Menopause Made Easy
by Dr. Maria Maricich
The menopausal years are challenging ones for many women. From fatigue, anxiety, mood swings and weight gain to hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia, the rollercoaster of symptoms commonly experienced during perimenopause and menopause can disrupt your life and make you miserable. Unbeknownst to many, these symptoms actually start in the brain as reproductive hormones fluctuate. Fortunately, simple lifestyle changes can help you reduce or even eliminate symptoms while supporting your overall health.
WHAT’S HAPPENING AND WHY?
Menopause is a natural biological process that marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycles. To be considered menopausal, you need to have gone 12 months without a menstrual period. The average age for menopause in the United States is 51, but it can happen considerably earlier or later. Perimenopausal symptoms can occur up to 10 years before menstruation stops and vary in severity from woman to woman.
MENOPAUSE IS DIFFERENT FOR EVERYONE
One of the main reasons for the variability in symptoms has to do with inflammation—specifically, neuro-inflammation. When estrogen levels drop, there is an increase of cytokines, the chemical messengers in the body that trigger inflammation.
If you already have an inflammatory condition, such as food sensitivities, digestion problems, stress, toxins, poor blood sugar regulation or poor liver function, the increase in cytokine signaling will ramp up the inflammatory response. Each of these imbalances may have been sub-clinical or minor issues prior to hormone levels dropping but become more serious with increased cytokines.
At the same time, a woman’s natural decline in estrogen can compromise her Blood Brain Barrier – the filter that keeps the brain safe from invaders. Now all those factors that cause inflammation get into the brain, triggering neuro-inflammation.
Neuro-inflammation depletes neurotransmitters, affecting moods and energy. It also can disrupt sleep and increase the central pain response in the brain. A sure-fire sign of neuroinflammation is brain fog.
Cytokines also increase fat cells and insulin resistance, causing weight gain.
Yet another phenomenon has to do with the limbic brain, the area where we process emotions. It becomes quite sensitive, leaving us more volatile and with a short fuse. Stresses that used to be no problem suddenly seem insurmountable.
As if all that wasn’t enough, a reduction of circulation in the brain can further escalate anxiety, brain fog, memory loss, and thinning hair.
BYE-BYE, MENOPAUSAL SYMPTOMS
Don’t sweat it! Just follow these eight steps to reduce neuro-inflammation and minimize unpleasant symptoms:
1. Avoid inflammatory foods.
Gluten, dairy, refined carbs and processed foods are highly inflammatory, so steer clear of them. Other foods to consider avoiding are corn, soy, egg, tomatoes, peanuts, sugar, alcohol, and caffeine. Take it one step further by eliminating all grains. Specific diets that I recommend include Paleo, Whole 30, Bulletproof, and the Ketogenic diet.
2. Never let yourself get too hungry.
Many women gain weight during menopause due to a slowing metabolism and reduced activity levels. But skipping meals isn’t the answer, and may make it even harder to control your weight and menopausal symptoms. Instead, eat small amounts throughout the day to keep your blood sugar stable.
3. Take adrenal support herbs such as Ashwaganda, Ginseng or Maca.
When the ovaries stop producing estrogen and other key hormones, the adrenal glands make up for the loss. Therefore, healthy adrenals are imperative for easy menopause.
4. Take fish oils and vitamin D.
these supplements counteract the effect of cytokines, reducing
5. Try a comprehensive detox protocol.
Be sure to support the organs of detoxification, including the liver, kidneys, and lymphatics. At the same time, a binder should be added to bind up the toxins and make sure they are eliminated from the body. This protocol done in conjunction with a detox diet is even more beneficial.
6. Exercise regularly – not too much, not too little.
Research shows how regular exercise can help menopausal women not only lose weight and feel better about themselves, but also control hot flashes and other symptoms.
7. Keep stress to a minimum.
High levels of stress can exacerbate menopausal symptoms such as anxiety, mood swings and hot flashes. So set aside some time each day to chill out with stress-relieving activities such as meditation, yoga, chiropractic adjustments, and T’ai Chi.
8. Work with a Functional Medicine doctor to find and eliminate sources of inflammation.
My passion is Brain Wellness; better moods memory and productivity. My skills include stopping and preventing Alzheimer’s. A challenging menopause is of great concern because the very things that precipitate the challenge also are risk factors for dementia. Women are twice as likely as men to develop Alzheimer’s, therefore it is imperative for women to find balance before and during menopause.
ABOUT DR. MARIA
Dr. Maria Maricich is a functional medicine doctor and a doctor of chiropractic. In her 29 years of practice in Ketchum, Dr. Maria’s passion has been to offer the most up-to-date approaches to optimal health and wellbeing. Functional medicine and functional neurology are new emerging medical fields. Their objective is to find dysfunction that leads to disease, rather than disease itself. Treating the dysfunction by natural means allows the body to heal itself whether the disease is present, or a person just knows they aren’t their best. It also is one of the best anti-aging measures available. She can be reached at 208-726-6010.