Approaching middle age

For many people middle age is a transitional period, a time of Women go through distinct hormonal the men may not the ability to father but they are more likely to lose their and are just as likely to experience weight depression and lack of sex As people are living longer, now is the time to make an added investment in your health, taking the time to boost your nutritional status and ensure that you are doing everything possible to ensure you stay Don’t until problem arises your late sixties or seventies. The you start looking after your body the better.

There are also more immediate issues to deal with Physically, the body going through changes in metabolism that may cause change in the pattern of weight digestive problems and sleeping difficulties. The ageing process most affects the appearance of the hair skin. For many people physical of ageing can be stressful.

The menopause

is period in life when woman’s reproductive capacity ends, estrogen and progesterone levels drop and the body new the gradual most but can in some cases be hastened or suddenly by an emotional trauma or the process will usually begin between the early forties and Diet plays in the time the better nourished you the later they will start. It is good to aware physiological changes that may occur that you know what to expect and hot don’t send you off to the doctor fearing you have infection include hot flushes, dry skin, hair mood swings, depression, poor headaches, vaginal dryness and loss of sexual Pollution in soil and water been found aggravate symptoms, while women who have always maintained healthy high and preferably organically grown vegetables and not high in dairy products seem pass through the more easily. well-balanced diet the chapter on Understanding nutritional the intake moderate and caffeine the we should all aim There are also specific foods that can help with some the problems frequently experienced during the menopause.

HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY

To counteract the symptoms of the menopause, many women turn to a drug therapy known as hormone replacement therapy (HRT). During a woman reproductive year, the hormone estrogen provides protection against heart disease and Osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones become brittle. As women enter the menopause and estrogen levels drop, the protective effect is Lost and therefore the risk of developing these conditions increases. So not only do you sulfur distressing symptoms. you also expose your body to potential problems in the future HRT replaces the hormones that the body has readied to produce Like any other medication, HRT has its pros and cons. The hormones can be taken as a tablet or a cream, or worn as a skin patch or an implant just under the surface of the skin. HRT is associated with an increased risk of endometrial cancer and endometriosis, fibroids of the uterus. It is also associated with an increased risk of breast cancer secondary malignancies and thrombosis. On the plus side, not only can HRT make you feel younger, it protects your bones against osteoporosis and reverses the increased risk of heart disease.

NATURAL HORMONE REPLACEMENT

Research carried out in the US by Dr John Lees of Portland, Oregon, suggests that it is the non-production of progesterone that causes estrogen dominance and thus many of the painful symptoms associated with an imbalance of hormones. It is possible to boost the progesterone level in the blood through nutrition. The Mexican yam, or Sweet potato, is said to be high in progesterone Root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, potatoes, beetroot, and pulses such a chickpeas and kidney beans, help the body produce progesterone Herbs can also be useful.

Some herbalists suggest sarsaparilla, grown in the southern US. Chinese medicine has long recommended doing quay and white peony as hormone balancers at this time of life Some women find that vitamin E. found in foods such as avocados, black berries mangoes, seeds and nuts much as sunflower and peanut and their oils, and also evening primrose oil and star flower oil, can help reduce hot flushes an advantage of boosting your intake of fruits is that they are rich in vitamin C which has been found to help relieve menopausal symptoms. Be aware that after a while the body gets used to the dietary hormonal boost and you can start getting symptoms again. If you find this, I suggest you take w break of a few weeks, so that when you return to your dietary remedy you should receive the same beneficial effects. Taking breaks prevents your body from becoming dependent on its boosters.

FOOD CRAVINGS

Some menopausal women experience food cravings, similar to those during pregnancy Women taking HRT often crave sweet foods. This may lead to weight gain, but also to problems controlling your energy levels and moods, Moods are affected because there is a link between the hormones estrogen and serotonin is a hormone that creates positive moods, so if the level in your body drops you can feel very low and depressed.

The body responds to this drop in serotonin by craving the foods it knows will provide it sweets, chocolates, ice cream. Although sweet foods cause a massive initial rise in serotonin, which makes you feel good. a survival mechanism to prevent the sugar level from going too high soon kicks in. The result is that serotonin levels crash and you feel lousy. The way to get a boost in your serotonin levels which won’t make you feel bad is to choose a slow-release sugar such as a piece of fruit Feeling full of energy and Dealing with depression for more information.

