We always hear about high blood pressure and the associated issues, less talked about is low blood pressure. I suffer from low blood pressure and have done so for as long as I can remember, it mostly manifests itself in dizzy spells. I know now from experience that when my blood pressure is low I am more likely to get a cold and so I keep on top of it ...over the Christmas period and after I certainly let my guard down in this respect and now I have a cold I am struggling to shift...I know most of the country has too or at least everyone I talk to !
Enter with fanfare my superhero Liquorice root. I used to crave liquorice sweets when I was pregnant but back then I certainly didn't link it to low blood pressure or menopause symptoms!!
What to say about licorice...it's a powerhouse, it's a superhero, its utterly mighty in my books. It is one of the most potent antiviral herbs out there...
It has been famed for centuries and during the 13th century, the reign of Edward I a special tax was applied to this superherb due to the high demand for it..it was then mostly used for gout ! It is now well known as supporting the body's immune system and being of great benefit for chronic stress due to adrenal weakness. In menopause the adrenal glands can be under more pressure as they are responsible for hormones that affect digestion, inflammation, balancing hormones and stress...this is where liquorice comes to our aid, it is a great tonic when your energy feels low and sapped. It sparks the adrenals back into life and help restore that zest you may feel you are missing.
In the 1970's researchers discovered that it can function as a phytoestrogen which is very helpful for women in perimenopause and for this reason it can help reduce hot flushes and the duration of a hot flush.
Liquorice also has soothing properties which work very well as an anti inflammatory for a sore throat, cough or catarrh - it helps to loosen and expel mucous that the cough is trying to get rid of. As a soothing aid it needs to make direct contact with the part of the body that needs to be soothed therefore extracts of liquorice in cough syrups, herbal tinctures or tea are the most effective.
The benefits of this herb are never ending and it is also well known as a natural remedy for nausea, indigestion, heartburn and joint pain. For perimenopause and today's world the key benefits are the impact on the adrenals and for anyone who has low blood pressure it works a treat !
So how to incorporate into your bag of tricks:
Menopause as we know brings with it many changes and building your knowledge and empowering yourself will help greatly to address the physical and emotional changes as they happen. One of the most important foods and vitamins at this time is Vitamin B - we call them Bouncing Beans - you get great B's in beans and they give you energy and vitality :-).
While our bodies change in perimenopause our dietary needs also change - attention to nutrition can make the biggest difference at this time. When you look at the role of each of these super vitamins you will see how important they are to your daily regime.
There are several vitamins that make up the B complex and they all play a key role in maintaining health during these years. They are necessary for strong adrenal glands, a healthy nervous system and the conversion of carbohydrates into the glucose we need for energy. Vitamin B, keeps the mucous membranes healthy, including those of the vagina. It is also an antioxidant, especially when used with vitamin C. It helps alleviate memory loss, decreases sensitivity to noise, improves concentration, relieves depression and corrects loss of appetite.
B2 is key for the release and activity of many hormones, including estrogen. It also helps keep skin, nails, and hair healthy. Good sources of B2 are milk and eggs.
B3 (Niacin) helps our bodies produce estrogen and other sex hormones. It also reduces blood cholesterol, dilates blood vessels and is often used as a supplement to prevent premenstrual headaches. It can also help with anxiety, confusion, insomnia, memory loss, irritability, apathy and depression. If you’re using B vitamins to help prevent hot flashes, be sure to use the form of niacin called niacinamide. Other forms of niacin dilate the blood vessels, which can cause flushing and worsen hot flashes, rather than relieve them – that we do not want!
B6 (pyridoxine) is a natural diuretic which is effective in reducing water retention. You know those periods when you get bloating before or during your period – this is when you need B6. It also helps prevent depression and promotes calm moods and restful sleep. It also interacts with estrogen in the body. This vitamin is found in most foods and it is rare to see a deficiency. In some cases it has been found that hormone therapy can reduce your body’s levels of B6 and decreased levels can lead to depression – so if you are on HRT be mindful of this.
B9 (folic acid) helps the body make and utilise estrogen. It helps reduce forgetfulness, provides neuroprotection, eases irritability, can help insomnia and promotes the growth of healthy red blood cells (which is why a deficiency of this vitamin can lead to anemia). It is also worth noting a deficiency of folic acid has been associated with depression – you will see combined with the other B’s how essential they are for your mental and physical wellbeing in your perimenopause years. Sources of folic acid include green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans and peas.
