How to increase your libido during menopause naturally? Are there any herbs or supplements? These are common questions. Menopause and perimenopause bring a lot of changes to the body and one of them is low libido. Lower libido during perimenopause and menopause is in part the result of hormonal imbalance and there are supplements and herbs that can help.
One of the ways to increase libido during menopause and perimenopause is to use aphrodisiacs, another is to work on its causes and mindset. Our intimate life is not only physical it is also emotional. Ideally if you are experiencing low libido, you should work on all these aspects.
Supplements and Herbs to increase libido in menopause and perimenopause
In this article I am bringing you some of the most promising aphrodisiacs from nature. Herbs and supplements to increase libido for women during the time of perimenopause and menopause. As you know, aphrodisiacs (from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of sexuality, beauty and love) are substances that stimulate sexual desire. All forms of natural medicine have these substances and there can be a lot of myth around them; the ones I present you here are those with scientific research behind them.
1- Horny Goat Weed (Epimedium)
This is a Chinese medicine herb. Another name it Goat Sex Herb. Both men and women can use it. It increases testosterone, blood flow, and helps balance hormones.
2- Avena Sativa (Wild Oats)
Just as the prior herb, this one is also use by breeders to help boost animal fertility. Avena Sativa is also used to help combat the effects of stress.
3- Brazilian Catuaba Bark
This plant comes from the Amazon rainforest. They use it to increase libido in men and women. They also use Catuaba to treat obesity and memory problems.
4- Maca Root
Maca has an effect on hormones. In Peru, it is a popular food as it is a cruciferous vegetable related to broccoli and kale. There are some small studies that suggests that it can increase libido, boost energy and endurance, increase fertility, and it may lower some menopause and perimenopause symptoms.
5- Mucuna Pruriens Extract
In Ayurveda we use this plant in many remedies. It helps reduce stress and anxiety, improves focus, among many other benefits. It may also boost libido and orgasms. One of its common names is velvet bean.
6- Red Ginseng
Among the many benefits of red ginseng is to increase libido. The reason it helps is that it increases blood circulation in the body, including the genitals.
This seed has many benefits including increasing testosterone in men and women. The research indicates that men who take this herb see an increase in libido and in erections. In women, we need more research, but lower testosterone levels is one of the causes of low libido in perimenopause and menopause. You can buy the seeds in an Indian store, in India they use them as a condiment, or you can buy supplements.
Other plants that may increase libido
There are many other plants that promise to increase libido during perimenopause and menopause. Some of these plants are: tribulus, saffron, gingko biloba, L-citrulline, Yohimbine and Muira Puama. We need more research, but preliminary studies indicate positive results.
These aphrodisiac herbs and supplements to increase libido during menopause and perimenopause are promising. Most of them don’t have side effects, but it is wise to always check for side effects, especially if you take any medication. Although these plants promise to increase libido during perimenopause and menopause, we need more studies, but they may be worth trying.
Besides hormonal imbalance there are many causes of low libido including illnesses, medicines’ side effects, stress and emotional issues. Some depression and anxiety medicines are some of the worst offenders. A positive mindset is as important as having the right hormones. Read How to stop hot flashes naturally
During menopause and perimenopause almost 60% of women report brain fog and memory issues. If you are part of this group don’t worry; there are great foods and supplements to improve or eliminate menopause brain fog.
According to a University of Vermont study, brain fog and memory issues may be linked to lower levels of estrogen, especially estradiol. However, the million dollar question is why 40% of post-menopause and perimenopause women don’t experience brain fog and memory issues.
Hormonal balance and brain power
According to that study, the women who don’t experience these issues may be getting estrogen from other sources. In other words, they have hormonal balance. Hormonal balance is the key to eliminate or lower all perimenopause and menopause symptoms including brain fog and memory problems.
Before we jump to the supplements, let’s take a moment to talk about some important factors to keep our brain healthy:
Exercise to eliminate mental fog
Physical exercise is one of the brain’s biggest allies, especially when you have menopause or perimenopause mental fog. Exercise brings more oxygen to the brain and it helps it eliminate stress and toxins. You don’t need a full workout program to improve brain function. You only need constant movement, such as walking and a 30 minutes workout three or more times a week. If you work out outdoors, even better.
Stress is one of the worst enemies for your brain and for hormonal balance. Excessive, chronic stress is a big hormonal disruptor and inflammation producer. Also, stress makes you fat and makes your tummy grow. If you can do one thing to balance your hormones and improve brain fog in menopause, try to reduce or manage stress.
Sleep is fundamental to our health including mental health. There have been many studies showing the importance of sleep to be more focused, remember more and learn better. It is very important to sleep enough hours during time of hormonal changes. In many cases, brain fog during menopause and perimenopause is directly related to lack of sleep.
7 powerful supplements to improve brain fog during menopause and perimenopause
Natural supplements for the brain are also called nootropics, but we can get some of the active substances by drinking infusions and adding some herbs to our food. Although just popping a pill won’t solve hormonal imbalance and menopause, mental fog together with small changes in your lifestyle can help you improve brain fog.
There are many studies pointing that ginkgo biloba helps improve cognitive function. This herb has been used in Chinese medicine for millennia. It helps the brains get more oxygen and eliminate toxins. To see results takes weeks; consult with your doctor if you like to try it.
The vitamin B complex is very important for brain health. Lower levels of B12 are associated with short term memory problems and lack of concentration as well as depression. Most people who eat animal products have the right levels of B12; vegans and vegetarians can have lower levels. B6 is important to carry oxygen to the brain. B6 is found in salmon and other fish and in some fortified milk products.
The most important antioxidants are vitamin C, E, and beta-carotene but there are many more such as: selenium, other carotenoids, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. They help protect your body’s cells (including brain cells from damage), and help in hormonal production. Fruits and veggies also are very rich in antioxidants. Fruits and veggies are full with important nutrients that can help you combat brain fog in menopause or perimenopause.
Green and Black Tea
These fantastic drinks have an ingredient called L-Theanine that has shown good results to improve concentration and lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. You can take the supplement or try to include more tea, especially green tea in your normal day. Green tea is a wonderful drink for women with hormonal imbalance.
