menopause

  • Types of belly fat in midlife

    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.

    How to stop belly fat accumulation in midlife

    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.

    You can read more on why we gain weight during perimenopause and menopause

    Fluctuating belly

    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.
    • Lower stress
    • Ayurveda can be very effective to treat and correct these digestive issues

    Sudden tummy

    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

  • How to stop hot flashes naturally

    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.

    how to stop hot flashes naturally

    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:

    • Spicy foods
    • Foods with caffeine
    • Alcohol
    • Some medicines
    • Certain health issues, such thyroid problems and diabetes
    • Smoking
    • 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.

    easy ways to stop hot flashes naturally

    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.

    Cool it

    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.

    I have an article on aromatherapy for menopausal symptoms that explains how it can help.

    Hot flashes in Ayurveda

    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.

    Functional medicine

    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.

    Easy ways to eliminate hot flashes naturally

    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
    • Stop smoking
    • 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.

  • Healthy bones and teeth with smoothies

    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.

    Smoothies for teeth and bone health in menopause and perimenopause

    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:

    Calcium.

    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)

    Potassium.

    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.

    Vitamin K2.

    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)

    Smoothies recipes for healthy bones and teeth

    Protein.

    This you are probably consuming enough in you meals

    Magnesium.

    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.

    Phosphorus.

    You can find them in soybeans, fish, meat, milk, eggs, in legumes and whole grains. You can add oats to your smoothies.

    Vitamins

    • 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.

    Zinc.

    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.

    Others.

    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

    Smoothies for teeth and bone health in menopause and perimenopause

    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.

    Very cherry

    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


  • The most important nutrient you need in menopause and perimenopause

    Do you know what is the most important nutrient your body needs during menopause and perimenopause? Take a guess. If you said water, you are correct.

    Water is fundamental to our lives, and to life in general. The easiest thing you can do to improve hormonal balance and with that all perimenopause and menopause symptoms is to drink the right amount of water every day. Easy!

    Water to improve menopause and perimenopause symptoms

    Water for hormonal balance

    In order to have hormonal balance we need to help our body work more efficiently with minimum effort. Lack of enough water, or dehydration, makes everything more difficult for our body. Dehydration can make perimenopause and menopause symptoms worse.

    Symptoms like lack of energy, mental fog, aches and pains, dryness everywhere, and others can feel worse, because those are also symptoms of dehydration. Dehydration can also contribute to toxin retention, makes our organs work harder and it can make nutrients more difficult to be absorbed.

    Some benefits of drinking water

    • Water helps deliver nutrients and oxygen to the cells
    • The right levels of water improve cardiovascular function. The heart works less
    • Water keeps your joints hydrated and avoids joint pain
    • Water helps eliminate toxins from the body. High toxicity is one of the reasons for hormonal imbalance.
    • Water keeps you regular. If you are constipated you are keeping more toxins in the body.
    • The right hydration makes your skin look and feel better. Lines and wrinkles are less pronounced and the skin looks supple. The vaginal tissues also benefit with the right amount of water.
    • Dehydration makes mental fog worse
    • Dehydration makes you tired
    • Dehydration can be confused with hunger, and therefore, it can make you fat
    • Dehydration has an effect on your mood. It can make you irritated
    importance of water for menopause and perimenopause hormonal balance

    How much water do you need?

    There are no studies showing us exactly how much water we need. You are probably thinking, what about the famous eight glasses of water a day? There is no evidence that we need eight glasses of water a day. The reasons are the following:

    • How much you sweat?
    • How many fruits and veggies you eat?
    • What is the weather like?
    • What medications are you taking?
    • What is your body size?

    Even with all these variables, the 8 glasses a day goal is a good place to start. It can be 6 glasses, it can be 12 glasses. The more veggies and fruits you eat, the less water you need.

    According to the Mayo Clinic, in general, you should try to drink between half an ounce to an ounce of water for each pound you weigh, every day. For example if you weigh 140 pounds, you should consume from 70 ounces to 140 ounces of liquids. Although we are calling it water, in reality we are talking of non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated liquids.

    Eat your water

    You probably had read that you can eat your water. This is according to Dr. Howard Murad, an associate clinic professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, and author of The Water Secret. He is also the founder of Murad cosmetics. He says that fruits and vegetables can hydrate the body twice as effectively as a glass of water. When we drink water it gets processed immediately and some is not absorbed.

    You eat water when you eat raw or lightly cooked fruits and veggies and cooked beans and lentils.

