The thing with alleviating menopause symptoms, is that treating each problem as a separate issue, isn’t going to work very well.
It could be hot sweats, weight gain, disturbed sleep, low energy, or many others I could mention.Trying to alleviate each symptom as they arise, can become a frustrating battle with yourself.
Way back in the early days of my menopause coaching, I was taught the ‘systems over symptoms’ approach by the remarkable Jessica Drummond in the US. This, combined with the knowledge I’d already gained from Burrell Education on their ‘peri to post menopause programme’ for health practitioners, both transformed the conversations and the experiences I was having with my clients.
I want to show you how you can harness this essential information and apply it, for yourself.
There are three essential elements for hormonal balance:
- Liver health
- Brain and Adrenal gland health
- Blood sugar management
What does this even mean?
In a nutshell, it means supporting the body systems which have the strongest effect on what the hormones are doing.
As the largest organ in your body, your liver is the ultimate multi-tasker. On its daily / nightly jobs list are several hundred essential functions. There’s a hormonal clean-up operation on that list which would be greatly beneficial in terms of how your menopause symptoms are making you feel.
The adrenal glands do what they say on the tin, release adrenaline (adrenal-ine) when you need to react quickly. But – there’s a bit more to it that is really worth understanding, because these teeny glands have a huge role to play in how you feel in any given moment.
Optimal blood sugar management isn’t just for diabetics, oh no. Getting this bit nailed, can be make or break for everything from weight gain to anxiety and sleep.
I’ve been talking about these three things since about 2016. It’s easy to overlook them because the reality is, the practical application of this triad doesn’t sound quite as convincing or as sciencey (as someone with a BSc and MSc I’m reckon I can say sciencey is a real word).
For example, ‘eat lots of vegetables, drink water, be sure to poo often, take time off to do fun things that light you up, have a regular bedtime routine’
See what I mean?
It doesn’t sound as appealing as my triad on first glance, above.
So why do those three things underpin ALL my advice?
The liver is the main centre for oestrogen balance.
Get this bit ‘right’ and you can reduce your symptoms dramatically. Particularly oestrogen dominance issues like weight gain, sore breasts, PMT, reduced libido, irritability, disturbed sleep.
The majority of the processes for making and clearing away oestrogen (oestradial, for most of your life) happens in the liver.
Remember though, it’s not the liver’s only job.
Your body is so clever (hell bent on survival) that if you’re inadvertently giving your liver extra clearing up jobs to do (e.g. excessive sugar, alcohol), or you’re not getting enough rest and downtime to allow the hormonal processes to occur, you’re already sabotaging the system.
The result is just as you’d guessed; increased severity of symptoms.
Adrenal Gland Health
You have two adrenal glands, one sitting on the top of each kidney. Think of walnuts and you’re not far off the size. Small things that pack a powerful punch.
Every time your brain decides you’re in a fight / flight / freeze situation (real or perceived), your adrenal glands get the message to release adrenaline, to help ‘keep you going’.
At this point, body resources including the jobs of the liver, are diverted towards survival.
Hormonal balance is shifted away from ‘thrive’ and menopause symptoms are more likely to occur here.
Once the situation calms down, adrenaline dissipates and all is well again.
Think of an exciting rollercoaster ride or running for the train. Your body is designed to cope well with this short, sharp stress (or not, depending on how much you hate rollercoasters haha).
This is fine, until the source of fight / flight / freeze becomes more than a temporary event. When it’s a continual occurrence e.g. stress at work, unresolved problems at home, continual alerts on your phone, no time for you to relax… it becomes a cortisol issue AND a menopause issue.
The more we ask the adrenal glands to release cortisol (I use the word ‘ask’ with some sarcasm), the more the body pours its hormone building and balancing resources into making stress hormones.
Chronic cortisol competes with the calming and sleep promoting progesterone. It can feel like a jittery anxiousness and tiredness, at the same time.
This is the reasoning behind my advice around taking proper time off, winding down in the evenings with a short bedtime routine, sprinkling some self-care through the day, giving yourself five minutes to breath slowly and deeply, not relying on caffeine and sugary carbs to get through the day.
The other reason for taking care of your adrenal glands, is that they produce the DHEA hormone which is a precursor to oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
Once the ovaries retire, this becomes even more important. Well worth looking after that little hormone factory.
Blood sugar management
Nope, not diabetes. Same hormones though.
As we get older (not just related to menopause), you become less sensitive to insulin – the hormone which has a key role to play in managing the amount of sugar (or teeny tiny carbs, as they’ve been broken down into teeny tiny molecules).
This means, you naturally need more insulin to get the same response in the body. That’s ok, your body can work with that, it’s normal.
But if you keep promoting the release of insulin beyond the normal and expected (snack between meals, fruit at every meal etc), it will lead to an increased tendency for anxiety, tiredness, weight gain, potentially sleep issues and hot sweats too.
If you’ve followed me for more than five minutes you’ll know my love of saying ‘protein and natural fats at every meal’. Well, this is a large part of the reasoning behind that advice.
Keeping blood sugar levels stable can mean a few changes in daily habits, but it really is worth it for the pay-off can be weight loss, improved moods, better sleep, improved focus and concentration, reduced hot flushes.
As with any cool sounding triad (the great pyramids, the fire triangle, the three bears.. any more, anyone??), each side relies on each other. It’s a dependent relationship. Taking action on one side, helps the others, doing something for all three, and you’re starting to feel better.
Once the three sides are in place, even if in a small way, we can start to make progress with the fun stuff – to find ‘you’ again.
As always, you choose where you start.
I’ll encourage you from this page, or get in touch and I can help you a little more closely to speed up the process of feeling back to normal.