Iron for the brain
Iron is a very important nutrient to provide oxygen to the brain and all cells in the body. The deficiency of iron is linked to lower concentration, lower focused capacity and even diminished intelligence. Next time you go the doctor ask for an iron test. Iron is very common in many foods like read meat, some beans, and some green leaves. It is important to make sure you have enough iron during the time of menopause and perimenopause.
Dehydration makes you more likely to suffer brain fog and lack of concentration during menopause and perimenopause. If possible try to consume from ¾ to one gallon of water a day. It is a lot of water, but in the beginning you need a lot of water to see if it will help you. Check out some recipes for infused water.
Turmeric powder is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is the root of many diseases. You may include turmeric powder in recipes (such as they do in India and other countries), drink golden milk or take supplements.
Belly fat reaches a new high during midlife, it even gets its own name, midlife spread. For most women in midlife one of the most traumatic changes is the change in body shape. The tummy starts growing out of the blue and the waist line becomes a distant memory. Pear and upper triangles body types become apples. There are different types of belly fat. If you are asking why does this happens and what can one do about it, keep reading.
We can blame it all on hormones and certainly they play a role, but there can be many other causes or contributing factors. Although most abdominal fat requires the same advice to eliminate it: healthier eating, more movement and less stress, there are some differences between the different types of belly fat or abdominal fat require more than the conventional advice, specially during perimenopause and menopause.
Let’s take a look at the different types of belly fat and potential solutions for each type. Let’s keep in mind that excess fat always requires eating a healthier diet.
Lower body fat
This type of fat can be hormone-related or inactivity related. Even very skinny people can have it. Usually this type of body fat is more common before perimenopause and menopause.
Excess estrogen can play a role in this type of belly fat, but inactivity, too much sitting, and poor posture are more common as well as a combination of these factors.
What can you do about it?
Eat a healthier diet and drink plenty of liquids.
Try not to sit down for long periods of time
Workout and try to add more activity to your life. Try exercises to strengthen your core.
Cut down on sugar and dairy
Watch your posture during the day. Try to sit correctly and stand up straight, lightly contracting your tummy
Try to move during the day
Belly fat that looks like pregnancy
This fat can be common during midlife. It tends to be firm and it can have many causes. This can be hormonal body fat, and is not directly linked to estrogens but to cortisol and/or insulin. It is very common in people with insulin resistance.
This type of tummy fat is directly related to high stress levels (physical and emotional) and high sugar and/or alcohol consumption. This type of belly can also indicate liver problems such as fatty liver; this is the reason it is associated with alcohol consumption. Read about thyroid and weight gain
What to do to lower this type of belly fat?
This type of fat is the most damaging type because it is directly affecting the vital organs and it’s the result of a combination of unhealthy habits. To lower this type of belly fat, the keys are stress management and toxin elimination. You can accomplish it with these recommendations:
Lower stress levels
Sleep at least 7 hours a night
Lower alcohol and carbohydrate consumption
Make sure you are eating only healthy fats
Try to eat only healthy animal products
Avoid regular dairy
Avoid commercial baked goods
Eat enough omega 3
Lower or eliminate caffeine intake
Try to eat healthy most of the time. Be careful following any diets that will contribute to more stress in your life. The best way to eat is to follow anti-inflammatory guidelines
Try to include activities to relax, such as participating in sports, yoga, dancing, arts, walks in nature, etc.
Be kind to yourself
Workout, but avoid workout stress such as running too much, boot camps, CrossFit, competitive apps, etc.
If you have a religion, pray, ask for help and leave it to God; if not you can practice meditation. The bottom line is to relinquish control, worry and other emotions that generate stress, anger and sadness.
Observe yourself to identify allergies such as those from foods, molds, pollen and others. These are physical body stressors that can cause thyroid problems.
Remove or lower toxins from your life such as regular cleaning products, cooking at high temperatures with Teflon, etc.
For some people, a paleo or keto lifestyle for a short period of time can be very beneficial. For me the answer was intermittent fasting and you can follow this way of eating for long time.
Upper tummy fat (AKA love handles)
This is pure fat and an active lifestyle and healthy food in the right amounts can correct it.
Hormonal belly fat
During menopause and perimenopause, we are very likely to accumulate belly fat. This is the result of lower estrogens and higher cortisol. It can be solid fat as in the previous case or loose fat all over the tummy area.
To eliminate this type of belly fat there is no one size fits all cause, because there are many causes. Usually it comes with other body changes such as bigger or smaller breasts, bigger back and in some cases, smaller butt. In general, to improve this situation we need to bring more balance to our hormones, lowering stress and making sure our thyroid is doing its job. To accomplish this we need to strengthen the liver, adrenals and thyroids. You can read this article where I have more detailed information on menopausal belly fat.
This is fake belly fat. You get up in the morning with a flat tummy and this keeps growing as the day progresses. This is caused by gases and/or liquid retention and not by fat accumulation.
The next question is why does it happen? There are many reasons, though, the most common one is food intolerances. There also can be digestion issues caused by stress, illness or allergies.
What to do?
Do an elimination diet to identify if you have allergies
Eat slower, chew your food very well; this improves your digestion
Avoid drinking large amounts of liquids during meals. Warm or lukewarm liquids are better than cold liquids.
Ayurveda can be very effective to treat and correct these digestive issues
This is the tummy that comes out of nowhere and it is loose. If you are gaining weight and it is mostly going to the tummy, but you feel that you are eating the same and having the same level of physical activity and you are in midlife, this is probably hormonal weight. Read why this happens
However if the fat is solid, and hard in very few cases, it can be related to conditions that need medical attention so you should see your doctor.
What not to do when you are experiencing hormonal belly fat
Don’t worry, there is a lot you can do to reduce your tummy. Think of a growing tummy as a messenger, telling you to watch out because something may need more balance in your body.
Avoid extreme diets. If you have a lot of weight to lose or if you suspect that you may be insulin resistant then a Paleo or Keto diet can be appropriate for some time. But if you are experiencing many other menopausal or perimenopause symptoms, for most people it is better to start eating healthier and do some light intermittent fasting. There has to be a balance between weight loss and stress reduction.