    The foods with less water are dried foods, such as processed meats, some breads, candies, cookies, potato chips, etc. In general many shelf stable processed foods have very little or no water.

    foods with water for hormonal balance

    The best water

    If your local water has fluoride, you need a filter right away. Fluoride is really bad for your health.

    What about chloride? Chloride is necessary, but it isn’t good either and it doesn’t taste that good. A filter easily eliminates it from the water.
    There are also a lot of contaminants in the municipal water, because of the pipes used (that are old and may have lead) and toxins that cannot be eliminated, such as pesticides and chemical residues. Again, a good filter can eliminate a lot of them.

    What is the best water?

    I have done a lot of research on water and my conclusion is that the best water in most places in America and Canada is from the faucet using a double osmosis filter. The regular filters don’t eliminate many toxins. Where I live, the water is not so bad, it doesn’t have fluoride and it has fewer toxins, but still a filter is a good idea.

    You don’t need bottled water. This water is terrible for the environment and for your pocket. It is best to carry a refillable bottle (keep it clean). Of course this doesn’t apply if you live or are in a place with terrible water.

    Do you need a filter?

    A filter could be a great addition to your home, but don’t wait to have a filter to start drinking more water. The most recommended filters are the reverse osmosis types.
    Reverse osmosis filters for under the sink installation cost from $100 to $400, plus $80 to $250 a year for filters. Filter for the whole house can range from $500 to thousands and installation costs can be high for the whole house.

    Easiest ways to add water to your life

    Drink more water. Just put a goal like 1 glass after waking up, 2 or 3 glasses of liquid during the morning, 1 glass during lunch, 2 to 3 glasses in the afternoon and early evening. Avoid drinking a lot of water two to three hours before going to sleep.
    Eat soups, fruits, salads and vegetables in your meals and beans and lentils.

    Water with meals

    In Ayurveda and in Chinese medicine it is believed that drinking too much water at meal time is not healthy, because it dilutes the stomach acids. I recommend my clients to drink no more than a small glass of liquid preferably at room temperature or warm; this is the Ayurveda recommendation.

    Summary

    Dehydration can make menopause and perimenopause symptoms worse and even produce some of them. A first step to improve hormonal balance is to drink more water.

    You can read some delicious infused water recipes here


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  • Delicious soda substitutes

    If you are trying to either drink more water, stop a soda addiction or just lowering your consumption of commercial drinks, there are a lot of healthy, delicious, options.

    These are some easy, healthy options to sodas and commercial drinks.

    Healthy, delicious alternatives drinks to soda

    Infused waters

    Try to take maximum advantage of the opportunity to create a healthy habit. You are trying to change a habit, so it is better to change it for something healthy instead of switching soda for other sugary drinks. Infused water is a great choice. Let’s see some infused water examples.

    Add zest

    You may add any citric fruits and a little of their zest to your water. Orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit and other citric fruits taste great on their own. Just cut the fruits in rounds (don’t peel it) and add the water. Let it absorb the flavor for about 30 minutes and it is ready to drink. You can use the same fruit by just adding more water, as the flavor goes down you will know it is time to make a new batch.

    Add Spice

    You can use many spices to add more flavor and benefits to your water. For example, to the citrus mix you can add even more flavor with ginger. Ginger and lime infused water is one of my favorites. You can also use ginger on its own.

    Ginger is great for flavor and health. It improves the immune system, helps with digestion and elimination, improves blood circulation and more.

    You can also use cinnamon. As you may know cinnamon is good for our metabolism. Cinnamon goes well with apple and some berries.

    Add cucumber

    Cucumber is so refreshing. You can just add cucumber slices to water or mix it with other flavors such as citrus and berries.

    Add herbs

    All minty herbs are great so you can also try basil. Use them on their own or mix it with fruit.

    You may store the flavored or infused water in your fridge for up to 2 days. If you want to store your infused waters for longer than a day, eliminate the fruit, spices or herbs.

    Some tasty infused water combinations

    Here are 10 of my favorite fruit, herbs and spice combinations to add flavor to my water:

    • Lemon and orange
    • Raspberry and lime
    • Pineapple and mint
    • Lime and mint (let’s call it mojito)
    • Lemon and cucumber
    • Grapefruit and orange
    • Watermelon and basil
    • Strawberry and basil
    • Lemon and ginger
    • Peach and ginger


    Herbal tea

    In addition to infused waters you can drink herbal teas. There are a lot of awesome herbal teas. You will need to make the tea in hot water and let it cool or drink it hot.