Osteoporosis or brittle bones

From around the age of twenty, our bones start a gradual process of deterioration. In women, this process accelerates with the menopause, making them more vulnerable to a condition known as osteoporosis, or brittle bone disease. Some men can also be affected by osteoporosis, when bone mass drops the bones become fragile and at risk of fracturing easily. Whatever your age, it can be a severely debilitating condition The best defense against osteoporosis is to build up good bone mass during childhood and the teen years. Later in life, it is essential to do as much as possible to prevent bone loss. Building strong bones.

There is a clear correlation between nutrition and osteoporosis, which means there is lot you can do to help your body through the foods you eat. Throughout adult life, both men and women should ensure that their diet is rich in calcium, around 800 mg a day. Other important nutrients are vitamin D vitamin K. magnesium, zinc, copper and boron Regular load-bearing exercise helps to reduce the rate of bone loss. Everyone should exercise for at least twenty minutes on at least three occasions every week. Examples of load-bearing exercise are running. hockey, tennis and brisk walking.

Disease prevention

Everyone should examine their body at least every month to check that there are no changes, especially small lumps, which could be a sign of a medical problem If you find anything unusual, don’t worry unduly, but get it checked by your doctor as soon as possible, This advice applies to men as much as to women unfortunately men are far less likely to examine themselves, and if they do find a lump, for example in their testicles, they may be too embarrassed to consult their doctor Remember that if problems are discovered and treated early the prognosis is usually good. In any case, you should keep in regular contact with your doctor so that he or she can ensure that all of your health is being looked after. Unless women take HRT, as they enter the menopause, they lose estrogen’s protective effect against breast cancer. If you have a family history of this disease or are worried about it.

HEART DISEASE

As women enter the menopause their risk of heart disease becomes equal to that of men. It is therefore important for both women and men to address the nutritional and lifestyle issues surrounding heart disease: what you eat and drink, your body weight, blood fat level, exercise and smoking.   High blood cholesterol and High blood pressure look at these issues in detail Women on HRT have a slightly reduced risk of heart disease, but this should not allow them to become complacent: the risks are there if you don’t look after your body.

SMOKING

Research has proven that there is an increased risk of osteoporosis, brittle bone disease in people who smoke. Of course, smoking also greatly increases your risk of heart disease and many forms of cancer: for example, lung cancer killed 37.714 people in the UK in 1993. Do try to give up: it’s never too late to do so .

Digestive changes

Many people find that the gut changes quite significantly as they enter middle age. They begin to suffer from bloating, constipation, indigestion and diarrhea, conditions that had never troubled them before. This occurs because the digestive system consists of a collection of muscles and glands, all of which are very sensitive to blood hormone levels at certain times of life your gut varies in its ability to absorb and metabolize the nutrients in the foods you eat.

To help you address these problems I suggest you read the Good digestion in more extreme cases some women, and less frequently men, may develop food allergies and intolerances. These generally appear either because the hormonal changes trigger the gut to respond differently to foods, or your body has had enough of one particular food, its tolerance level has been met. If you Suspect you have a food sensitivity Managing allergies.

Weight changes

Most people seem to accept that they will change shape as they get older it is considered remarkable if someone can say that he or she has the body of a twenty-year-old. There are a number of reasons for these changes, which are usually in the form of weight gain, or middle age spread. The first is simply a natural change in metabolism, discussed above. Some of my patients get very upset as they seem to be unable to eat the same foods as they did when they were younger without putting on weight.

Although there is a change in metabolism, an increase in body weight, especially fat, can only come from an excess of unused calories. Ask yourself — are you really Exercising as much as you used to and not eating anymore? Many women find that when they start taking HRT the weight piles on There are two different issues here: estrogen can change both your body fat levels and your appetite. Your appetite may change in degree and/or food preferences, and it may be that you are responding to food cravings, especially for sweet foods.

Food cravings Men tend to put weight on around the middle, which is potentially more of a problem than women’s tendency to put weight on around the hips Excess weight around the middle can increase the pressure exerted on the major blood vessels around the heart which can lead to hypertension (high blood pressure) and increase the risk of heart disease. If the excess weight is related to excess drinking, the characteristic beer belly can pop up. This occurs when the liver is suffering from a decreased ability to metabolize male hormones.