Remember joy. Joy is very important in our lives, joy makes our body healthier and contributes to hormonal balance. Look for joyful activities outside food. Make your food delicious.
The main thing you can do for your health is to cook at home from scratch. If you use some organic ingredients even better, but just eating home cooked meals will make a difference in your health.
What about liposuction
It certainly works, but it is a surgery and you have to consider it carefully. However, if the weight comes back (the person gains the weight back) some of the fat will go directly on top of vital organs. Most people who have liposuction end up gaining back the weight, because they haven’t learned a healthier, happier lifestyle.
During perimenopause and menopause it is important to pay attention to the hormones and try to balance them because if not, they will also cause other issues, the tummy is only one of them. Perimenopause and menopause are a good time to recalibrate our bodies to have a healthy second half of our lives.
What about hormonal replacement therapy (HRT)
HRT and BHRT will help control tummy or abdominal fat while taking the hormones. You can read this article about HRT and BHRT. I personally will still recommend lifestyle changes to avoid other problems and to develop a tummy as soon as the hormones are stopped. Read more about HRT and BHRT
Hot flashes, or flushes as they are called in some places, are common in women going through perimenopause or menopause. They are also very bothersome and greatly disruptive, especially if they happen at night, called night sweats.
Hot flashes at night disrupt sleep and with that a whole plethora of symptoms can develop, such mental fog, lack of energy, irritability, weight gain, etc. That’s why it is very important to deal with hot flashes.
What to do to eliminate hot flashes naturally
Before moving into potential solutions we need to understand what the causes of hot flashes are. Doctors don’t know what causes them, not all women get them (I didn’t) and in many cultures they are almost unknown. We need more research to find out what causes hot flashes. Doctors know that there are some things that make hot flashes worse for some women, such as:
Foods with caffeine
Certain health issues, such thyroid problems and diabetes
Anything that makes the normal body temperature rise such as exposure to high temperatures, thick clothing, saunas, etc.
Emotions such stress, fear and anxiety
The first thing to do when suffering hot flashes is to try to identify which items on that list make your hot flashes worse. Then you can at least lower your exposure if not totally avoid it.
How to eliminate hot flashes naturally
A healthier lifestyle can greatly reduce or eliminate hot flashes. A healthier lifestyle will help you eliminate toxins, eliminate excessive bad hormones, make your organs work better, and more. All of this will reduce or stop hot flashes. What is a healthier life style? Eat clean, drink your water (hopefully purified) and avoid stress.
Move it baby
Working out is one of the most effective ways to reduce or eliminate hot flashes. There have been many studies on this topic and all of them have found a relationship between working out, especially sweaty workouts, and a reduction in hot flashes. Working out checks off many boxes, including eliminating toxins and stress, and helping the body generate good hormones, as well as maintaining muscle and bone mass.
Controlling stress, is another important aspect to controlling hot flashes. Stress causes a lot of problems in the body and they result in more or more intense hot flashes. You can read this article about stress and hormonal balance.
Can herbs help to eliminate hot flashes?
Herbs can certainly help. Black cohosh is the most studied herb against hot flashes and definitely worth trying. Herbs combined with a healthier lifestyle are more effective than only taking the herbs. Other recommended herbs are: ashwaganda (to strengthen adrenals), maca (testosterone), chaste tree, Dong Quai, Ginkgo biloba and red clover. There are many teas and supplements that use some combination of these and other herbs. Some of these herbs interact with other medications so it is important to check for potential issues.
Beyond herbs, Ayurveda, aromatherapy, homeopathy and other natural medicine modalities have treatments to effectively lower hot flashes and other menopause and perimenopause symptoms.
Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India, has complete treatments to treat hot flashes. In Ayurveda, we believe that hot flashes are an imbalance, and there are herbs and treatments to bring back the balance. All Ayurveda treatments, as well as Chinese medicine treatments, include lifestyle changes and they can be very effective without negative side effects.
You can also consult a functional medicine expert. In functional medicine, we look at the cause of the symptoms to treat them at the root level. However, functional medicine can be expensive and many practitioners order too many tests that many times are redundant. But if you are suffering from severe flashes and want natural alternatives this can be one of the best options.
Some tips to eliminate or reduce hot flashes
Keep a diary and write down what did you do or eat prior to a flash. After a week or so you will be able to identify some culprits.
Try to work out at least 30 minutes 3 times a week or more
Try some yoga to lower stress
Practice deep breathing
Talk to yourself kindly
Reduce or avoid coffee
Reduce or avoid alcohol
Lower sugar intake
Keep your room temperatures on the cool side
Have an electric fan on hand (handheld or normal) in case you need it
Wear layers of clothes. This way you can easily add on or take off according to your needs.
Sleep with layers of blankets and/or sheets to adjust your temperature
Try to keep cold water at hand. If you feel a hot flash coming apply some water with a cotton towel or spray on your face and drink some cold water.
Use cold gel pack if water is not possible.
Avoid hot showers and baths. You can use lukewarm water instead
If your hot flashes don’t improve with lifestyle changes, look for professional help; there are many therapies that can help you, including traditional hormonal replacement therapy and bioidentical hormonal replacement therapy. Read more about hormonal replacement therapy here.
Our teeth and bones need vitamins and minerals to keep strong and healthy during menopause and perimenopause. Smoothies are a delicious way to eat those nutrients. As you know smoothies are in fashion. And there are good reasons for it. They make it easier to drink something healthy and consume some powerful foods in a delicious and convenient form.
We can use smoothies to strengthen, protect and even heal our bones and teeth. After 40, during perimenopause and menopause and beyond, we need to take care of our bones and teeth, because the hormonal changes that take place can weaken them.
Sometimes when we think of good foods and nutrients for bones, we think of milk. But in reality we need more than milk, and in fact we may not need milk. We think milk, because of the propaganda. While it is true that milk has a lot of calcium, and calcium is great for teeth and bones, we also need other nutrients.
