Fluctuating and then declining hormones can cause major sleep issues for ladies as they enter perimenopause and menopause. Many sleep aids just knock you out without really addressing the cause of the problem. This is the cause of grogginess the next day, your mind and body weren’t lulled into a state of sleep it was just KO and the next day you feel so bad, it’s hardly worth the extra sleep you got !
Menopause and perimenopause can cause those dreadful night sweats and a whole new level of anxiety. The body and mind struggle with these changes and it makes it very difficult to get to sleep and to stay asleep. If you’re not sleeping it becomes a real challenge to lose weight. Sleep deprivation increases appetite and our taste for anything sweet.
This is the original reason I designed our Sleep Formula. Nutrition clients were not losing weight because they were not sleeping.
Guys this goes for you too.
You can imagine how happy we are to see that our Sleep Formula is the #1 sleep aid for Menopause and has been awarded the “Amazon Choice” badge.
Please don’t compare Sleep Formula to a single supplement like Melatonin or Gaba. Sleep Formula has both those ingredients and 10 other all-natural compounds that address every reason for your inability to get to sleep or to stay asleep. Because we address the cause of the problem you will get the sleep you need without a next day hangover.
Thank you, Amazon for recognizing us, watch out for our all natural energy supplement coming soon
We have all heard or know of that 95-year-old who is sharp as a tack and credits their longevity to their daily cigar and fast food. We also know that guy that ran 10 miles every day, ate organic and dropped down dead before he hit 50. Video time lapse of aging gracefully
It’s easy to sit back and place your health in the hands of fate. But when did irresponsibility ever serve any of us well? I don’t feel that this handing off of personal responsibility is a true reflection of a person’s character. We were not taught anything about nutrition, health or disease at school, and at a young age it was probably the last thing on our mind. When our mortality catches up with us, it can be overwhelming, like trying to learn a new language which would have been much easier if we had been introduced to it when we were young. Surrounded by conflicting ideas, marketing madness and constantly emerging new information, it is understandable that people throw their hands in the air and give up. Being the prideful creatures we are, it feels better to act like we don’t care than to care but not know what to do.
But we do care. That high blood pressure result did alarm us, the number on the scale did ruin our day… We try, we try really hard and yet the scale keeps heading north and the doctor is still frowning at our test results.
What does “old” mean to you? At the turn of the Century, it meant your 40’s. Today you might think mid-eighties. For the more informed it might mean cellular health and telomere length. I am not putting a number on ‘old’. I know plenty of old people in their thirties and I know plenty of young people in their seventies.
Being old most often refers to the time when our health takes on a definite change. So let us use that reference point and discuss what can happen over time.
In the earlier chapters, we talked about how the over-release of the hormone insulin will make us fat. When we are younger, that’s all we cared about, not getting fat. As we get older, the toll of insulin takes on another form. Before we get to that, let’s set the scene by going back. Way back …
Before birth, we feed off our mother’s blood. If that pregnant lady is eating a lot of sugar and/or a very high carbohydrate diet, that shows up in her blood as blood glucose/blood sugar. High blood sugar triggers that over-release of insulin from the pancreas. The baby, through its mother’s blood, is also being exposed to a high level of blood sugar, so they develop more insulin-secreting cells.
A baby exposed to high levels of sugar may develop the ability to produce more insulin before it takes its first breath!
Insulin is known to be the main fat storage hormone but insulin also acts as a growth factor. Bodybuilders have known how to manipulate this hormone to their advantage for a long time. When they want to gain muscle they “bulk up” (an old-school term which basically means creating a huge insulin response).
Insulin, protein, testosterone and growth hormone are our growth factors. The conundrum is how to build muscle and lose fat at the same time. Insulin will halt fat llossbut it will help build lean tissue. You won’t gain much muscle on a diet and knowing this bodybuilder will cycle between eating to gain muscle and eating to lose fa.t
That unborn baby does the pretty much the same thing. Momma has a lot of sugar is her blood and the baby makes more insulin to deal with it. Insulin works as a growth factor and the baby gets bigger. Diabetic mothers tend to have large babies.
The baby is born, hopefully, healthy and happy and also with an increased ability to produce insulin.
Before you go and chastise your mother for the state of your waistline we should recognize that, just because we have the ability or the predisposition for something, it does not mean it is our destiny.
We all have the diabetic gene but what matters is if we trigger that gene. Epigenetics is a more recent conversation (although Darwin started the discussion in the 19th century) about gene expression. To fall prey to a genetic trait you have to pull the trigger.
If you asked my grandfather he might have told you that high blood pressure “runs” in our family. Two generations later and I will tell you bad English food runs in our family, and it is not our genetic fate.
Keeping it simple. Yes, a baby exposed to a high level of blood sugar before birth may adapt in a way that works against them later in life, but only if the life they choose pulls that trigger.
Control your sugar and carbohydrate intake, keep moving every day, and you don’t have to get trigger happy later in life.
Insulin travels in the blood and attaches to the insulin receptors on cells. When those receptors are responsive, insulin can do its job and transport nutrients into cells (muscle, fat and liver).
Constantly eating sugar/carbohydrates means a constant release of insulin and the cells can become “resistant” to the persistent message of the blood clearing hormone.
A couple buys a house by a railway track. They hadn’t really thought it through and when they first move in they can’t get a night’s sleep because of the roar of the train every other hour. It drives them crazy. Over time they get used to the disturbance, visitor comments on the noise, perplexed, the couple looks at each other, “What train?”
