How you age is profoundly affected by how you handle stress. When we’re stressed, our adrenal glands focus on producing the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol for survival. If stress is short-lived, then these can keep us focused and alert to handle whatever is happening in our environment.
But when we experience stress over a long time your adrenal glands focus on making stress hormones for survival rather than producing hormones rebalance the body and reduce menopausal symptoms. The fact is that your body cannot tell the difference between physical stress, emotional stress or nutritional stress.
Stress can also slow down your thyroid and thyroid hormones, resulting in issues like feeling cold and having aches and pains and hair loss. Adrenal fatigue has similar symptoms to menopause – insomnia, foggy thinking, exhaustion, depression and weight gain. When high stress is combined with menopause, this is what’s called in technical terms, “a double whammy.”
Another consequence of chronic stress and the adrenals being distracted from their role of producing oestrogen is joint pain. Try eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as flaxseed, sardine, mackerel, salmon, walnuts, and seeds.
Chronic stress causes fatigue
As we age, stomach acid production decreases; however, low stomach acid can also be caused by chronic stress. Persistent stress can cause a depletion of essential vitamins and nutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin C and magnesium. All of which are needed for energy production in the body.
NB: If you are persistently tired and your fatigue is not relieved by rest, you should consult your doctor to rule out a medical condition.
Balance your balance sugar
How can nutrition help? Balance your blood sugar – every time blood sugar levels drop, your body releases the stress hormone cortisol and adrenaline and you experience fatigue, low energy and mood swings, insomnia, headaches, dizziness and anxiety. You will crave sugary foods and refined carbohydrates such as cakes, biscuits and muffins and rely on caffeine or alcohol for a quick boost.
Low mood, fatigue and stress are all a prescription for comfort eating, which leads to weight gain. The key to good blood glucose control is to eat a combination of protein and complex carbohydrates with every meal and even every snack. For complex carbs try vegetables, fruits, whole grains such as brown rice, wholemeal bread and pasta, porridge oats, pulses and sweet potatoes. Protein takes longer to digest and slows down the release of the carbohydrate, keeping you feeling full of longer and maintaining blood sugar balance try meat, fish, seafood, eggs, lentils, quinoa, hummus, chickpeas, soy, cottage cheese, Greek yoghurt, nuts, seeds and unsweetened nut butter.
Poor sleep increases stress
Poor sleep is also a factor in weight gain because regular insomnia disrupts the hormones that control appetite, making it much harder to manage what you eat. Insufficient sleep also increases stress levels, and the cycle can be vicious. Eating more vegetables and fewer starchy carbs with your evening meal helps improve your sleep pattern.
Eliminate phone, Ipad, tablet, laptop at bedtime and in bed as this can be very stimulating. Instead, wind down at night with some gentle stretching and relaxation exercises. Have a 10 minute routine and do every night.
Try this: While standing up place your legs apart, relax your shoulder and just swing your arms around. This can be a lovely release for both the mind and the body.
You should also limit alcohol as alcohol raises cortisol levels and wean yourself off caffeine as it recreates stress conditions for the body, including raising cortisol. Easy does it. Figure out what is the minimum caffeine you need to survive.
Staying calm reduces stress
Relaxation exercises are as crucial as pounding the pavement to allow your body to have periods of calm and reduce stress levels. Yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates are all fantastic for stress. They slow down your body and mind, detox your system and help you to completely relax. Yoga and pilates are also excellent for building muscle strength and toning your body.
Sitting quietly for 10-20 minutes at a time whilst paying attention to your breathing. Listen to calming music if your mind wanders. Focus on deep breathing, breathe in slowly for 5 seconds, and breathe out slowly for 10 seconds. Repeat as much as you can manage.
Have sex. Have an orgasm. Did you know that stroking the clitoris was once used as therapy for women with hysteria (called medical massage). Stop laughing and go have some sex.
Get your nutrient levels tested by your GP as menopausal women tend to have some essential nutrient deficiencies.
Eat dark chocolate (above 70% or better still 90% cocoa). Just a couple of pieces a day is good. Dark chocolate has been shown to have a positive effect on stress levels, mood and memory and can reduce your sugar cravings.
Treat yourself to a massage as often as possible as it relaxes the body and mind. When lockdown permits.
Sing when you want to and how you want to. Singing is great for mood and breath.
Stay positive, appreciate what you have and not what you lack.
Learn to say No