghrelin to get you to eat….to replenish your body’s energy stores. Ghrelin exists to help you to maintain an appropriate level of energy in the cells of your body.

One expert on hunger hormones considers leptin to be the king of hormones. Dr Jack Kruse, a neuro surgeon and a leading researcher of the bio-chemistry of the body, says that leptin controls all energy production by regulating all the hormones in the body. He says leptin

controls all the other hormones in the body as well. So if it is not working well you can bet that the rest of your hormones are going to show clinical problems as well.

This will be the subject of another post.

Recent research has found that 80% of weight loss attempts fail….people fail to achieve weight loss that is permanent. This is not due to a poor diet program, although many of them are bad. It is not due to the lack of exercise, although exercise is certainly a necessary part of permanent weight loss. In many cases, it is not due to a lack of willpower, although in some cases it is.

The way in which your hunger hormones work together, explains why it is so difficult to lose weight permanently. If you go on a diet, you will reduce the number of calories you consume. This results in fat loss. Fat loss reduces the level of leptin, as leptin is in your fat cells. With a fall in your leptin level, your stomach secretes increasing amounts of ghrelin. This stimulates your appetite…you feel hungry. The more fat you lose on the diet, the hungrier you will feel.

With due respect to your level of willpower, there is a limit to how long you will go, before you satiate that hunger. This is why people regain weight after dieting.

If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you have to manage your hunger hormones. The good news is: if you’ve failed at diets in the past, it was likely because you failed to regulate your hunger hormones and doing so can help you finally make lasting changes. I will discuss how to do this in another post.

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