    Green tea

    Green tea has less caffeine that regular tea and much less than coffee and a lot of antioxidants. If you like the flavor, it is a good substitute for soda. Matcha tea is in fashion right not, but all types of green teas are great options. Prefer organic tea over regular tea.

    Viva Agua Fresca

    If you are not ready to kick off sugar, natural fruit drinks are a better choice. Agua Fresca is a Latin American drink made with a little bit of fruit, water and sugar. You can use small amounts of sugar or stevia. These are like diluted juices made in a blender.

    An example of this is, some pineapple, add all the water you want, ice if you want and sugar or stevia. Blend it and enjoy it. If you add sugar, try to limit these types of drink to one a day.

    Diluted juices

    You can buy regular juice and add 3 parts or more water and 1 part of juice. This will add flavor without adding too many calories.

    What about kombucha?

    Kombucha is a good drink if you make it at home. If you buy it, be careful with the amount of sugar. I personally don’t like the flavor, but some people love it. The advantage of kombucha is that it has probiotics. A glass of kombucha a day is healthy. However, don’t feel that you have to drink something, because everybody is talking about it. As you know today it is kombucha and tomorrow who knows what.

    Coconut water is also popular right now. It is healthy, but only one glass a day or so.

    Bad options

    Bottled teas, lemonades, and similar drinks are not good options because they are very acidic. Some of them are even more acidic than sodas. They are also full of sugar and/or artificial sweeteners and other ingredients. There are some better than others, so check the labels.

    Other bad options are coffee and sugary coffee drinks. They have too much caffeine, the coffee used in these drinks is low quality and full of mold and tend to have a lot of sugar. Coffee in moderation is OK.

    Water flavoring powders is another tricky option. Some of them maybe good, but they are still mostly artificial.

    Read the first part: How to stop soda addiction

    I hope these tips can be helpful to you. Subscribe to our newsletter if you like these type of topics. If you have any other tips and recipes please comment below.

  • Why do we gain weight during menopause?

    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.

    Drug effects

    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.

    Weaker organs

    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.

    Xassy

    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.

    This is a series of articles in which I will share how you can lose weight during perimenopause and post menopause. Next article: Intermittent fasting to lose weight in menopause


  • 7 Day self-care must do challenge for women in midlife

    Most people agree that self-care is any activity that can make you feel recharged, peaceful or joyful. In this spirit, I have created a 7 day self-care “challenge” to motivate you to try something that will help you to recharge and refresh.

    self care for women in midlife

    Any activity can be self-care if it is mindfully done. The contrary of mindful is mindless, when we do things without thinking about it, without enjoying them.

    Life is every second we live. Let’s make every second count

    For this self-care for midlife women challenge, I have selected simple activities that deliver great results. Here we go:

    Day 1: Breathe

    Yes, that simple. Take small breaks during your day (3 or more) and do deep breathing, three at a time. Breathe with your nose, mouth closed. Inhale slowly, filling all your lungs, hold and slowly release. Repeat and enjoy the relaxation that deep breathing brings.

    Day 2: Stretch

    You will try to take at least 3 stretching breaks during the day. It could be as soon as you get up, midday and before sleeping. Just stretch yourself in all directions. Bonus: also do deep breathing before stretching.

    self care challenge

    Day 3: Drink

    We are going to drink water, plain water, and unsweetened herbal teas or infused water. How to infuse the water? Just add some lemon, lime, oranges or any fruit you have. There is a catch here, the water has to be room temperature or warm. Try to drink at least 6 cups of water. The warm water will improve your digestion and bowel elimination.

    Day 4: Be in the nature

    Being in nature is one of the easiest way to relax. Just go to your garden or anywhere outside where there is some vegetation. If possible, lovingly touch the plants or the soil, or take your shoes off.

    This is not a mad new age ritual, we carry positive charge in our bodies because of the radiation we are constantly exposed to, such as wi-fi and screens everywhere. Trees and plants can absorb some of that positive charge leaving us more neutral and relax.

    Day 5: Vision

    We are not talking of vision boards here, although they are also self-care. We are talking of your precious eyes. We are going to relax the eyes. Take 3 breaks during your day to practice long distance vision.

    This is simple:

    • Focus on something distant from where you are. For example if you go outside you can focus on a mountain or tall trees, observe the details.
    • Close your eyes for a few seconds
    • Now look at something close to you, it can be your hand (not your phone)
    • Repeat the process 3 times.
    • Now gently cover your eyes with the palms of your hands, do not put pressure on the eyes. Breathe normally but consciously a few times. Take the palms out and open your eyes.

