Learn more and connect with Laura via her website www.lauraciniwellness.com

Hannah:
Welcome back Burn Pod listeners. We’re once again, very grateful to be joined by Laura Cini. She’s a nutritionist and naturopath from Hobart. Now on today’s episode, we’re diving into the big M and it’s menopause. If you haven’t yet already, I would love you to jump back and have a listen to our podcast on detoxing, fat loss, energy, and sleep or skin that we’ve already recorded with Laura on the last, I guess probably six months, but today we’re looking at natural medicine secrets for menopause. So welcome back, Laura.

Laura:
Good to be here, Hannah. Thank you.

Hannah:
No worries. Now we’ve actually have a number of podcasts focusing on menopause or perimenopause in particular. So some of you listeners out there are maybe familiar with this first question, but let’s quickly start with the basics. What is menopause? And I guess one that we always wonder is that, “How long does it take?”

Laura:
Oh, the big question. How long is this going to take? Okay, so. So menopause is actually when a woman’s periods stop. And that in Australia, that’s roundabout for most women, roundabout age 50, as a rough average. It can be earlier than that due to certain factors, but most women, it’s around 50-ish. But the thing that perhaps hasn’t been talked about until perhaps more recently, is there is a stage called perimenopause, which is the change before the change, if you like. So perimenopause is the stage where your hormones are going through huge changes in the lead up to the period actually stopping.

Hannah:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). And how long does it take? If there is, I guess, a length of time.

Laura:
Okay. So this varies between women, but for many women in Australia, these hormonal changes start occurring around the mid-thirties, which a lot of women don’t realise. It’s generally around the mid thirties that their ovaries actually start to power down. So their ovaries have been working pretty hard since they started their periods, pumping out oestrogen. And so, from about the mid-thirties, changes start to happen. And the production of oestrogen through the ovaries starts to go down. And also what happens is, progesterone levels start to drop as well. And this can cause huge, huge number of symptoms and can, in some women, be quite pronounced symptoms and can go on for years until their periods actually stop. So as a health practitioner, I really want to encourage women out there to acknowledge that this is a big period of change.

Laura:
A lot of women are just tend to think about menopause, “Oh, that’s just when my period stop.” But this period menopause phase, which can go on for years, some women start in their forties, in that period menopause phase, but some start mid-thirties and it can be quite a challenging time for women. So I think it needs to be acknowledged, that there is a lot going on in the body, which has huge effects on your physical health and your mental health. And there is, yeah. There is assistance out there if you need it. So, I mean, we can go in a little bit more detail about the kind of symptoms that people get. Yeah.

Hannah:
Yeah, I was going to say, what are the common symptoms?

Laura:
Yeah. So look, and this is funny because I’m actually in perimenopause myself now. And so, shout out to all your sisters out there in this stage. But look, what happens is your progesterone levels drop first? And progesterone has been called nature’s valium. So progesterone levels drop first. And for many women, this can leave them feeling a lot more anxious. They can get quite irritable and it means that without that progesterone to balance the oestrogen, oestrogen can fluctuate quite significantly. And cause a whole host of symptoms, which I’ll get to in a moment. But perhaps one thing that might explain this a bit better is that, what happens when your ovaries start to power down and they produce less, a lot less oestrogen, is that your adrenal glands are meant to step in and take up the slack.

Laura:
So they are meant to step in and start making oestrogen. But for many women, is that they’re under high amount of stress, which is pretty common, is the adrenal gland first priority is to respond to that stress and make stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. So if your poor adrenals are running hard to produce stress, hormones, cortisol, and adrenaline, and that’s their first priority is to respond to stress. Honestly, they get a bit puffed, and they have less raw materials available to make that oestrogen to step in and make the oestrogen. So it’s pretty common that women who are highly stressed, perhaps their adrenal glands are feeling a bit puffed, to really, really have a lot more significant hairy menopausal symptoms than others.

Hannah:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Now, that makes sense. So yes, it’s a bit of a taboo topic, this whole idea of menopause, and we definitely need to start recognising it as something that all of us women will go through at some stage. And for some of us, it can just be really challenging.

