43% of my clients are women between the ages of 40 and 60. Close to half of my clients are experiencing perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms.
Not only are they fighting the ordinary challenges of being a working woman in the pursuit of fitness but they are also dealing with increased fatigue, hot flashes and mood swings. Add to that the confusion of exercise and eating habits that “used to work” that no longer do. It’s enough to make any woman feel like she’s going crazy and her body is conspiring against her.
When I attended Personal Trainer Institute West I had the honor of attending a great session hosted by Hayley Hollander entitled Smart Programing for Peri and Post Menopausal Females: The Stress Response. Hayley walked us through the science of female hormones how they should work and what menopause (and modern life) does to them. I will simplify it the best I can.
- Prolonged and chronic stress (good or bad) produces cortisol.
- The lack of estrodial cannot balance out the excess cortisol.
- This prompts increased blood volume, food intake and protein degradation in the muscle, exacerbating many of the other symptoms of menopause.
This means I need to consider even more the rest or active recovery portion of workouts for my clients moving towards or experiencing menopause. I’ve always been a fan of intervals and full body functional training. Her demonstration of interval style workouts to minimize the cortisol spikes while maximizing fat burn, strength building and mobility made total sense. Another great tool in my training program toolbox.
She also recommended a couple of books, one of which I recently read. Dr. Bob’s Drugless Guide To Balance Female Hormonesis the layperson’s guide to the endocrine system and how the hormonal system works. I found the book fascinating and frightening at the same time.
Dr. Robert DeMaria is a practicing chiropractor and Natural Health Doctor who has been practicing for over 30 years. He is also a college instructor. He is however not a writer.
I say this as a caution. His writing is at times difficult to stick with. He repeats the same points and phrases often. You’ll need to accept it and get past it to get to the message of the book.
Also much of what he says in the book is learned from his own practice, not from peer reviewed research studies. While there is much to be learned from experience, I always proceed with caution when research is limited. With this book, as with many natural health remedies, I say try the things that “can’t hurt”. Here are a few examples:
- The liver is responsible for many functions in the body including detoxification, metabolism of carbohydrates and processing estrogen that needs to be reused or eliminated from the body. If your liver is working overtime on detoxing, it can’t do it’s other functions properly. One way to help your liver out is by drinking plenty of pure water. Added preservatives and sweeteners in diet soda and juice drinks just make the liver work harder.
- Speaking of chemicals, there are a lot of xenohormones (man-made substances that can have hormone like properties) out there. Many have an estrogen like effect further throwing the body out of balance. Eating plenty of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage can help eliminate this extra estrogen from the body.
- When you put a foreign substance in the body you don’t know what you might get. Stay away from trans fat! Read the ingredient list. If you see anything hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated put it back on the shelf.
There are other things he advocates that honestly make me cringe.
- Avoid “sweet fruits” like bananas and grapes.
If your body doesn’t tolerate them, fine. But there is nothing wrong with the occasional banana especially if you need extra potassium.
- Avoid peanut butter.
If you’re allergic by all means don’t eat it. Otherwise when it’s natural (and without added sugar) it can be a fine source of healthy fat for the body.
- Coffee enemas.
I won’t say anymore.
The overall message I can get behind. You need to listen to your body, treat it with kindness and respect and help it do what it knows how to do naturally. Menopause is a part of life. It is the unnatural way we fuel and treat our bodies that make it worse. Food and exercise should be your first course of treatment.