Delay Menopause: Check Your Diet
One thing almost all women have in common is the fact that at some stage of their lives, they are going to experience menopause. Sleep may become an issue, with mood swings, irregular periods, and hot flashes becoming the order of the day. Less common symptoms associated with perimenopause (the run-up to menopause) include painful intercourse, depression, anxiety, low libido, osteoporosis, hair loss, brain fog, frequent urination, weak nails, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This time is not only stressful for the woman but impacts those around her as well. While menopause strikes women anywhere between the ages of 40 and 58, it is increasingly becoming common in women as young as in their early thirties – a time when many women these days are considering becoming a mother for the first time. The obvious solution would be to try to delay menopause. Not only would this make life much more bearable, but it would increase your years of fertility and keep you and your family sane during a time of your life when you are most active, whether you are a homemaker or a woman intent on furthering her career.
Interestingly though, the menopause process is often seen as solely an ovarian issue. At its very core, however, it is actually a problem associated with your adrenal glands.
Why You Should Try To Delay Menopause
Premature menopause, i.e., before the age of 40 years, as well as early menopause – typically between 40 and 50 years – may result in certain health issues. Amongst these issues are included a higher chance of developing issues with your heart, a loss of bone density that could lead to fractures and osteoporosis, and even a loss of libido. Women in this position may also experience infertility and unexplained weight gain.
Common causes of early menopause may be related to inherited factors, i.e., your genetic makeup, or eating disorders, e.g., anorexia nervosa. Other factors, which can be related to adrenal fatigue, may also play a role, such as autoimmune diseases, hormonal disorders, and thyroid issues.
Interestingly, it would seem that when you delay menopause, you have a number of health benefits. Research indicates that a longer reproductive life is indicative of better cognitive performance during the later years of your life, while you may also live longer than your counterparts who hit menopause earlier. In addition to this, when you delay menopause you also tend to delay the telltale signs of aging, i.e., wrinkles, due to maintaining balanced levels of estrogen for a longer period. The latter, especially, is a strong incentive to try to delay menopause for as long as we can, as most women want to look younger than their chronological age for as long as they can, right?
Although numerous factors may contribute towards the onset of menopause, research indicates that diet may very well play a role as well.
The Menopause Process
Menopause and perimenopause are both associated with adrenal fatigue, more specifically, the second and third stages of adrenal exhaustion. While most studies may focus solely on a woman’s sex hormones when it comes to menopause, the adrenal glands and their hormones play a huge role during menopause – and it is related to stress.
Cortisol, one of the main hormones produced by the adrenals, is the stress hormone. When stress increases or persists over a period, cortisol production increases. In addition to helping you handle stress, cortisol also helps with blood pressure regulation, heart function, and metabolizing fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Cortisol also plays a role in mobilizing glycogen, which is stored sugar, from your liver in order to give your body the energy it needs during this stressful time.
The problem with prolonged stress is that this energy does not get used up. This puts pressure on your pancreas to secrete more insulin, and you could, eventually, become insulin resistant, have too high sugar levels, and contract type 2 diabetes.
In addition to this, the constant, increased production of cortisol means that there are fewer precursor hormones available for the production of other hormones deemed not necessary to sustain immediate life. You may end up with a hormonal imbalance, which, in the long term, has negative consequences of a systemic nature, as all parts of the body are impacted unfavorably.
Another adrenal hormone is dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). The precursor hormone to this as well as cortisol is pregnenolone, while DHEA is the precursor to estrogen. When stressed, pregnenolone is used for extra cortisol production, thereby impacting estrogen levels, and causing an imbalance between your estrogen and progesterone levels. A disruption in your female hormones may contribute towards the onset of early menopause.
One needs to remember that DHEA production tends to peak when a woman is in her mid-twenties and starts declining from around the age of 30. Your cortisol levels, however, tend to increase as you age. Stress and its action on the body, including your hormones, tend to exacerbate the process.
Adrenal Fatigue Development
Women experiencing Stage 1 of adrenal fatigue may actually feel energetic and quite healthy. This is because the release of cortisol gives them a rush of energy. On the downside, however, their bodies are starting to use up their reserves of hormones without there being enough precursor hormones available to rebuild their reserves. You could, quite conceivably, be in the first stage of adrenal fatigue for years before showing any of the negative symptoms associated with the condition. Menopause is the furthest thought from your mind.
Once you reach Stage 2 of the condition, however, things start changing slightly. You may not feel too great, but you may find that you get things done with the help of a cup of coffee and sugar. You might also, during this time, start noticing a change in your menses and could, quite conceivably, show perimenopausal symptoms, as have been described previously. By the time you reach the third stage of adrenal fatigue, you may find yourself in the full clutches of perimenopause and all it entails.