Teeth and bones need vitamins and minerals during menopause and perimenopause. Bones can regenerate and strengthen, about 5 to 10% of all bone tissue is renewed each year.
Teeth also need food, the same foods as bones. Your teeth are stronger if you eat the right foods. Dentists don’t teach patients to eat for teeth health, but it is fundamental. If you eat healthy your teeth don’t develop many cavities.
Nutrients for teeth and bones during perimenopause and menopause
The nutrients that strengthen our teeth and bones are the same at any age. However, at times of hormonal fluctuation we need to make sure we are having them. Some of the most important nutrients are:
The best and easiest calcium to absorb is from animal sources, but there are also many veggies that have it such as spinach and other green leaves as well as soy and white beans. (Read calcium in bone broth)
This mineral is needed for bone and teeth health as much as calcium. One study found that potassium reduces bone degeneration and increases the rate of bone formation in women. Bananas, sweet potatoes, oranges, cantaloupe, honeydew, apricots, grapefruit, prunes, raisins, dates, peas, cucumbers, etc. are wonderful sources of potassium.
This one is difficult to add to smoothies. The richest natural source is a Japanese food called natto (fermented soy beans), which doesn’t taste that good. (I take a supplement of K2 every other day or so)
This you are probably consuming enough in you meals
You can find it in green vegetables, such as collards and kale, in some seeds such as poppy, sesame, chia etc., some nuts, legumes, whole grains and avocado. Avocados, seeds and nuts add a lot creaminess to the smoothies, but be careful because they have a lot of calories.
You can find them in soybeans, fish, meat, milk, eggs, in legumes and whole grains. You can add oats to your smoothies.
Vitamin D. You can get it from the sun and supplements.
Vitamin A. You can find it in sweet potato, spinach, carrots, cantaloupe, mangoes, eggs and others.
Vitamin C. There are a lot of fruits with this nutrient such as, citrus, berries and many tropical fruits. You don’t need any specialty fruits to get your daily requirements of vitamin C.
You can find it in seeds, nuts and some grains. The most abundant sources are meat and shellfish. One powerful source is broccoli sprouts, and you can add them to smoothies or salads.
There are also other minerals that are required in small amounts. These are part of many fruits and veggies.
Did you know? Sesame seeds are a good source of calcium, magnesium, copper, vitamin B1, zinc and dietary fiber. A quarter cup of sesame seeds has more calcium than a cup of milk. It also has a lot of calories, but you can add a tablespoon of tahini to your smoothie.
Now some recipes
Collagen, anti-inflammatory smoothie
Ingredients 1 cup water 1 scoop of powdered collagen or gelatin 1 cup fresh mix berries 2 teaspoons of seeds such as sesame, hemp, pumpkin, sunflower or others ½ frozen banana. For potassium, fiber and sweetness. It also makes the smoothie very creamy 1 pitted prune. For boron, fiber and sweetness ½ tsp of turmeric powder A bunch of broccoli sprouts Optional: If you like more sweetness add stevia, date sugar, maple syrup or sugar.
Instructions Put all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Drink right after. You can adjust to your preferred thickness adding more water. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the ingredients, use what you have.
Ingredients: 1 cup of fresh or frozen pitted cherries ¼ cup of oats ½ tsp of turmeric powder 1 cup of milk or water. It can be almond or full fat or 2% pasture-raised, grass fed, organic cow’s milk, or goat’s milk 1/2 cup of organic Greek yogurt (full fat or 2%) ½ frozen banana Optional, pitted dates or prunes for added sweetness or stevia, maple sugar or sugar Optional, one scoop of powdered collagen or gelatin
Instructions Put all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Drink right after. You can adjust to your preferred thickness adding more water. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the ingredients, use what you have.
The smoothies can also be consumed as smoothie bowls. The only difference as you know is that you will eat them with a spoon/fork, instead of drinking them.
Make your smoothies or bowls pretty and sit down and enjoy the flavors. Read: Recipes for infused water
You probably know about fast and slow metabolisms. In part this is the work of the thyroid gland. Facial hair, weight gain or loss, lack of energy and even hot flashes, the thyroid is mighty; it affects many aspects of our health and life.
Unfortunately, the thyroid tends to get out of sync and does not produce enough hormones during times of hormonal imbalances such as after having a baby, pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause. That is the reason we are talking about this gland. Many of the perimenopause and menopause symptoms are a result of thyroid problems.
I am healthy but ….
I have a few friends, including 2 MDs, who are otherwise very healthy and follow a healthy lifestyle, but they take thyroid medicine, because their thyroids are sluggish. In other words, they suffer from hypothyroidism. I also had the same issue when I entered perimenopause and my weight started to skyrocket although I followed a healthy lifestyle. I took the natural path and it worked.
Hypothyroidism is very common in women over 35 and it contributes to lack of energy, lack of libido, weight gain and other symptoms. A healthy lifestyle does not always spare you from this condition, because stress and environmental toxins play a role in it.
Now let’s see the other side of the coin: Hyperthyroidism. This is when the thyroid is too active and produces too much of the hormone. In this case the person tends to lose weight and facial hair may appear, among others symptoms.
The table below illustrates the most common symptoms of both conditions.
Cold intolerance Constipation Dry skin Weight gain Puffy face and/or hands Hoarseness Muscle weakness Elevated cholesterol Muscle aches and stiffness Pain, or swelling in joints Heavy or irregular periods Thinning hair Slowed heart rate Depression Impaired memory Enlarged thyroid (goiter) Excessive sleepiness Thin, brittle hair or fingernails Decreased sweating Pins and needles Insomnia Decrease libido
Unintentional weight loss Rapid or irregular heartbeat Increased appetite Nervousness amd anxiety Irritability Tremor in hands and fingers Sweating Changes in menstrual patterns Feeling hot easily Frequent bowel movements Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter) Fatigue Muscle weakness Difficulty sleeping Skin thinning Fine, brittle hair
Why should you care for your thyroid?
Well, it affects your energy levels, weight, libido, skin and hair and your total wellbeing. On top of that the thyroid gets affected by other important organs and by autoimmune conditions.