Insulin is like that train. The muscle and fat cells hear it screaming all the time because their host is making some pretty crazy food choices. Insulin keeps on screaming until eventually, the muscle cells say, “What insulin?”
Insulin resistance is when the cells stop responding to insulin. Between muscle and fat, it is always the muscle cell that becomes resistant first. The muscle cell shuts down and the fat cells have to bear the burden. and people pile on the pounds.
If we keep going past this point, the fat cells can also become resistant, and now blood sugar has nowhere to go. Neither fat nor muscle will house it, and sugar and insulin build to dangerous levels in the blood. If nutrients can no longer enter cells, the cells start to starve, and this triggers fatigue, cravings, hunger – an almighty mess.
This dreadful scenario can happen at any age if you eat badly enough, but, as we get older muscle does become resistant. Insulin is portrayed as the devil, but insulin is also responsible for keeping muscle intact. The presence of insulin stops muscle or fat from being broken down. As we age the muscle cells become resistant, nutrients don’t get to the cell, insulin cant protect it and muscle starts to break down. Fat cells are not resistant so as we start to lose muscle we can gain fat. When cells don’t get nourished we become tired, less driven and we begin to feel OLD
Imagine the process. We’re getting older – insulin resistance kicks in, with the muscle cells being affected first. Time moves on and now the liver receptors start to become resistant. Now comes hyperinsulinism; high levels of insulin in the body, resulting in inflammation. And this feeds in to a whole barrage of complaints. Next, your blood pressure goes up, triglycerides (fat in the blood) increase, HDL (high-density lipoproteins – the good lipid transporters) decline and it becomes more of a challenge to regulate blood sugar.
In our later years, the pancreas starts to get tired. Your eating habits might have forced it to work pretty dang hard all those years. It’s worn out and can’t release insulin the way it used to. Blood glucose remains high, and we enter the era of Type 2 Diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes used to be called “Adult Onset Diabetes” because that’s when it was expected to happen – as older adults.
Signs of Insulin Resistance 1. Physical Fatigue 2. Mood swings 3. Mental fatigue 4. Not able to hold a thought, brain fog 5. Afternoon naps 6. Weight gain 7. Sugar cravings and overeating 8. Digestive issues, IBS, and leaky gut 9. Gas, bloating
Sounds pretty familiar to a lot of us…
Interestingly, insulin resistance is also linked to leptin resistance. Leptin is that hormone that tells us how much we need to eat. If we become leptin resistant we’re hungry all the time. This is hard to ignore and the afflicted have a ferocious appetite.
Those afternoon naps, that forgotten thought, those bathroom issues are cast aside as the unavoidable pitfalls of getting older. But as insulin resistance takes hold, other more severe symptoms emerge.
1. Elevated Triglycerides
2. High LDL cholesterol
3. High blood pressure
4. Autoimmune disorders
5. Liver disease
Don’t be sucked into the belief that thin is healthy. Although weight gain is very common, insulin resistance affects the slight of body too. Indeed, those of slender frame may get harder hit just because their growing insulin resistance is less apparent.
Metabolic Syndrome is the bringing together of a few powerhouses. Obesity, diabetes, and hypertension (high blood pressure, where the blood creates too much pressure against the walls of our arteries). All three of these conditions are linked to insulin resistance. Cancer and Alzheimers, conditions that terrify us, are also linked to insulin resistance.
Chronic diseases are classed as those that 1. Do not get better with time. 2. Have environmental triggers. 3. Have multiple symptoms.
Metabolic syndrome is another step towards heart disease and one-quarter of the adults in the United States have heart disease.
Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is the main form of heart disease. Blood vessels of the heart become damaged, and this can result in a heart attack.
There is no cure because the vessels remain damaged. Even after a bypass, which gets more blood and oxygen to the heart, you still have those buggered vessels. And how did they get buggered? Stress Processed Food Sugar Inactivity Obesity Pills, booze and rock, and roll.
Lifestyle choices that cause inflammation.
Diabetes caused by too much blood sugar and too little exercise; excess sugar ends up in the liver and the liver converts it into fat (triglycerides). Triglycerides travel in the blood on small dense lipoproteins (Mostly VLDL). As a result, your cholesterol markers are on the up.
Kidneys start to release sodium and sodium holds water in, the blood, This sends us right back to high blood pressure and damage to arterial walls.
For a great many years we blamed cholesterol for all our woes. However high triglycerides are more common than high cholesterol in people with heart disease. Over half of the people with heart disease do not have high cholesterol (and we have known this since the 1960s!).
High triglycerides come from too much sugar, too many carbohydrates – not from cholesterol
In 1967 there was a study of 286 patients. Out of this sample, 246 were thought to have a genetic link to heart disease. They were put on a diet with no sugar and only 500-600 calories per day coming from carbohydrates; 90% of them saw a reduction in both their triglycerides and their cholesterol.
I am not a doctor or a medical professional of any kind, my intention is to point out that as we have continued to learn more about disease and aging, it has become apparent that we may have got a few things backward. Blame has zero value and I doubt anyone meant to lead us astray but it is also a mistake to hold on to pieces of dubious information as if they were carved in stone by Moses himself.
It is sufficient to say that, at this moment in time, it would be accurate to state that excess carbohydrate, and sugar-dense products, coupled with inactivity and stress appear to be a central dot from which many other ugly dots are joined.
Eating natural foods and doing manual labor used not to be a choice. We scrubbed floors, walked to school, my gran washed clothes by hand and my dad did his own garden. We are less, cooked more and spent more time with loved ones.
