FDX Practitioner Christine Bailey joins us for a guest blog post on the menopause. Read on to discover the importance of oestrogen when it comes to the menopause, why a whole body system approach is so essential and what role sleep plays during this phase of female life.
Menopause is a natural female transition – every woman who lives long enough will experience this bodily change. Hot flashes, brain fog, disturbed sleep or loss of libido; these are actually the indicative symptoms of something much more significant changing in a woman’s body, and these changes can have profound effects on longer term health.
What role does oestrogen play in menopause?
Menopause is the permanent loss of ovarian oestrogen and progesterone. This decline in sex hormones has an effect on every body system for women. In the female body, oestrogen is a master hormone, with receptors on virtually every organ of the body.
Every body system in a woman relies on a natural oestrogen rhythm to function properly.
Oestrogen controls metabolic health, including insulin sensitivity, immune function, digestion, cardiovascular performance, mood, and brain health. It’s no surprise that as levels of oestrogen begin to fall, women lose the wide range of health benefits tied to oestrogen, and to some extent progesterone too.
As oestrogen is so involved with our metabolism, glucose transport and insulin function, women find it harder to lose weight and feel constantly tired too. Their distribution of fat also changes, leading to more abdominal fat, which can be harder to shift.
After menopause, women have higher rates of cardiovascular disease and strokes – a fact often overlooked by women themselves and medical professionals.
Women experience more gastroesophageal reflux as motility of the gut changes, higher rates of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions, greater problems with sleep, depression, mood and cognitive function. All of this goes to show that menopause is a total body system change; so, it is important to take a whole body system approach to any investigations of menopausal women and factor this in to any potential imbalances that may be occurring. Comprehensive female blood panels – such as those available through FunctionalDX – take a comprehensive view of all body systems. These may be followed up with SNP genetic testing to gain an understanding of genetic predispositions that may impact certain risk factors with aging.
What role does sleep play in menopause?
It is not just weight and low energy that bothers women through the menopause. Sleep can be profoundly disrupted. If your client is complaining about a near permanent feeling of jet lag, that’s a sign their Circadian Rhythm (CR) is “out of whack”.
This rhythm is the cornerstone of a healthy metabolism and good health. Once again, we see the importance of oestrogen here, as this hormone plays a key role in maintaining the CR. The so called “master clock” in the hypothalamus is the primary driver of the CR and controls all the clock genes in our body; oestrogen helps maintain this master clock.
When we lose ovarian oestrogen, the levels of oestrogen decline throughout our body, including in the brain, which impacts the function of the master clock. Poor sleep can have numerous impacts on body systems; disrupting glucose and insulin regulation and promoting systemic inflammation. It can put additional pressure on our adrenal health which can further exacerbate hormone changes.
The importance of diet and timing of eating for the menopause
Our gut microbiome has its own clock and can be influenced by the timing of eating and fasting and by what we eat. This is why I recommend time restricted eating in my menopause program and find periodic fasting, like the fasting mimicking diet, beneficial.
No matter the age of your client, whether they are perimenopausal or menopausal, dietary and lifestyle intervention tailored to the individual plays a key role in ensuring vibrant post-menopausal health.
Have you seen Christine’s Practitioner Spotlight feature yet?
Christine Bailey is an experienced nutritionist, lecturer and author of over 16 health and recipe books.
With a keen interest in female hormones as well as running a number of successful hormone programmes with clients and practitioners, Christine has a wealth of experience in supporting clients’ with their hormone health.