    Our eyes are stressed because they were mainly designed by nature for long distance viewing and we are using them most of the time for very short distances (phone, computer, books etc.) so it is important to look at a distance frequently during the day. Relaxed eyes are healthier.

    self care for women

    Day 6: Chewing

    Today is a day to chew well our food. This has many advantages, the first is that it allows us to really taste the food. Second, it slows us down, so we eat less. And when we chew we are helping our stomach, and therefore, improving our digestion. Chew each bite (or a lot of the bites) 20 times, count from one to 20. We are not used to chewing and it is an important activity to avoid digestive issues, and it also helps to avoid overeating.

    Day 7: Laugh

    Best for last. Laughing is very relaxing. It helps us to decrease cortisol, the stress hormone that consumes our estrogen (read stress and perimenopause). Pick a standup comedy on TV or a funny movie and enjoy.
    Bonus: pet a pet or play with a kid. A sweet activity that connect us to other living beings.

    I hope you enjoy these activities and develop your own self-care routine.


  • Should you take HRT or bioidentical hormones during menopause and perimenopause

    I remember a beloved youtuber in a video showing how to apply certain makeup and suddenly saying, “I am having a hot flash.” As her well made-up face got drenched in sweat, all I was thinking was, “But she said that she takes hormones (HRT).”

    Many women suffer a lot of symptoms during perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause. Some of the symptoms are, depression, hot flashes, weight gain, sleep problems, vaginal dryness, vaginal atrophy, etc. Most of these symptoms are caused by hormonal imbalance.

    Hormone replacement therapy

    If you go to your doctor with those symptoms, normally you will get one of these treatments: hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT).

    What is better: HRT or bioidentical hormones?

    There is no one answer in conventional medicine. The doctor recommends what he or she thinks is the best treatment for every patient depending on the severity of the symptoms and the overall health condition and risks. So there is no one better than the other for every person.

    What is HRT?

    HRT is hormone replacement therapy. The treatment replaces some of the estrogens and progesterone that we lose during perimenopause, menopause and post menopause to try to balance our hormones. The hormones used in this treatment are synthetic drugs, and some of them are made using animal hormones.

    The advantage of this treatment is precision, because they are created in a lab, it can be personalized and the amounts of the active ingredients are exact. They can also be more potent.

    HRT has many drawbacks and health risks and it is not the best treatment for many women, including women with higher breast cancer risk. As you may have read, HRT increases the risks of heart disease, stroke, blood clots and breast cancer. There are also indications that it does not protect against osteoporosis, heart disease, and dementia, as some in the medical community believe.

    Pretty scary drugs, if you ask me. As a functional medicine consultant, I think this treatment should be used only when absolutely necessary. I disagree with the medical advice that it is recommended to people with moderate menopausal symptoms. In extreme cases, I think it can be used to stabilize the hormones while a healthy lifestyle and natural techniques are followed. Ideally this should be a temporary solution.

    bio identical hormone replacement therapy

    What is BHRT?

    BHRT is bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. Same as before but using plant based hormones. There are creams, pellets, pills and other forms to deliver these hormones.

    The plant based hormones are identical on a molecular level to those created by our bodies. The fact that they are plant based may make it appears as if they are safe, but according to the FDA, bio-identical hormone replacement therapy has not been studied long enough and it may not be safer than the synthetic versions.

    Some studies indicate that they are safer, but we do not have enough data. Some doctors express that BHRT is not as precise as conventional HRT.

    Alternatives to HRT or BHRT

    Many women can get great relief from perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms with just lifestyle changes. Besides a healthy lifestyle, there are also many natural treatments using supplements, herbs and natural techniques that offer relief. Ideally HRT and BHRT should be the last resort or a temporary resource.

    We are more than hormones

    In functional medicine we believe that the hormonal imbalances addressed with HRT and BHRT are normally caused by deeper health issues affecting vital organs such as the liver and adrenal glands.

    Most natural health practitioners will not only try to balance the hormones, they will also try to determine what organs are causing the imbalance, and will try to solve the root cause of the problem. Usually a natural or functional medicine practitioner looks at the person as a whole and not only the illness or symptoms.

    Many menopausal symptoms can be caused by emotional reasons or too much stress. In addition to treatment, most natural practitioners will recommend many lifestyle changes, most regular doctors will also recommend some changes but with less emphasis.

    HRT and BHRT work faster than natural treatments and lifestyle changes. But they will never beat a healthy lifestyle and actually solving the health problems that are causing the menopause related symptoms.

