s5 e11: How To Thrive During Menopause

how to thrive during menopause

How To Thrive During Menopause

In this episode, I am focusing on an important topic that has been heavily requested, menopause! When I think about how to thrive during menopause and set yourself up for success, I think of four main areas: thyroid, stress, nutrition, and our daily habits. If you’ve already gone through menopause, I just want to say it’s never too late to work on the things I cover today. Also, if you did a lot of work and feel like you’ve tried all the things but are still really struggling through menopause, I know that can be really hard, but making nutrition and lifestyle changes is still supporting your long term health. It’s easy to forget that everything we’ve done our entire lives is going to impact our menopausal experience. When we’ve lived a certain way for a long time it can take time to undo a lot of that dysfunction. Be patient and know you are still doing really good things for your body and future health. 

As always, this episode is for informational purposes only. Please talk with your healthcare provider before making nutrition, lifestyle, or supplement changes.

This episode covers:

  • How suboptimal thyroid function leads to symptoms experienced during menopause
  • Recommendations to reduce stressors
  • Tips for supporting a healthy stress response
  • Three nutrition tips for menopausal women
  • Daily habits to support your body through menopause

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Free Resources:

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Mineral Training
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Feminine Periodical (monthly newsletter)


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Amanda Montalvo [00:00:01]:

Welcome to the are you menstrual? Podcast, where we dive deep into all things women’s health to support you on your healing journey. I’m Amanda Montalbo, functional and integrative dietitian, also known as the hormone healing Rd. If you enjoyed this podcast and you want to keep learning, check out the podcast patreon, where I share a bonus episode with additional downloadable resources each week. You can go to patreon.com forward slash hormonehealing Rd or check out the link in the show notes. All right, we have our menopause episode, how to Thrive during Menopause. I’m very excited for this. This has been a heavily requested topic, and I do think a lot of the stuff I share applies to women in this season of life. Regardless, even when we’re just talking about minerals, I talk about thyroid a lot, metabolism.

Amanda Montalvo [00:00:50]:

All those things are going to impact menopause because that’s going to impact what sets the metabolic pace of your body and how your systems are going to function. So, yes, I’m going to go through some specific areas today that I would always address with someone that is either going through perimenopause or they’re postmenopausal. But just know that it doesn’t mean everything else doesn’t apply to you. I don’t think there’s any one perfect prescription for women that are menopausal. I know a lot of people online would like you to think otherwise, but it’s just like anything else, like PCOS. You’ll see just PCOS specific content and it’s like, okay, that could be true for some people with PCOS, but not all. Same thing with menopause. So we’ll go through thyroid, we’ll talk about stress, talk about nutrition, and then our daily habits I’m going to share.

Amanda Montalvo [00:01:42]:

If I could just have women in this season of life do three habits a day, then these are the habits I would have them work on. So we’ll go through that stuff, and I just want to say that I get a lot of people that are later in life finding this information and they’re frustrated because they’re like, I’m having such a hard time, very difficult transition through menopause. And they’re like, I just wish I found all this information sooner. Or maybe they’ve already gone through menopause and they had a really hard transition. I would just say that it’s never too late to work on this stuff. And I think that’s something that that perfectionist mindset can kind of hinder when we start to learn about this stuff. Because even if you had a hard transition or maybe you’re currently going through it, you may not be able to get rid of all your symptoms immediately, right. It takes time, but you’ll still be supporting your long term health.

Amanda Montalvo [00:02:36]:

And I think that that really matters and something we should always be thinking about, like, yes, of course we want to feel better now, but you’re doing really good things for your body in the long term as well. So keep that in mind. It’s easy to forget that everything we’ve done our entire lives is going to affect how this menopausal transition goes. And that’s something that I’m going to continuously bring up. No two people’s transition is the same. Typically, you want to think about your health history. Someone that has a history of PCOS and hypothyroidism. Their transition through menopause is likely going to be very different from someone that does not have that health history and has never had a thyroid concern.

Amanda Montalvo [00:03:18]:

They’ll have two very different experiences, I’m sure. Right, so just keep that in mind. Everything matters. Up until now, this is not just like, oh, this is what happens to everyone when they go through menopause. There’s a lot of ways I think we can prepare for it. I mean, all the things I talk about, like having a healthy thyroid and metabolism and making sure that your body is nourished and in a good place, that’s absolutely going to help. But things like stress, that’s really big too, because adrenal function is huge for this season and shift, that happens when your ovaries stop producing hormones, which we’ll talk about, but everything that is going to impact you from the past. So if we’ve lived a certain way for a long time, it can take a lot of time to undo that dysfunction.