We can say that the thyroid is the first one to make noise when something is wrong in the body. That is the reason why instead of just taking a pill (which is necessary in some cases) we need to look deeper at what else needs our attention.
Causes of hypothyroidism
There are many potential causes including:
Certain medications such as medications to treat certain psychiatric disorders
Pituitary disorders. This is rare.
Pregnancy. Some women develop hypothyroidism during or after pregnancy
Iodine deficiency. This is more common than normal medicine reports
Hashimoto’s disease. This is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the U.S. Hashimoto’s disease, is cause by autoimmune issues.
Thyroiditis. It can be caused by viral or bacterial infections, an autoimmune condition or following pregnancy.
For women over 40 the most common causes are:
Weak adrenals due to excess stress
Excess accumulation of toxins
Nutrition deficits especially of zinc, iodine, selenium, copper, iron, essential fatty acids, tyrosine (amino acid), vitamins A and D
In natural medicine it is also believed that some emotions affect the thyroid
How to know if you have low or high thyroid activity?
Check the list of symptoms and see if you suffer many of them. If you go to a regular doctor he or she may or may not find the problem. If your deficiency or excessive level of the hormone is way higher than the expected level, it will be found, but if it is small it probably will not be found. A functional practitioner will, however, find it.
The discrepancy is that in functional medicine the range of normal levels is narrower than in conventional medicine and there is also more testing. In functional medicine, normal is not what the majority of people have right now, instead it is the optimal level for wellbeing and health.
In my case I had many symptoms such as excessive hair loss, dry skin, weight gain, constipation, I had lost part of my eyebrows, and other symptoms. My regular doctor did not find anything wrong in my tests, everything was perfect. But I had the symptoms and I refused to accept that “that is how we age”.
What can you do to have better thyroid function?
If you feel that you have too many symptoms you should get tested first by your doctor, and then if nothing is found, you can go to a functional or natural medicine practitioner.
The standard treatment for hypothyroidism is a synthetic hormone. For hyperthyroidism, there are medications. There are also many natural treatments if you want to try this path.
With the natural treatments, that also require lifestyle changes, you will solve the problem and the roots of the problem. With the pills you will be taking them potentially for life, they don’t work for everybody and you will not be addressing the roots of the problem. Those roots may manifest later on in other ways.
Improving your thyroid function
If you only have some symptoms you can try to improve your lifestyle and add some supplements to improve thyroid function. Some of the natural recommendations are:
Eat natural, unprocessed foods
Try to minimize environmental toxins such as normal cleaning products, normal skin care products etc.
Lower sugar intake
Increase omega 3 intake
Make sure you are eating enough proteins
Make sure you are having enough iodine
Make sure you are having enough zinc and selenium
Take a break from foods that causes allergies in many people such as gluten, dairy and soy. It is just a break to determine if you have an allergy.
Eat a lot of vegetables
Sleep enough hours
Make sure you are having enough fats (I had this problem, I thought fats make you fat and I was not having enough fats)
Be active and workout. This eliminates stress and helps to eliminate toxins. You need a workout that doesn’t create more stress. Workouts that become too competitive or too intensive are not recommended. Swimming, walking, Pilates, yoga, strength training, HIIT, hiking, outdoor bicycle, dance type workouts and others are very beneficial.
You may take supplements for adrenal support and thyroid support if you think you have hypothyroidism.
Thyroid support with supplements is tricky. If you buy one, pay attention that is does not have any animal gland parts of hormones added, check the ingredient list. Avoid taking thyroid support for more than a few months. Most thyroid support pills have a lot of iodine, it is better to follow smaller doses than the recommended in the bottle to avoid too much iodine.
If you have hyperthyroidism you have to follow a gluten, dairy and soy free diet. But hyperthyroidism requires more care and a visit to your natural practitioner is better.
If you need advice creating your perfect menus for thyroid support you may want to take our upcoming program for hormonal balance. Sign up to be informed of its release.
The miracle cream that will erase your wrinkles. Or Better than Botox. The secret to beautiful skin after 50. Nobel Prize Winner Technology in skin care. You, like me, probably have read them all and more, much more.
There are so many creams, potions, procedures and supplements promising us youth in a bottle, an injection, procedure or a pill. If they would work, we will not have wrinkles anymore. So is there a secret to beautiful, healthy skin at 50, during menopause and perimenopause? The pill is the closest from all those promises, the reason is that the secret is our hormones.
The supple, radiant skin that we had in our younger years depends greatly on our hormones.
The cream can put moisture, the procedure can force the skin to generate collagen and a more radical procedure can lift and iron out wrinkles, but the overall effect won’t give you beautiful skin. And, beautiful skin can make you look younger and prettier even with wrinkles and flaccidity. Beautiful skin has a characteristic called radiance. Radiance can go away during perimenopause and menopause. In Ayurveda, radiance is part of something called ojas and it means live, healthy tissues.
Skin radiance comes from our hormones and health. It is affected by emotions.
Have you seen the face of a bride? Happiness is visible. Audrey Hepburn was right:
Happy girls are the prettiest
If your estrogen is out of balance in earlier years then the skin maybe oily. Hormones out of balance in midlife in perimenopause or menopause can cause skin dryness, lack of luster, loss of volume and in some people, very reactive skin (that’s me). If the person has estrogen dominance, the skin is going to be oily. If your hormones, especially estrogen and T3, are not balanced your creams and treatments are not going to be as effective.
If your liver is not working properly you may develop allergies, redness, discolored patches, etc. A lower thyroid functions will bring dryness, hair loss and eye brow hair loss.
How do you get radiance?
Well, this is part of what a healthy lifestyle with low stress, good nutrients and happiness brings to your life. There are a few things you can do. The main thing is to try to balance your hormones. This is a big topic and one of the main topics of this blog. In short, in order to balance our hormones we need to:
Eat enough good fat
Eat a diet rich in nutrients
Consume a low glycemic diet (low sugar)
Eat a natural diet
Make sure you are having all the minerals your body needs
Be happy. Make yourself happy. Happiness is an attitude; it comes from within us, not from the exterior.