Today we have the option to eat with convenience and move only by choice. This is where we are at, and discipline is rewarded later whereas laziness is rewarded now.
What we put in our face, who we surround ourselves with and what we do with our feet has an enormous impact on how gracefully we age.
Men and women change shape as they age. Ladies go from a bikini to a one piece and most men should probably take note but they tend to have less shame and stay topless even when they can not see their own feet. The telltale sign of middle age is the thickening of the waistline. But it is avoidable if you understand what is going on.
Lipoprotein lipase (LPL) is that tricky enzyme that can increase the amount of fat a cell can hold. When it is active LPL will drive fat into cell storage but when it is suppressed fat does not accumulate in that area. LPL is responsible for our body shape and fat distribution.
Hormonal changes that occur with age affect LPL activity and so alter our body shape.
Estrogen Inhibits LPL
Stimulates lipolysis (fat breakdown) because of its affect on adrenaline
Stimulates growth hormone (increases lean weight and increases lipolysis)
Increases blood flow which makes exercise for fat loss more effective
Estrogen holds fat on the lower body
As estrogen declines with age it no longer inhibits LPL activity, so more fat can begin to be stored. The fat which estrogen once held below the belt falls away and is redistributed around the waist.
Lipolysis (fat breakdown) is slowed, leading to the common complaint of what worked before doesn’t work anymore and staying in shape becomes more of a struggle.
As LPL activity increases, more fat is being sent into storage, meaning that there is less available for energy. This triggers hunger and fatigue.
If that increase in fatigue and hunger results in eating sugary snacks then the increase in blood sugar will trigger insulin and insulin itself upregulates LPL so even more fat can be stored.
It becomes a real challenge to keep in shape as our energy diminishes and fat becomes easier to store and harder to burn off. Ladies that have been forced into menopause after having their ovaries removed generally experience increased appetite and weight gain. Interestingly, when women in the same situation did not allow themselves to eat more they still gained the same weight.
Men have been studied too and men with no testicles tended to gain weight with female-like fat distribution.
As they age more of a man’s testosterone is converted into estrogen. The enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen (aromatase) becomes more active with age. Testosterone is already decreasing so any conversion to estrogen leaves even less free testosterone. The liver is responsible for breaking down estrogen so men can help themselves out by avoiding environmental estrogens (eat organic) and by detoxing their liver by consuming less alcohol and using milk thistle, dandelion root and eating cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and collard greens). Stinging nettle and Christine Passionflower are also used as anti-aromatic agents.
But ladies, it all gets a lot more complicated for us – no surprise there.
ESTROGEN (three hormones) and PROGESTERONE (one hormone)
E1 ESTRONE Made in the ovaries pre-menopause and then in the adrenals. Stored in body fat and reduces during pregnancy.
E2 ESTRADIOL Made in the ovaries and reduces during pregnancy.
E3 ESTRIOL Made in the placenta during pregnancy and a teeny bit comes from the E1 breakdown. During pregnancy, there is more E3 than E1 and E2 combined.
PROGESTERONE Made in the ovaries and in small amounts by the adrenals. Progesterone protects during the first three months of pregnancy until the placenta can take over. During pregnancy, progesterone is then produced by the placenta.
Both estrogen and progesterone protect against heart disease by increasing the “good” cholesterol, HDL. Women are more prone to heart issues later in life, partly due to the hormonal decline that comes with age.
WHAT A PAIR
Estrogen and Progesterone are quite the duo and, although both decline with age, progesterone usually declines more rapidly. Women don’t have to wait for menopause to experience the hormonal shifts that come with age. Estrogen and progesterone may both be declining but the sharp decline of progesterone leaves us, ironically, with estrogen dominance.
Dominance here refers to the ratio of the two hormones being altered to leave estrogen in more of a dominant role. Even though estrogen has decreased, the gap between the two hormones has widened, leaving estrogen in an even more dominant role.
Aging gracefully This started for me at 46, but for many women, it may start a decade sooner. Still not classed as even “perimenopause” this state of estrogen dominance can start to cause havoc and if your health is not the best I imagine the situation will be worse.
It started for me with a lot of water retention. What used to be four or five days a month was now over a week. My energy was down and my usual good mood was a little more doom and gloom with a pinch of worry thrown in. I recall one day in particular when I was driving to work and my thoughts were a little pessimistic. This is not me, especially first thing in the morning, my favorite time of day. Knowing what I know about hormones I ordered some bio identical progesterone cream online (I was surprised I could even do that). I tried it a day or so later and almost immediately I felt better.
A blood test showed me what I had already guessed and my doctor prescribed me a progesterone cream which made my life happier and a lot more comfortable.
I understand that many women do not want to take the hormone replacement route and I have no bias either way. Some women sail through their hormonal changes but for me it was a solution that squared with my belief system and a choice I was happy to make.
I would add is that if you are against hormonal replacement because of the nightmare stories from a few decades ago, please know that thankfully we are in a different place now. Bio identical hormones are not the synthetic hormones sourced from animals that were used in the 1970’s.
In my nutrition business, I often saw women who came to see me because of weight gain in their forties and fifties. What was a little surprising was some of these women had been prescribed only estrogen (no progesterone) These women were not yet menopausal and estrogen alone had made them even more estrogen dominant. They gained a lot of weight around their middle and were rather = emotional.
The ratio between estrogen and progesterone is key here and to add only estrogen threw them completely out of balance.
