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.
But it's important to note that HRT, when done correctly, is a lifestyle change, and not just a product.
They key is understanding the miraculous complexity of our bodies. We're composed of 12 separate bodily systems, 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 desired change.
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. So 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.
Our bodies' systems are so complimentary that great health overall will, without exception, make hormonal fluctuations and struggles much easier to bear.
During times of hormone transition like menopause, general mental and physical fitness can make life so much better.
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.
There's a lot going against us in pursuit of overall health.
So where do you begin? If you were to be intentional about only one thing, 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's an added incentive to minimizing body fat for women during Hormone Replacement Therapy: Body fat produces estrogen.
The more body fat, the more estrogen is present, 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're 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 estrogenic chemicals that are used to feed and grow livestock.
If you must partake, choose grass-fed beef or organic meats generally, 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.
Cruciferous veggies such as cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and bok choy contain Di-Indoly Methane (DIM) which promotes the natural metabolism of estrogen. Plus these veggies fit nicely into any calorie conscious program.
Another priority that too often goes overlooked day to day, is our sleep. In the midst of busy lives, it's 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 wouldn't make the trade.
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.
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's 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.