Someone on Twitter recently asked me, “How does a woman get rid of the menopausal fanny pack.”
While there are a number of things that you can do to relieve your menopause symptoms, what’s more important to note is that the habits you adopt today will impact how you experience menopause and aging in general. The best thing you can do to beat many of the unpleasant symptoms of menopause is start now. Read on for ways you can take control of your future and get your body prepped for what’s to come:
1. Reduce starchy carbs
Regardless of what you were able to eat when you were younger, as you age you become more insulin resistant, which often leads to an unwelcome accumulation of belly fat. While this re-distribution of body fat, from lower body to your middle belly, doesn’t mean that you have to kiss your old physique goodbye, I do encourage you to monitor your carb intake.
In fact, I truly think that discovering your carb sensitivity is the single most important thing you can do for your health at any age.
Research has shown that even a modest reduction in the consumption of starchy carbs can reduce belly fat and improve insulin levels.
Bottom line: Start right away by boosting your protein and healthy fat intake, and lowering your intake of all starchy carbs including breads, pastas, rice, grains, oatmeal, potatoes, legumes (beans) and squash. Re-introduce them one at a time to judge your reaction and any changes in your weight. Keep experimenting with your type of carbs until you’ve identified the diet that has you feeling and looking your best, without any cravings, bloating, digestive discomfort or mood swings (you can download a carb-sensitivity tracker here). Plan to re-do this kitchen experiment yearly for best results.
2. Know your levels and heed the warning signs of PMS
The drop in estrogen that occurs en route to menopause has negative impacts on both your health and can also leave you self conscious about your appearance.
Estrogen helps our cells respond better to insulin. A plunge in estrogen can therefore cause an unwelcome increase in insulin, and with it a shift in weight from your hips to your waist. To make matters worse, menopause also brings about a decline in the neurotransmitter serotonin that fuels carbohydrate cravings and propels insulin production even further. Combined with the loss of the cardio-protective benefits of estrogen, these hormonal and body-shape changes definitely contribute to an increased risk of heart disease at menopause.
Low estrogen is not just a menopausal condition however. It can be caused by premature ovarian failure, smoking, high levels of stress, low-fat diets and exceedingly low body fat. Meanwhile, excess estrogen can be just as problematic.
Bottom line: If you experience PMS and problematic periods today, it may be an early warning sign to get both your estrogen and your progesterone levels in better balance by consulting a natural health practitioner.
3. Reduce your alcohol intake
Whether it’s a result of too many business engagements, weekends at the cottage or part of your relaxation reward after a long day, you may find yourself consuming alcohol on a regular basis. While you could have afforded this without consequence (at least to your body composition) in your college years, it may have a greater impact on your health, hormones and waistline today.
Even a glass or two, when consumed regularly will add up. In excess even healthier options such as red wine will cause belly fat, particularly due to its effects on glucose and insulin levels.
Bottom line: If you have excess belly fat I recommend keeping your alcohol intake to 1-2 glasses per week, with a meal.
4. Take care of your adrenal function
Women’s sex hormones are produced by your adrenal glands and your ovaries. If you’ve been burning the candle at both ends for years, you may find that failure of one hormone-producing team can influence the others resulting in a less-than-pleasant experience prior to, during and after menopause.
Bottom line: Relora lowers cortisol, assists with abdominal fat, helps restore healthy sleep patterns and may also reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes. Take two in the evening and one upon rising for best results. Add to that a B complex twice daily along with 1000 mg of vitamin C and you have a simple, but effective, anti-stress regimen. Throw in a weekly yoga session and regular meditation and it will be even smoother sailing).
5. Prioritize your sleep now
A discussion on how to care for your adrenals isn’t complete without looking at your sleep habits.
Bottom line: Make sure that you’re applying the rules for hormonally balanced sleep, including getting to bed before 11 p.m., sleeping in complete darkness, wearing light (or no) clothing, keeping your bedroom cool and clutter-free and removing all light omitting devices (phones included!). If you still find yourself tossing and turning, you can also try taking 3 mg of melatonin an hour before bed.
Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and The Supercharged Hormone Diet. Her newest release, The Carb Sensitivity Program, is now available across Canada. She’s also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique and a regular guest on The Dr. Oz Show. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here.