This leads to a change in the ratio between the male hormone testosterone and the female hormone estrogen. A rise in the female hormone causes the weight to accumulate around the middle and to disappear from the arms and legs A side effect of the drink-related beer belly is that impotency increases and libido can plummet. Controlling your alcohol intake and losing excess weight can reverse this situation. By adopting a healthy eating plan your weight problem should be minimized.

I suggest that you read the Understanding your nutritional needs and Achieving your ideal weight to make sure that you are doing everything possible. I would encourage people who have a body mass index of more than 25 to do as much as they can to bring it down, as the more weight you carry into later years the greater your risk of heart disease, certain cancers and joint problems such as arthritis A word of warning about losing too much weight. It is not advisable for women to go below a body mass below this the risk of osteoporosis increases.

For both men and women, rapid weight loss can predispose you to an increased risk of stroke, heart problems and depression. It is above all essential not to allow your body to become malnourished by going on crash diets.

Fluid retention

Some women suffer from quite severe fluid retention, especially if they are taking HRT Men who suffer from fluid retention usually do so as a result of circulatory problems. If you are worried about this, I suggest you see your GP to check that there is no underlying medical problem Nutritionally you can tackle fluid retention in a number of ways .

• Firstly, and most importantly, you must not restrict your fluid intake Instead make sure you drink at least two and a her tree four to five pints of water a day .

* Try cutting out caffeine containing drinks (urea, coffee, cola based and chocolate drinks). Instead, drink herbal teas and fruit juices Make sure that you eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. The potassium and other vitamins and minerals within these foods will help your body to deal with the unwanted fluid.

• Keep your salt intake down Resist salty tasting foods and use fresh herbs and spices to enhance flavors in your meals in addition, you should exercise regularly to maintain healthy fluid circulation and balance Don’t take any diuretics unless they have been prescribed by your doctor, as these can seriously disturb your fluid vitamin and mineral balances.

This is dangerous nutritionally because your body loses a lot of potassium, magnesium or zinc you could develop a deficiency, which would make you feel tired and run dawn and subject to muscle cramps. Even if diuretics are prescribed, you should make sure that your diet is well balanced, with lots of fresh fruits, vegetables and wholegrain products.

Sleeping problems

People are often puzzled by changes in their sleep patterns, these are usually caused by changes in hormone levels. The most common sleep problems are not being able to get to sleep and waking several times through the night. Other people seem to sleep throughout the night, but they don’t feel refreshed in the morning. In this case it may be that your sleep hasn’t been good quality sleep. In all these instances there are several things you can do:

Stop drinking any beverage with caffeine in it after three o’clock in the afternoon. This includes tea, coffee, cola-based drinks and chocolate the caffeine can stay in your system for far longer than you think Experiment with herbal and fruit teas and look for caffeine free soft drinks.

. Try having a glass of cold milk or a mug of warm milk before you go to bed, this can be both comforting and soporific If you don’t like milk try an herbal tea such as chamomile .

• Try to avoid having foods that cause swings in blood sugar level, especially in the evening. Rapid changes in blood sugar can cause disturbed sleep. Instead, choose higher fiber carbohydrate foods such as whole meal bread and pasta as these will give you a slow steady release of restful hormones .

• Make sure that you’re neither too full nor too hungry before you settle down A full stomach can cause indigestion, while hunger can lead to stomach rumblings, neither of which help sleep.

• Avoid taking vitamin and mineral supplements late at night as they can affect sleep patterns. Some people find that cheese gives them vivid dreams and disrupts their sleep.

It is thought that substances within the cheese (vasoactive amines) trigger various neurotransmitters in the brain to go into overdrive and cause dreams. If this is problem for you try to eat cheese in morning rather than the evening for further suggestions on improving the quality of your sleep I refer you How to sleep soundly.

Loss of sex drive

Many men and women experience a lack of libido as they get older. The causes are quite complex it is partly hormonal, but it can also be ascribed to society’s expectations of the way older people should behave Some people worry (often needlessly) about being physically unattractive, while others may be suffering from the effects of long-term regular drinking However, there is no reason why any healthy person should not enjoy sex into old age: for more information see on A healthy, happy sex life.

Hair loss and skin ageing

Finally, there are the outward signs of ageing such as hair loss (which can affect women as well as men and the dreaded wrinkles. Although inevitable, we can minimize problems by eating well as your body enters a new phase of life, take these signs as a reminder to look after yourself, keep active both physically and mentally, and remain positive and full of vitality.