Amanda Montalvo [00:04:04]:

But again, it doesn’t mean that you’re not setting yourself up for health and success in the future for your long term health. And then, as always, before, we kind of dig into everything. This is for educational purposes only. Please talk with your doctor, your provider, before you make any nutrition, lifestyle or supplement changes because this is really like generalized. I’m going to give some examples of things I’ve done with clients, but everything was really unique to them. And before I dig right in, we’re going to talk about thyroid first because I think this is one of the most important areas for this midlife perimenopause menopausal transition. But quickly, we have a podcast sponsor this week and I’m going to keep this shorter in the future. But I haven’t had sponsors on this podcast and I just wanted to go into a little bit around the thought process about this, how this has come about, what it’s going to look like.

Amanda Montalvo [00:04:57]:

So I’ve had the podcast for a little over two years now, have not had sponsors, mostly because the companies that have reached out to me, I just would never use their products. And I’m just like, no, you couldn’t pay me enough. Right? And I don’t want people to feel like they have to buy stuff that they don’t need. It’s been like this whole internal battle. Talk to my business manager, Sierra, but it’s been this struggle for me where I’m like, oh, I don’t know, I just want it to be a company, like really aligned with and then finally I’m like, I’m just going to reach out to a few companies and see if they’re a good fit. People that I use literally every day. And the first one I thought of was Paleo Valley. That’s who’s sponsoring this mean.

Amanda Montalvo [00:05:43]:

I have a subscription for their meat sticks. I always use their organ complex, their bone broth protein. I love their products. I’ve used them for at least five, six years, and I really trust them. And I’m like, who do I tell people to get all the time anyway? Paleo Valley. So I was like, all right, it ended up working out. We’re going to try out this partnership, and I’m excited about it. So the first thing that I want to talk to you about with Paleo Valley, the product that I’m going to highlight this week are their beef sticks.

Amanda Montalvo [00:06:12]:

I don’t know if anyone’s had the beef sticks from Paleo Valley, but I think it’s my favorite product. Like, if you had asked me previously, I might say their bone broth protein, still love it. But having a toddler now that can actually eat the beef sticks, I’m like, okay, I get it. I get why they chose to make these. They have a child of their own. They’re just so convenient. They taste really good. It’s definitely an easy snack food for us.

Amanda Montalvo [00:06:40]:

That’s how I typically utilize them. It’s got a good amount of protein and fat in a beef stick, so I’ll usually pair that with some sort of carb, maybe like a fruit or carrots or something. Very easy on the go snack. It’s also a great protein if you’re pregnant too. I found that I have a lot of clients that will get aversions and stuff, but they’re like, I can still eat the beef sticks. And I’m like, thank God. So highly recommend those. If you have kids and they like them, one get the subscription because then you don’t have to remember to keep ordering and you can adjust it.

Amanda Montalvo [00:07:10]:

Like when my husband’s home, I increase it. We’ll get more when he’s gone, I usually decrease it because we’re not going to go through as many. But the beef sticks are like my backup protein. So if my daughter won’t eat the meal that we’re having, like, say it’s just a meal that she’s like, yeah, I’m not into this. Or she doesn’t want to eat the protein with it because that’s probably usually the first food that she’ll refuse. Then she’ll have the beef stick as her protein for that meal. And it’s nice because I know it’s super high quality. I know that she’s going to eat it, and I can feel good about her having it.

Amanda Montalvo [00:07:41]:

So highly recommend the beef sticks if you have not tried them. I typically get the original and the jalapeno. The summer sausage is also really good. I like all their flavors, though. They have turkey, too, if you don’t like beef. But that’s the first one product I wanted to highlight. You can go to Paleovalley.com Hormonehealingrd to see all the products from them that I like. I’ll talk about more in the future, but Beef Sticks is my number one, and that’s the one that most of my clients try first, because it’s like they’re typically looking for an easy protein for snacks.

Amanda Montalvo [00:08:13]:

And it’s Greek yogurt, and Beef Sticks are, like, right up there for me. So highly recommend. And last thing I’ll say about them and kind of why I decided to partner with them and just like why I trust them in general. I’ve learned so much about supplements and processing and all that stuff through Paleo Valley, more than I ever wanted to know. And not only do they care so much about the ingredients that they choose, but also how that product is made. They have a hand in every single step of the processing, which is extremely rare when it comes to supplements or any food product. So certain ingredients, like if you use a certain ingredient in a supplement or a food, sometimes it’s like, well, they’re going to use this ingredient to get that ingredient in there or placed on there and it’s like, I wouldn’t have known that. And so it’s something where it might not be listed on the label, but it’s a part of that process.

