June Newsletter: What to do about Menopausal Symptoms in your 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, Mindful Eating Intentions, Apple Rhubarb Muffins, Qigong in the Park and more…

Happy to be in the throes of spring with summer activities commencing this month. In June, it’s time to relax and enjoy the outdoors swimming in lakes, biking and exploring new hiking terrains. You can also try something new like Qigong in the Park for the month of June? Farmer’s markets are opening up throughout the city and in communities around the province with fruits and vegetables of the season. Yum, Yum summer treats of ice cream, gelatos and sorbets offered everywhere!

This month’s articles:

  • Article: Are Menopausal symptoms interfering in your life at 60, 70, 80’s
  • Mindful Eating Intentions, Ignite the Senses
  • Apple, Rhubarb, and Almond Muffins
  • Qigong For Women in the Park for June
  • Weekly Practice Together and Somatic Movement Sessions

Article: Are menopausal symptoms interfering in your life past 60, 70 or 80 years of age?

Menopausal symptoms at 60, 70, 80’s

Are menopausal symptoms interfering in your daily life even though you’re past 60, 70 or 80 years of age?

While menopause typically occurs around age 51, symptoms can persist for years afterward, impacting your health and well-being.

I am surprised that my night sweats and hot flashes persist as I get closer to my seventh decade of life. I imagined those symptoms were limited to my 50’s. I was curious about why these symptoms keep returning and their impact on the aging process.

Several research studies indicated that menopausal symptoms at mid-life and beyond vary widely among women. They include hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, mood changes, weight gain, hair loss and fluctuating cognitive changes. Some women experience mild symptoms while others experience severe and long-lasting effects.  

I found the focus primarily on medications to take and the benefits of Hormonal Replacement Therapy (HRT). There was little about lifestyle, diet and physical movement (I’m not surprised). Stress was noted as a chronic factor and each person’s genetic predispositions can influence the severity of menopausal symptoms in older women. From estrogen metabolism, neurotransmitter regulation, and stress responses can affect individual susceptibility to menopausal symptoms.

 I further investigated studies on the impact of menopausal symptoms on older women and found limited information other than yes, menopausal symptoms persist as we age!

The illnesses that ensue are risk of osteoporosis and decline in bone health (read more), cardiovascular disease (atherosclerosis), loss of  brain and cognitive function (dementia, Alzheimer’s Parkinson’s, etc.), cancers (breast, cervical and others) decline of elasticity of skin, mood disorders, disruptive sleep patterns, declining libido and sexual dysfunction, and overall quality of life.

It all comes down to the decline of estrogen levels as the primary driver of many menopausal symptoms.

All hormones play a significant role. They are the communication pathways of the neurotransmitter system that travel throughout the whole body. When they fluctuate or begin to decline, they will disrupt your biological and cognitive balance.  This is what’s happening as we age,

Here’s an overview of some hormones that effect our daily function:

  • Chronic stress, which can be prevalent during major life transitions such as menopause, retirement, caregiving responsibilities, financial concerns, empty nesting or loss of a loved one, can affect cortisol levels and the functioning of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. HPA regulates the stress response and cortisol production). Dysregulation of cortisol levels can contribute to symptoms such as fatigue, mood changes, and sleep disturbances in postmenopausal women. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! Never underestimate the impact of stress on the body, the function of the autonomic nervous system – fight or flight and  rest and digest are less resilient to get back to regulated levels. This is also true of hormones and  blood sugar regulation.
  • Serotonin, norepinephrine and progesterone influences mood, sleep, and mental cognition. Progesterone while beneficial for pregnancy it is responsible for hormonal balance.
  • Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and circadian rhythms. and declining melatonin levels may contribute to difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • Insulin is a hormone can affect insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism increasing the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Diet is most important here.
  • Testosterone plays a role in maintaining libido, muscle mass, bone density, and cognitive function. Low testosterone levels in postmenopausal women may contribute to decreased sexual desire, reduced energy levels, and loss of muscle mass.
  •  DHEA is a precursor hormone produced by the adrenal glands and to a lesser extent by the ovaries. It can be converted into both estrogen and testosterone in the body. Cortisol is a stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands.
  • Note: Adrenal fatigue is not a well-known diagnosis but is very common among women that may begin in their 30’s and onwards from stress and burnout of cortisol production. It shares many symptoms with Hypothyroidism and continues well past menopause.