Help your organs
We also need to help our liver and adrenals. The liver and adrenals are going to help the thyroid and are going to help us have more available estrogen, our own estrogen.
The type of nutrition above will help you liver and adrenals. In some cases, we need to take supplements after a period of neglect. That is what I did and worked out very well for me. I will include a link to the products I took. If the imbalance is deeper, you need to go to a practitioner. I recommend an Ayurveda or functional medicine practitioner. The solutions for hormonal balance don’t give immediate results, you may need months before you see results, but the results are great if you keep trying.
Other tips for healthy skin
Follow a simple skin care routine. It should include cleansing, moisturizing and exfoliation once or twice a week.
Use a star ingredient or a few of them. You don’t have to become an expert or a junkie. Certainly you don’t need to use expensive products. I will be publishing a series of articles on this topic. Star ingredients are retinol, alpha and beta hydroxy acids and many more.
Don’t overexpose to the sun
I am not saying always use sunblock. Use a safe sunscreen when you are going to expose yourself for longer periods of time. But mostly use common sense, wear hats, stay indoors at the time the sun is stronger, don’t tan, etc. Take more precautions when you abruptly change to a different weather. For example, if you live in a cold place and take a winter vacation in the Caribbean. These changes are more damaging to the skin.
If you eat healthy your skin is more resilient and the sun causes less damage.
These are the products I used. These are affiliate links:
What comes to mind when you hear the word menopause, perimenopause and post-menopause? Old age, becoming old? Illness? Goddess time? Rebirth? Renew? Another female time? Hot flashes? Mood issues? What about self-care?
What if you could use self-care or self-loving activities, to combat some of the most common perimenopause symptoms and develop a more loving relationship with our bodies. During this special time we for sure need an extra dose of self-care. Self-care can come in many forms. The activities I suggest here are to address some of the worst premenopausal and menopausal symptoms and they are easy, cheap, and fun.
Do a happy list
What activities make you happy? Do you like to paint, to sing, to sew, to garden, to ….? Think back to your childhood and develop a list of the activities that make you happy. This is for you, not for anybody else; it doesn’t matter if your kids or partner don’t like them. The cheesy phrase “do more of what makes you happy” is true and effective.
Pick some of them and try to do them. You have to write them down on your calendar and make them happen. If money is an issue, look for cheaper ways; if time is an issue, look for shorter activities; if energy level is an issue, try less tiring activities.
How will this help you? It increases good hormones and lowers stress. Less stress is less hot flashes and more sleep. Good hormones is more energy and happiness, less depression, sensitivity and irritability.
Discover your inner dancer
My favorite dance is belly dance. It can be hard on your knees, so it may need modifications in midlife. Dance is a great exercise and happiness booster during perimenopause and menopause. Dancing makes us feel sexy and feminine. Some women tend to let their femininity go down with age and responsibilities. It is important to keep our femininity up, because that is part of our power.
Dance is also exercise. The exercise helps us relax and eliminate toxins. Dancing is a powerful, easy therapy for women. Take some dance lessons (it can be free online) and dance.
There are many women after 40 who join dance groups to develop closer relationships while doing something so pleasant. If you prefer the gym, try Zumba or similar exercises.
Clear your mind of nocebo
Nocebo is the evil brother of placebo. In placebo, we believe that something does good to us and it does it, although it is not supposed to. For example, medicine and sugar pills; some people take the sugar pills and get cured because of the placebo effect. It is our minds telling our cells to get healthy. Nocebo is the contrary.
In nocebo, we believe that something has a negative effect in us and it does, although it is not supposed to. For example, if someone gets convinced that she has an allergy to gluten, although that person does not have it, every time she has gluten she gets sick. This is how superstitions also work.
If we believe that we will suffer hot flashes because it is common for women in their 40s or 50s, we will. Remember common does not mean normal. Hot flashes and other symptoms are not normal even if they are common. Many women like me don’t suffer them. Don’t expect them; your mind is very powerful, if you expect them they will come.
Every time a negative age or menopause stereotype comes to your mind, negate it with something positive. For instance you can say things like: age is just a number, I am healthy and strong, I love myself, everything is OK, etc. Create your own mantras and repeat them.
Don’t let books, magazines or websites tell you that you will get sick, that menopause is a terrible time in a women’s life. They are trying to grab your attention and scare you into buying something.
Track your symptoms
If you are experiencing any perimenopause symptoms, keep a diary. Write down what you eat, your emotions (example: angry in the morning, sad in the afternoon etc.) and the time and situation the symptom presents itself. This is especially important for hot flashes (or hot flushes, if you are in Europe). If you identify the triggers you can manage them and have less symptoms.
Look for good company
Avoid negative people. Avoid negative talk about aging and menopause. Don’t hang around in websites and forums discussing symptoms (remember, nocebo is powerful). Look for positive, uplifting company in real life, online and in books and media.
Elect the positive
Listen to your inner dialogue and try to change negative thoughts with positive or neutral ones. Worry and stress create addiction. Avoid becoming an addict to these negative emotions.
Feel beautiful as you are
Every time you catch yourself saying something negative about your body, change it to something positive.
The media is telling us to hate ourselves, because we are not … skinny enough, rich enough, elegant enough, sexy enough, strong enough, etc. Reject these negative manipulations. They only do it so you buy their products. Remember fear sells.
Can the Mediterranean diet be the answer to midlife weight gain and the dreaded midlife spread (AKA tummy fat)? It is for sure a strong contender and a very delicious one.
The Mediterranean diet or way of eating has been touted as the healthiest diet in the world. Is it true or not? A lot of scientists think so, but a lot of them have also ignored some important truths about this way of eating. Is the Mediterranean diet a good diet for you? Let’s find out.
One thing is for sure, the Mediterranean diet is delicious and includes a great variety of foods in all food groups.
What is the Mediterranean Diet?
It is not a diet. By Mediterranean diet we are referring in reality to the main principles that the people around the Mediterranean eat.