Amanda Montalvo [00:09:08]:

So really interesting stuff. I trust them probably the most out of pretty much any supplement company as far as transparency. And they use their products and they’re really picky, so I know that they’re going to be good. So love Pillio Valley, Pilliovalley.com Hormonehealingrd to check out my favorite products from them and let me know if you try the B sticks and what you think of them. Okay, let’s get into the first big area that I like to focus on to allow women to thrive during menopause, and that is the thyroid. I talked about this in my newsletter, the Feminine periodical this week, and I talk about thyroid a lot, a whole history of myself with thyroid. It’s a whole thing. But I tend to see for, I mean, I would say most women, not just women like in menopause, but once women reach that midlife point, if not much sooner, they’re likely going to have some suboptimal thyroid function.

Amanda Montalvo [00:10:04]:

And we’ll talk about why, but it’s extremely common. And typically this is going to have to do with years of chronic stress, often nutrient deficiencies as well. And then imbalances. That can happen with our minerals. Like next week I’m going to talk a lot about iron and midlife women and how excess iron is very common. That can have a huge inflammatory impact on the body and very much so impact our thyroid function. But then also deficiencies iodine deficiency is very common in women that are of gestational age. So imagine what it’s like by the time we’re in menopause.

Amanda Montalvo [00:10:44]:

So I think it has a lot to do with deficiencies, but also just like stress. How have you been living up until this point? I think about how so much of this population has dealt with dieting. And just like, this is all women, but it’s like once I get someone that’s in this season, they’re like, yeah, typically I’ve had some issues with food at some point in their life. Maybe they have a long history of dieting restriction, maybe there’s some over exercising or not enough exercise, not enough movement, but typically there’s a decent amount of stress in there sometimes. Often they’ve had children, they may have grandchildren, they work different jobs. Maybe they’re retired now, maybe they’re not. But we’ve had a decent amount of stress in our lives by this point. And then if we also think about the things that deplete minerals, like other things, like if we’re thinking of supplements, medications, stuff like that, maybe they’re not getting a nutrient dense diet in.

Amanda Montalvo [00:11:42]:

That’s going to lead to less minerals coming in plus the things that can deplete them. I mean, that’s often going to put us on a path to have suboptimal thyroid function. I would say probably at least like half of the women that I see that are either going through menopause or have gone through it are on thyroid medication, which is totally fine if it’s appropriate, right? Probably most of them need it. Right. So it’s one of those things where thyroid is really important. When we are dealing with a lot of the symptoms from going through menopause and having that lower production of hormones and eventually no production of sex hormones from our ovaries, that’s what’s going to lead to those symptoms. So a lot of times that’s going to be like hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats, having dryness vaginal dryness, but that can also be late to pelvic floor stuff. And usually there are pelvic floor issues that come up in menopause because of the shifts in hormones.

Amanda Montalvo [00:12:44]:

Difficulty sleeping is a huge one. Falling asleep, staying asleep. I hear that one a lot. Difficulty concentrating, like brain fog, that sort of thing. And then hair loss. I would say those are probably like the biggest ones that I typically see that are just like, okay, what’s mostly related to our hormones? And then there’s a whole host of other symptoms that I feel like are also hormone related, but that are very much so. Exacerbated by not having optimal thyroid function doesn’t mean you’re not making any thyroid hormone. Your thyroid labs might look okay, but they may not be technically optimal because there’s a huge difference between conventional lab ranges that have a really big range.

Amanda Montalvo [00:13:26]:

I mean, thyroid is a huge range. I think it’s like 0.4 TSH, that thyroid stimulating hormone. If you go to your doctor, that’s typically what they’re going to measure. Typically it’s going to be like 0.4.5 all the way above four is considered normal. So that’s a big wide range for a lab. And so you could be at a one and be like in the optimal range. Optimal is like 0.5 to two. Or you could be at four and still be considered normal in the conventional standard, but that would be like suboptimal.

Amanda Montalvo [00:14:00]:

That’d be considered high from the functional standard. And you always want to compare it to your labs because you might be maybe your TSH is four, but last time you had it tested, it was two. So that’s something you’d want to make note of, right? Because that’s not necessarily your norm, and it’s an increase from your previous level. But oftentimes I’m seeing that suboptimal thyroid function, and then a lot of the symptoms we’re going to see with that are things like weight gain, which I don’t really know any woman that hasn’t struggled with that, that’s gone through menopause, bloating, water retention. Those are big ones. Having their digestion feel like it’s like slowing down, struggling with constipation and then fatigue. I would say typically when I’m working with someone that’s going through this season or has gone through it, those are the things that they’re the most concerned with. And I’m like, okay, well, they’re not just hormone related.