Increases body fat in hips and thigh Helps to use fat for fuel
Increases water retention Natural diuretic
Increases risk of certain breast cancers Restores Libido
Increases headaches Protects breast tissue
Changes blood sugar Normalizes blood sugar
Anxiety Natural antidepressant
If you are at an age where you are experiencing estrogen dominance, certain choices will make things even worse. Estrogenic foods, environmental estrogens, an estrogen-based pill or cream can all have an impact. If you are not inclined to choose bio-identical hormones there is still a lot you can do to help yourself during these challenging times.
We all want to look better and have a killer body, but for me it was my depressed mood that hit me hardest. I like to be happy and I am used to being happy. Life has thrown me some curve balls for sure but my general state of mind is a good one, and balancing my hormones brought me back to my happy place.
TO LOOK FORWARD TO
My mum said she “sailed” through menopause in her mid-fifties. I seem to recall some screaming and my dad telling me that is was just the “change” so there may be some different renditions of that time, Either way, it’s useful for me to know that my mother was 56 when she truly entered menopause. Your mother’s experience may not be your own but there is a definite hereditary relationship, so it is useful information to have. My mother also tried hormone replacement back in the 1970’s which may have had something to do with the screaming.
That initial introduction to hormone replacement was linked to some serious side effects, and it scared women off hormonal intervention for decades to come. Thankfully times have changed, and if you’re on the fence it’s certainly a conversation worth having with a doctor well versed in HRT.
Progesterone and estrogen decline until a point of “follicular depletion” (i.e. you run out of eggs).
Estrogen and Progesterone increase every month to prepare for the egg. When there are no more eggs the cycle itself stops. Menopause is defined when a woman has missed 12 cycles; this process may take years.
The changes leading up to menopause can start to occur years earlier. Ovaries peak in a ladies mid-twenties to early thirties. Generally, after 40 years of age the number of follicles drops and this leads to a drop in estrogen. When estrogen drops there is not enough estrogen to mature an egg and if there is no mature egg, and reduced progesterone, then periods become irregular and sometimes uncomfortably heavy.
These are the changes that get a woman’s attention but this state of flux has other repercussions. Estrogen and progesterone are useful in protecting against heart disease. They do this by keeping HDL (high-density lipoproteins) high. Premenopausal women have a much lower risk of heart disease than men their same age, but by 65 years old the rate of heart disease is almost comparable. A lady’s hormones drop, so their protective function drops and the risk of heart disease increases.
Bones are constantly being built up and broken down. When estrogen drops, the breakdown of bone dominates. This is a concern for women, although this bone loss does seem to stabilize a few years after menopause.
There are estrogen receptors in the bladder and the vagina. Estrogen influences collagen production which, in turn, affects connective tissue (ligaments and tendons). When estrogen drops, the pelvic floor weakens because of the changes in connective tissue. This can take a lady into an embarrassing era of UTI (urinary tract infections), incontinence and painful sex. Ladies can spend a third of their lives dealing with pre, post and menopause itself.
Estrogen also inhibits the production of the stress hormone, cortisol. When estrogen declines cortisol levels rise, this can increase blood sugar, blood pressure and for some unfortunate women, it can lead to mild to severe panic attacks. Furthermore, estrogen has a role in regulating the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a mood neurotransmitter, and estrogen helps prevent its reuptake, when estrogen declines unstable moods ensue, causing episodes of anxiety and panic.
We all know that lady that in her younger years could have taken on the world. She was ambitious, confident, a go-getter, a life shaker, but who, in her later years, became uncertain, anxious, fragile and depressed? The majority of women (80%) suffer to some degree with:
Men don’t get a pass either.
Men get grumpy, and women get scared,
Not the ideal scenario as you age with your partner.
Guys if your lady is becoming a little annoying ,please know that are you too.
We all know that guy that in his younger years was cheerful, full of fun and curiosity but in his later years, became grumpy, opinionated, argumentative and fatalistic?
It’s easy to point a critical finger at the ladies but you guys can become tough to be around. You’re need to be right only intensifies as you become more emotional with the passing years. Testosterone is converted into estrogen and as men age this conversion increases. Aromatase is an enzyme that converts androgens (testosterone) to estrogens. This enzyme can be found all over the body and it becomes more active with age, obesity, insulin and excessive alcohol intake.
MEN HAVE ESTROGEN TOO
Yes, men do have a female side and it is not just puppies and chick flicks that bring it to the surface. Estradiol is the estrogen in men that mainly comes from the conversion of testosterone to estrogen. As men get older the production of testosterone decreases yet the conversion of the hormones continues, especially in fatty tissue.
As men get older their male hormone drops while their estradiol levels remain high. This is due to the increased activity of that aromatase enzyme that happily converts testosterone to estrogen, and the process is enhanced by the increase of fat associated with age.
Fat releases and stores hormones, and abdominal fat produces estrogen which then enters a man’s bloodstream.
How do you know if this is happening to you or your man? Their emotional disposition might be the giveaway but also feeling constantly tired, losing muscle, gaining fat on the chest and, of course, that increasing waistline.
We can become difficult as we age, putting a strain on our friends, family, and children. Some would say it’s the circle of life. Your kids drive you crazy, and then you drive your kids crazy. It becomes a challenge for everyone involved and yet there are three obvious ways to help this transition into your golden years.
1. Don’t get fat. As we get older we often have more time on our hands and this can lead to mindless eating. How we look may be less important and this also makes irresponsible food choices more likely. Controlling the hormone insulin by managing our carbohydrate intake would be a very wise choice, as insulin is the primary fat storage hormone and is linked to a host of other age-related conditions, which we will shortly discuss.
