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Author Information

I am a New Zealand registered nurse and nutritionist (Grad Cert Sci: nutrition, Massey Univ). I am a Certified Zone Instructor, and have worked teaching Zone diet principles to hundreds of clients over the last 10 years. More recently after finding that eating Paleo food choices was the "icing on the cake" health wise, I have become a Paleo enthusiast and teacher. Follow me on twitter @juliannejtaylor

Menopause update: diet, exercise and supplements

This is a follow up from my previous post: “Menopause sucks, even on a paleo diet”

It’s just over a year on. I’ve been playing with diet and exercise and menopause supplements. Trying to get back that feeling of pre-menopausal normality and trying to ward what aging is doing to my body.

Here’s what I found works

  1. Move every day – walking, weights, and high intensity short bursts.

I go to the gym 3 – 4 times a week, I lift heavy stuff, barbells, kettlebells. You MUST and if you can imagine me raising my voice  – MUST lift heavy. You need to put a truckload of weight through your muscles and bones to keep them strong and looking good. The average person loses 250grams of muscle every year after the age of 30, about 2 kg every decade. It’s just not loss of mass – sarcopenia– which makes you look spindly and flabby but dynapenia, loss of muscle strength that you need to worry about. Loss of strength is associated with faster decline and death and being far less functional as you age. Loss of strength and muscle mass are associated with mortality from all causes.

Here is a picture from this earlier post showing what happens to your figure post menopause when you lift heavy:

155 lbs before and after

And here is an excellent talk by Jamie Scott at the Ancestral Health Symposium

jamie scott talk muscle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t spend hours at the gym – you really don’t need to to maintain strength. I do around 4 x 1/2 hour sessions per week. I focus on big movements. Dead-lifts, barbell squats, one leg squats etc. Pull-ups (with as little assistance as I can to make them hard), push-ups, bench and shoulder press. Mostly I do 6 – 10 reps x 3 – 5 sets, just managing the last few reps. (Find what works for you – this is what I like)

High intensity – for me is it either something like jumping squats, some short bursts on the rower at the gym, kettle bell swings, or sprints in the park. I walk then run for about 30 seconds and keep doing that for about 1/2 hour.

Walks – I walk every day I’m not at the gym, around 1/2 hour, I enjoy getting a nature fix – so I go to the beach or walk in the park next to my home. (Western Springs Park in Auckland)

western springs park

Incidental activity. I’ve got a desk that I can adjust to standing or sitting. I do ‘snacktivity’ getting up for a short walk every half an hour, using the stairs at work instead of the lift etc. It adds up – 2 flights of stairs which take a minute to walk up – doing that 4 times a day is 8 flights. I don’t even notice it as exercise.

2. Diet

I’ve tried a bunch of different things to get my weight – as in tummy fat down. I’m partially successful. The most successful diet regime I’ve found for me is Metabolic Effects menopause diet.

My diet is still protein and every meal, loads of vegetables and at least 1 huge salad a day, some fruit, some root vegetable starch, 1/2 – 1 glass of wine (some days), for fats I only add monounsaturated fats – whole nuts, olives, olive oil and avocado. Saturated fats only if they are on the meat I eat. (I don’t fare well on saturated fats like coconut oil and cream – they contribute to my high LDL). What doesn’t work? Sugar, refined grains, (even gluten free) eating too much, high fat meals, more than 1 glass of wine.

Here are links to a couple of useful articles by Metabolic Effects:

Postmenopausal? Perimenopause? Menopause? 4 Tricks For Weight Loss

What Causes Menopause Weight Gain?

So – have I lot weight you are wondering? Yes a little. Dresses that were tight a year ago and comfortable now. I can’t wear my pre-menopause skinny clothes though.

3. Supplements

General supplements:

I try to get a high nutrient diet, a big range of veggies, raw nuts and seeds, organ meats, animal foods, seafood. I find despite this I feel better adding in some B vitamins every so often, (in a iron free multivitamin) high purity omega 3 (I use OmegaRx) most days. I take vitamin C with bioflavanoids, tocotrienol rich vitamin E,  extra selenium (for my hashimotos), curcumin, vitamin K2, and vitamin D in the winter. Magnesium at night.

Specific menopause supplements:

At my worst, when my memory was bad, my strength decreasing, libido non-existent, I recognised that low testosterone was affecting me. The holistic doctor I see found that my levels were undetectable and I used testosterone cream for a while. That helped so much – I felt normal again in 3 weeks. It appears that this testosterone drop was temporary. I don’t really need need it any more. This graph is interesting – it shows DHEA levels dip and then increase again – DHEA converts to testosterone (reference The relationship of circulating dehydroepiandrosterone, testosterone, and estradiol to stages of the menopausal transition and ethnicity.) 

