Sandra Ishkanes is a Functional Medicine specialist. She takes a whole-body approach to healthcare, combining nutrition, lifestyle and cutting-edge medical testing.
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At least 30 symptoms have been associated with peri/menopause, ranging from the well known such as hot flushes, night sweats, anxiety and depression, to the less common such as allergies, tinnitus and itchy skin. The default position is that all of these are caused by a decrease in the level of oestrogen and that replacing oestrogen should be the primary therapy in resolving these health issues - whether by HRT or bio-identical HRT, or plant oestrogens such as soya and flaxseed.
However a decreasing oestrogen level is a natural state of being which has evolved over millions of years. It is unlikely that nature has designed a system whereby women outlive their reproductive years for decades (and outlive men) while having to deal with the severe associated symptoms.
Our bodies are ridding themselves of this hormone, which means that there must be something else going on and with most symptoms it has little to do with oestrogen as the primary factor causative factor.
Feelings of dread
Thinning hair and dry skin
Loss of libido/ increased libido
Increase in allergies
Aching joints and muscle problems
Itchy, crawly skin
Increased urinary tract infections
One of the many functions that oestrogen performs is delivering sugar to the cells of the body. Sugar is converted to energy which powers the whole body. As oestrogen levels start to decline in peri/menopause, the delivery of sugar also starts to decline, which means that the cells are making less and less energy and:
You start feeling tired, all the time.
Your brain is deprived of energy which leads to brain fog, depression, memory loss and possibly eventually dementia.
The energy crisis in your brain initiates an adrenaline rush to release high amounts of glucose from the liver into the blood stream - this causes hot flushes in the daytime and night sweats at night.
Adrenaline rushes at night mean that going to sleep and staying asleep becomes difficult;
Adrenaline rushes create anxiety which can lead to panic attacks.
High adrenaline destabilises potassium balance which means the heart can't function properly and this leads to heart palpitations.
High levels of blood sugar causes weight gain as unused sugar is converted to fat.
It's becoming increasing clear that peri/menopausal symptoms are not an oestrogen problem. The problem is that during the menopausal transition the body and brain are not able to keep using sugar as an energy source any more. This is why women have high blood sugar, gain weight, experience debilitating fatigue, brain fog, anxiety and a myriad of other problems.
The brain and the body do have access to another energy source, which is abundant in our bodies and can only be accessed when sugar is low: the rocket fuel that is fat.
When sugar intake is low, the body converts fat to something called ketones. A low sugar - or low carbohydrate - diet encourages the body to switch from using glucose as a primary fuel source to burning body fat and using ketones for fuel. This metabolic switch from being able to use sugar to only using ketones is the metabolic process that underpins the whole menopausal transition. This is what prevents the brain and body from starving as the oestrogen level is declining.
Many women who are suffering with extreme peri/menopausal symptoms consider going on HRT. Supplementing with synthetic oestrogen can slow down the metabolic switch but it’s unlikely that is can stop it altogether. HRT is not for every woman and can have significant side-effects, and most of all, it’s not needed, if a specially formulated low-carbohydrate diet is followed.
Many women suffer through the menopausal transition and feel like it’s the beginning of the end of their previously rich and happy lives. In fact nothing could be further from the truth.
Peri/menopause is all about eating the right food, to get the right energy. Once that happens, all the benefits of the menopause can be reaped. My clients who have taken the Peri/Menopause Prescription report that their health and lives are better than ever. They are free to pursue long-cherished ambitions within the freedom from cycling hormones. Their libidos are high, their minds are sharp and they are feeling on the top of the world.
The key sailing through peri/menopause is found in the food that you eat, but choosing the right foods can be a difficult process of trial and error. Yes low carbohydrate is the way to go, but which carbohydrates, and how low?
I have spent the last 3 years developing and refining the Peri/Menopause Prescription. It is based on scientific evidence and the experiences of tens of women. Within the Peri/Menopause Prescription you will find the right combination of alkaline carbohydrates, protein and fats to make the peri/menopausal metabolic switch easy and fast, which means that symptoms reverse quickly and you can get on with your life. This program also takes care of heart health, bone health and vaginal issues.
By making a few simple modifications to your diet, you can completely change your experience of menopause and transition through this life phase healthier than ever. This new way of eating burns fat instead of storing it, reduces inflammation and nourishes your body to restore energy, vitality and health