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Sleep is the Most Powerful Tool in Your Menopausal Toolbox

Menopause and sleep are not always easy to combine.  However, good sleep is essential for a healthy menopause.Time waits for no man…or woman, for that matter. We know it every morning when we wake up and look into the mirror and wonder what happened to that twenty-year-old cutie that used to stare back at us. But would you really want to go back to those days…I wouldn’t. I like where I am now, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a little of the “cute” back. Well, one way to do that is to honor your sleep.

In this post, I am going show you that quality sleep is one of the most important things that you can do to help you lose weight, improve your skin, energize your day, and sharpen your mind. I am also going to give you the five most important things you can do to get that youth-promoting sleep.

“Wait a minute!” you say. “I sleep okay. I want more to know more elusive ways to make me feel like I did before menopause.” Okay…then answer these questions and if you answer ‘yes’ to all of them, then you can skip this post and probably teach me a thing or two. But if you answer ‘no’ to any of them, then you are not getting the restorative and youthful sleep that you need to “turn your MenoPause into MenoGo”:

  • Do you usually fall asleep within ten minutes of turning out the light?
  • Do you get your best sleep between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.?
  • If you wake in the middle of the night, do you go back to sleep within a few minutes?
  • Do you wake up with the sun and feel refreshed and ready to go?
  • Do you abstain from eating between dinner and bedtime (even something healthy)?
  • Do you turn off your TV or computer/pad/smart phone within an hour of going to bed? Do you keep it out of your bedroom while you are sleeping?
  • Do you sleep in a quiet, darkened room?
  • Have you cured your mate from snoring or banished your pets from the bedroom so they do not wake you?

These are just a few of the things that can mess with your sleep quantity and quality. I believe that one of the most important things you can do for turning back the clock is to get great sleep.

Sleep is much more than just taking a break from the day. Every thing in nature, including the human being, follows a diurnal body clock. This clock is regulated by the day/night cycle. Every one of our 200 metabolic hormones has a relationship with this clock and is released or halted in a complex sequence that is regulated by our daily rhythms. These hormones promote fat burning (60% of our fat is burned while we sleep), stress regulation, tissue regeneration and reproductive hormone balance. Here are just a few of the ways that our lifestyle can create poor sleep:

  • The appetite-regluating  hormones of insulin, leptin, glucagon, and ghrelin are all influenced by sleep and can block the processes of glucose and fat metabolism – turning on fat-storage rather than fat-burning programs. When you eat after dinner, this raises your insulin, unbalancing all of the other metabolic hormones during sleep.
  • Cortisol and melatonin are in an inverse relationship to each other…in other words, when cortisol (a major stress hormone) is high, melatonin (our major sleep hormone) is low. Anything that raises cortisol before sleep will reduce melatonin at the same time. Insulin also raises cortisol…so now you are wide awake and storing fat instead of burning it.
  • Daylight contains the “blue light” spectrum…this blue light tells us to wake up and reduces melatonin. All computers, televisions, smart phones and pads emit blue light. When using them after dark, the brain (specifically the pineal gland) thinks it is daytime and blocks melatonin production.
  • And one last fun fact…sleep is also the time that the brain detoxifies and removes the waste products created by busy brain cells. Ever wonder why you feel “fuzzy” after a poor night’s sleep…your brain didn’t get a good “scrub” during the night. Sleep is a shower for the brain!

So as you can see, your nutrition and lifestyle have profound effects on your sleep and vice versa. What can you do about this? One thing is to make sleep a priority in your life. I promised you five of the best tips for improving your sleep, here they are:

  1. Eat three well-balanced meals during the day and no snacking, especially after dinner. This is a big topic to summarize here (my next post will be focused exclusively on “well-balanced” meals), but in general a well-balanced meal has the following attributes: real food as close to nature intended as possible, nutrient density that includes healthy protein, fat, and carbs in each meal, 500 to 700 calories per meal (I don’t want you counting calories here, I just want you to know that you need to eat enough at each meal to sustain you.) and think about making breakfast centered around protein, lunch centered around healthy fats, and dinner centered around healthy carbohydrates (Healthy carb??…fresh fruit and lots of veggies, both starchy and non-starchy).
  2. Create a bedtime ritual that is calming to the nervous system and the body. Modern times really messes with our primal senses that tell us it is bedtime. Lights, sights, and sounds tell us to wake up, not go to sleep. Try to be in bed by 10:00 and develop a routine that lulls you into sleep. Some ideas are: Turn off all electronics by 8:30 or 9:00, take a soothing bath or shower using either Epsom salt in the bath or spray on magnesium after the shower, soothing music, and/or read a real book (not too exciting) with a dim light.
  3. “Blanket” your bedroom from the world. Your bedroom should be used for two things: sleep and sex. It should be your refuge from the stressors of your day. Once you turn out the light, your room should be as dark as possible (not even an alarm clock light…I cover mine with a cloth) and as quiet as possible. Use blackout curtains and a sound machine or ear plugs if needed. One other tip…use an alarm clock that wakes you with light and a soothing sounds. This is the one I use.
  4. Increase your activity during the day. To promote healthy sleep, you need to be active during the day. As you will soon learn, I believe that movement needs to be regular, enjoyable, and natural…I am not a big fan of going to “the club”. Go for a walk, reduce your sitting, take the stairs, stretch or do some yoga, or garden. These activities will not be building tons of muscle or “burning off the calories”, but they will promote great sleep that will promote fat burning and give you energy.
  5. Realign your metabolic hormones with a small amount of melatonin before bed. As I said earlier, today’s lifestyle has made it difficult to regulate our metabolic hormones, which can mess with quality sleep. One way to kick start hormonal balance is to use melatonin at bedtime. The body naturally makes melatonin in very small amounts, so it is best to mimic that dosage. I suggest starting with .5mg and working up to no more than 2mg. Take it an hour before sleep and make sure to eliminate blue light before bed and get some natural morning light first thing in the morning.

Don’t try to do all of this at once…try one idea and give it three to seven days to see if it helps. Sometimes, a combination of these ideas will start to make a lasting change. To get more information on how to improve your sleep naturally check out this E-book by Kevin Geary, RemRehab.

Good sleep is absolutely essential to turn your Menopause into Menogo…nighty-night!

January 5th, 2015

Posted In: Health Practices, Menopause, Rejuvenating Sleep, Vibrant Health

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Turn Your MenoPause into MenoGo

Learn how to get menopause relief. You can turn your menopause into menoGoMenopause. Interesting word. The dictionary defines it as “the ceasing of menstruation”. Pretty straightforward; nothing dire or life-threatening. But if you type it in to a word search on web, you come up with medical definitions that involve the words “disease”, “condition”, and “symptom”. I think one of the ways that our conventional medical system has failed us is that it has turned the natural processes of the body into things that needs to be fretted over and maybe even feared to feel menopause relief.

I went through menopause a long time ago. I am now 61-years ‘young’ and have absolutely no ill effects and a whole lot of benefits from this stage of life. Believe me, I do not miss the monthly hassles that went along with being in the baby-making mode. Neither do I have any of the “symptoms” of being menopausal except that I weigh ten pounds more than I did when I was a teenager. (There is a very good reason for weighing slightly more than you did in your teens when you go through menopause…I will get to this in later posts on this topic) I do see many clients however, who are miserable in their journey through their middle and later years and who exhibit many of the signs of an unhealthy menopause or peri-menopause.

There are many reasons for this state of affairs, but the most logical and obvious one is that our lifestyles have evolved to impede the natural process of “ceasing to menstruate”, which has negative affects on every metabolic and hormonal system in the body. I am going to give you Five Secrets to getting your middle-years back on track:

  1. Eat real food at the right times
  2. Promote healthy and quality sleep
  3. Become resilient to stress (it is almost impossible to get rid of daily stressors, but you can make them less impactful to your health)
  4. Move naturally every day (reduce sitting)
  5. Create a healthy and well-functioning digestive system

Whoa…this list is a lot easier said than done, right? These are large, over-riding principles that guide how you live your life, not just quick steps to feeling like your old self again. So for this post, let me give you one quick and easy “action step” for each of the Five Secrets to help you get started (well, maybe not easy…no change is easy):

  1. Eat real food at the right times – Cook at least half of your meals at home. Michael Pollan says that anything made and eaten at home is better than eating the same food in a restaurant…even French fries. He has a great two-minute video about this idea. I completely agree with him and I try to make a full meal for myself at least five nights per week with enough for leftovers the next day.
  2. Promote healthy and quality sleep – Make sure your room is as dark as possible when you sleep. Any light, even the small amount from an alarm clock, can reduce your melatonin production and interfere with your sleep quality.
  3. Become resilient to stress – Find time for an activity that you love to do, everyday…even for 5 minutes. When you occupy your time with an enjoyable activity, you turn on the “rest and digest” part of your nervous system and turn off the “flight and flight” processes that promote the ill effects of chronic stress
  4. Move naturally every day (reduce sitting) – Get up from your chair every 45 minutes. I set a timer when I am working at my desk or even reading a book on the couch. When the timer goes off, I go to the bathroom or wash a dish or chat with my office mate for a few minutes. I am actually more productive and this interrupts some of the damaging effects of having a sedentary job. Check out this great info-graphic from the Washington Post on the problems of sitting too much.
  5. Create a healthy and well-functioning digestive system – Dechlorinate your drinking water. One of the most damaging things that you can do to the beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract is to expose them to the chlorination in water. If you don’t have a filter, you can set a pitcher of water on the counter for six or more hours and the chlorine will evaporate. Here are a few more ideas to improve your water quality.

