I wanted to write this blog on just how important it is to consider your bone health in your 40s as I don't want you to end up where I was - breaking both ankles in my 40s. I should have pieced things together and realised that I had a weakness coming, but I didn't because unlike you I didn't give a single thought to menopause or my changing body until it slapped me in the face at 45; and even then I didn't think about bone health. I did bits and pieces to curb the symptoms I was starting to experience like magnesium to help with my sleep and some herbals to clean my liver but I just thought: Bones are bones and I get enough calcium; but it turns out I was calcium deficient too! In this month's perimenopause blog: help your bones, relieve your symptoms I'm going under the covers of your body to help you understand how it's all linked - what causes weak bones? Why your ligaments, tendons and muscles are so important? How if you just focus on managing your bone health you are more than likely to reduce a lot of your other symptoms too!
Help your bones, relieve your symptoms!
How is the quality of your bone health linked to most of your peri and/or menopause symptoms?
Answer - because at the root of it all is your health, no matter what the symptom outcome is for you. So although you may have a different set of symptoms to your friend a majority of what's going on underneath is the same. If you friends worst symptom is hot flushes and your greatest worry is osteoporosis you can both start making the same changes and see a positive outcome.
The issue with osteoporosis is that you don't see it until it's significantly set in. You most likely have been to see your Doctor and received a DEXA scan (measures your bone density). You may have noticed you've lost height or your upper back has a more pronounced curvature, if not in yourself then your mum? You can turn it around though, it's not the end, bones can be strengthened and it's far better to be doing this in your 40s and 50s rather than a decade or two later. So get a head start, think of your bones now!
When I broke my right ankle at 42 I just thought it was life, I'd put on weight and I was playing a lot of tennis so it happened on court, a clean break of the fibula. So I thought nothing of it and got back on with life, and lost some weight :) When me left ankle went at 47 it was more serious, it was ligaments that snapped, as well as the fibula (the ankle bone that's designed to snap under force to protect the tibia), and the healing took a lot lot longer. Whilst I couldn't walk or work much I had time to research more of what was going on. I new my anatomy but I hadn't thought about the nutritional aspect of bone and ligament health. Bones receive a direct blood supply which has nutrients in it so they can heal enough for you to use in around 6 weeks but ligaments - they takes months if not a year to get back to some level of usefulness. Ligaments don't have a direct blood supply, they are a cartilage that link bones. Tendons on the otherhand are also fibrous tissue that transform muscle into bone. Both are incredibly important in overall bone health too.
Why do you need supplements to strengthen bones?
Your bones are growing all the time and thanks to being full of blood vessels they are fed nutrients daily; but what if there isn't enough nutrition to go around?
Many of the visible symptoms you have, the ones you feel/see daily (as opposed to osteoporosis being invisible) need exactly the same nutrition as your bones. There's a pecking order in your body as to how your physiology works, it distributes nutrients to your life systems first (i.e. keeping you breathing and alive), and then your body is trying to put you into a state of rest and digest which is where healing and bone growth can happen.
If however you remain in a stressed state, known as fight or flight, this is where your nutrition will prioritise to combat the physical stress in your body. Think of it as your body fire fighting, and whilst it's doing this it really can't carry out the other daily functions that you need to be healthy and flourish; it's continually in this state of just keeping your head above water and this is why you're experiencing so many symptoms. Your body is struggling, your bones aren't receiving nutrition and in turn this is affecting your clarity of thought (brain fog!).
If all your nutrients are going to your stress mechanism and trying to help you sleep, then there is little left over for muscles and bones and less so for ligaments and tendons. Your whole mechanical structure is very slowly degenertating. You maybe feeling your aching muscles and wonder why your joints are acting up? These are indicators. You may also have brain fog/overwhelm, night sweats and/or hot flushes, feel tired but wired and wake up worrying and anxious around 4am (if you're reading this and have sleep issues, you don't have enough nutrition - read this blog). All these symptoms want the same nutrition that your bone health requires.