2. Keep moving. Aches, pains and less energy lead to less activity and our world becomes smaller. You used to go out a lot more and now your world becomes your own four walls because anything else just becomes too much of an effort. As a result of this inactivity, we have muscle loss and fat gain. The hardest thing of all in our later years might be to stay active but we all know those older people that do; they are more energetic, more positive and more youthful.
3. Drink less alcohol. Alcohol puts a strain on the liver and the liver also has to break down fat. Alcohol seems to increase the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, it saps our energy and increases fat storage.
Chrysin (extracted from passion flower) and flaxseed are thought to help as anti-aromatizing agents while zinc and stinging nettle are associated with testosterone production and the increase of free testosterone in the blood. Stinging nettle is also thought to help with the neutralization of the aromatizing agents.
Milk thistle and dandelion roots have long been used to detox the liver along with Indole-3-Carbinol, which is also found in cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, watercress, turnip, and radishes). These vegetables are rich in sulfur which helps with detoxification and may reduce the risk of breast, colon and lung cancers.
As well as the cruciferous vegetables, which seem to be a go-to for every ailment of every age, women may also find relief with the following:
Black Cohosh hot flashes, mood disturbances, and vaginal dryness
Chasteberry aka Vitex Agnus-cactus, used for irregular bleeding, PMS, increasing progesterone and so preventing some miscarriages
Dang Guai detoxifies the blood and regulation of menstrual cycle
Rhodiola Rosea fatigue, poor attention, memory, and vitality
Wild Yam Menstrual cramps. Contains Diosgenin a plant-based estrogen that can be converted into progesterone
Ginseng vitality, supports sleep and relaxation, possible cardiovascular support
Licorice hot flashes and night sweats
Red Clover potentially helpful with bone density, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and inflammation
Plant-based hormones are not identical to our own hormones and can’t be expected to work in exactly the same way. This concerns some health professionals. The importance and the potency of herbs can be understated and I wouldn’t advise you to just start filling your cart with these products. Female hormones are a delicate matter and deserve the attention which a naturopath or certified herbologist can give you.
Discussing the changes of age is no longer taboo. Women are the ones that usually love to talk and it’s men that keep tight-lipped, except when the topic is age. Women were told to age gracefully while men have been publicly tackling their declining hormones since the 1940’s. The male conversation has been going on so long that we don’t even blush at an erectile dysfunction commercial on television, and no one gets judged if a blue pill is used in the bedroom. Men expect a better quality of life as they age; for decades they have demanded ways to preserve their vigor and vitality.
Ladies, please step forward.
Ladies, on the other hand, still get that critical eyebrow raise if they demand the same from their doctors. There is this martyr-like strength in embracing “the change” and rising above the superficial importance placed on youth. I, for one, am not going with that. I want to look good, I want to be energetic, I want to be positive and happy, I don’t want a head full of worry, and I don’t want age to dictate my hair length or a one-piece bathing suit.
Women deal with the rollercoaster of hormones from being a young teenager onwards and maybe it’s because hormonal change is part of being a women that it is not as acceptable to want to control the tide.
Men have a pretty chill ride for most of their lives and maybe that’s why, when things do start to deviate from the mean, it’s so much more unacceptable to them – and to society.
“Getting old is not for the weak” – a well-worn phrase that sums it up quite nicely
Part 3 of this blog on aging is my favorite and coming up tomorrow
AGING GRACEFULLY Part One, discussing childhood, growing up female, alcohol, Water retention and the aging process – enjoy
TIME TO GROW UP!
Women, periods, puberty, PMS, pregnancy, postpartum, perimenopause and menopause.
Men just get old.
Not exactly true, but women deal with fluctuating and declining hormones throughout their lives. Every woman knows the effect hormones can have on her body, her energy and her thoughts.
As teenagers, both boys and girls get a hormone hazing; acne and moods spare no one (and no parent). But it is the girls who, seemingly overnight, get a disorientating wake-up as they enter the state of womanhood. One day they are carefree, playing dress up in mom’s shoes, the next day they’re having an uncomfortable conversation with the lady wearing the shoes.
Girls enter those awkward pubescent years with about 6% more fat than boys the same age. Girls continue to get fat, and by the time they exit puberty, they have 50% more fat than the boys of the same age. Boys, on the other hand, start off in a better place than the girls and actually lose fat during puberty.
Hormones are running riot in the young bodies of pubescent children. Boys have more testosterone, which increases their lean mass and so reduces their percentage of body fat, while girls have estrogen and progesterone, adding curves and the need for a training bra.
Bad skin, the onset of a girl’s menstrual cycle and mood swings make this a fun time, and hormones can be blamed for all of it.
Of the girls and boys who become obese as teenagers, 75% will continue the trend to be obese as adults. There is most unquestionably a genetic factor but this statistic is also a function of exercise and food habits, and these are, in turn, a function of parental influence.
It makes me grateful for being the age I am. Early in my teenage years, I didn’t pay any attention to what I was eating. Whatever was put in front of me is what I ate. The microwave was just being introduced and I don’t recall any fast food, unless you count the ice cream truck.
The food I ate was unprocessed, the servings I ate were determined by my parents and I was a very active child, involved in many sports and with no video games and no TV in my room.
The kids today have it tough in many ways. Fast food everywhere, huge portion sizes being the norm, more computer time, less physically active time, parents busy working longer hours; it all leads to more energy-dense food coupled with less energy burning activity which makes weight gain unavoidable.
