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This is NOT a disease, so let’s stop treating it like it is. Instead, let’s look at strategies to navigate these changes more efficiently. Let’s take a look at the list of common complaints associated with menopause:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Weight gain
- Emotional rollercoaster
- Loss of libido
- Loss of menses
- Loss of fertility
There are 3 aspects to be considered when addressing challenges of menopause:
- Normal Aging
- Standard American Diet
Part 1 – Normal Aging
- Menses become irregular and eventually cease
- Fertility decreases and eventually ceases
- Estrogen decreases
- Progesterone decreases
Part 2 – Standard American Diet
Most people have given no thought to the critical role that nutrition plays in our menopause signs and symptoms.
70% of the American diet is made up of processed, non-organic grains and sugars. Nearly all of these foods are grown with the use of pesticides and herbicides. Our bodies metabolize these into xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are estrogens from an external source getting into our body. These xenoestrogens will disrupt our endocrine system. (The endocrine system is responsible for all hormone formation.)
These processed grains and sugars also disrupt our blood sugar regulation. Unbalanced blood sugar regulation leads to insulin resistance. It also leads to thyroid dysfunction. And, leads to chronic inflammation. And….chronic inflammation leased to our 3rd challenge…
Part 3 – Stress/Elevated Cortisol/Adrenal Dysfunction
- Chronic elevated cortisol can decrease thyroid function.
- Decreased thyroid function leads to weight gain.
- Chronic elevated cortisol leads to decreased progesterone production.
- Decreased progesterone production can lead to anxiety, mood swings and depression.
- Anxiety, mood swings and depression can lead to loss of libido.
- As you can see, virtually every symptom associated with menopause can be attributed to stress and elevated cortisol levels.
This leads us to ask….what symptoms are really menopause and what symptoms are related to stress and the Standard American Diet?
When looking at menopause symptoms in other countries, we discover some interesting facts:
- In India, the Rajput Caste have only one menopause symptom – cycle changes.
- For Mayan women, their menopause symptoms include irregular menses, cessation of menses and loss of fertility.
- As for hot flashes, upwards of 75% of North American women say that hot flashes are a problem. The number is 5-10% for Asian women. In most of India, the number is 0%.
There is a lot of data to support that lifestyle differences, like diet and exercise, play a pivotal role in the expression of menopause symptoms.
Why are xenoestrogens problematic for women during menopause? As women are going through menopause, estrogen values are supposed to naturally go down. When we eat foods that contain xenoestrogens, we are confusing our body. Adding these ‘outside’ estrogens, especially when progesterone values are typically low, heightens nearly all of our menopause symptoms.
So….what can we do? The great news is that there are many things we can do to minimize the effects of menopause.
- Eat organic veggies and fruits. This will minimize the exposure to xenoestrogens.
- Eat pastured meats and dairy. This will minimize the exposure to rBGH and other growth promoters. (rBGH is a hormone given to cows to enhance milk production. Ingesting this hormone can be problematic for humans.)
- Balance blood sugar by minimizing grain consumption and improving ratios of protein/veggie-based cars/good fats. This will reduce the stress in our body that mimics many of the menopause signs and symptoms.
- Decrease body fat. Excess estrogen likes to live in the fat stores of women.
- Improve gastro-intestinal health by eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, etc.
- Improve liver health to properly detoxify xenoestrogens.
To optimize the elimination of excess estrogens, we will need:
- Omega 3 fish oil (fatty fish like tuna and salmon)
- Probiotics (fermented veggies and/or yogurt)
- B6, 9 and 12 (fish, eggs, cruciferous veggies)
- DIM/Indole-3-Carbinol (cruciferous veggies)
- SAM-e (tuna, eggs)
- Magnesium (leafy greens, avocado, cruciferous veggies)
To prevent further build-up of excess xenoestrogens, we will need to consume more organic veggies and fruits, eggs and pastured meats/dairy.
To further reduce the signs and symptoms of menopause, we will need to:
- Minimize grain consumption
- Regulate blood sugar
- Utilize ‘stress-reducing’ activities like yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, etc.
There are many signs and symptoms of menopause that can certainly be minimized by improved nutrition, supplementation and exercise. However, these steps begin with you…..but you don’t have to go it alone.
If you need help and assistance creating a strategy to help ease your menopause symptoms, please reach out to Nutrition Therapy Institute (www.NTISchool.com) There are many highly trained graduates that would be honored to help you on your journey.
Here’s a yummy recipe you can make today to start you on your journey to better health. Enjoy!
- 1 to 1.5 pounds assorted, hearty vegetables, such as cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, kohlrabi, daikon, red pepper, etc
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more, as necessary, for additional brine
- 5 black peppercorns
- 1 dried hot chili pepper (optional, but highly suggested)
- ½ to 1 teaspoon assorted spices, such as coriander seed, yellow mustard seed, whole star anise, crumpled bay leaf, or your favorites
- 1 or 2 cucumbers, thinly sliced
- 1 bunch scallions, white and green parts, sliced, or other onion, such as red onion or shallot
- 1 small bunch dill and/or a handful of other herbs, roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup olive oil or other vegetable oil
- 1 can light tuna (not Albacore, as it is higher in mercury content)
- 2 hard boiled eggs
- Apple cider vinegar to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Prepare the vegetables: slice the cabbage; cut the cauliflower into small florets; peel and slice the carrots, kohlrabi, and daikon; slice the pepper; or otherwise prepare whatever you are using. The smaller the pieces, the faster they will ferment. Pack the vegetables into lidded nonreactive container(s) (plastic, glass, or ceramic).
- Make the brine: dissolve the salt into 1 cups water that you heat in 1 minute intervals on the stove. Once the salt is dissolved, add 3 cups cold water to cool the brine to room temperature. Add the peppercorns, chili pepper, and spices.
- Pour the brine over the vegetables to cover. If you need more brine, make it in the same ratio by dissolving 3 tablespoons of salt into 1 quart (4 cups) water. Cover the container(s) and let sit at room temperature for 2 to 5 days to ferment to the desired doneness. Open the containers at least once each day to release any gas that builds up (also called “burping”). I like to taste them each day so I know how the flavor is progressing. On the first day, you won’t see any change. On the second day, you might see some bubbles. By the third day, there will be more evidence of fermentation: bubbles, a distinct smell, and the brine will begin to get cloudy. Some gunk may form on the top. Don’t worry about this. It is normal.
- When the vegetables have reached their desired doneness—a good tang, maybe even a little fizz—it’s time to stop the fermentation. Lift the vegetables out of the brine and rinse with cold water. Place in a clean container. Strain the brine over the vegetables and refrigerate until ready to use. (Chef’s note: Save the brine to use it for subsequent batches of pickles. It can be used up to five additional times and can also be used to cook with. You can add it to salad dressings, some soups, savory baked goods, and other condiments, the way you might use miso or soy.)
- To assemble the salad: combine the fermented vegetables. Add the tuna, cucumber, scallions, dill, herbs (if using), and olive oil. Toss and taste. Top with sliced hard boiled eggs. Adjust the acidity with vinegar if necessary and season with pepper. The salad will keep two or more weeks in the fridge.
Yields: 4 servings
Thank you, Mitchell Davis, for your instructions on fermenting vegetables.
Author: Dr Rebecca Spacke is a course instructor at Nutrition Therapy Institute. In addition, she is the founder of Healing From Alzheimer’s, a functional medicine practice focused on reversing signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease and cognitive impairment.
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