Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) can be a wonderful thing, and to women who suffer significantly with the symptoms of menopause, it can seem like a godsend. Still, as with so many treatments for our bodies, HRT should be approached as a program instead of an isolated panacea.
HRT is about a lifestyle, not just a product.
They key is understanding the miraculous complexity of our bodies. We're composed of 12 separate systems in the human body, from the skeleton that constitutes our frame, to the skin that protects us from the outside world, to the reproductive system that can create new life.
Our bodies are marvels of construction, efficiency, and synchronization. But all that complexity means that we have to be intentional and mindful about how we achieve the desired effects in our bodies.
Awareness is particularly important when considering our hormones (endocrine system). Hormones are essentially chemical messengers that tell the various systems of our body how to behave. As such, any efforts to regulate hormonal activity must be balanced and complimentary to our complete wellness.
So what should the Hormone Replacement Therapy lifestyle look like? Two concepts should be at the core of any HRT lifestyle.
One: Strengthen the entire person.
Because the systems of our bodies are so interconnected, and hormonal health is directly linked to each, stronger bodies and minds become indispensable allies during times of hormonal change.
Two: Stop sabotaging your hormonal therapy.
Our modern world presents some challenges that women of previous generations did not face. We are constantly bombarded by a wide array of readily available food options, often prepared using new chemicals and methods, that can impact hormonal health negatively.
In addition to nutritional concerns, our health is likely to be impacted by a sedentary lifestyle, promoted by technological advancements, and the comforts of an advanced society and workplace.
So where do you begin? If you were to be intentional about only one aspect of your HRT supplementary program (or for your overall health for that matter), it would be hard to prioritize anything higher than your diet. You’ve heard the old adage, “You are what you eat.” It may be simple, but it’s also right. There’s just no escaping the importance of what we choose to put into our bodies.
So let’s start with the obvious: Caloric intake has to be in line with your weight goals. Most of the benefits of maintaining a lean body are apparent. A healthy body weight means better cardiovascular health and circulation, more energy throughout the day, and sleep that is generally more restful and undisturbed by complicating factors such as sleep apnea. All that is to say nothing about the constant positive impact of increased self esteem and confidence that accompany a fit physique.
But there is an added incentive to minimizing body fat for women using Hormone Replacement Therapy. Body fat produces estrogen. The more body fat is present, the more estrogen will be found in the blood stream, potentially throwing off the estrogen/progesterone balance. Just one more reason to pay attention to the scales.
It's wise to take into consideration several factors besides weight management when you are making food choices. For instance, when possible, it is advisable to avoid animal fats in the diet. Animal fat is often filled with toxins and estrogens. If you must partake, choose grass-fed beef, to limit the toxicity that you are exposing yourself to.
Several foods have noteworthy benefits for HRT lifestyles. Anything high in fiber will provide a boost by helping to remove toxins from the body. Chickpeas and beans are particularly effective at preventing estrogen formation.
Cruciferous veggies such as cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and bok choy contain Di-Indoly Methane (DIM) which promotes the natural metabolism of estrogen. Besides the specific benefits listed above, each of these foods should fit nicely into any calorie conscious program.
Another priority that too often goes overlooked day to day, is our sleep. In the midst of our busy lives, it is easy to re-appropriate our sleep time for other purposes. We accept the drowsiness that accompanies shortchanging our rest, and just grab another coffee. But if we really understood the value of being fully rested, we would not make this sacrifice.
Sleep is a time when our bodies and minds recover from the wear and tear of the day. If we fail to properly recharge, then we find ourselves running at a deficit. Proper sleep is also critical for effective weight loss and management. Lack of sleep correlates with increased daytime cortisol levels. Cortisol breaks down tissues in the body, and can decrease healthy lean muscle mass.
Lack of sleep has also been linked to impaired glucose control, making you more susceptible to carbohydrate cravings, and blood pressure swings. Long-term, sleep deficiencies can result in a decrease in glucose and insulin sensitivity, increasing the likelihood of developing diabetes.
Keeping off the fat is incredibly important, but don’t neglect your cardiovascular and muscular health. Lifting weights maintains your muscle mass, and can actually help strengthen your bones, an important benefit during menopause.
Cardiovascular workouts will help to bolster your metabolism, and the exercise actually detoxifies your body. Toxins increase estrogen levels, making detoxification an important element of your plan. For this reason, it may pay to switch to household cleaners that do not contain toxins.
It's also important to continue to monitor your hormone levels during the application of HRT. By monitoring your levels, you will be able to assess how things have changed over time. You will also be able to identify hormones that you may be deficient in. It is important to have a doctor that is familiar with Hormone Replacement Therapy to get the most out of the process.
Lastly, no HRT lifestyle plan is really complete without considering your social well being. It is natural during times of change and stress to occasionally feel like you are alone, and to sink inward. Fight this inclination. Embrace the people that you love, and draw even closer. It is important to know that you have people in your corner, especially when difficulties arise.
Between a strong mind and body, a robust social life, and effective Hormone Replacement Therapy, menopause doesn’t stand a chance.