Lastly but one of the most important - B12 lifts depression, reduces anxiety, helps decrease mood swings and also eliminates fatigue. Vegetarian sources containing high amounts of B12 include seaweeds such as arame, wakame and nori, and then back to my favourite foods – fermented foods - pickles, sauerkraut, tempeh, tamari, miso and finally B12-enriched soy products. Animal-derived sources include eggs, milk and fish. You can also get food supplements rich in B12 which are blue green algae, chlorella, barley green and spirulina.
So when you do your next food shop make sure you get those essential foods sources, include Vitamin C and get those B's into you.
Please note you can go overboard on B's - it happens to me alot :-). For me I know when I get bloods done and I'm over the range but for most people they are under the range generally - I get all my B's through my diet but if your diet isn't hitting them then do look to getting a good Vitamin B Complex - don't underestimate the power of this amazing Vitamin.
I really don't want to talk about weight in January - I think it's possibly the worst time to start talking about a subject that most people find painful and I am not keen on fad diets...so lets get the pain over. My last post talked about weight gain in perimenopause and some of the reasons behind it...obviously there can be more especially your emotional relationship with food but that's a whole separate blog.
Yes it's hard to shift weight as we get older but please don't let that make you think you can't - you certainly can it just takes a different approach and tweaking what may have worked for you in the past.
So what to do:
I'm pretty lucky that I come from a line of slim builds so I haven't really had to think about my weight...but then you hit 40 and you get a whisper of slight changes around the middle. In the last year I have been as slim as I was in my 30's (pre kids) and that is 100% down to exercise (Marathon training...it doesn't have to be this so don't worry !) and nutrition. Without the exercise it would certainly be a different story and I know I would find this hard given I haven't really had to think about my weight before.
On average women at midlife gain 1.5 pounds per year - this may not sound like much but over time it adds up and its weight that is much more harder to get rid of - the reasons are numerous and not totally menopause related but simply age related too.
Reduced oestrogen may be the reason that body fat is redistributed which causes these unexpected changes in body shape - in our 40's & 50's the body weight goes to the middle first before anywhere else and is harder to shift than it was in our 20's. In your 20's you might have tried the infamous cabbage soup diet ( I did this once...it was a week of smelling of cabbage after I spent a month in Vietnam eating way too many delicious spring rolls !) or whatever diet was the fad of the day, to get into a dress and presto a week later all was resolved...this doesn't work in later years 🙄.
The reduced oestrogen can also cause our energy to work less efficiently so our metabolic rate is not quite as good as it used to be - we aren't turning around the food as quick as we used too...in essence it's on a slow burner. That lean body mass of your 20's and 30's decreases as we age (men too), this is because of hormone changes and also lifestyle changes...sitting more, commuting further, less movement daily etc. Losing this muscle mass causing us to burn fewer calories when we are sitting and also when we are moving...add this to all the other factors and the result is weight gain. Many women I talk to can't understand why they are heavier when they are doing the same exercise and same diet as always - but what worked in the past won't work when you hit your 40's. You need to tweak your habits and your approach. This means to achieve weight loss like we did in the past needs much more exercise time than it did before.
We also hit the issue of blood sugar levels and often forget how important it is to keep these balanced. Think about a young child - God forbid we would let them miss a lunch...we would pay dearly for it !!! We need to think the same about ourselves and realize that we need to keep a closer watch on our blood sugar levels which in turn will stop us reaching for the quick pick me up snack aka chocolate etc which creates a catch 22 with weight gain. I find like the liver women don't look after themselves enough when it comes to monitoring and maintaining balanced blood sugar levels throughout the day.
On top of all this there is the sleep issues that many women face and when you don't get a good nights sleep this can increase your craving for sugary foods and again the circle continues.
The key message here is how important it is to understand that the rules change as we get older - what worked in the past for you won't work as you get older. The rules changes not only in how to avoid gaining weight but also in how to lose weight and it's really important to try keep on top of your weight in your 40's/50's - it only becomes harder to lose as you get older.
