Look after your SHEDS ladies
Whilst sheds are synonymous with grumpy old men, they became crucial to us older ladies too.
Now, I’m not talking about the wooden ‘man-cave’ tucked away at the bottom of the garden, complete with running machine, power tools, half empty tins of paint and plastic flower pots. I’m talking sleep, hydration, exercise, diet and stress.
So why are these five areas so important? And why are they so important for ladies during perimenopause and menopause?
As we age and transition into menopause our reproductive hormones, amongst others reduce. However, this is not a gentle, controlled reduction but wild fluctuations resulting in hormonal chaos.
Disturbed sleep, low mood, hot flushes, night sweats, sore joints, lack of energy and anxiety, along with weight gain are signs that our bodies are in ‘distress’. A body in ‘distress’ means our nervous system is in fight, flight, freeze, and needs cortisol to keep the body in a state of alertness and readiness. Cortisol raises blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension ready to run or fight. To produce cortisol our adrenal gland uses the hormone progesterone. Progesterone promotes calm.
The majority of menopause symptoms are not a result of lowering oestrogen, but the increased gap between progesterone and oestrogen. Therefore, in a stressed state that gap gets bigger and our symptoms increase in frequency or intensity. Cortisol also competes with melatonin, the hormone we need to get a good night’s sleep.
So ladies, managing our production of cortisol is key in reducing menopause symptoms.
If cortisol is high in the evening, melatonin cannot be produced and you will have difficulty either falling or staying asleep. Particularly around the hours of 2am – 4am. Get into a routine and hour before bed where laptops, phones etc. are switched off and you promote calm. A cool shower can help keep those night sweats at bay too.
Aim to drink 2 litres of water a day. Why? Because our liver becomes inflamed as we age and produce less bile, crucial in processes the food and drink we consume. Unprocessed fats and sugars get stored in cells around our bellies and under our boobs!
How we exercise or move needs to change. In an office or driving job? Get your steps in. Aim for 60 mins a day of walking, chuck it down if you need to, but get moving.
The high intensity stuff may need knocking on the head. High intensity exercise raises cortisol and we really don’t want to be doing this regularly. Find activities which get you slightly sweaty and out of breath for around 45 mins. They don’t need to be gym based or even ‘sporty’!
As we’ve already explained, our changing liver and bile means that our bodies find it harder to process saturated fats and sugar. Yes, ladies, that means alcohol too! That’s why hangover last days now….
Aim to eat white meat, fish, lots of colourful vegetables and yes, carbs (potatoes, rice etc). Fruits are fine too, just aim for foods and fruits that are not too sugary, as this will raise blood sugar levels and we are trying to keep this fairly even. Don’t shy away from fats. Fats from plants and fish are great. Include a good quality olive oil and think Mediterranean diet.
You don’t have to live like a saint, just think 80/20. 80% unprocessed foods.
It feels like we are expected to be partners, parents, carers, have careers and still look after the home. As women, we tend to sort out everyone else first, not leaving any time for ourselves. Exhausted and run ragged, we flop onto the couch at god knows what time at night, with a glass of something in hand as we finally breathe out. Busyness raises cortisol and can lead to adrenal burnout, as our body continually needs cortisol. It’s usually at this point we reach for the biscuit, crisps, cakes and alcohol. The body needs quick energy and fuel.
What can you do? Schedule in some ‘Me time’. An hour, half an hour, 10 mins, whatever you can fit in and do something completely selfish for you. There is one rule though, no phones, or technology, nothing. Completely cut yourself off from the outside world and breathe!
So in summary ladies, consistently protect that progesterone by managing that pesky cortisol and hopefully you will see improvements.