A first beneficial step is to up the nutritional intake in your food, think about a variety of 30 plant based foods a week, variety means a lot of nutrition is covered, this includes veg, nuts, seeds, spices, wholegrains as well as fruit. One of the issues you're up against at present is that there isn't enough nutrition in the food you eat to help your body in a timely manner. It may look like an apple, it may taste like an apple but it has around 80% less Magnesium in it than it did 70 years ago. This is a major problem with all fresh foods at this time.
This is the dilemma your body is in; you're in a more stressed state now than the women that have gone before you but you receive less nutrition from your food than they did.
How do you resolve this?
Answer - adding in plant-based nutritional supplements. The magic 3 for bone health are the well know calcium, and to support absorption - Magnesium, and now Vitamin D3 (recently reclassified as a hormone) to also help with healthy bone formation, also vitamin K2 is now added in with the D3 to help the homeostasis of these supplements in your system. If you need help getting started on the right supplements I have a choice of guides here.
What steps can you take to strengthen your bones?
Today you will learn that bone health is a lot more than just eating calcium rich foods, or taking a supplement. This is a good start but you don't want to wee out the nutrients your bones need because your body hasn't absorbed them so there are a couple of other factors to think about.
You've got to ensure that your gut is working well and absorbing the nutrition you're putting in so you should also think about taking these steps:
strengthening your gut health
cleaning up your liver health
lowering your physical stress levels.
This may seem like a big ask and I don't want overwhelm to kick in so I will break this down for you into manageable tasks. These daily tasks will fit into your life and become habits, healthy habits and you will notice a change in your symptoms for the better and if your symptoms are improving then the likelihood is that you're improving your bone health too!
Strengthen your gut
Start to take a probiotic every day, this repopulates your gut with the right bacteria to absorb and utilise nutrients in your diet. However if you have food intolerances these may get in the way so it's worth checking out what foods could be inflaming your gut and stopping nutrient absorption.
A supermarket probiotic isn't good enough. It's not so much about the million billion bacteria as variety. Supermarket ones contain only one strain normally so if you're on one of those currently this is a good start, but now to replace with something more beneficial that's really going to start having a positive effect. Strengthening your gut is going to change your mind - literally. Brain fog will lessen, you'll have more clarity and better memory, did you know 90% of your brain chemistry comes from your gut. So improve this clear your head and start feeding your bones, it's a win win. It'll also increase your immunity, so less allergies and bugs, and you'll feel happier too. It goes hand in hand , a healthy gut leads to a happier head.
The probiotic I recommend is Microbz as it's a real game changer my clients have said.
If you have periods, even heavy ones without heat symptoms you want Biolive Women
If you have night sweats, mood swings and irritability or your periods are scant/lighter you want Biolive Liver. If however you feel your gut needs a reboot or you have IBS/ leaky gut then Biolive Reset is your starting point.
Clean your liver
You are going to feel the benefits of this in so many ways! For your gut to work well your liver also has to work well, they go hand in hand. A healthy liver is going to help tackle inflammation in your body caused by stress and toxins. If you remove these then more nutrients can go to your bone health and many other systems in your body. You'll also relieve night sweats, resolve irritability, control your emotions better, have more energy and bring your body back into a hormonal balance as the excess estrogen is dealt with more efficiently.
Think of your liver as a filter, infact think of an oil filter in your car. Vitamins and minerals are the petrol, they give the car engine so that it can move. The oil filter is there to help the engine run and as it gets more clogged and inefficient it heats up, so your engine runs hot - sound familiar? The thing is you service your car every year or so and your oil filter gets changed and the oil changed too. You're reading this in your 40s or 50s, your oil filter most likely hasn't ever been unclogged so it could be pretty snarled up right now? Your body isn't going to work well if your filter is blocked.
This is why you do a liver detox to clean your filter, you can also support your liver daily with cleansing herbs; they just help your liver do it's own flushing out, this is really beneficial.
If you'd like to read more about liver detoxing get my purchasable guide here.
What clogs up your liver?
Sugar, caffeine, alcohol, processed foods and toxins are the biggies, but did you know emotions can get in the way too? Mood swings, angry rants, irritable outburts are all signs that your liver requires help. Clean it up a bit and you'll feel less like ripping your hubbies head off; he'll notice the difference, and so will your family.