BECOMING A WOMAN
As girls leave puberty, they become women and the hormone cycle begins. They will have to deal with this for the next four decades.
At birth, a woman has 100,000 to 400,000 eggs in the form of follicles. Follicles ripen and one turns into an egg. If that egg is fertilized, pregnancy may follow. If the egg is not fertilized the cycle starts over again.
PMS (Pre Menstrual Syndrome) is the result of the imbalance between estrogen and progesterone. If estrogen dominates, the female may feel anxious. If progesterone is too high the female may feel depressed. The balance depends on how much of each hormone the ovaries produce and how well they are broken down by the liver and excreted by the kidneys.
Stress, sugar, alcohol and medication can challenge the liver and the kidneys, making PMS symptoms worse.
Fatigue is one of the most common complaints around this time of the month. One of the reasons fatigue sets in is because the female body becomes very insulin sensitive. Remember that insulin is your storage hormone, triggered by too many carbohydrates in the blood. The result is that insulin removes the carbohydrates from the blood and puts them into storage (i.e., fat). When carbohydrates are removed from the blood our blood glucose level drops, and so does our energy. The natural response to low blood sugar is hunger and cravings. Another major complaint with PMS is sugar cravings and overeating.
When PMS causes insulin sensitivity, women become more susceptible to the energy crash of low blood sugar after eating. I can certainly relate to the constant feeling of hunger and fatigue at this time of the month but the biggest mistake would be to give in to the cravings and to eat something sweet. That sugary fix will make the whole situation even worse. It’s better to snack on nuts, cheese, or any other protein source, in fact, pretty much anything but sugar. Eating carbohydrate dense foods will spike insulin. Insulin will do its thing, crash your blood sugar and lock fat in its storage cell, Cravings will follow and the vicious cycle of eat, crash, crave persists.
Ladies, be aware that this is going to be a part of our life for the majority of our life, so create good habits asap. The week before your period try to get more rest, stop the processed food and booze (as they challenge the liver and kidneys), cut the sugar (read your labels because it is everywhere) and hit the gym for a little endorphin high.
The high estrogen will stimulate the adrenals and will reduce urination. As if we didn’t feel bad enough, during our period water is being reabsorbed leaving us uncomfortable and bloated. About 40% of women experience this. I have found that dandelion root tea is helpful but not the perfect answer. Again if you are eating sugar, processed foods and not sleeping enough you will make the situation worse. And water retention can feel and look worse than fat.
WHEN THE PARTY’S OVER
How we age is a function of how well we handle stress.
By the age of 70, we might expect to have only 70% the muscle we had as a 28-year-old and our sense of taste and smell will have dropped dramatically.
As we age, we have less Hydrochloric acid (HCL), so we do not digest or absorb our food as effectively. This can leave us deficient in certain nutrients, especially iron, protein, and B12. Iron and B12 have a role to play in energy, so when they are low, we become tired, experiencing fatigue which a good sleep doesn’t remedy.
At this stage in the game, we’re unlikely to pull an “all-nighter”.
I’m not sure when it happened, the age at which I stopped staying out late several nights a week. I don’t recall being tired in my 20’s, even into my mid 30’s I was going strong with a full social life and getting by on five hours sleep. At some point after that, it all changed.
Aging is nature’s way of stopping us from making fools of ourselves. Right about the age when we lose the urge, and the energy to party is right about the age when, if we did keep going, we would embarrass ourselves by being that awkward elder in a room full of 25-year-olds.
We move from getting home when the sun is coming up, to afternoon BBQ’s that end before the sun goes down. We move from a girls’ night out to spa days. This natural progression of aging is subtle and yet, in this case, kind.
Late nights and cocktails truly stress our bodies. We are well equipped to handle these stressors in our twenties and thirties, but there is still a price to pay.
“The cause and the solution to all life’s problems.” – Homer Simpson
Two-thirds of adults in the USA drink alcohol, the average consumption being 2.65 gallons of pure alcohol a year.
This sounds like a lot but there was a time when alcohol was an essential part of life.
Western civilization, for over 10,000 years, had a water supply that was not safe to drink. Alcohol was at least clean and served throughout the day. Consider the fine art of the Renaissance or Classical Rome or Greece; there is always a goblet of wine to be seen. Europe and beyond was a very merry place for quite some time.
In the Far East, they figured out how to boil water to make it safe to drink. In Asia tea was more popular than alcohol. The Eastern world saw two gene pools develop and this is still in evidence today.
Acetaldehyde dehydrogenase is needed to break down alcohol. If this enzyme is not produced, or not working efficiently, then alcohol is not broken down and becomes toxic.
In the West, if you had a problem with acetaldehyde dehydrogenase you would not survive. Over the generations, a single gene pool survived; those who could break down alcohol in their liver.
In the East they were drinking tea and boiled water, so even those who could not tolerate alcohol were able to survive and breed. So two gene pools developed. It is not uncommon to meet someone of eastern descent who cannot tolerate alcohol at all. They will flush and become very ill as the alcohol becomes toxic.
Modern day medicine has used this to some people’s advantage and the alcohol addiction drug Antabuse works by inhibiting the enzyme acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, causing those who are on it to get violently ill if they drink alcohol; like an instant and hellish hangover. The hope is that feeling sick will kill the urge to drink alcohol. It is a neat idea that sometimes helps, but alcohol addiction often runs too deep to be so easily thwarted.