    Other risks of HRT and BHRT

    As previously said, when our hormones are imbalanced there are causes that need attention. If we only take hormones, we are not addressing those underlying issues and without treatment probably they may get worse.

    Another aspect is that hormonal replacement, just as in the case of that youtuber I mentioned earlier, may not eliminate all the symptoms. In some cases HRT and BHRT only improve the severity of the symptoms. Some women will need to try different protocols to reach an ideal state and more often than not, it may not be reached. HRT and BHRT, just like contraceptives, can have side effects such as facial hair growth, acne etc.

    Conclusion

    Although HRT and BHRT have many risks, if a woman’s quality of life is severely affected, these treatments can offer a bridge while trying to improve general health and embracing a healthier lifestyle. Long term a drug or supplement is never a good substitute for a healthy lifestyle.

    A word of caution

    If you take hormones, do not discontinue them without consulting with your doctor. There is a safe way to do it and it must be followed.

  • Aromatherapy for menopause and perimenopause

    Can you smell something delightful to reduce or eliminate perimenopause and menopause symptoms? I am talking of essential oils and aromatherapy.

    I love essential oils. I started to study aromatherapy in the early 90s, almost 30 years ago. I have used aromatherapy for many conditions and I find it works really well for hormonal and mental balance. These attributes make essential oils perfect to improve some of the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause.

    Aromatherapy for menopause and perimenopause

    Why aromatherapy for perimenopause and menopause?

    There are many essential oils that can help us during this time. This is in part because aromatherapy is very good at lowering stress and promoting joy. By lowering stress, our estrogens are available to fulfill their role instead of helping to keep cortisol in the body.

    Those preserved estrogens will help in many aspects, including to sleep well, avoid hot flashes, keep weight under control and protect the skin and vagina against dryness. (Suggested reading: stress during menopause and perimenopause).

    Promoting joy and wellbeing is another important role of essential oils. Depression, insecurity, irritability, and sadness are very common in women during perimenopause and menopause. These feeling are bad enough, but in addition they can help to trigger other bad symptoms such as hot flashes, insomnia and low libido.

    Essential oils with phytoestrogens

    Many aromatherapy experts and fans believe that some essential oils have molecules that have similar effects as sex hormones. There are only small studies on this subject. Only a few essential oils have been found to have a possible phytoestrogen (estrogens from plants) effect; these oils are geranium and rose otto. However there are studies proving that certain essential oils alleviate the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. With or without phytoestrogens, essential oils are still very effective.

    Which are the best essential oils for menopause and perimenopause?
    There are two ways to approach this question. We can treat specific symptoms or use oils to balance hormones.

    Essential oils for hormonal balance

    Essential oils for hormonal balance

    Geranium

    There are a few small studies suggesting that geranium has an estrogenic effect on the body and it helps to balance hormones. I have noticed that when people have too much estrogen they tend to dislike geranium, finding it too strong, too floral or too sweet. Maybe it is a natural body response to avoid more estrogen. During menopause and perimenopause we normally need more estrogen, so it works very well.

    Geranium has many other properties and benefits including reducing stress and improving blood circulation.

    Rose otto

    I could write a book describing this marvelous oil. Imagine holding sixty beautiful roses on your hands, picked for you at dawn, so they are at their peak. Imagine the incredible aroma and the lavish, delicate beauty of these flowers. Imagine how many bushes it took to produce those roses. From all these 60 roses it is said that one precious drop of essential oil will be produced, that’s right one, uno, eins.

    This oil is the stuff of legends, from queens in biblical times to the Maharanis of India. It is one of the most expensive oils and one of the most adulterated ones, it is difficult to buy the real thing.

    Ok, back to menopause and perimenopause. Rose otto may be estrogenic, this will help increase our estrogens and alleviate some menopausal symptoms. It has been used for a long time as an aphrodisiac. Beyond that it is very powerful for relaxation, happiness, and to induce calm.

    At a spiritual level, rose otto helps to resolve anger, fear, and jealously, and it boosts confidence and happiness. We all can use these benefits.

    Clary sage

    This is the most recommended oil for women’s issues, including perimenopause and menopause. Many people with expertise in aromatherapy believe that it has phytoestrogens, but some experts who have studied the chemistry of the oil believe that that is not accurate. In any case this is a wonderful oil.

    Many studies have confirmed that it is very relaxing, antidepressant, calming, and can produce an almost anesthetic effect. Clary sage oil has been shown to lower blood pressure, relieve anxiety and stress, and boost memory. This will help many menopausal symptoms.