 

Hot flushes were an annoyance. My symptoms are from low oestrogen. The best menopause supplement for me is this one. Magic! Almost no hot flushes, sleep like a baby, no more night sweats. menopause supplement

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Stress

I’m not one to stress out in general, I’m certainly no type A personality. If I can’t fit things into my life – I let it be. My teenage son causes stress and that is hard. Being supported helps. I tend to pace myself – it took me 4 years to finish my post grad diploma. Staying up all night to finish assignments is not something I do now (I regularly did when I was young). Just having a stressful thought can bring on a hot flush. So avoiding or managing stress is a big contributor to reducing menopause symptoms to a minimum.

Well that’s it so far. As always I love to get your feedback and what works for you.

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21 Responses to “Menopause update: diet, exercise and supplements”

  1. Tania #

    Has your plan helped flatten your belly? It feels like mine keeps expanding…

    The photo in your Facebook post is lovely. Is that a recent photo of you?

    April 3, 2016 at 5:02 pm Reply
    • Yes that photo was taken about 6 months ago. Yes – my belly is flatter, but not quite pre-menopausal flat

      April 3, 2016 at 5:54 pm Reply
      • Tania #

        Good to hear that it worked for you. Such a lovely photo. You should have it everywhere on the website 🙂

        I find the Metabolic Effects links interesting as everyone these days is saying eat fat get skinny (and plenty of books say exactly that, many written by post menopausal women eg Ann Louise Gittleman).

        Do you have any idea the % you’re eating of fat and protein? I’ve tried high fat and low fat and can’t really see any difference in hormones. I am thinking of going back on BHRT especially pregnenolone.

        April 3, 2016 at 6:36 pm Reply
        • I haven’t done an analysis of what I eat – but will do and post later this week

          April 4, 2016 at 8:01 am Reply
  2. Dianne McGrath #

    This is a great post. Thanks for sharing! As a 46yo woman about to be perimenopausal I\’ve been focussing some attention on how to biohack bone health to build a bit more before it starts to slide (!), and manage other aspects of perimenopause & menopause. Your post provided some interesting reading, and a few new things to think about. I hope you do not mind me sharing a few thoughts and experiences.

    Like you, I have a LDL response to some of the saturated fats (as do approx 20-30% of people who consume a low carb, healthy fats diet), but it is managed with the same good oils that you mention. I think I keep Australian olive growers and fish mongers in business. The day I ditched sugar & grains was the day I stopped experiencing period pain as well as started experiencing almost no joint pain (for an ex-distance runner it was like having a new body – \’so this is what \’normal\’ feels like!\’).

    I completely agree with your focus on lifting. Muscle loading is a significant important stressor on bone strength, and that only comes through becoming strong. My mother bought me a book on lifting for women when I was a younger woman in my late 20\’s and I wish I had taken it more to heart back then! With the peak bone mass you are capable of producing done & dusted by the time you are 30 regardless of your gender, I never took a look at this sort of information consciously til my 40\’s. Bit late to increase the max I can build, but never too late to put some bone mass on & preserve what\’s there! Many women fear lifting weights or lift way too light thinking they will \’bulk up\’ like a guy or look like a body builder. That\’s almost impossible due to a) not having testosterone levels like guys (which is behind much of their capacity to build bulk), and b) not developing a very challenging & structured body building training program. I\’ve managed to increase my osseous mass by about 18% over the past 6 months with more focussed attention on lifting, and nutrition.

    I\’m also an increasing fan of intermittent fasting (IF), which touches on your comment on that we eat too much from the frequency side. You may have discussed this in an earlier post – so please forgive me if you have. I find that when the sugars/carbs are significantly reduced the body does not get the same insulin spikes that create those mid-morning & mid-afternoon cravings for snacks (our hunger signals are a bit false in some ways), so IF is not actually that difficult if you don\’t consume many carbs. There are many variants of IF. I tend to do it in such a way that I have at least 12-14 hrs when I have not consumed anything. That means eating dinner \’early\’, and breakfast \’late\’, and sometimes lunch doesn\’t exist because I\’m not hungry (so I make sure my dinner more than meets my nutritional needs on those days). I don\’t specifically trck every calorie, but do have a couple of days a week when I\’m short on cals, but not religious about that aspect as you need to fuel if you want to build. I don\’t do it for weight loss as I\’m in a healthy weight range (although research supports it works). I primarily do IF as there is evidence in animal and human studies that it can:
    a) increase blood levels of human growth hormone – something valuable for muscle gain, and muscle is something we lose as we age if we do not attend to maintaining it, as you rightly point out.
    b) reduce inflammation (joint pain & gut discomfort anyone?)
    c) improve cholesterol levels
    d) increases BDNF (a brain hormone that is linked to depression when we are deficient in it), and
    e) increases nerve cell growth in the brain (important for maintaining and improving mental function).
    Like most \’diets\’ – it\’s not for everyone, but some people gain immense benefit.