There is a key link between your thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) and menopause. Theyshare overlapping symptoms, including fatigue, weight gain, mood changes, and cognitive difficulties. This similarity can sometimes lead to challenges in diagnosing one condition over the other, especially if a woman is already experiencing menopausal symptoms. Thyroid hormones play a crucial role in regulating metabolism, body temperature, energy levels, and overall health. Thyroid function can be affected by age-related changes, autoimmune conditions (such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis), and other factors. Check your thyroid levels regularly.  

Understanding the complex interplay between these hormones and their effect on menopausal symptoms can help guide your health journey to optimizing your well-being.  

The good news is that there are effective treatment strategies.

FIRST, Physical Activity, Lifestyle and Diet help a ton with managing symptoms.

I recommend starting with food first! The best approach is to observe what foods and lifestyle choices trigger symptoms for you!

  • Most common triggers include stress, heat, cigarette smoke, alcohol, caffeine, tight clothing, and spicy foods.
  • Add a vegetable feast rich in phytoestrogens (plant-based sources of estrogen) such as whole-grain cereals, flaxseed, chickpeas and legumes. Consuming foods that are high in phytoestrogens may help alleviate menopausal symptoms.

See attached phytoestrogen list of foods to balance symptoms.

  • As mentioned above, manage your insulin and glucose input which can contribute to type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome illnesses.

Reduce your sugar intake and processed carbohydrate foods.

  • Strive for eating a balanced diet to manage blood sugar regulation and will also  beneficial for keeping menopausal symptoms at bay.
  • Take probiotics and keep your gut microbiome in balance
  • Consider supplements such as  B Complex, Vitamin D (take 2000-4000 units daily) and Omega 3’s. These will help symptoms too.
  • Move everyday! Whether its cardio, strength building or a resistance-based activity, or just walking will also reduce menopausal symptoms.
  • Stress reduction activities qigong, meditation, somatic movement, yoga and taking time for self-care is probably the most effect. Build in a stress reduction exercise in your daily routine and make it a a practice.

SECOND, Natural Approaches to Menopausal Symptoms

Herbal treatments can be an alternative to HRT and are very effective. I have tried a few over the years and am now taking them again. They may take a bit longer to take effect and you can continue to use them ongoing for months at a time. You will feel improvement.

Black Cohosh used as a tincture or tablet is an excellent alternative to HRT for menopausal symptoms.  

More than two centuries ago, Native Americans discovered that the root of the black cohosh plant (Actaea racemosa, formerly known as Cimicifuga racemosa) helped relieve menstrual cramps and menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, irritability, mood swings, and sleep disturbances. Today, people use black cohosh for these same reasons. In fact, the herb has been widely used in Europe for more than 40 years and is approved in Germany for premenstrual discomfort, painful menstruation, and menopausal symptoms – night sweats, hot flashes and vaginal dryness.

Given the results of most clinical studies, many experts conclude that black cohosh may be a safe and effective alternative for women who cannot or will not take hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) for menopause. A 2010 review by researchers found that black cohosh provided a 26% reduction in hot flashes and night sweats (also known as vasomotor symptoms). More recently, studies have linked black cohosh to reduced sleep disturbance among menopausal women.

Other herbal remedies such as chasteberry , dong quai, red clover, evening primrose, are examples of herbs commonly used to relieve menopausal symptoms.

I’ve used chasteberry for a period that was effective evening primrose to help with sleep worked for a period of time.

THIRD, medically based ones are the most popular.

The most popular and documented treatment is Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). HRT is making a strong comeback with more research after years of neglect due to concerns about its safety for women for breast and cervical cancer.

