Holistic Health Counseling | Erin Livers, Nutrition Therapist

Our state of health at the time we enter menopause or peri-menopause determines the type and severity of symptoms we experience as our body undergoes one of its most profound physical transitions that often lasts for years. Self-care, which is always important, is especially critical during these years of shifting hormones, priorities and life circumstances.

Strengthen and support your health before, during and after menopause by following these recommendations:

  • Reduce physical and emotional stress. All parts of our endocrine (hormone) system are connected with the health of one endocrine gland affecting all others. Our adrenal system, which helps us respond to stressful events, can can lose its ability to properly communicate with other endocrine glands if our perceived level of stress is chronically high. This can cause a number of symptoms that leave us feeling like overwhelmed victims who are burnt out. High levels of chronic stress can also steal the raw materials we use to make steroid hormones such as estrogen, which can further contribute to menopausal symptoms caused by fluctuating hormonal levels. Unburden your life as much as possible and eliminate the “habit” of being stressed. We can’t avoid stressful events, but we can choose our reaction to them and incorporate stress-relieving activities into our daily routine. The easiest is breathing!
    • Find an activity you do many times during the day, like talking on the phone. Each time you set the phone down, use it as a reminder to do a few minutes of deep, conscious breathing. Driving in the car is also a good time to focus on your breath, but keep your eyes on the road!

    • Experiment to find out what helps you relieve stress. Meditation is not stress relieving for everyone. Can you find time each week for inspirational books or podcasts? Music? A warm epsom salt bath? Singing with friends? Gardening? Walking in nature?

    • Don’t leave the monthly stress relievers out of your schedule. These are the feel-good treats that remind us we’re taking good care of ourselves. Activities such as massage, book club meetings, cooking classes or cooking with friends, sports, target practice, concerts, plays, gallery openings or museum tours.

    • Nourish yourself by planning and saving for vacations, staycations, and the events you not only look forward to all year, but look back on with fond memories. It’s during these times that we often get a perspective on just how stressful our day-to-day lives are.

  • Get 8+ hours of restful sleep every night. If you’re not sleeping well, consult a practitioner who can help.

  • Incorporate activity into your life every day or several times per week. Find an activity you LOVE! Ensure this helps you reduce the amount of time you spend sitting.

  • Balance your blood sugar. Eating a well-balanced breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner every day is one of the most health protective and hormone-balancing activities we can perform. When we balance our meals with healthy fats, adequate amounts of protein and brightly colored fruits and vegetables, we’re supporting a healthy endocrine (hormone) system by giving it all the nutrients it requires: carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, minerals (especially magnesium and zinc), and phytonutrients. If you need help designing a diet that supports your health, call me. There is no one diet that works for everyone, so let me help you find what works for you.

    • Breakfast is not a bar, protein is not a powder. –Marc David

    • Breakfast is indeed the most important meal of the day! Our bodies require a well-balanced meal (plant or animal protein, healthy fats and colorful fruits and vegetables) of real food to break the fast we’ve experienced throughout the night. This meal sets the tone for our day. If we begin at breakfast with normal blood sugar levels, they’re likely to stay that way during the remainder of the day, eliminating cravings, hunger, low energy, low mood, weight gain and that need for “something a little sweet at the end of the day,” which can impair restful sleep. All of these things directly correlate to how balanced our breakfast is for us!

  • How can you easily fill your plate with Seasonal, Organic, Unprocessed, Local foods or SOUL food that is delicious and nourishes everything you do? Start small by adding more seasonal vegetables and more spices.

  • Late afternoon is a low-energy time of day for all of us. Our minds feel less sharp and focused, our feet may drag and most of us feel hungry and in need of a pick-me-up. Instead of reaching for a cup of coffee that will stimulate you, but do nothing to nourish your brain, muscles and hormones, reach for a healthy snack instead! Snack suggestions can be found in my article, titled appropriately, “Snacktime!”

