Top 6 Menopause Myths
Monday, June 16, 2014
LifeTime WeightLoss in Lifestyle, health myths, hormonal balance, hormones, menopause, peri-menopause, perimenopause, women's health

Women today are living longer, healthier lives, yet negative myths abound when it comes to the menopause transition. Given that women spend at least one-third of their lives post-menopause, it’s critical to embrace the stage as a time for growth and vitality. Although challenges often come with this hormonal shift, menopause doesn’t need to be the downgrade in health it’s often made out to be. Many symptoms, in fact, can be managed through lifestyle changes or, in some cases, natural supplementation. When we fully understand our bodies and how our hormones are impacted during menopause, we have the power to shape our future health and wellbeing. Read on for 6 common menopause myths and the corresponding health realities.

Menopause starts in your 50s.

On average, women in the United States enter menopause in their early 50s; however, “normal” age of onset can vary considerably. Women may enter menopause as soon as their 30s in cases of early onset but often hit menopause in their 40s or as late as their 60s. Menopause officially begins when a woman has skipped her menstrual cycle for twelve successive months.

Gaining weight during menopause is inevitable.

Weight gain is common but not inevitable. When your body begins producing less estrogen during menopause, it tries to compensate by storing more fat. This fat accumulation tends to occur around the waist, hips, and thighs. Does that sound like you?  The fat cells in these areas produce their own estrogen, complicating matters further by storing more fat. The good news?  Life Time offers Sex Hormone Lab Tests to identify any hormonal imbalances occurring in your body, followed by an interpretation with one of our trained registered dietitians. They will help customize a lifestyle plan (e.g. nutrition, exercise, supplementation, environment) for you to best manage your weight and health during this phase in life.

You need to eat like a bird (or work out as hard as an ox) to lose weight during menopause.

As mentioned above, menopausal weight gain is oftentimes related to hormonal imbalances versus eating more or exercising less than you should. Now, this isn’t to say you should gorge yourself and hit the couch; however, eating too little or exercising too hard is a stress on the body that can negatively impact hormone balance. (As I mentioned above, it’s all about hormone balancing at this point!) It will be very important for you to continue eating well-balanced meals full of high-quality proteins, fibrous vegetables, and healthy fats. Opt for organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised food items to limit your exposure to environmental hormone mimickers like livestock hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides. Maintain a healthy, balanced workout routine as well with daily activity, cardiovascular exercise and strength training in addition to recovery-based activities like yoga.  

Hot flashes mean I’m in menopause.

Hot flashes and/or night sweats can also occur during peri-menopause (the 10-15 year excursion leading into menopause). They tend to activate or become exacerbated during high stress times or after alcohol ingestion. Other signs of menopause include: irregular periods, lack of energy, anxiety, irritability, mood swings, depression, low sex drive, forgetfulness, intense cravings, or weight gain around the waist, hips, and thighs.

You stop producing hormones once you hit menopause.

Although our ovaries’ production of estrogen and progesterone will decline, it doesn’t cease. Other cells and glands in our bodies actually pick up the slack. In fact, the small adrenal glands that sit atop the kidneys produce >50% of our hormones post-menopause. As we learned above, our fat cells produce estrogen, which means the more fat we have on board, the more estrogen we are producing. Overweight/obese women tend to have less severe or frequent menopausal symptoms for this very reason. Many of the symptoms occur in response to the drop in estrogen levels.

Menopause = Hormone Replacement Therapy.

The old misconception was once you hit menopause, you stop producing hormones and therefore require them through replacement therapy. We just debunked that myth above. However, if you are suffering from menopause-related symptoms, I encourage you to first assess your lifestyle. Are you under tremendous stress (physical, mental or emotional)? If yes, how are you currently managing your stress? It’s very important to “train your mind” in order to keep stress in check and maintain an optimal hormone balance.  Dr. Margaret Christiansen, MD, FACOG states “If you ignore mind-body balance, you will get nowhere with your hormones.”  You can do this through deep breathing, gentle yoga, meditation, massage, or journaling. If your symptoms require more than a lifestyle shift to be manageable, there are many natural herbs that assist with female hormone balance such as Life Time’s Feminine Herbal Balance. If you still struggle with symptoms and feel they compromise your daily wellbeing, have a conversation with your physician to discuss the pros and cons of different hormone replacement options.

As women, our bodies are unique. How and when one woman experiences menopause can vary greatly from how others will. You have the power to identify what is happening in your body through proper lab testing and then personalizing your lifestyle to feel, function, and look your best! Use the tools and resources available to make your menopausal stage a healthy and vibrant transition.

Do you have questions or concerns about menopause? Share your feedback and insights into how you have managed or are managing the menopausal/peri-menopausal transition. Thanks for reading, everyone!

Written by Cindi Lockhart - Sr. Program Manager of Health and Nutrition Coaching 

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

 

 

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