It is a treatment option for managing menopausal symptoms by supplementing the body with hormones that decline during menopause. The primary hormones used in HRT are estrogen and progesterone (or a synthetic progestin). There are a variety of HRT formulations that vary if you have your uterus or not, your specific symptoms and application by injection, oral tablets, creams, rings or patches.

While some are used for women in their 50’s, older women are continuing to take it for a longer term. To find out more about the types of HRT from your healthcare provider.

Bioidentical Hormone Therapy is another option which includes compounds that are structurally identical to hormones that are naturally produced by the body. Bioidentical hormone therapy may include customized formulations of estradiol, progesterone, or testosterone tailored to individual needs. These hormones can be prescribed in various delivery forms, including capsules, creams, gels, and pellets.

It’s important to note that while HRT can effectively relieve menopausal symptoms and prevent osteoporosis in postmenopausal women, it’s not suitable for everyone. The decision to use HRT should be made in consultation with a healthcare provider, weighing the potential benefits and risks based on individual health, medical history, and preferences.

I also recommend getting regular health screenings of the DEXA bone density test (read previous post). Some recommend the Cardiac Calcium Scoring to detect coronary artery disease that can detect other conditions such as cancer, kidney disease, and COPD. I have not done this test but I have heard it can be informative.

By advancing your understanding of these issues, you can minimize your menopausal symptoms, improve your health and quality of life.

I referred to two studies – What causes hormonal imbalance in seniors and Managing menopausal symptoms in geriatric populations for this article that were more focused on hormonal replacement therapy. But not everyone wants to use HRT. It is essential that you research the pros and cons with a healthcare professional to discuss its benefits for your health.

Mindful Eating is the intention of being aware of your eating experience.

We live in daily stress and eating can be another stressor that manifests in our approach to food.

How often have you sat down to eat your meal, shoveled it down in no time without being aware of the foods you’ve eaten? You may have felt bloated afterwards. These simple actions may seem irrelevant, but I can assure you it impacts how your body and mind perceive stress!

Consider how stress impacts your digestive system.  The autonomic nervous system controls much of the unconscious nervous activity in the body, It contains two parts – the sympathetic nervous system which stimulates the fight or flight response. The other part is the parasympathetic nervous system that is responsible for the process of digestion, repair, restoration rejuvenation and relaxation -rest and digest.

During stressful periods, the sympathetic nervous system dominates over the parasympathetic system directing the body to move blood and energy flow away from the digestive tract in favour of skeletal muscles and brain to handle the fight or flight response. It is essential that the body regularly achieves a relaxed state (learning to calm the mind and body) returning to the parasympathetic state for relieving stress, pain and thus improving the digestion process.

Mindful eating helps in this process and is not just chewing your food 20 times or slow eating!

By practicing mindful eating, you are consciously connecting with the body and mind, being present and honouring the body’s need for nourishment.

Being present means:

  • Coming to the expereince of eating food in a relaxed and calm way
  • Having an awareness of placing food in your mouth when eating each bite
  • Using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body.
  • Acknowledging your responses to food of likes, dislikes or neutral without judgement.
  • Becoming aware of the physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating,
  • Making time to sit down and eat your food calmly, without distractions.
  • Putting down the fork between mouthfuls and resting, breathing and being present
  • Monitoring the smaller amounts of  food you are placing in your mouth with each bite so you are slowing down, chewing, swallowing, and not overeating by connecting to your body’s digestion before going for the next bite.
  • Mindfully Eating calmly even when eating with people at the table.

We eat three to five times a day! Practicing mindful eating when present is a no brainer when you are struggling with acid reflex or other digestive issues. Yet, it may be difficult to change to mindful eating right a way on your own.

Ignite Your Senses.

Here’s a mindful eating guide called Ignite the Senses. Tapping into your senses during an eating experience brings awareness to fully enjoying eating in the present moment.

It can change your relationship with food.

For those of you who are frustrated by counting calories, eating restrictive foods or tired of following diet trends, Igniting the Senses introduces you to mindful eating an approach for healing your relationship to food!

Enjoy this handout to explore the senses!