    Sleep is another element I would add to your list. Disturbed sleep is very common in perimenopause & menopause, so good sleep health is a \’hot\’ topic (sorry about the pun). Sleep is so critical for our body\’s repair system to function, and for our brain to operate efficiently. The recipe for good sleep will vary for many, and the list of options are well known. It\’s worth trying a multitude of things, and keeping a sleep journal to write down what you did, what worked, etc. Avoiding caffeine in the afternoon, no devices once the sun\’s down/in the hour(s) before bed, establishing regular sleeping patterns, consuming foods/drinks that help induce relaxation in the evening, mediation (also helps with stress!), etc – there are lots of options to play with before delving into medication.

    Keep up the great work!

    April 4, 2016 at 9:19 am Reply
    • Thanks so much for sharing your experiences.
      I too experienced no more menstrual symptoms – pain and PMS on a balanced paleo diet, the grains are worst for me. Fish oil omega 3 also helped a lot.
      Sleep is totally critical. I’ll add a section on that soon. The menopause supplement I’m taking plus the magnesium and the lack of stress mean I sleep a very solid 7.5 – 8.5 hours every night. Stress is the main thing that keeps me awake. There are a few tips I use to deal with that.
      Alcohol of course kills a good sleep and contributes to hot flushes.
      Re IF, I find I get too hungry and consumed with thoughts of food, so doesn’t work for me to do it for too long. But I do often have a late breakfast, stick to 3 meals a day – so have an eating window of about 9 hours, and 4 – 5 hour gaps between meals. My strength is great so I think growth hormone is not an issue.

      April 6, 2016 at 9:42 am Reply
  3. Would you be able to recommend any alternatives to weighted squats or deadlifts for someone not allowed to perform weighted lifts that involve knee bending? The only ideas I\\\’ve come up with are straight leg lifts and biking.

    April 5, 2016 at 2:40 am Reply
    • Sorry – I’m not an expert in this area – best ask a personal trainer or physiotherapist

      April 8, 2016 at 8:09 am Reply
    • Claire #

      Kettle bell swings will work the whole of your posterior chain and are probably one of the best most safe exercises. Start with a very low weight and make sure that you control in on the up and down swing. Worth getting a personal trainer to go through it with you as its a very simple exercise when someone shows you how.

      July 20, 2016 at 9:15 pm Reply
      • Agreed – kettle bell swings are great – they do involve bending at the knees though, but worth trying as you don’t go so low

        July 20, 2016 at 10:18 pm Reply
  4. Ruth #

    I love your site, Julianne. I just ordered some Primal books and paleo books to get started. My family and I had been following a modified Weston Price diet, but I think grains, despite proper preparation, and beans, also properly prepared, are becoming something we need to rid ourselves of. I’ve noticed an direct relationship between consuming oatmeal and 1/2 cup of regular coffee and heart racing with increased blood pressure readings. I just took mine this am, before eating and dosing on med and it was 109/70. I was recently put on BP meds,even though historically I’ve had low BP my whole life–and told the cardiologist I’m getting off this poison asap. He suggested increasing my workout schedule, meditation and anything I can do to reduce stress in my life as I do have way too much like the rest of the modern world we live in. I’ll go back in July and I want OFF of this crap. I’m very newly menopausal as of April, 2016 and am 53. So, I’m thinking that instead of my current spinning class, 3x a week and 5 mile walks, 2x a week, I need to seriously up my game with weight training as I definitely notice a more flaccid body with no definition, despite a stronger workout schedule–this has been an atrophying occurrence over the course of the last 2 yrs. ;(. Secondly, I have to remember to eat, I know, a weird thing about myself, but I’m thinking protein and more veg (already eat quite a bit including a green smoothie in the morning) will improve things and also stabilize my blood sugar. I am wondering if mine is spiking a lot and that is causing heart pressure issues–and perhaps with small regulated snacks, it will keep things more consistent. Thank you so much for blogging about menopause and your personal experience. I have learned so much from just your site in the last 48 hours. I intend to see who at my gym can help me with kettle ball and free weight lessons…ordered a book for that too and would like to try your particular schedule of lifting 3-4 times a week for 1/2 stretches.