Laura:
Yeah. It can be really. And I mean, you’d see probably new members, Hannah, and I seen in my clients and some of them come along and they say, “I feel like I’m losing my mind. I can’t sleep properly. I’ve got hot flushes. I’ve got flushes through the day. My moods are swinging. I’m getting very irritable or I’m getting quite depressed.” They start to put on weight, perhaps particularly around the middle section that they may not have before. There’s dry skin, the list goes on.

Hannah:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). And we sort of already started touching on it. But if we could dig in a little deeper on the effects of stress on menopause or…

Laura:
Yes. Stress, as a natural therapist, when clients come to us with either perimenopause or symptoms, or perhaps once they’ve actually hit menopause and their periods have stopped. And, but that’s when their oestrogen levels have dropped, they’re fluctuating during the per menopause, but then they really drop when you hit menopause. What you are really aiming to do is to support the adrenal glands. So if a client is stressed, and sometimes stress is very difficult to avoid, what you’re going to do is you’re going to use evidence based herbal medicine and nutritional medicine to support the adrenal glands, to try and ensure there’s more raw material there for them to make oestrogen from.

Laura:
And try and minimise the effect of stress on the bodies. You’ll probably work on. There may be some nutritional ways that you can get some plant estrogens into the body if that’s warranted, so that can assist, and you’ll obviously want to work on their sleep. Better quality sleep. It’s going to mean less stress during the day. And potentially, the adrenals have got a little bit more ability to make oestrogen. So look, stress, Hannah, is I know it’s a word that we use a lot and I know we all say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, we need to de-stress.” But it just can’t be underestimated, the effect that it has on women during this hormonal change.

Hannah:
And I guess the next question most people will be wanting to know is, are there herbal or nutritional medicines out there that can help?

Laura:
There are really, really good herbal medicines that we use to assist with, and nutritional medicine as well that we use to assist with perimenopausal symptoms. And with once the periods are stopped in menopause, and there’s a lot that we can do to assist with the mental health, the physical health. I think a lot of women aren’t aware that there’s natural medicine options out there and many suffer in silence. I know from my, for example, my friendship group, we talk about this sort of thing. And a lot of them aren’t talking about it with anybody else and they are just suffering in silence. So there is a lot that a natural medicine practitioner can do to ease those symptoms. So just make that transition easier to balance because women have got a lot on, this age and a lot of them are caring for children. They’re working, they’re trying to stay fit. Some of them might be starting to care for elderly parents. It’s busy.

Hannah:
Yeah. Yeah. And is there specific things that we can eat or drink that can help with when one stress during menopause and perimenopause, but to help maybe reduce some of those symptoms, like hot flushes and things like that?

Laura:
Definitely. Look, one thing I often talk to women about is you need to eat properly. You don’t want to under eat, you don’t want to be trying to cut your calories. You need to be ensuring that your body is really well fueled with the raw materials that it needs. So some women find that plant estrogens can actually help, because there are oestrogen like substances in plants. They’re not as strong as human oestrogen, but they can actually offset some of the symptoms, menopausal symptoms in some women. And the are things we will have heard of like, miso tofu, soy, that sort of thing. If you like that. So that sort of food can be a source of plant estrogens. So that can be useful for a lot of women. Your adrenal glands need an enormous amount of nutrients particularly B vitamins at this stage.

Laura:
And so eating a nutritionally dense foods can really help. So this is probably not news to women in that, if you’re eating a really good quality diet and you’re not skipping meals, you’re eating enough, it’s not good to under eat. If you are trying to lose weight or burn fat, well, that’s great, but do work with a practitioner to make sure that you’re not missing out on certain nutrients. And also for women that may have, perhaps restricted diets, perhaps women that are vegan, or maybe trying to do lose weight through the keto system, women that perhaps have got food intolerances, do be careful that you’re not missing out on any nutrients or under eating. Because, gosh, that can make, raise these stress load on the body and make it harder for the adrenals.

Laura:
A lot of sugar as well, is problematic, because sugar is a stimulant and will lead to adrenaline release from the adrenals. And you want to minimise that adrenaline release. So the adrenals have got good quality, enough raw materials to try and make estrogens. So the sugar is problematic if you’re eating a lot of it. I’m not saying don’t eat any, but watch your sugar intake.