  • A proper snack will also ensure that we’re not devouring a bag of potato chips and a glass of wine while trying to come up with something to fix for dinner. Meal planning is a great way to reduce the amount of time spent in the kitchen at any time of day, especially dinner time. Download my meal planning form from the Resources page to help you plan a week’s worth of meals and grocery shop once for several days or the entire week. I’m happy to help you learn tips and tricks to spend less time meal planning and cooking.

  • Avoid foods that imbalance hormones like estrogen. It’s our hardworking liver that must metabolize and eliminate hormones when our body is done with them. Estrogen especially must be metabolized and eliminated through the liver or it can contribute to symptoms such as weight gain, lowered libido, fatigue, thyroid imbalance, and more. Foods that place an additional burden on the liver can interfere with its ability to properly metabolize hormones.
    • Avoid or reduce these foods in your diet: alcohol, fried foods, sugars – all kinds, refined grains and foods made from them such as breads, cookies, crackers, cakes, bagels, tortillas, cereals, scones, pancakes, waffles, muffins, and even oatmeal. If this leaves you scratching your head and wondering what to eat for breakfast, I can help.
  • Eliminate hormone disrupting chemicals from your environment. There are many chemicals we come into contact with every day that can either mimic hormone activity in our body or block hormone activity by binding to our hormone receptors and disrupting our natural body processes. The major categories of the chemicals suspected to disrupt hormone activity are pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, industrial chemicals, heavy metals, pharmaceutical drugs, over-the-counter drugs, household chemicals, plastics, and our own body care products.

    • Properly dispose of any paints, varnishes, garden chemicals or other household chemicals you have stored, even in the garage or basement, as they may be outgassing into your environment.

    • Switch to natural brands of household cleaners and laundry products, like Seventh Generation, to reduce your chemical exposure.

    • Be aware of the air quality around you and improve it if you can.

    • If you smoke, quit.

    • Replace plastic food storage containers with glass. Plastic water bottles with metal.

    • Reduce your consumption of canned food as aluminum cans are usually lined with a hormone disrupting chemical called bisphenol A (BPA). NOTE: The following companies do not use BPA in the linings of their canned foods. Eden Organic (beans only, not tomatoes), Vital Choice (canned fish), Oregon’s Choice (canned fish), Wild Planet (canned fish), Native Forests (vegetables/coconut milk), Trader Joe’s (some products, not marked). Others will follow.

    • Go to The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database and check out the safety of your body care products: shampoo, conditioner, soaps, lotions, deodorant, sunscreens, etc.

  • Let go of others’ expectations of you to focus on your own desires. One of estrogen’s influences on women is to ensure they look outward from themselves to care for others. During our lives, from puberty to menopause, most women are doing just that by caring for spouses, children, pets, sometimes elders and often anyone who drifts into their lives or kitchen. But as estrogen levels diminish after menses cease, the influence of estrogen is also diminished and this means it’s our time! Embrace this period in your life (pun intended!) as an opportunity and seek the path that has always felt out of reach because everyone else’s needs came first.

    • Practice allowing the people around you to find their own way, even if it’s just to the kitchen to make their own sandwich or to their room to find their own socks. You’ve raised and supported those around you to be independent, and now it’s time for them to fly. Let them go. They’ll fly back, and when they bring their dirty laundry, resist the urge to do it for them. You have places to go and people to see.

    • Experiment with activities, volunteer opportunities, a new job or any new experience to see where your path may take you. Don’t be afraid to say, “No, this isn’t for me, I’m moving on to find out where I belong.”

    • Practice freely expressing who you find yourself to be at this time in your life. For the first time, you and those around you may be experiencing you as someone other than wife, mother, caretaker or even career woman. Pick a new role and embrace the power and freedom that accompanies this new phase in your life.

    • Accept that during this phase of your life you are going through a transition and you may not know the answer to the question, “who am I?” Allow yourself to hang out there as long as you need to to find your own way. Be kind and gentle with yourself!

These suggestions are a good start to ensure your self-care activities and habits will support you to prevent or reduce the symptoms of menopause. Let me know if I can assist you through this inevitable transition, which can lead you into the most powerful time of your life.