    Thanks for all the good information here. There is so much to read, but all of it is appreciated!

    May 7, 2016 at 1:16 am Reply
    • Thanks – yes weights are so good for post menopause flabbiness – My butt is the best it’s ever been – it used to be small and soft and now when I tense, its firm and rises like I’ve had a butt lift. 🙂 My husband keeps commenting on how firm and muscular my legs are. LOL highly recommend

      May 7, 2016 at 12:01 pm Reply
  5. Fiona #

    Hi Julianne,

    I am wondering how your resistant starch experiment went? Did you notice any differences – positive or negative?

    I am 49 and have just started using it also.

    Fennel tea is also something I am finding beneficial at the moment – seems to keep my fasting blood glucose down to a more acceptable level and research seems to indicate it helps with menopausal symptoms and aids weight loss – just the combination I need – I am hoping it actually works.

    I do hiit and have lifted weights for a couple of decades now but have upped the anti with the “heavy” to see if it helps.

    May 14, 2016 at 9:30 am Reply
    • I didn’t notice much difference. For me eating a lot of veggies and some legumes is good for the gut.

      May 17, 2016 at 11:21 am Reply
  6. Hello! Thrilled to find your site and read all the information. I have eating Paleo for four years. When we have “cheated” with access carbs I swell and balloon! I have been going through “perimenopause” for several years and all that goes along with that. I had hip replacement four months ago and ended up eating a lot of “gluten free” bread, etc because nothing else tasted good. I had began to suffer with hot flashes and night sweats a few weeks before surgery, then they subsided and now they are back! I am having other issues (dryness, headaches, etc) and went to by gynecologist yesterday. I am waiting for results of some blood work. I say all that to ask this…as I read about the best way to eat I see soy, some carbs, etc. My doctor also wanted me to try some “estrogen” cream, but the side effects are a concern. I have taken probiotics daily, along with a supplement called “Brevail”. My first thought is stay strict Paleo….but I am just not sure any more. I am almost 56 and it is time for this madness to end!😉 Seriously, all my blood work was wonderful last time, but that has been a year and one half. An opinion on the matter, or a link to more information concerning paleo and menopause? Thank you so very much!

    July 31, 2016 at 4:47 am Reply
    • We only have anecdotal successes on paleo and menopause. I think we each need to experiment and find what works. I found a small amount of testosterone cream daily was fantastic for many of the worst effects I was getting in early menopause – like low libido, memory issues, strength loss and weight gain. I don’t seem to need it now though, and my strength is increasing significantly with a weights programme (power lifting)

      August 5, 2016 at 12:26 pm Reply
      • Julianne,
        Thank you for your response. My tests showed a couple of common infections and that I was post menopausal. I agree we must all find the best for our own bodies. I am on that quest to be sure. I find it interesting you used testosterone creme. Was it a prescription strength? I understand that estrogen levels decrease and haven’t read about applying the creme. I will explore that further. Here we go!

        August 23, 2016 at 2:58 pm Reply
  7. Amanda #

    As I am a very young woman to have full blown menopause. Which was cause by a full abdominal Hysterectomy three years ago. I have found that it is hard to just about any and everything. Ice gained an substantial amount of weight since the hysterectomy. I feel horrible most of the time and I take V-D,calcium, B12 ,and a bunch of others that I can\’t name I have tried diets as well as exercise nothing and I mean nothing works .please help if possible… Thank you

    September 27, 2016 at 5:46 pm Reply
  8. Hi Julianne

    I just wanted to say how much I love this post and your blog.

    I have been going through the menopause for the past 3 years and have found that following a Paleo diet has really helped me to cope more effectively with this condition.

    Initially, I was using a natural progesterone cream to alleviate the symptoms. But gave up on it after a year. Instead, I chose to turn to other natural ways of treating them. I now found my diet and exercise regime helps. Plus taking supplements such as red clover and magnesium also help.

    I am one of the lucky ones as I haven’t had any real issues with putting on weight. But I still watch what I eat. Plus regular exercise helps. In fact getting myself a Fitbit watch has helped. I did originally attend Crossfit, but gave up a couple of years ago as an old injury I suffered in my teens flared up again.

    Again I’d love to say how much I love your blog and will keep coming back to take a look at it regularly. I myself have a blog that I began to help people start with following a Paleo lifestyle. But am now thinking of directing it more towards how it can help women who are going through the menopause as I’ve found very little on the subject where I live in Spain.

    January 4, 2017 at 12:34 am Reply
  9. Sorry forgot to say thank you once again for all the information you have provided on your blog.

    January 4, 2017 at 12:35 am Reply

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