Menopause is a frequently misunderstood process where women cease their monthly cycles and begin to conserve their blood and are able to invest time and energy into achieving their own dreams and achievements beyond that of the reproductive years.
Underpinning the issues is understanding what is changing in your body and also your body type, diet and lifestyle can greatly affect your transition through this time.
There is a deep fear in many women that once the blood ‘dries up’ so does our zest for life, our sexuality and libido. This is not what nature intended at all, and in fact the ‘Grandmother’ theory is that women are indeed meant to live many years after they cease menstruation as to assist looking after the Grandkids whilst the parents are fit and healthy enough to hunt and gather. Nothing has changed there, and indeed with the right diet and herbs your body can have a greater level of health and sex life without fear of pregnancy or depletion.
When weight gain is an issue it’s important to look at why, and your diet plays a big part.
The issue of portion control is a good point here. Ever noticed the size of dinner plates in dinner sets made decades ago? They are about half the size and that is a really great way to reduce your portion sizes to reflect changes in metabolism. The simple fact is due to the Yin (blood) no longer shed monthly, we simply do not need as much food intake to replenish it. Have a look at some Opportunity shops for some lovely old crockery sets or use bread and butter plates and eat slowly and enjoy each mouthful of food. If our Liver is a big sluggish, and not clearing toxins effectively and you are eating processed junk food, you may start having a reaction to foods your body previously were fine with. Take Gluten for example, we all ate white bread as kids, and most people digested it fine. Many women now get indigestion, constipation or loose stool such as in Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Over processed food, sugar, chocolate, chips and ice cream… our younger bodies shrugged it off but now it gets real. Time to really explore a diet that makes you feel good.
The Thyriod gland has a big role in metabolism too, and it also assists in regulating hormones so it may be worthwhile getting it tested if you are lethargic and holding fluid or very stressed and “wired”. Nothing reflects Yin and Yang quite like this ancient gland as it regulates body temperature sex hormones, fluid regulation and digestion. So, if your body is more Yin such as holds fluids, tend to feel the cold more than heat, have sluggish digestion and tiredness your diet needs to be more Yang to balance this out. In this case you need more warming foods such as soups and casseroles, stir fries and backed vegetables cinnamon and ginger, ( not too much chilli however, small amounts are fine) as well and lots of beans. Notice that beans are shaped like kidneys and they do a great job assisting the kidneys to clear excess water so think red kidney beans, black beans, adzuki beans etc will be very beneficial. What not to do is eat lots of raw cold foods such as salads. You will not loose weight as they are too cold and you will just feel tired and damp. Also it’s important to eat seaweed as it also clears fluids and assists in thyroid function so go the Sushi!
If your body is more Yang (or Yin deficient) you will be sensitive to heat, feel flustered often, get flushed cheeks, and find it hard to wind down; then you need to eat more Yin supplementing foods to reduce the Yang (think hot flushes) from rising like the breath of a dragon! Juicy foods are important as the fluids nourish Yin and blood such as rice congee (see my Web site for the recipe) dates, black sesame seeds, thin soups with chicken or veg and mushrooms with some wakame or other seaweed, stewed apples and rhubarb. Fish, Tofu and soy milk are very important for you, and cut out red meat, spicy foods (or eat small amounts with good amounts of yoghurt and cucumber). Steamed veggies are good for you too as they are moistening and nutritious, and vegetable soups with lentils and tomatoes and bay leaf.
Understanding your body type is vital at this time to allow your body to transition from the reproductive phase of life to the more self productive phase in life. For more information please come and chat to us at Kinglake Chinese Medicine and learn to eat for your body type.
Dr Angela Palmer