    Other oils

    Other oils commonly used are fennel, cypress, angelica, lavender, peppermint and coriander.

    Beyond hormones

    We can also use essential oils that treat specific issues such lack of sleep, depression, irritability etc.

    A study to lower menopausal symptoms

    There was one study with about 52 women with perimenopause symptoms. The women got massages every day for 8 weeks. Half of the women had massages with essential oils and the other half without essential oils. The women with the essential oils experienced a lot of relief in their symptoms, the other women did not. (I am surprised with this result as I believe both groups should have benefited from stress reduction).

    The oils used during this experiment were:

    4 parts lavender, 2 parts rose geranium, 1 part rose (not clear which type), 1 part jasmine (not clear which type).

    The carrier oils were almond 90% and primrose 10% at a 3% concentration of essential oils.

    For people not used to essential oil preparation this is a more of a do-it-yourself recipe that I prepared for you if you want to try it.

    Massage oil for menopause and perimenopause symptoms

    You will need a 4 ounce (120 ml) bottle to store the oil
    Carrier oil
    3 ounces (90 ml) almond oil
    1 ounce (30 ml) primrose oil

    Essential oils (EO)

    • 36 drops lavender EO
    • 18 drops rose geranium EO
    • 9 drops of rose EO
    • 9 drops of jasmine EO

    Mix the essential oils separately, let them settle for a few minutes and add it to the carrier oils. You have now got your massage oil.

    Conclusion

    Aromatherapy is without a doubt a good solution to treat perimenopause and menopause symptoms. It is easy to access and normally without side effects. The essential oils can be used in personal care products, inhalers and in diffusers and burners. You can use essential oils to treat specific symptoms or to balance hormones.

  • Stress is really bad during menopause and perimenopause

    Stress is really bad during menopause and perimenopause, it is worse than bad food and lack of exercise. You probably have read things like this: Eat this, eat that, do not eat that cake, it will kill you. Yes it has sugar, bring the priest we need an exorcist to get the sugar out and the gluten and the milk and the joy. No doubt sugar is bad, but the stress produced by the scary headlines is worse, at least for your hormones.

    stress affects estrogen during menopause and perimenopause

    Stress is really bad during menopause and perimenopause because as you know those pesky menopause and perimenopause symptoms are the result of hormonal imbalance. In order to alleviate or eliminate the symptoms we have to balance our hormones. In the natural community there is a lot of emphasis on food to control or manage the hormones.

    Without a doubt food is important; however, I think stress is equally or more important to balance your hormones.


    Do you know anybody who eats super clean, super healthy and that person is bitter, judgmental, and she or he looks stressed out or with anxiety? I know more than a few. Food alone is not the answer. And more importantly, food should not create stress or deprive us of joy.

    Why is stress really bad during menopause and perimenopause?

    Let me simplify it: every time we stress out, two hormones rush out, adrenaline and cortisol. The one that keeps lingering to help us escape danger is cortisol.

    stress lowers estrogen during menopause and perimenopause

    In the past, we used these hormones when we needed to escape from a predator, in other words we ran to save our lives. Stress is a response to danger. In the present time, stress is caused by many factors, which are mainly harmless or at least nonlethal. In fact most of our stress is caused only by our thoughts. However, the body’s stress response is the same as if it were in danger.

    The organ that creates cortisol are the adrenal glands. These glands are depleted in many people in our age bracket. They are depleted and not working properly because of a few factors: we have had too much stress throughout our lives, we may have taken hormones such as birth control pills and our lifestyle is not very healthy. So we may not be producing enough cortisol to support a lot of stress.

    More cortisol less estrogen

    Our body is always trying to protect itself. It will always give priority to immediate protection than to other bodily functions. Since the body believes that the stress hormones are so important for survival, when it does not have enough cortisol, it uses other hormones, including estrogen, to make more cortisol. During menopause and perimenopause, we have less estrogen and if we have stress it may be used to create cortisol instead of working as estrogen.

    In conclusion

    During menopause and perimenopause we have lower levels of estrogens and progesterone. We also have a lower capacity to make cortisol. If we have a lot of stress our body maybe using our little estrogen to make cortisol in order to supply fuel for our useless stress.

    In other words your stress is depriving you of your estrogen, and we feel it in the form of all the menopausal symptoms.

    Xassy.com

    Stress is really bad. And the good news is….. you can control it, no prescription required.

    Read Why do we gain weight in perimenopause .