Author: Bonnie Nedrow
Are you experiencing some of the many challenges of menopause? Do you suffer from weight gain, mood swings, insomnia, declining strength and vitality, hot flashes and/or diminished libido? If so, you are not alone. While not all women suffer from all of these symptoms, only a few lucky women make the transition from the reproductive years to the post menopausal years without significant symptoms.
I want to share with you a big secret of why some women seem to skate through the transition unscathed. Here’s a hint, it involves sugar; I don’t mean just simple sugars from cookies and ice cream. Carbohydrates, even healthy ones, can easily be over consumed by just about everyone. When we are young, we have a better chance of burning off carbohydrates from grains, beans, fruits and root veggies. As we age, our ability to burn carbohydrates decreases. Sadly, if we eat just a few too many calories, the extra carbs we eat get stored as fat. Conversely, if we don’t eat enough carbs we get cranky and depressed.
What’s the answer to this conundrum? Train your body to burn fat! It is frustrating to experience low blood sugar when we have plenty of body fat we should be able to burn between meals. The reason you can’t is because you have become carb-dependent. If you eat veggies, fruits, grains, legumes or sugar every few hours, every day, you will always have fuel from carbs. This makes your metabolism lazy. Why burn fat when there are always carbs?
Let’s take a minute to dig a little deeper into sugar vs. fat metabolism. First of all, it is important to know that carbs get burned within the first few hours of eating them. If they don’t get burned, they store as fat. The hormone insulin insures that as long as there are carbs to burn, we can’t burn fat from our diet or from body stores. When you eat a very-low carb diet, insulin stops suppressing fat burning. Suddenly, you have access to fuel in the form of fat. So how does that impact those pesky menopausal symptoms?
This one is pretty straightforward. Once you train your body to burn fat, you become the master of your metabolism. Instead of being a victim to the roller coaster of weight-gain and low blood sugar, you gain control of what fuel you burn. Eat carbs-burn carbs, avoid carbs-burn fat, eat fat-burn dietary fat, and don’t eat carbs or fat-burn body fat. It is suddenly that easy to feel good and manage your metabolism.
Mood swings are most often caused by too low of blood sugar or too high of blood sugar when you are carb-dependent. Once you can easily burn fat, you become metabolically flexible and no longer carb-dependent. That means you are never low fueled. Good-by hangries (angry hunger) and fatigue.
This one is a bit more complicated and may need some additional support beyond a low carb diet. However, I have seen a significant number of women who keto-adapt suddenly sleep like they haven’t in years. One clue is that a high fat/low carb diet supports adrenal health.
I have a couple hypotheses for why a ketogenic diet combined with detoxification decreases hot flashes. First of all, as stated above, the adrenals love this diet. The adrenals are responsible for the production of estrogen and progesterone once our ovaries are no longer fertile. A balance of estrogen with progesterone is essential to avoid hot flashes. The second organ involved in hormone metabolism is the liver. The liver is on the other side of the equation because it is responsible for the removal of hormones. The liver also removes fat-soluble toxins. Therefore, detoxification lowers the workload on the liver and helps balance our hormones.
Muscle mass is our most important body resource as we age. It protects us from both acute and chronic disease. It makes us feel good and stay active. We tend to lose muscle as we age because testosterone decreases. We are back to the importance of the adrenals, women’s only source of testosterone. Another crucial factor in preventing muscle loss is metabolic flexibility. If we can’t easily burn fat, and we haven’t eaten enough carbs to be fueled, we tend to break down muscle for fuel. Once you can readily burn fat, you will no longer dip into muscle mass for energy.
It has been said that female libido is 90% in our minds, not in our bodies. If that is true for fertile women, as is often the case, we can say that when reproduction is no longer an animal drive, 100% percent of libido is our thoughts. If you are like me, I need to feel that I am sexy to have a healthy libido. If I feel cranky, tired, sleep deprived and fat, sex is the last thing on my mind. For most women, a healthy libido starts with feeling healthy in their body.