The Mediterranean is a diverse region that extents around the Mediterranean Sea from Portugal going around including Israel and Egypt all the way to the norther edge of Africa. The main study on the Mediterranean diet was focused on Italy.
However all these countries and peoples eat in a similar way: a lot of seasonal vegetables, fish, not too much meat, olive oil, some wine and natural sweets.
Beyond diet, people in these areas used to walk a lot, have good friends and take life easy. Currently this way of life has changed in the Mediterranean and the diet and lifestyle are starting to look more like ours. In this article when we talk about the Mediterranean diet we are talking about the traditional diet, not about current practices.
What do they eat in the Mediterranean?
If I tell you in Italy, it is Italian food. Then you may think, “Oh, I
also love pizza” and I do too. They eat pizza or flat breads often but
it is part of the meal. The rest of the meal will include a lot of
vegetables and some animal protein.
In short they eat a wholesome diet including tons of veggies, fish, fats, whole grains, nuts and seeds, cheeses, wine, fruits, a little bit of meat and butter. They used to eat local, seasonal foods. They don’t call it healthy, they called it just regular food.
I find that there is an aspect that is rarely discussed, maybe because it can be obvious, but it is so important that I want to spell it out: In the past people in the Mediterranean (and everywhere else) used to cook at home from scratch.
I find that there is an aspect that is rarely discussed, maybe because it can be obvious, but it is so important that I want to spell it out: In the past people in the Mediterranean (and everywhere else) used to cook at home from scratch.
Their vegetables are not carrots and peas or bad looking broccoli, neither do they eat a ton of salads. The vegetables are cooked in many ways, and because they are so fresh and flavorful, they don’t need a lot of additives to taste great.
Oh yes, they drink wine. I will tell you something, women don’t drink as much, in fact some women don’t drink at all or just dessert wines once in a while. Wines are nothing special in most of the Mediterranean, they are everywhere. But yes, wine is part of the mixture.
Cheeses and milk
They don’t believe that milk is evil. They eat cheeses and drink milk. However, they didn’t get the propaganda of 5 servings of milk a day, they only have a couple of servings and probably mostly cheese. Traditionally their milk was of the highest quality, naturally organic, pasture raised, 100% grass fed from animals that were treated almost like pets.
Fish and meats
Fish is a common food in this region; after all they are on the Mediterranean Sea. Meat is also eaten, but in the past they didn’t eat much. They eat the whole animal, including internal organs and they eat seafood.
They eat a lot of gluten. They eat a lot of grains and wheat. They eat grains, breads and pastas. But if we compare this to our bread consumption, the calories from bread type foods is lower than ours and of higher quality.
Lots of fats. Mainly olive oil and some butter and lard. The original study that highlighted the Mediterranean diet as very healthy compared their consumption of fats to Americans.
That study found that they were eating less saturated fat than Americans and they had a lower incidence of heart attacks. The study concluded that high saturated fat consumption was the cause of heart attacks. This study ignored other aspects of their diet such as low level of sugar consumption, a lot of walking and manual labor and lower stress levels. That study was the one that demonized saturated fats and promoted high carbohydrate consumption.
They eat a lot less than us. They don’t eat:
Sugary cereals in the morning (this is an American invention)
Soups, sauces and salad dressings with sugar for lunch
A ton of calories from desserts
They don’t eat a lot of sweets such as chocolate and candies often
They don’t drink a lot of sugary drinks such as sodas and juices
Traditionally there were no processed foods. They purchased some foods such as cured meats, pickles, pastas, oils etc. but rarely sauces or prepared foods.
What they don’t eat?
They don’t have restrictions, they don’t eliminate food groups, they don’t demonize any foods. They don’t try to eat low fat or low carb or low calories, they don’t diet. They also don’t consume a lot of supplements. They don’t have super foods or fad diets.
They take the sun, but not to get tanned, they use hats and common sense to avoid it. They take the sun while out of the house. I mention this, because the sun is a source of vitamin D.
They drink coffee in moderation. The Venti size coffees (or very large) never were seen in the region until Starbucks arrived. Usually they drink coffee with milk in the morning and a cup of black coffee (no sugar) in the afternoon.
The cup size is small and in many places it is mostly espresso type coffee (no cream and mostly without sugar). The amount of sugar varies but it is seldom super sweet (looking at you Starbuck’s lattes).
No fast food
Normally people in the Mediterranean take their time to cook and to eat. Everything is slow. Eating while watching TV or worse while driving is unheard off. In fairs and now while out of the house, people have started to buy snacks and eat them while walking.
Things are changing
When we talk about the Mediterranean diet we are talking of the diet of the past. The study on the Mediterranean diet was done right after the Second World War. The current Mediterranean diet and lifestyle, as I said before, is starting to look more like ours. So we want to copy the previous diet and life not the current one.
Is it healthy?
Yes, the traditional Mediterranean diet has everything that we think in actuality to be healthy. It is a very balanced diet that includes all food groups in moderation and to that we have to add a lot of walking, laughing and communicating. Traditionally there was also respect for elders; being older didn’t mean being sick and useless.
Is it a good diet in midlife?
Most of the principles of the Mediterranean diet are healthful, delicious and easy to incorporate in our lives.
Something to keep in mind is that epigenetics is now pinpointing to the importance of our genetic makeup in nutrition. An example of this is:
People from countries like France and Germany traditionally have eaten a lot of saturated fats and they “might” process that type of fats better than someone from Mediterranean ancestry.
Epigenetics and the relation to nutrition is still being studied so we don’t have anything conclusive yet.
How to follow the Mediterranean diet at home?
Remember that is not only a matter of a diet, it is a lifestyle. It matters how you eat, slow, relax, calm and hopefully in good company.
The main principle of the Mediterranean diet is variety. Eat different foods, specially veggies and whole grains and seeds.
Low consumption of high quality red meats
Olive oil or other cold pressed oils
Natural foods, preferably local
Eat vegetables in season and lots of them. Add flavor
Eat delicious food. Learn Mediterranean recipes, they can be Italian, Greek, Spaniard, Middle Eastern, Portuguese etc. In the Mediterranean food is truly to enjoy it.
