Eat well and exercise, says Pat Henry
There are many natural and easy-to-access ways to combat the effects of menopause
As menopause gets closer, avoiding weight gain - particularly if you have been inactive - can be difficult. Even those who were once slim can experience their clothes getting tighter, even going up a size in their best-fitting jeans. This can be a problem for those who are very clothes conscious. Others may not let this affect them.
As the body produces less oestrogen, this can affect changes in your weight and your shape.
Women who try and get that ripped look or lose all their lower body fat would be wise to remember fat cells produce some oestrogen, which will help reduce the symptoms of hot flushes, mood swings, sleep disturbance and other signs of the end of your reproductive years.
By all means watch your diet and train hard, especially as muscle cells burn more calories than fat. So the less muscle you have, the fewer calories you burn. But in my opinion, having trained many women for fitness contests, lower levels of fat will give you a muscular look, but at what cost?
Let's not leave the men out! Medics have recognised that there is such a clinical symptom as 'manopause', which affects a small minority of males over 40 years, with low testosterone levels causing such problems as anxiety, an increase in body fat, low sex drive, low self-esteem and lacking drive and ambition.
A simple blood test can determine for both men and women what is your optimum hormone level, so there is no need to suffer in silence.
Hormone levels can definitely be improved with exercise and eating good, natural foods. Just by keeping away from junk food, high sugar drinks and cutting down on alcohol, we have seen enormous results with many clients. You also have to understand that gaining a few pounds won't cause much damage to your health once you address it now.
The simple answer is to make a start today. Eat better, exercise and don't start counting calories, because if you cut back on calories your body will go into starvation mode, which will slow down your metabolism even more.
Fat cells are stubborn. You may notice fat that you could burn off when you were young just won't budge as quickly. This also can be down to your hormone levels.
The symptoms of menopause can be drastically reduced if you take positive action, even without medication or HRT. For some, HRT during menopause is beneficial. But the medical jury is still not convinced of its long-term benefits.
Some studies show that those on medication gained less weight during menopause, but not to a really significant level.
It did show a decrease in abdominal fat. To add to the evidence of a better active lifestyle, the Washington School of Medicine found that less-active women gained 38pc body fat compared to 25pc in active and fit menopausal women.
The biggest problem I see is that medics seem to ignore the effects of processed food and food that may contain traces of hormones in the food chain, whether it is beef or chicken or even genetically modified food. It's all big business.
The real secret to normalise hormone levels during menopause and earlier is to stop dieting, eat a variety of foods and as much unprocessed food as you can find. Unfortunately in our polluted environment and our chemical toxicity, both animals and humans are being affected with hormonal imbalance.
Research into wildlife has shown that animals are reproducing less and less and in some cases are not able to reproduce at all. It is foolish to think that we humans are not being affected by unprecedented degrees of mental stress, anxiety, depression as we are, more than ever, and exposed to pollutants and preservatives and chemicals in our food.
The culprit can be xeno-oestrogens (foreign oestrogens). The molecules are just one source of interruption to our natural hormone balance. Our systems are affected because these foreign substances trick the receptors, taking the place of our natural hormones, blocking their ability to function.
It's time to look further into this problem. In the meantime we have to fight back with activity.
We know that as we age, our metabolism slows down and growth hormone decreases. If you eat only when hungry, the body becomes less able to handle eating all sorts of junk.
Eat the best you can. Try to consume the bulk of your calories when you are active during the day. Don't skip meals as this increases the craving for sugary foods.
Ideally with menopause, accept it will happen. Concentrate on getting fit and healthy. Let that be your medication and if you are on HRT, don't change, unless your doctor advises you to do so.
But you will find with a new approach to healthy eating, combined with aerobic and weight-bearing exercises, will certainly make you feel better.
Why not be the best you can?
Health & Living