Interested in knowing more and furthering your practice in mindful eating Sign up for the eight week program Feed the Brain: A mindful eating approach to nourish the body, heart and mind. Register on the waiting list for the next session here.

Apple, Rhubarb, Almond & Buckwheat Muffins (Link to Recipe)

I was craving muffins and couldn’t find them at my local bakeries. They’d been replaced by the popularity of croissants.

A good homemade muffin has great appeal when you want a dense, rustic flavour full of good healthy ingredients and satisfy a craving for a little cakey but not too sweet breakfast option.

I was preparing a morning feast for an event I was presenting and came across these apple, almond and buckwheat muffins from Green Kitchen Stories. I added the rhubarb since its in season right now and nixed the applesauce centre which is too mushy.

I like to make my own flours from nuts and seeds. They are fresher and the flavours blend together when the muffins are cooked.

I used ¾ cup of almonds for one cup, 2/3r cup for the buckwheat and the allocated amount for rolled oats. They were blended separately in a food processor and then added to a large bowl. Its optional for you to buy almond and buckwheat flours in the health food stores too.

These muffins are only sweetened with apples and dates. There is also a recipe for making your own apple sauce

QIGONG FOR WOMEN IN THE PARK  May 30th to June 27th at 11:00 am in Riverdale Park West, (Sumach St. and Carlton Sy. on the southwest corner).

Join me for five in-person Qigong classes at Riverdale Park West in Cabbagetown.

Thursdays from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm from June 6th to June 27th, 2024. 

Fee: $5 per session.

Qigong is an ancient health practice that originated in China some 3000+ years ago. It includes slow, graceful, movements synchronized with the breath to relax the mind into a calm state. It also helps to improve mental focus, and prevents as well as treats ill health and disease.  

No previous experience required. The movements are easy to learn and very enjoyable. Qigong will bring a smile to your face.

Sign Up here

Read more about Qigong and watch the video with Daisy Lee.

Weekly Practice Together and Somatic Movement Sessions

Somatic Movement Session Thursdays at 10:00 am

This week’s somatic movement session, we focused on the feet and pushing the toes. Here we integrate the whole body with exploratory movements of the toe, knee, pelvis, back and shoulders. Can you imagine how the toes impact the whole body without standing?

Access the calendar here to register for Thursdays at 10:00am

You’re first visit is FREE!

We meet virtually on zoom so you can join us from wherever you are! 

To register for any of the sessions, click on the date you want, add your email and you will receive an email confirmation with the zoom link. It can  also be copied into your calendar. 

PRACTICE TOGETHER Tuesdays at 6:00 pm

Join us for PRACTICE TOGETHER on Tuesdays at 6:00 pm for movement and meditation.

It can be challenging to sit in stillness after a busy day when the mind is overactive and the body is itching to move. Applying gentle movement gets the heart pumping and body stimulated to release high energy states both physically and emotionally. From there you can begin to  concentrate on your breath for sitting in stillness to relax into the experience of meditation. Becoming aware of your breath while moving, slows down the heart rate, calms the mind and regulates the nervous system. Gentle movement also releases tension in the joints and body.

On Tuesdays, for the first 25 minutes, we practice qigong movement sitting and standing following with a meditation for 25 minutes.

Qigong is an ancient health practice that originated in China some 3000+ years ago. It includes slow, graceful, movements synchronized with the breath to relax the mind into a calm state. It also helps to improve mental focus, and prevents as well as treats ill health and disease.

Access the calendar to register for Tuesdays at 6:00 pm  

You’re first visit is FREE!

We meet virtually on zoom so you can join us from wherever you are! 

To register for any of the sessions, click on the date you want, add your email and you will receive an email confirmation with the zoom link. It can  also be copied into your calendar. 

Pay what you can or join the calm membership and take as many classes as you wish for $35/month (meditation or somatic movement).

Contact me if you have any questions or technical difficulties to access the Practice Together sessions, please contact me at wellness@raniglick.com or text/call 416-452-4836.

I look forward to practicing together online or seeing you at the park!

My best in health,