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Weight gain around the middle: a curse of the menopause? Or is there a way to avoid it? The good news is that there are a number of things you can do to keep the creeping pounds away from your waistline. Naturopathic practitioner and nutritionist Anne-Lise Miller tells us how...
Menopause is characterised by a shift in the types and levels of oestrogen in a woman's body. It's a natural phenomenon and the consequence is the end of menstruation.
The simplistic view, that menopausal symptoms are due to a LACK of oestrogen, is not only confusing but inaccurate.
Xeno-oestrogens (molecules that look like oestrogen but are not manufactured in our bodies) are found in our environment in increasingly alarming amounts and are directly contributing to an excess of oestrogen. More on excess oestrogen.
The answer to a slimmer and happier menopause is to control oestrogen by:
1. Avoiding loading ourselves with xeno-oestrogens.
2. Limiting the foods and drink that specifically contribute to intra-abdominal fat.
3. Improving the ability of our liver to detoxify all types of oestrogen.
4. Reducing the load of unfriendly gut bacteria that have the nasty tendency to reconstruct oestrogen from the bits left in our bowel after detoxification by our liver.
5. Avoiding constipation.
1. In the plastic around packaged and processed foods, in particular in Bisphenol A (a plasticiser that makes plastic more pliable) which is found in the coatings of food and drink cans, water bottles, baby bottles/pacifiers, dental fillings, sex toys, contact lenses, sports equipment, credit card receipts and even garden hoses. Look for safe BPA-free alternatives.
2. In tap water - so be sure to filter your tap water with a filter capable of removing xeno-oestrogens.
3. In cosmetics, moisturisers and cleansers. Use simple organic products with fewer ingredients.
4. In perfumes and scented products. Use only natural essential oils from plants.
5. In bleached, non-organic sanitary products.
6. In conventional, non-organic cleaning products.
1. Avoid processed sugary foods. They are never a good idea and go straight for your waistline.
2. Avoid (or at least cut down on) booze. Alcohol is processed by the liver and turned straight into intra-abdominal fat.
3. Cut down on dairy. It contains a sugar that has a similar metabolism to alcohol and goes straight for the abdomen. It also contains oestrogen and, unless kept to a minimum, will also contribute to excess oestrogen.
4. Minimise stress. Stress is probably one of the biggest factors and often impossible to avoid, but we can certainly take healthy steps to manage it. Exercise, mindfulness, relaxation or a just a chat with a good friend can make a positive difference.
Improve our oestrogen detoxification. There are a number of ways that this can be done:
1. Eat plenty of brassicas (cabbage, watercress, broccoli and kale).
2. Drink green tea.
3. Eat organic.
4. Eat cloves, cinnamon, dill and Holy basil known to contain Eugenol (an oestrogen-lowering compound that reduces oestrogen absorption, including xeno-oestrogens).
5. Eat foods rich in phyto-oestrogen that will bind to oestrogen receptors and weaken the negative impact of excess oestrogen. There are many foods rich in phyto-oestrogen but flax, sesame seeds and pulses are among the richest.
1. Eat ground flaxseed and/or chia seeds daily, both of which are superfoods.
2. Eat a diet rich in fibre from pulses, oat bran, nuts and seeds.
3. Supplement your diet with fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and kefir.
There are three main types of oestrogen: estrodial (secreted by the ovaries), estrone (produced by the adrenal glands and predominent post-menopause) and estriol (a by-product left over by the other oestrogens have been detoxified by the liver).
Diseases such as breast and prostate cancer are almost always oestrogen-dependent and evidence that we should reconsider the oestrogen paradigm by being more concerned about too much oestrogen rather than not enough. In fact, the expanding waistline so many women experience during menopause is not only driven by excess oestrogen, it produces oestrogen itself!
Oestrogen may partially contribute to bone density and vaginal lubrication, but it also increases fat stores, drives water retention and slows down gut peristalsis (movements) leading to constipation, bloating and reabsorption of oestrogen compounds. This again marks a tendency for excess oestrogen.
You can read more from Anne-Lise Miller in her book Too Young to Grow Old published by Fisher King.
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