More to follow next week
Sleep Hygiene - once you investigate and understand possible causes for your insomnia make a plan to tackle it, firstly sleep hygiene:
💜 Avoid caffeine after 1pm
💜 Aim for 30 minutes of exercise daily but avoid exercising too close to bedtime
💜 Keep a daily consultant wake up time - I know if I sleep in at the weekend it totally goes against me, I always feel more tired 😴
💜 Don't over nap during the day if you can avoid it
💜 No heavy meals after 8pm
💜 practice relaxation exercises, check out any of the breathing exercises I have talked about before
💜 No phone or screen at least 30 minutes ideally an hour before you go to bed, remember it weakens the brain
💜 Keep your room dark and cool
For night sweats & flushes
💖 Wear light night clothes
💖 Check your bedding, very often people don't realise but their bedding can be making things worse...
💖 Keep a cool room
💖Accept the symptoms, resistance is exhausting, you will make progress by accepting what is going on in your body and look to find ways to relieve it.
Don't underestimates the power of cortisol and the importance of good sleep hygiene here.😴
'A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow' so wrote Charlotte Bronte.
No wiser words, insomnia is all too common whether it's perimenopause or not, physical symptoms or emotional symptoms are generally the reasons behind interrupted sleep. It can be hot flushes, night sweats, waking for the bathroom etc but the more common or underlying reason is stress and anxiety. We have talked about the importance of the liver and this comes into play big time in sleep....cortisol is the stress hormone that works on the liver and the pancreas to maintain glucose levels, it is generally higher in the morning and lower at night time - if your cortisol levels are high at night time it has a direct impact on your body functions and your sleep. The liver will be overworking when it should be recovering, R.E.M. Sleep will be elusive - simply put your body can't relax because its getting signals to keep it alert. We all know it's hard to relax if your worried and a vicious cycle sets in - this is why sleep hygiene is VITAL.
Firstly look at what is waking you up - if it's 'a ruffled mind', night sweats etc - look for the symptom and then start to dig deeper......in my view it always comes back to stress. Also look at the time your waking - here's a brief summary:
11-1am - Gallbladder, at this time generally cholesterol is being processed and the body preparing for deeper sleep. Your overnight detox starts
1-3am - Liver - starts its work filtering toxins from the blood, deep sleep if all is going well
3-5am - Lungs - the lungs are working and are responsible for 70% of body toxins being released ! The lungs also work with the skin, threat and sinuses - so waking around this time can indicate an issue in one of these areas or you might wake with a scratchy throat if a cold is coming on.
5-7am - Large intestine - is now ready for release the body's overnight dermis through the bowels.
7-9am - Stomach time - I hope your up 😂 eat a good breakfast this is the best time for the largest meal of the day and lunchtime.
I think this provides a great resource if your struggling to find out why your waking, sleep is so important for our body to refresh and repair itself from the day.
Tune in next to see how to get a good nights sleep
This totally reflects what I constantly say to all women - we need to prepare and yes there should be a 'talk' for women once they hit 40 I think and it should be covered in schools - girls/women would be prepared and the fear wouldn't be so big if you knew what was ahead.
Personally I know my symptoms are mild (right now )given the preparation I did probably since I hit 44 and the many tools I have built up through knowledge & study over the years.
Senses,muscle movements,emotions,memory, speech....just a few functions the grey matter in our brains is responsible for controlling. The more grey matter in our brains the better our cognitive function .....so important as we get older.
Several studies have been performed which clearly show that activities even just house cleaning, walking the dog,gardening result in larger grey matter.
And if you add exercise to this the results improve substantially - this doesn't have to be vigorous it can be a longer walk, hiking, swimming, yoga whatever takes your fancy.
The key is to stay moving
Earlier in the week I was talking about the importance of liver health and how this is often overlooked in perimenopause. Knowing the role of the liver the next step is how best to look after yours....
💜Enjoy a fresh diet of vegetables and fruit as much as you can, top foods are blueberries, cranberries, grapefruit, grapes, your greens, nuts and olive oil. Beetroot juice is a real tonic for you liver and is great for energy too.
💜 Water, water, water....I know I talk about this a lot but it's vital not just for the liver but for your body in general
💜 Exercise, keeps everything flowing and will keep weight down.
Milk Thistle, a wonderherb, its antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties make it a great friend of the liver. It is worth taking this for a month at a time to detox and nourish your liver.
💜 Be mindful of the foods that are enemies to your liver - sugar, caffeine, white bread, alcohol so try to avoid or limit where possible.
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