While menopause may be perfectly natural for someone in their fifties, it may not be the case for women in their mid-forties or even younger. Yet, with adrenal fatigue increasingly affecting so many women of a childbearing age, the answer may very well be that you need to do all that you possibly can to delay menopause. A huge step in the right direction is to address the causes of adrenal fatigue. One of the main culprits in this regard is diet.
A Diet to Delay Menopause
Research conducted in the United Kingdom, where over 35,000 British women between the ages of 35 and 69 completed a survey, showed some surprising results. Please note that the study took into consideration the age at which the women became menopausal, their reproductive history, use of hormone replacement therapy, level of activity, and weight.
The research indicated the average age of menopause was 51 years, and that certain foods seemed to be linked to the time of a woman’s menopausal onset. More specifically, it indicated that high carbohydrate consumption is related to an earlier onset of menopause. In direct contrast to this, it was found that women who had a higher consumption of fish and legumes could delay menopause for over three years. Good news for meat eaters, as opposed to their vegetarian sisters, is that protein consumption via red meat could delay menopause for a year. It was also found that a higher consumption of zinc and vitamin B6, i.e., pyridoxine, may also delay menopause. Of the women participating in the study who had never had children, those who had a higher grape and poultry intake tended to experience menopause later as well.
These findings thus indicate that there may be a close correlation between diet and the age at which natural menopause occurs. Although this was an observational study, scientists can still speculate as to the reasons for the different associations that came forth from the study.
Free radicals, i.e., molecules that contain oxygen, may cause DNA damage. They also negatively affect the maturation of eggs in the ovaries and their release. Legumes, however, are high in antioxidants that counter the negative effects of free radicals. The omega-3 fatty acids found in especially oily fish, on the other hand, help to trigger antioxidant activity. In this way, a higher oily fish and legume consumption may work to delay menopause.
A diet high in refined carbohydrates, in contrast, may result in insulin resistance. This, in turn, may result in a hormonal imbalance that sees an increase in estrogen production, which may ultimately lead to the onset of early menopause.
Other Tactics To Consider
Although the research conducted shows the advantages of including legumes, lean meat, and oily fish in your diet while cutting down on refined carbohydrates, there are also other measures you can include that will not only be of benefit to those with adrenal fatigue, but specifically to those who want to delay menopause as well.
Get sufficient sleep
When it comes to sleep, quality and quantity are important. A good seven to eight hours per night should be the aim. One should also try to go to bed at the same time each night in order to establish a good sleeping pattern.
Get enough correct exercise
When it comes to adrenal fatigue, the correct exercise is important. A long walk, yoga, or Pilates are great, while a heavy exercise regime at the gym could very well do more harm than good.
Meditation calms you down. A calmer you means you reduce the amount of stress your body has to endure which, in the long run, helps bring down cortisol production and helps re-establish hormonal balance.
Ditch the caffeinated beverages
Caffeine is a stimulant that promotes cortisol production in the adrenals. Rather hydrate with pure, clean water or have a cup of organic green tea. Green tea contains antioxidants that support your entire system, while the phytochemicals in green tea help to support adrenal function.
Practice your breathing
Deep, controlled breathing ups your oxygen intake and helps you to relax. A relaxed state and greater oxygen intake are beneficial to those suffering from adrenal fatigue.
Reduce your sugar consumption
Most people have a higher than needed sugar intake that has serious adverse effects on the body. Not only could it cause sugar crashes, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes, but it could cause weight gain as well.
Increase your vegetable intake
Most people do not consume the basic five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. These foods are capable of supplying your body and brain with the vitamins and minerals they need to function optimally. They are also able to supply you with all the energy your body needs. Consider the adrenal fatigue diet for optimum benefits.
Stay away from trans fats
Trans fats are the unhealthy fats that are abundant in junk foods and processed foods. They are deadly for both your heart and adrenal health. Instead, opt for healthy fats, i.e., unsaturated fats, such as olive oil and coconut oil. These fats support adrenal health.
Moderate salt consumption
While too much salt most certainly is bad for you, too little salt may have a negative effect on your health. Natural salt is best, as it has trace minerals that are great for adrenal support. Himalayan salt is a good option.
Address your stressors
The simplest way of getting rid of stress is by ridding yourself of whatever is causing the stress. This may be more difficult than it sounds, because that stressful job is needed to pay the bills, and money problems are not so easy to overcome. But by acknowledging that which causes you stress, you put yourself into the position whereby you can make plans to address it.
© Copyright 2019 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
Are there health benefits if you can delay menopause?
If you can delay menopause, you spare yourself from having many of the associated symptoms. You may also live longer, have a longer reproductive lifespan, and may be less prone to cognitive issues later in life. You may also be able to delay the aging process.