The approach to menopause can be a daunting time. Symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats loom on the horizon, and you may not feel like there’s much you can do. However, if you understand the causes of the symptoms of menopause, you can be proactive and halt them before they begin.
Menopause symptoms are due in large part to adrenal issues. The adrenal glands control the output of DHEA, cortisol, epinephrine (also called adrenaline), and norepinephrine, all of which are hormones related to our stress response. When the adrenal gland is stressed, cortisol levels go up, and the level of hormones like estrogen go down.
Diminished amounts of estrogen have a direct effect on the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for controlling appetite, sex hormones, sleep, and body temperature. Thus changing levels of estrogen causes symptoms like hot flashes.
Additionally, when adrenal function is impaired or weak, a person may suffer from low blood sugar, blood pressure, and body temperature as well as a total feeling of exhaustion. Prolonged stress begins to weaken the organs, and other health related problems such as hypoglycemia can result.
Some factors that contribute to adrenal exhaustion are continued stress, poor diet, excessive consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates, too much caffeine, alcohol, drugs, nicotine, and vitamin B and C deficiencies. To compound the issue, when the adrenals are weak, the thyroid gland tries to pick up slack. So when I treat my patients approaching menopause, it is imperative to treat both the adrenals and the thyroid simultaneously.
To strengthen your adrenal and thyroid function and head off menopausal symptoms, try taking these steps:
Eat a whole-foods based diet.
The body’s ability to metabolize refined sugars decreases with age. The inner aisles of the grocery store are filled with foods high in sugar and salt. Get ahead of the curve by shopping in the outer aisles of the grocery store, where all the fresh produce is located, and cut out the processed foods that ultimately make you gain weight.
Many women notice a huge shift in their weight distribution to the abdomen as they head into menopause. To combat this, try incorporating yoga into your fitness regime. Research has shown that women who do yoga once per week don’t gain any weight as they go through menopause.
Burn, baby, burn.
It is imperative to incorporate heavy weight lifting into your fitness regime three times per week. This not only boosts bone density but also does wonders for your figure and your hormones. The key is proper technique: you must lift the heaviest weights you can and complete three sets of twelve repetitions. Twenty minutes of intense weight lifting can be just as effective as an hour of cardio if done correctly.
As you begin taking these steps, give yourself four weeks for the behaviors to become habits. In time, it will become a lifestyle that changes both how you look and feel about your magnificent body!
Esther Blum, MS, RD, CDN, CNS
NV Perricone, MD Flagship
791 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10065