Lower your physical stress levels
Did you know physical stress can make your symptoms worse? By this I mean the stress that gets applied physically doing certain types of exercise and how you now react in everyday life creating a physical stress in your body. On top of all this in that your hormones are changing is a physical stressor too. It's coming at you from all directions so we need to unpick a few top tips about lowering stress:
#1 Exercise - adrenalin release stresses your body and another hormone cortisol is then released, it's job it to destress you. To do this you need very high levels of nutrition if you want to try to continue doing high impact/cardio exercising. Impact exercise which puts a stress on your bones is good as it will strengthen them however you do need the nutrition alongside this to give your body the building blocks for strengthening. This was my major mistake when I was playing tennis every weekend to destress from my job at the time without suitable levels of nutrients. You require nutrition to destress from exercise as well as life!
This is why Yoga and Qi Gong work, they are strengthening and destressing at the same time.
#2 Your everyday reaction to stress - you maybe already thinking: I don't handle stress as well as I used to. This is me now but a few years ago I would have said: I handle stress better than everyone around me. My head was handling the stress but I was pushing more and more physical stress into my body, until it snapped one day. It snapped when I felt exhausted and said I need a break... well I got one! Understanding that even if you don't feel stressed at this time of life stress is there, it's there as physical changes in your body whether you like it or not. If you're awake around 4am you have physical stress. If you slump at 3pm your body is fatigued, you have physical stress. Whilst your body is trying to combat these levels of stress to resolve them it has nothing left to send to your bones. Want to read more on the stress link? Read this blog.
#3 Your hormones are changing - there are so many symptoms going on right now and underneath them all there are a couple of hormones that are declining - Progesterone and Oestrogen. Firstly with the loss of oestrogen and oestrogen receptors many systems in your body don't work but there is also a specific link to a loss in bone density, before you even start taking any other lifestyle aspects into account. You can boost your own oestrogen with red clover extract this is the most natural phytoestrogen in supplement form and a good alternative if you are soy intolerant (soy isoflavones are the strongest phytoestrogen you can get).
Progesterone plays a huge role as well, often overlooked. Progesterone is suppressed by the stress hormone Cortisol, as it is the first of the 2 sex hormones to decline it becomes increasingly noticeable throughout your 40s, before you have the true menopausal decline of oestrogen later on. With the loss of progesterone you can get low moods, loss of libido, anxiety, cold flushes, fatigue, loss of sleep, brain fog, aching joints, muscle cramps and aches. If we call the loss of progesterong the perimenopause this is when you start realising your body is changing and this is when you may start to have your first bone breaks. Take note, this is when you can really start turning things around.
Relieve your symptoms now and you are looking after your bone health
To turn this whole blog on it's head: if you relieve your current set of symptoms you will have a beneficial result on your bone health in the years to come!
The likelihood is that if you're here and reading this far then osteoporosis is a concern for you. As with other later age conditions like Diabetes Type 2, heart health and dementia the seeds are already being sown in your body.
I'm not telling you this to scare you but to empower you to start making change, as it's way easier now! Little changes now, creating small habits that then become second nature is the way to start turning around how you're feeling right now.
Depending on what type of person you are as to the action you're ready to take:
Go Getter! You're ready to make change, you've read this and you want to know the next step to take - book a free chat with Andrea in Getting started or seek out the self help options!
Thoughful - you're going to go away and really think on this, maybe it takes time to reflect and make a decision. I think this would be the right step for you:
Purchase and read Understanding Your Menopause this steps you through making small changes to relieving your symptoms whilst explaining simply what's going on.
Not there yet - you might need more convincing or you're early on in your symptoms and wonder whether it's really going to happen. No matter where you are if you're not at the stage to take action then I want to offer you the chance to access affordable self-help guides and programmes! Return to main site for more information.
Andrea is a shiatsu and chinese medicine practitioner who uses the principles of chinese medicine in a completely practical way to help you resolve your symptoms naturally and effectively. If local you can book in for Shiatsu for Menopause, otherwise Andrea can do online indepth consultations where you'll leave with an actionable plan to follow.