Here’s a little midlife 101 fact: When women hit perimenopause, not only does our overall amount of estrogen begin to decline, but instead of estrogen being produced in the ovaries, the majority is now produced in our adrenal glands.
So basically, the ovaries hand over the job to the adrenals. It’s kind of like when companies downsize and they ask the remaining employees to take over the extra work from those who were let go. Well that’s your adrenals in menopause!
The problem is, our adrenals are already doing a lot of work. They produce hormones which regulate things like blood pressure, cardiovascular function, immune response and inflammation.
In addition, the adrenals are intricately involved in regulating our blood sugar, and how we convert fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to energy. This has a direct effect on our cravings.
What we need to do is take this into account and give our adrenals some TLC – and we can do this by lightning their load.
Fortunately, there are lifestyle changes within our control that we can do to support our adrenals and in turn, ease cravings.
Watch or read below for our top 3 strategies.
Strategy 1: Balance your Blood sugar
Blood sugar regulation is imperative to our health, especially as we walk into our second half of life. Our adrenal glands signal the release of hormones, including insulin, that control our blood sugar. When we ride the blood sugar roller coaster (high highs and low lows) our adrenals are constantly on alert, trying to get your blood sugar lower or bring it back up! This can exhaust them!
In order to balance blood sugar, 2 things need to happen. First, you need to strictly limit refined sugar and processed carbs–the white flour breads/pastas/bagels.
Second, make sure you are eating regular meals that include a good source of fat, protein, and fiber. These three components work together to prevent blood sugar swings by slowing down the digestive process and keeping you fuller for longer periods of time. This is huge for helping women reduce their cravings and helps with limiting the refined sugars which we just spoke about. We suggest around 20 grams of protein, at least 10 grams of fat and 5-10 grams fiber with each meal.
So many women we work with discount the impact blood sugar has on their health and cravings, especially if it does not get flagged in their blood work. So even if you’re not diabetic, you still need to pay close attention to blood sugar especially now.
Some signs of blood sugar imbalance aside from cravings include
- Mood swings and irritability
- Shaky or hangry when you miss a meal
- Difficulty concentrating
- Low energy
Strategy 2: Address your stress
You might have noticed that when you are stressed, you feel an increase in carb cravings.
That’s because carbohydrates increase production of serotonin, our body’s “feel-good” chemical. Most often we reach for sugary, refined carbs which will only promote the craving cycle.
So the question is, how can we address the stress without reaching for food?
First and foremost, exercise tops our list. Exercise not only keeps you fit, but research suggests that aerobic exercise has the most consistent effect on serotonin release and mood improvements. You don’t have to fill yourself at the gym. Even a brisk walk will do the trick.
Other really effective stress reducing strategies include things like breathing exercises, inhaling a soothing essential oil like lavender, or fitting in a quick meditation.
Strategy 3: Prioritize Sleep
We know this is a huge undertaking – most of us are not sleeping well and/or not sleeping enough. The first step is to just be aware that this can be a huge factor with cravings.
Research has shown that not getting enough sleep can lead to cravings, no matter what stage you are at in your life. However, during and after menopause, when we don’t get enough sleep we are much more sensitive and susceptible to food cravings.
Just like after long stressful days, when you don’t get enough sleep your body will also induce a craving to get an energy burst.
If not getting enough sleep is due to lack of it being a priority, a full plate, or just the bad habit of staying up too late, it’s time to make a change! Make sleep a high priority in your life asap. One way to start is by committing to going to sleep 10-15 minutes earlier and gradually move it earlier every few weeks.
We have lots of conversations going on about women in midlife in our private Facebook group. Join for free here.