Interestingly, women have less of this enzyme in their stomach and so they metabolize alcohol at a slower rate and will get sick quicker. Guys, don’t expect your lady to keep up with your drinking, or you might be holding her hair off her face as she hurls in defeat.
Older men have less ADH, as noted at many a wedding or Christmas party.
Menopausal women become lightweights, and suffer worse after-effects, whereas heavy drinkers likely have more ADH than is normal, giving them the annoying ability to be bright and breezy the morning after.
“Oh God, that man should put their enemy in their mouth to steal away their brain”. – William Shakespeare
Alcohol, unlike food, cannot be broken down and stored. Alcohol is permeable in both water and fat, which means alcohol can go straight through the wall of the stomach with no digestion necessary.
Alcohol is converted into acetaldehyde, which is toxic and therefore makes you sick. Acetaldehyde is broken down by the aforementioned enzyme, acetaldehyde dehydrogenase and is converted into acetic acid radicals.
Alcohol has to be completely broken down by the liver and the liver will break alcohol down before it breaks down anything else. Alcohol will be broken down before fat and, with the stress of continuous alcohol, fat will build up in the liver and the liver is not meant to store fat.
When there is an excess of alcohol the liver will call on the MEOS system (Microsomal Ethanol Oxidizing System) to help out. The MEOS system breaks down things like medication, Tylenol, anesthesia and, strangely, broccoli. If the MEOS system is busy with alcohol then it is not able to deal with these other substances and they can become toxic.
If your medication tells you not to drink alcohol it is not because they don’t want you to get loaded; it is because you may not be able to break down the medication safely. There are far too many accidental deaths when people mix meds and booze. It is often assumed that these deaths must have been as a result of partying to excess but, in truth, it might be purely accidental as the liver tries to break down a long, steady diet of alcohol with some pills mistakenly thrown in on top.
Your liver cannot break down alcohol faster just because you are drinking faster. Your liver will break alcohol down at a steady rate and when we consume too much for too long the liver gets backed up and everything else that needs to be broken down stays intact and potentially toxic.
Given this knowledge, it’s probably also a good idea to listen to your doctors when they tell you not to drink before surgery.
Excess alcohol may temporarily make you feel fabulous, but prolonged excess can lead to thin arms and legs because of muscle loss, a swollen belly caused by a swollen liver, and even a big nose and possible hair loss. Attractive, not!…
THE MORE COMMON PRICE TO PAY
Alcohol consumption can be a life or death stress on the body. Over time and prolonged alcohol abuse, healthy liver tissue is replaced with scar tissue which stops the liver from functioning properly. Blood flow is blocked which affects the breakdown of nutrients, hormones, and medications. There is no cure for cirrhosis of the liver.
We may handle alcohol differently but all of us who do drink can expect to, at some time or another, experience the following…
1. The Hangover. Water is lost from the cells, especially the brain cells and, as these cells start to rehydrate, we get that hangover headache.
2. Water Retention. The sick joke is that, with alcohol, you get both dehydrated and then bloated. There is a hormone call ADH (antidiuretic hormone) which, as the name suggests, does the opposite to a diuretic. It makes you hold onto water. Alcohol temporarily inhibits ADH which means that you are able to get dehydrated. Post alcohol, the ADH hormone kicks back in with a vengeance. It rehydrates the body big time, causing us to swell in all sorts of unwanted places. Post party you can expect puffy eyes, rings that are too tight on your fingers and sock lines around your ankles.
3. Poor Eating Behavior. When we drink alcohol there comes a point where our taste buds become dull. I doubt that you have experienced your best meal ever whilst drinking. Many times meals are not memorable because you failed to even taste them. Your dulled taste buds may cause you to overeat as you chase the taste. Your fluctuating blood sugar may also cause you to succumb to your sweet tooth or fast food craving.
4. Weight Gain. We all know those fancy cocktails are loaded with sugar and calories but there is a bigger reason that alcohol causes weight gain. We have talked a lot about lipolysis, the breakdown of fat for fuel. High carbohydrates will trigger the hormone insulin which will shut lipolysis down. Declining estrogen and testosterone slow down lipolysis and so does alcohol consumption. If the liver is breaking down alcohol then it cannot be breaking down fat at the same time.
To give you a rough idea of how that looks, two vodkas in three hours can reduce lipolysis by 75%. You can do your own math but if two vodkas has that much impact, what does four vodkas do, a bottle of wine or three beers do you for you?
The point being; alcohol slows down the breakdown of fat (lipolysis) in a major way. This brings me to a very common conversation; the debate about which is better – the person who has a couple of drinks per night versus the person who drinks more but drinks just one night a week. The argument might be that alcohol every day is slowing down lipolysis every day whereas drinking more alcohol once a week just throws lipolysis off for that day; and meanwhile, lipolysis can be effective throughout the rest of the week.
I was talking about this in one of my seminars and a lady who had attended left me a scathing Yelp review, accusing me of promoting binge drinking! I will, therefore, leave you to come to your own conclusion. I will only say that alcohol consumption causes weight gain by the calories in the drink, the food we eat is more likely stored as fat and our diminished ability to break down fat.
SUGGESTIONS, NOT SOLUTIONS
1. Do not drink on an empty stomach. The small intestine is more effective at absorbing alcohol so the longer we can keep it in the stomach the better. If we have a reasonably full stomach, we can keep the valve between the stomach and the small intestine locked down.
2. Drink water with every hard drink. This will help to limit dehydration and make the next day a bit more bearable.
3. Avoid carbonated drinks as they speed stomach emptying.
4. Do not take Tylenol as it broken down by the MEOS system. Tylenol is hard on the liver, especially when combined with alcohol.