Making small changes lead to bigger ones and can make a pronounced change in how you feel. In future posts, I will give you many ways that you can turn your MenoPause into MenoGo just as I have done. See you soon!

 

November 22nd, 2014

Posted In: Health Practices, Menopause, Vibrant Health

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So what’s up with the “spring cleanse”? Google “spring cleanse” or “detoxification program” during the first part of the year and you will see every nutritionist, chiropractor, and naturopath promoting their new-and-improved detox program. Why is detoxification necessary and why is spring the best time for cleaning, both inside and out?

The human body does a pretty good job of cleaning up after itself…we have multiple ways of taking out the metabolic trash. Just as you have to clean up the kitchen after creating a culinary masterpiece, you must clean up your digestive, absorptive, and cellular processing of that meal.

Just has you need to find a way to dispose of the used oil from your Maserati once every 3,000 miles, you need to find a way to dispose of used up hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters from the daily metabolic processes that take place in your body.

And just as you have to clean and change the filter in your fish tank to keep your angel fish from kicking the bucket, you need to clean out your body filters (liver, kidneys, and skin) or you will become bogged down and sick from the environmental sludge that we swim around in all day.

Detoxification, or more biochemically correct, “biotransformation” is the method the body uses to do all of these housecleaning duties on a daily basis. But if you are anything like me (or my mother and grandmother) you block off a weekend for a thorough cleaning of your abode in the spring. We should also do this for our bodies.

Unfortunately, we are living in a chemical “soup” that is becoming more toxic by the moment. I am not going to go into all of the gory details of the hundreds of chemicals that we have to process through our livers everyday. But I do want to encourage you to help your detoxification organs become more resilient and effective in their daily household cleaning, by performing at least one major cleanse per year.

So what is so special about the spring? In Ayurvedic medicine, the seasons play a major role in promoting and maintaining health. One of my mentors, Dr. John Douilliard, explains in his book The Three Season Diet that the green veggies and leafy plants that naturally become more abundant in the spring are the vehicle for the natural spring detox that has been taking place in our bodies for millions of years. The components of these plants provide vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that help to “biotransform” the toxins that have been building up in our organs like dust bunnies under the bed.

I am about to begin my annual, internal spring-cleaning later this month. I am inviting my clients, my friends, and my readers to do this along with me. I have my own new-and-improved Spring Cleanse that I am happy to share with you and guide you through the process. Please call me for information and I’ll fill you in on the particulars.

Okay everyone…dust mops to the ready…let’s get cleaning!

April 30th, 2014

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Originally posted on June 21, 2012

Preventing and reversing Cardiovascular and Metabolic Dysfunction

I am on fire right now! I have just returned from the Institute of Functional Medicine‘s Annual Conference and International Symposium in Scottsdale, Arizona. The conference title was “A New Era in Preventing, Managing, and Reversing Cardiovascular and Metabolic Dysfunction ”. The whole experience was amazing for me: meeting and dialoguing with many like-minded healthcare practitioners (most of them medical doctors and cardiologists), learning an astounding amount of information in three and a half days that will directly impact how I work with clients, and spending some much-needed down-time in a beautiful resort.

As soon as I sat down in the Pheonix airport to wait for my flight home, I began to plan how I would share all of this information with you. I will have to say that I got a taste of my own medicine at the conference; it truly was like “drinking from a fire hydrant”. I want to be able to provide you with the “health pearls” of wisdom that I learned so that you are able to use the information rather than drown in it. To this end, I decided to use my much neglected blog. My goal is to write short posts that will give you some of the information I learned in usable bits so that you can improve your health…one “pearl” at a time.

 

 

June 12th, 2012

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Nutrition Therapy Disclaimer

Nutrition Counseling is not intended as a diagnosis, treatment, prescription, or cure for any disease, mental or physical, and is not intended as a substitute for regular medical care.
Nutrition Counseling does provide nutritional evaluation, balanced diet planning, nutritional supplement suggestions, and lifestyle recommendations for the purpose of enhancing health.

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