WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR (PERI)MENOPAUSE STORY TO BE?
It is no secret that the hormonal changes we go through in midlife, also known as (peri)menopause, can wreak havoc on your skin and body, not to mention your mental health.
There is one thing that "the experts" (medical doctors, alternative/holistic practitioners, menopause educators) all agree on. That is that you can be doing things proactively to minimize the impacts of your dropping estrogen levels and to make your experience more pleasant.
Let's start by talking about some of the changes you may be experiencing physically:
- Skin feels drier, more sensitive to products and sun exposure
- Acne breakouts "out of the blue"
- Strange skin rashes/eruptions suddenly appear on face or body
- Hair feels drier, frizzier, more breakage/damage
- Hair is straighter/curlier than before
- Gaining weight in your mid-section
- Cravings that you never had before
- Increased/decreased appetite
- Joint pain
- Puffy eyes
- Digestive issues: bloating, gas, constipation
- Frustration, anger, confusion, fear, anxiety
- Brain fog, memory issues, headaches
- Emotional swings
Every woman's experience of menopause is different. So firstly stop comparing yourself to your bestie, your co-workers or your neighbours.
You should however ask your mother and your sisters who have been through it what their experience was like to give you somewhat of a guide as to what your experience may be.
I suggest you look to these five areas to make some changes in your life where you can. You aren't striving for perfection, but rather for some small everyday lifestyle improvements that are within your abilities to impact.
Eat whole, real food as much as possible. Of course there are going to be times when you need that chocolate bar or bag of Doritos. Have it in moderation. 80% of the time strive to eat something that came from the earth, or runs or swims on the earth, instead of from a factory.
Let food be your "farm"acy. The nutrients your body needs can all (mostly) come from food. When you are lacking something such as Vitamin D or B6 or B12, then go ahead and supplement it instead. I personally recommend that most of my clients in menopause take a good quality multivitamin every day.
Eat the rainbow. Eat a brightly coloured rainbow of food throughout every day. The brighter fruits and vegetables such as mangos, papayas, oranges, peppers, greens give us so much more vitamins that our body needs.
Don't cut out any food groups! One of the biggest things I hear from women in (peri)menopause is that they are cutting out gluten to lose the stubborn weight they have suddenly gained during this time. Gluten may not be your issue at all, nor are carbs so don't vilify them. Your body needs carbs for fuel so cutting them out is the wrong thing to do. However, choose your carbs wisely such as choosing whole grains and whole fruits and veggies (these are carbs too!) vs. processed, refined white flours and sugars.
Feed yourself enough calories ~ don't undereat thinking your'e doing yourself a favour! If you are eating a solid three meals a day plus one or two snacks, you're off to a great start. Make sure that your plate at every meal/snack contains a protein (chicken, grassfed beef, fish, seafood, tofu, tempeh, etc.), carbs (whole grains such as brown rice, potatoes, quinoa, millet, etc.) and vegetables/fruit (a rainbow of colour!), and healthy fats (hemp hearts, avocado, nuts/seeds, olive oil, etc.). This balanced, nutrient dense plate will keep you satiated, blood sugar balanced and feeling energized.
Probiotics ~ you've heard me say before that your gut health has everything to do with your hormonal health. It also has everything to do with your skin health, hair quality, and your mental health too! Having a healthy balanced gut microbiome can make a world of difference in your menopausal experience.
"95% of the body’s serotonin, however, is produced in the intestine where it has been increasingly recognized for its hormonal, autocrine, paracrine, and endocrine actions." (Source: NIH National Library of Medicine)
The bottom line is that gut health impacts everything, every other system in your body and brain. Consider taking a daily probiotic supplement and also eating more probiotic-rich foods such as yogurts with active bacterial cultures every day.
Prebiotic fibre ~ Also look at including foods rich in prebiotic fibre in your diet daily such as asparagus, leeks, onions, garlic, kimchi, sauerkraut, other fermented foods. Prebiotics feed the healthy probiotic bacteria in your gut so they go hand in hand.
Water ~ Drink lots of it to keep everything moving! I suggest you find a great water bottle that you will love and keep it with you to drink from all day long. Strive for 2L per day and more if you are sweating a lot or outdoors.
Coffee ~ Know that coffee can impact your hot flashes and make other symptoms of menopause worse. If you are having a hard time cutting down, check out this other blog I wrote on Coffee Alternatives. Also know that drinking coffee first thing in the morning on an empty stomach is really hard on your hormones and causes your cortisol to spike!
Start your day with water, meditation or a walk/exercise, then breakfast, then coffee!