I did not really value sleep until I hit my forties. Thinking back, I trained every day, did a business degree while working part-time, lived in three countries, competed and had a pretty active social life. I know I saw many a midnight and have always been awake before 5.00 a.m. but I do not recall being tired – until my forties.
Lack of sleep is a recognized stress and it makes losing weight very difficult. Men especially like to get heroic oversleep, priding themselves on how little sleep they get. Few of them have a six pack.
So how much sleep do we need? If you are awoken by an alarm clock I would argue that you are not getting all the sleep you need.
Today the National Sleep Foundation calculate that on average we get six hours and 40 minutes sleep on a weekday; compare to pre-light bulb nights when people averaged ten hours a night. Our sleep patterns are strongly linked to what we have allowed ourselves to become accustomed to.
People who sleep less are more active, and yet they will have trouble losing weight. Women who eat less, exercise more but sleep less gain more weight than women who sleep seven hours a night.
In 2006 The American Thoracic Society put some numbers to this theory. People who slept five hours were 35% more likely to be overweight and 15% more likely to be obese (compared to someone who got seven hours of sleep). Those who slept six hours were 12% more likely to be overweight and 7% more likely to be obese.
Sleep deprivation interferes with the body’s ability to break down carbohydrates. Lingering carbohydrates means the presence of insulin, our fat hormone.
When we sleep we inhibit cortisol secretion. Waking up too soon will stimulate the hormone cortisol, and elevated and prolonged cortisol makes us store fat, especially around the mid section.
Sleep deprivation will drive leptin levels down and ghrelin levels up, which will trigger cravings and overeating.
Growth hormone is released when we sleep. Growth hormone is a big player in determining how much fat and how much muscle you have. Reduced levels of HGH may reduce your muscle mass which will, in turn, increase your body fat percentage.
Sleep Deprivation can alter our body and so much more beyond that. Sleep deprivation has been used as a torture tactic and, to a lesser degree, can cause depression and moodiness. In women, sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, endometriosis, and dysmenorrhea (painful periods).
One thought with regards to the cancer risk of poor sleep is that melatonin may be a protective hormone. Melatonin production is stimulated by the dark and so we produce melatonin when we sleep. When the light/dark cycle is interrupted by shift work or lack of sleep women have been shown to be at greater risk of menstrual irregularities, conception problems, miscarriage and breast cancer.
Melatonin had been thought simply to be the hormone that helps us sleep. But we now find it has many important functions; protection against breast cancer is one of the most vital.
Lack of sleep will make it harder to lose weight. Short sleepers tend to eat more and crave more sugar. Short sleepers retain a layer of water bloat which is especially noticeable around their midsection. If you are already sleep-deprived it would be a mistake to get up an hour earlier to get in an extra hour of exercise.
The good news about sleep is that you can play catch up. You cannot undo a bad meal but you can catch up on sleep. If your week gets busy, the extra hours you get on a weekend can be powerful. One suggestion that was made to me years ago, and has proven a good lesson, is not to sleep in. Sleeping in will help us catch up on lost sleep but it will also throw off our sleep pattern, making it more difficult to go to bed on time that same day. A better idea is to go to bed early and get up at your usual time. This will allow for the extra sleep you need while keeping your nighttime schedule constant. If going to bed earlier feels like a challenge, there is a simple solution; remove all light bulbs.
The party went well, drinks flowed and the night ended the next day. Your alarm rouses you and it’s back to reality. Your headaches a little but what hurts more is what you see in the mirror. Your face and body are bloated, making sweats and a baseball hat the uniform of the day.
Water weight is a peculiar thing. Our body is about 60% water but when we retain water that can go up to 65%. If you weigh 150lb that could bump you up to 158lb
Water weight is heavier than fat. If you take a bucket of fat and a bucket of water the bucket of water will be heavier. As a trainer I would hear more complaints about “bloat” than I would about gaining fat because water weight is heavy. It can feel almost suffocating, whereas fat can surprise you; you don’t know it’s there until one day those jeans don’t fit.
There are two hormones which regulate our water balance.
Antidiuretic hormone controls the amount of fluid released from the kidneys. Dehydration will trigger ADH, causing the kidneys to release less water. You know this is happening because your urine will be a strong orange color. There is less water in your urine giving it a stronger, more concentrated color. ADH, also called vasopressin, will be activated by alcohol, diuretics, sweat loss, sauna, and pain. The easiest way to avoid the bloat of ADH is to keep hydrated.
This is the hormone that causes more complaints than any other. It is a very fast acting hormone which hits hard. When aldosterone is present it means there can be no sodium in your urine. That is huge because water will always follow sodium. If sodium cannot leave your body because aldosterone is present, then neither will water so you start to expand.
Aldosterone can be triggered by stress and can really mess up an important day for you. A lady getting ready for her wedding may be so stressed that instead of looking better on her big day she looks a lot worse. Once the wedding is over the stress subsides and so does the water weight. A little too late.
It can, however, work in your favor. Vacation weight loss is not unusual. The extra sleep and relaxation you get on vacation can take pounds off you, and just in time for you to feel more comfortable in that bikini.
The late nights and parties are definitely best suited to those in their twenties. As we get into our thirties, forties, fifties and beyond we are less equipped to deal with that kind of stress.
Hope you enjoyed part 1 of Aging Gracefully. Please share if you enjoyed and as I say in the video, please contact me with any feedback firstname.lastname@example.org