Hannah:
Yeah, yeah. I know I’ve heard that one too. And I guess one of the common side effects of menopause is the expanding waistline, which doesn’t make us feel great. It is like we talked about with, on our podcast with WHEN, it’s part and parcel of growing old or anyway, that our bodies do change and our body shapes do change. We can’t expect to have the bodies that we had when we were 20, when we were 50, but it’s always a tough one. That’s the key one we get asked about at BurnTheory is, “I’m going through menopause or I’m perimenopausal age and I’m really struggling to lose weight. Really, really struggling. Can you help me?” And are there any sort of key points here?

Laura:
Yeah. So look, this is a challenging one, because often yes, women do find it. The weight comes on a bit at menopause, particularly around the middle section around the abdomen. And there’s a few reasons for that. And it will often be women that may not have had a weight issue through their life and maybe exercising and eating really well, may still have this issue to contend with. And look, as a practitioner, you’ll be working with your client to try and increase their insulin sensitivity. Because insulin, as you get older, often you become less sensitive to. And so your body has to pump out more, which makes it really hard to burn fat. It’s very difficult to burn fat when you’ve got high insulin levels. So that’s something that you work with a practitioner to improve your body sensitivity to insulin. So you can lower your insulin levels and actually start to access your fat stools.

Laura:
And the other thing that fat is in with that abdominal weight increase, is the hormonal change itself. So the changing levels of oestrogen and testosterone, as women have testosterone as well, and that levels of that change around perimenopause and menopause. So you work, that’s again, something that you would need to work with an experienced practitioner to try and balance those levels out. And so, and stress is, “Well, she’s at stressed again.” Because the cortisol, the stress hormone, cortisol, also will put weight on around the middle and will make it difficult to burn fat. And because women are often stressed in this age group, you’ve got that real triple, triple whammy. You’ve got the trio there, the insulin… Less sensitive to insulin, you’ve got the hormonal changes, and then you’ve got the cortisol in there as well. So you’ve got to, yeah… You’ve got to work out which of the issues for your clients and what needs to be tackled. That can be a tricky one. Yeah. There is stuff that you can do, but that needs to be done through a practitioner.

Hannah:
Yeah, yeah. No, that makes sense. Well, I guess, where can people go to educate themselves a little bit more, or read up on perimenopause and menopause?

Laura:
Yeah. So look, there’s not a lot out there, really, about perimenopause, which is a shame because it is something that really needs to be talked about. Natural medicine, you can read a lot about the kind of herbs that can be useful. So if you thinking about good authors, if you get a good natural medicine textbook, that can be really good. Other than that, sign up to my wellness group, I send out a really short newsletter about once a week, which has got lots of health tips. And I talk a bit about menopause in that and talk about upcoming events or podcasts or that sort of thing. I suppose, I really encourage you to work with a practitioner, because it’s something that there’s so many factors involved and there’s so many really poor quality products out there in the supplement land that it’s, yeah. Something that you really need some support from a practitioner on. But yeah, look, certainly, you can look at bits of information out there. But just take it with a grain of salt, because there’s a lot of misinformation out there as well.

Hannah:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, definitely. And how can our listeners get in contact with you if they’d like to reach out and have a chat?

Laura:
Yeah, sure. So I’ve got a website and that’s my full name lowercase, which is Laura. So I’ll spell that. L-A-U-R-A-C-I-N-I wellness.com. So I’ve got a Facebook and Instagram page that you can connect to through that website. And I post a lot of free content on there. Otherwise, yeah, my website and my newsletter through that. And so, yeah, I’d really, really encourage you to know that you’re not alone. Sometimes people say to me, “Look, I feel like going mad.” Just because of the emotional changes. They’re feeling the physical changes, the unpredictability of it. You’re not going mad. It’s huge transition in your body. And there is help out there if you need to get support and just look, a pat on the back for all of this, Hannah, I’m in perimenopause, I’m there. It’s just an interesting time.

Hannah:
Yeah. Interesting. Not so much fun for us at points there, but yeah. No, just know that everyone’s going, everyone will be going through it and yeah, there’s plenty of people out there that you can reach out to, and lots of great resources as well, so.

Laura:
Yeah.

Hannah:
Yeah. Well, thank you again for your time and energy and expertise. It’s always so easy and so great to talk to you. And I know that a lot of our clients get so much value out of these podcasts and with your workshops as well. So thanks so much.

Laura:
Oh, you’re very welcome, Hannah. My pleasure.

Hannah:
And we’ll catch you on the next one Burn Pod listeners.

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