Something I’ve recently been studying is health and nutrition around the menopause.
A big risk for women as we get older is developing osteoporosis due to weakening bones. We are at our bone density peak around the age of 30, and from then it gradually drops year after year.
When we hit menopause, a big reduction in estrogen causes another big drop in bone density, and from then on we are much more at risk of weak and brittle bones that are prone to fracture if we fall.
Ladies in your twenties and thirties – the best thing you can do is build bone density BEFORE menopause occurs, so you have enough in reserve to deal with the drop and still be fine.
But don’t worry if you’re already at or beyond menopause age – there’s still plenty you can do to make a difference.
These are the key factors required for healthy bones:
• sunshine and vitamin D
• Balanced hormones and a healthy thyroid
• Optimal diet
• Effective stress management
• Good digestion to ensure we get what we need from our food
For movement, we need to do regular exercise that produces an impact on the bones. This is where swimming, although great, doesn’t cut it. Activities such as hiking, jogging, stair climbing and dancing create more impact and just the right amount of stress to cause the body to adapt and stay strong. Another hugely beneficial form of exercise is resistance training – lifting weights causes muscles to pull on bones, again making them stronger.
For vitamin D it can be worth taking a Vitamin D3 supplement, as for much of the year in Britain the sun doesn’t get strong enough (or come out anywhere near often enough) to provide us with what we need. In the summer, get out and enjoy the sunshine (just don’t stay in it long enough to get burnt..)
For optimum nutrition, one thing we definitely need to incorporate in our diet is calcium.
Most people hear calcium and think milk and dairy.
But here’s an interesting fact…
Sweden and the USA have the highest consumption of dairy….and the highest occurrence of osteoporosis in their populations.
Another potential issue is that many women are prone to developing some degree of lactose intolerance around the age of menopause.
There’s nothing wrong with consuming dairy if you don’t have any problems with it, and yogurt in particular can also be a great source of protein. It’s worth knowing and incorporating some of the other good sources of calcium too though –
Salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, canned salmon with bones in (try eating on toast/Ryvita if you don’t like the crunch), dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and bok choy, white beans, fermented soy, other fermented foods, oranges and almonds – all of these are great and packed with other important nutrients too.
General advice is to keep to mostly natural foods and a low acid diet – avoid too much meat, particularly of the processed variety. Feel free to have 1 or 2 meat free days each week, but make sure you still get protein in other ways, such as lentils, beans, yogurt and eggs.
The other thing to look at is reducing unhealthy lifestyle factors – smoking, excessive alcohol, too much stress, and a highly acidic diet (often too much processed meat and not enough vegetables). All of these factors can deplete the body of calcium, even causing the body to have to ‘steal’ calcium from the bones to make up the deficit elsewhere.
So to sum up, for maximum strength bones you need:
– movement that involves impact, and some form of stress on the muscles – weights training
– natural foods, particularly oily fish and green veggies
– low stress, reduced alcohol and zero smoking
– some summer sun and possible supplementing with vitamin D
Hope that helps you or someone you know. If you have any questions just drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org