So, not only do I have a genetic predisposition to metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance, now I am dealing with the menopause issue!
For women, we have so many hormones that are changing during this time of our lives, and those fluctuations may increase our chances of many of the syndrome X symptoms such as weight gain. And, since insulin is a predominant hormone, the body may have trouble balancing the subsidiary hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. The decrease of other hormones like estradiol can even trigger insulin resistance in some women.
Balancing insulin is key to managing many of the symptoms associated with menopause and even peri-menopause (the years leading up to menopause when hormones can frequently vacillate, causing a host of symptoms). Some may even be easily confused with syndrome X, such as fatigue, urinary urgency, difficulty sleeping and mood swings. As a health coach, I have found that putting them on a very low carb, adequate protein diet has significantly reduced these menopausal symptoms. Now I understand why!
A plaguing issue for women in menopause is weight gain. Insulin resistance disrupts metabolism, causing extra glucose to be converted into fat. Since fat cells are loaded with glucose receptors but cannot absorb glucose, this vicious cycle creates fatigue, and a desire for energy which often leads women to reach for foods loaded with carbohydrates. Sometimes my clients come in with such severe cravings and they think they don’t have ‘will power’, but in actuality it’s just this major imbalance of the hormone insulin.
Not only are fat cells hungry for energy, they also make excess estrogen, which contributes to estrogen dominance, contributing to many symptoms during the peri-menopausal years. This is what makes it so difficult to lose weight, and so easy to put it on, especially in the belly. And, storing fat in the belly is not a good thing. Many doctors report that when people are storing fat in the belly they are at higher risk for heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
So, how can we control insulin resistance? Syndrome X is not a life sentence, and so can easily be dealt with because glucose levels can be influenced by lifestyle, proper nutrition, and exercise. To help balance insulin, consider a diet consisting primarily of lean meats and protein, high-fiber, leafy greens, and fresh vegetables. Watch the glycemic index of some ‘healthy foods’ because they may not be the best choice for you while you are trying to reverse insulin resistance.
Here are some helpful hints:
- Shop on the outside parameter of the grocery store, avoiding the rows of processed, high sodium, sugary foods, snacks and soda.
- Plan to eat 5 or 6 meals a day. Maybe 2 or 3 larger meals, and 2 snacks. And try not to go more than 4 hours without some kind of food. Make sure you eat some lean protein with each meal and limit your carbohydrate intake.
- Get good fiber from your vegetables.
- Essential fatty acids (EFA) or healthy fats are important to help insulin resistance. You can eat tuna, eggs, cold-water fish, and salmon. You can also take fish oil supplements. Make sure you take pharmaceutical-grade supplements.
- Drink alcohol in moderation.
- Get plenty of sleep. Many experts tell us 7-8 hours is helpful.
- Stop smoking.
- Reduce your stress with some light, but consistent exercise or some kind of movement, or stretching. Yoga is a good choice for many. Deep breathing and meditation also help reduce stress; which reduces cortisol and helps to control insulin.
I know I am trying really hard to get through menopause as gracefully as possible. It is a normal function of women, but can be so frustrating at times. I know I have the tools in my tool box to help manage my symptoms, and that gives me hope. I have already helped so many women through this process, now its time to help myself.