By Sara Gottfried, M.D., author of the bestselling The Hormone Cure: Reclaim Balance, Sleep, Sex Drive and Vitality Naturally with The Gottfried Protocol
The stereotypical middle-aged woman is overweight. Cranky. Tired. Perpetually rushing from task to task, and between her family and her spouse, she hardly has a moment for self care. She's far from the glowing health of her 20s but not ready to be the doting grandmother she'll be in her 70s.
The reason? Hormones.
Women between the ages of 40 and 59+ get slammed with a tidal wave of hormone imbalances that leave them stressed, and unable to sleep or lose weight. The constantly on-edge, menopausal woman has become a stereotype of our society, but things don't have to be this way.
Sara Gottfried, M.D., author of The Hormone Cure
Boomers, I want to change the conversation we're having about hormones, and prevent you from falling down a hormonal flight of stairs.
Our busy lives and inconsistent food plan have created an environment of hormonal upheaval aside from the natural shift of menopause that women in their 50s experience. So how to calm these choppy waters? It's astonishingly simple.
Weight for Me!
Most of us are battling a muffin top. Some of us are battling a full cake. After 20 years and 20,000 patients as a practicing gynecologist, the main complaint I've seen is women's inability to lose weight.
Here's a newsflash: it's not your fault. Even if you've been trying to eat less and exercise more, hormones may be working against you to slow down your metabolism. Hard-to-lose belly fat is the result of elevated cortisol, the main stress hormone. Cortisol releases glucose into your bloodstream in stressful situations so you have extra energy to fight or escape; when we stress too often and for too long, this translates to higher blood sugar, a slower metabolism and extra pounds that refuse to move.
Women in menopause often have low cortisol during the day (so you feel tired and sluggish) and high cortisol at night (so you can spend sleepless hours in bed worrying about your mortgage and child's college career). Here are some steps you can take to lower your cortisol and jumpstart your metabolism right now:
- Take fish oil. This addition of healthy fats has been proven to help lower cortisol many times over.
Start an exercise routine that doesn't stress your body - like yoga or dance - unlike running, which does.
Yoga and other exercises that don't stress your body can jumpstart your metabolism.
- Start practicing meditation and deep breathing or take "Tiara Time:" Put on a tiara and tell your family that for the next 15 minutes, you are off-limits.
- Ask your doctor for some tests. Women in menopause are more likely to be suffering from thyroid issues. Causes can be stress, genetics, gluten sensitivity, and low levels of iron, copper, zinc or selenium. This will help you identify the areas that need the most work.
Reset Your Mood
Past the age of 30, lower estrogen causes your mood and libido to tank. The resulting drop in serotonin can sometimes lead to depression or mood swings. Supplements like these can help you get back into the positive mindset:
- 250-500 mg a day of Red Ginseng has been shown to decrease menopausal symptoms and improve quality of life in postmenopausal women with symptoms of depression.
- 50-400 IU of Vitamin E helps with certain symptoms of low estrogen, including hot flashes, vaginal dryness and mood swings.
- 300 mg a day of Phosphatidylserine (PS) has been shown to improve mood under stress.
You can take these at the same time, but I suggest trying one at a time to see what best moves the needle for you.
Whether you're 18 or 88, plentiful sleep is important for your mental and physical well being. Not only does sleep help your body stay in a healthy circadian rhythm and release hormones on time (cortisol in the morning when you need it, and not at night when you don't), but it is also the only time that your body is able to repair itself. The older you are, the more important this becomes!
Making a few simple changes can help you fall asleep and stay asleep:
- Reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol, both of which can hijack sleep.
- Eat more rhubarb or pomegranate if hot flashes are a problem. Or practice paced breathing (breathe in for five seconds and then out for five seconds, for 20 minutes twice a day).
- Try valerian. It's been proven to help sleep with none of the negative side effects associated with sleeping pills. Take 300-600 mg of valerian root 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Ask your doctor about oral progesterone. A dose of 300 mg has been shown to restore normal sleep in postmenopausal women (this is a higher dose than normal, and I reserve it only for women with sleep issues).
By taking steps like these, you can be skinny, rested and joyful in no time. However, as always, I suggest working closely with your physician before starting a new exercise routine, nutrition plan or supplement regimen.
About the Author
Sara Gottfried, M.D., is a Harvard-educated physician and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Hormone Cure: Reclaim Balance, Sleep, Sex Drive and Vitality Naturally with The Gottfried Protocol. She teaches women how to balance their hormones regardless of age.
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