Eat slowly, preferably at the table, without stress
Low sugar. Don’t drink your calories and avoid added sugar. In the Mediterranean a lot of people tend to eat a little bit of sweet bread every day, but the portion is small and it does not have trans fats. They also have a small piece of seasonal fruit after a meal.
Don’t get full with bread and pasta and eat nutrient dense foods
Drink water instead of other drinks
Drink herbal teas
Some myths of the Mediterranean diet
One of the main myths is that it is low fat. It is lower saturated fat, but they use a lot of oil.
Olive and canola oil. Not true, they used only cold pressed oils, mainly olive. You may also use other oils if they are cold extracted. Canola oil is not cold extracted.
They don’t eat butter. Yes they do, not in high amounts because it is expensive there, but they use it. It is natural and from healthy animals. Here we have to look for pasture raised, grass fed, organic butter.
Wine. If you don’t drink don’t start because it is healthy, this is debatable. If you drink choose red wine and in moderation. For women max one glass a day, for men max 2 glasses a day (I recommend only one).
Low fat milk. The Mayo clinic, in their article about the Mediterranean diet, recommends low fat milk. The Mediterranean people don’t drink anything low fat. They drink full fat or 2% (they take some of the fat to make cream).
Can you lose weight with the Mediterranean diet?
Yes, but how much depends on how much you eat and where you are at. If you eat in moderation and you are currently eating a standard American diet you will probably lose weight and gain energy. If you have a lot of weight to lose, you will lose weight. If you are skinny and already eating “healthy,” you may not lose more weight, because your body is already in harmony.
Mediterranean diet and hot flashes
The Mediterranean diet and lifestyle can be very good to manage hot flashes (or flushes) and other peri-menopausal symptoms. A lot of the perimenopause and menopausal symptoms are aggravated or caused by stress, excessive sugar, lack of some nutrients (this affect the hormones) and some bad foods. A Mediterranean lifestyle can address some of those causes.
In Italy and other places in the Mediterranean women report less dryness and less hot flashes (or flushes) than in the USA.
After menopause the Mediterranean diet can be very healthy because it includes a lot of nutrients that will strengthen your organs and bones.
This diet has the very important bonus that it eliminates a lot of processed foods and excess sugar in other words toxins. With this we are eliminating health risks.
No doubt gaining weight is easy, but during menopause even the skinniest people add on some pounds, especially around the tummy. In the past everything was blamed on hormones, but that has changed. The reasons for menopausal weight gain are complex. Let’s take a look at some of them:
Calories add up
Through the decades of our lives most of us gain a little weight every year. Little by little it becomes more noticeable.
Many drugs cause weight gain. Some of the worst are anti-depressants and antibiotics. Antibiotics are now part of our normal food; they are fed to animals so they become fatter. Even some vegetables contain tiny amounts of antibiotics because animal manure or feces get in contract with the vegetables.
Our gut bacteria is affected
Our gut bacteria is fundamental to controlling weight. During midlife the gut bacteria is under a lot of pressure caused by antibiotics, stress, hormonal changes, and others. (Read gut bacteria during menopause).
Lack of muscle
As we age and don’t work out, we lose muscle. With muscle loss we need less calories to maintain our body so the extra calories go to our fat reserves. In other words, our metabolism slows down.
By midlife some of our vital organs are tired or overwhelmed. We are surrounded by toxins and have not-so-healthy eating habits that affect our liver and thyroid. We have a ton of stress that affects our adrenal glands and some mindset habits affect the whole body. If the liver and/or adrenals are not working properly that will further affect our thyroid. This will have a direct negative effect on our weight, energy levels, mental clarity, happiness, hot flashes, etc.
Combination factors for weight gain
Some menopausal symptoms such as insomnia alter our gut bacteria and this causes weight gain. On top of that we don’t have enough energy during the day and move less. Some people suffer from depression during menopause and tend to eat a poor diet. This and other causes create the perfect storm for weight gain.
Stress at midlife
Stress causes weigh gain in most people. Many people resort to calorie-rich foods such as sweets, carbohydrates, fats and alcohol during stressful periods. For many women these are years of changes or personal dissatisfaction that result in stress, sadness, and worrying a lot. Stress creates many hormonal issues that contribute to weight gain. (Read stress in menopause)
Menopausal weight gain is different than previous weight gains
This is something that shocks many women. During perimenopause and menopause we don’t only gain weight, our body shape changes. We accumulate weight around our tummy and in the back. Belly fat is the main characteristic of menopausal weigh gain. In some women the breast may also grow, in others the contrary happens.
The worse type of weight gain
Belly fat is not good news. Belly fat is associated with heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and other illnesses.
Menopausal weight loss is totally possible
Weight loss is always challenging because it requires habit changes. Menopausal weight loss can be more challenging because there is no one size fits all diet, or no calories-in-calories-out. Our hormones and gut bacteria are different and are stopping us from losing weight. And as always there are a lot of diet options and misinformation and selecting the right choice is not easy. Totally not fair, but do not worry menopausal weight loss is possible.
How to lose weight in midlife?
The first thing that many women (including myself) find out is that the diets that used to work so well, do not work anymore. It is important to understand the causes of weight gain in midlife, because this makes it clear that it is not only a matter of a diet; we also need to:
Control stress, eat healthy, eat nutritious food, be happy, sleep well, etc. And the hormones? We also need to balance our hormones. Fortunately the same things that help us balance the hormones and strengthen our organs help to lose weight and to have a happier life. If we see the whole picture:
During midlife, our bodies are calling us to live a fuller, more meaningful life, to live every moment and protect our bodies.
That is the gift of menopause, an invitation to live a better life during our second half, or as it’s called in Chinese medicine “second spring.” Spring is a time of re-birth and awakening.
To lose weight during perimenopause and post menopause we need a gentle reset. Good news, it is possible, more good news, it will improve your total health.
At this time more than a diet we need some lifestyle changes. I lost weight doing just that and you can do it too.
That is our motivation during midlife. Weight control is not about vanity, it is about health and quality of life. We are improving and protecting our current and future health, both physical and emotional, by learning to control our weight.