Yoga, Pilates, Stretching ~ these mind-body practices are some of the best things for every age and gender, but especially for women in (peri)menopause. They not only help you connect to your body, they also help you to slow your breathing, be more conscious of your body movement, to stay strong and flexible. This also means pain-free and reduced stress!
Stress = High Cortisol = Worsening Menopause Symptoms
Outdoor walks ~ fresh air is great for everyone because it helps us to "clear our head" and to move our body. Even 10 minutes a day can make a world of difference to your cortisol levels.
Strength train ~ keeping your muscles strong is even more important as we age so that they don't atrophy or suffer from sarcopenia (loss of muscle and balance) as we age. Use it or lose it basically! In menopause we need to do weight bearing exercise in order to prevent bone loss from osteoporosis so grab even a pair of light dumbbells or do body weight-bearing exercises such as squats, lunges, dancing, climbing stairs, hiking.
Sweating is great! Sweating is one of the bodies best detoxification strategies. As you will read about in point #5 below, we need to detox away as many toxins as we can through our skin and liver primarily to keep our hormones happy.
Honour your Hunger ~ is one of the 10 principles of Intuitive Eating. By trying to trick your body into starvation or telling yourself you "can't" have that "treat" is trickery and deprivation.
When we deprive our body of our basic human needs, such as finding pleasure from food, it ends up in a rebound of binge eating, feeling guilt and shame, and then the deprivation cycle continues again by you swearing "you are going on a strict diet" because you feel you let yourself down.
Honouring your hunger also means that when you are bingeing when NOT hungry that you have the mindfulness to stop and ask yourself "What am I actually hungry for? Am I bored? Am I stressed? Am I lonely? Do I need a hug? Or to go for a walk?"
One of my favourite quotes from author Oonagh Duncan is "You Can't Hate Yourself into Creating a Body You Will Love"!
What if you love yourself into creating a body you love instead?
Last but certainly not least, you absolutely need to ditch the toxins if you want to have a better menopausal experience! And I mean really ditch them ~ from your home cleaning supplies, your laundry room, and mostly from your bathroom skincare, hair care and makeup.
As an organic skincare formulator of toxin-free products, Clean Kiss, this is my wheelhouse. Not because I want to sell more products but rather because the science is pretty clear on how these toxins disrupt our endocrine system (our hormones), cause disease and I know how many women are suffering unnecessarily.
"The most common chemicals we encounter daily may be the most worrisome because they can alter the action of hormones in the body. These compounds are referred to as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) — synthetic compounds that mimic natural hormones, but not necessarily in a good way.
EDCs can turn on, turn off, or alter normal hormonal signals, even in extremely low amounts. While EDCs were initially considered xenoestrogens (foreign estrogens), we now know that their biological effects go far beyond those caused by estrogen." (Source: Womenshealthnetwork.com)
The bottom line on Re-writing Your Menopause Story.
Menopause is a natural transition of our body's reproductive system and hormones winding down in midlife. There is not enough education or discussion about it so we need to do our own homework.
Do not put too much pressure on yourself (don't cause yourself MORE stress!) but know that these five natural health tips shared here are a great place to start to Re-Write Your Menopause Story.
Show yourself compassion as your body goes through these changes because you are already dealing with a lot.
Know that there is lots of help out there if you are struggling. There are naturopathic doctors, medical doctors, holistic nutritionists (including myself!), and of course my good friend Teresa Isabel Dias who is a menopause expert that can help you.
About the Author: Jodie Pappas
You can work with Jodie in her Skin Health Nutrition Coaching practice Soma and Soul Nutrition, where she focuses on working with women ages 35+ to help balance gut and hormonal health, skin issues such as acne, eczema, and healthy aging skin using a non-restrictive approach that incorporates natural skincare, healthy lifestyle habits and movement through yoga and pilates.
Jodie is the Founder and Skincare Formulator of the Canadian-made, small batch, plant-based skincare brand Clean Kiss. Jodie creates clean, natural skincare products for women to feel confident and glowing in their skin, without the use of any harmful toxins.
Jodie is a Certified Organic Skincare Formulator, a Certified Nutritional Aesthetics Practitioner (CNAP), a Registered Yoga Teacher and is also presently studying to be Holistic Nutritionist. She believes that beautiful pro-aging skin is available for every woman and uses a holistic lifestyle approach to educate and inspire.
Jodie has been featured on Global TV Morning, CHCH Morning, CityTV's Breakfast Television, Rogers TV and various radio stations across the country.
Want to work with Jodie on your Skin Health & Nutrition? Apply now!