Amanda Montalvo [00:14:51]:

These could also very much so be related to your thyroid function. So thyroid is huge. It sets the metabolic pace of our body. And this means that if it slows down and we make less thyroid hormone, then our metabolism slows down, and then everything slows down. So thyroid slows down, then our digestion slows down, and that can lead to, like, indigestion bloating, bacterial overgrowth. Right? If digestion is going to slow down, then that means that your food is going to be hanging out longer in places like your small intestine, which give more of an opportunity for bacteria to overgrow. And that can cause a lot of issues in the gut, more bloating, things like that. So overall inflammation can definitely come from that.

Amanda Montalvo [00:15:35]:

So digestion slowing down, I feel like, is a very accepted thing. Having reflux as we age, which is a sign of less stomach acid production, is a very accepted and normalized thing. But when I hear those things and I hear them from family members all the time, and I’m like, not normal guys, but no one in your family will typically listen to you. So it’s one of those things where I’m like, this is not normal. This is a sign of dysfunction. And my first thought, especially in someone that is older, would be thyroid, right, because of the nutrient deficiencies and stress that happen throughout our whole life. And then those digestive issues happen, our liver gets overloaded, and that can contribute to more home run imbalance because our liver is responsible for making bile. Bile is how we get rid of estrogen and copper.

Amanda Montalvo [00:16:25]:

So there can be so many imbalances that come from having that sluggish liver. It can affect things like your skin. I’ve had so many menopausal women get acne. All of a sudden, they’re like, what’s going on? So acne comes up. This can really mess with your sleep too, especially if you’re waking from that two to four time frame. That’s usually very liver related. High cholesterol. This is often driven by gut and thyroid and liver dysfunction, but I see the high cholesterol in this population as well, a ton.

Amanda Montalvo [00:16:59]:

And then that rate of glucose, like, taking up that sugar into our cells slows down, and then that glucose is not absorbed by the gut as quickly, and that leads to blood sugar, imbalances, often more insulin resistance and weight gain. And so this is why I feel like it’s so important for the menopausal population to focus on not just sex hormones, but also how is your thyroid function, how is your thyroid hormone production, can your body use that thyroid hormone properly? Those are all things that are going to be crucial for making sure that you are not struggling with those symptoms. So I think a lot of women are probably dealing with a sluggish thyroid prior to menopause, which makes all the symptoms a lot worse because it’s not only impacting your metabolism, but it’s also impacting your sex hormones. And then not having that healthy hormone production leading up to menopause will absolutely lead to more imbalances, right? Like, if you’re not making as much progesterone leading up to going through that time and then you’re a little estrogen dominant, that’s definitely not going to feel good, and you’re just going to have lots of swings as you go through that transition there. So I’ll talk more about eating in a way that supports your thyroid in the nutrition section, but there’s a few micronutrients that I think are important to highlight if we’re going to talk about like, okay, what nutrients do I need to focus on to support thyroid health? Copper is a big one. I would say like copper and vitamin A, right? If you’ve listened to any of my copper or iron episodes, you know how important vitamin A is for using copper properly in the body. But vitamin A is also really important for thyroid health and really important for our immune system. And something that we’re more vulnerable to during this menopausal transition because of the hormone shift is autoimmune conditions.

Amanda Montalvo [00:18:47]:

So we do want to protect ourselves from that. And so I think making sure we have adequate vitamin A very important. Magnesium, very important. Selenium is crucial, not only because it helps us convert thyroid hormone, but also because it’s a really powerful antioxidant. And that’s something that at this stage of life, typically, you’re going to have less of. So selenium, selenium rich foods are going to be huge. Iodine, like I mentioned previously, iodine is how we make enough thyroid hormone. I have a whole podcast episode on iodine.

Amanda Montalvo [00:19:21]:

So that’s another important one that I think a lot of women are deficient in, like, of all ages, sodium, potassium, because that’s going to help us get that thyroid hormone inside the cell. They help improve cell permeability zinc is huge for thyroid function and also for just hormone balance and production and immune system function in this population as well. So copper, vitamin A, magnesium, selenium, iodine, sodium, potassium and zinc, those would be like the big ones that I would think about. I have a very comprehensive free thyroid training that you can go through if you have not already. I’ll make sure that I link it in the show notes. If this is an area that you’re like, yes, I really align with a lot of those symptoms and I am curious to see if my thyroid falls more in the suboptimal or optimal range. So definitely check that out. So thyroid is huge.

Amanda Montalvo [00:20:14]:

The next big area that I think is so important to emphasize is stress because of how that’s going to impact adrenal function. So really like our stress response. So before we dig into nutrition, which I’ll cover next, the area that I think is important to reap all the benefits of the nutrition changes is stress. Because this is going to play a huge role in our symptoms during this season. Because basically the stress you have and are currently dealing with that’s going to impact your adrenal function. And healthy adrenals are crucial for menopause because at this point, especially if you’re no longer ovulating, you’re no longer making hormones, your ovaries are no longer making hormones, then our adrenals are really the only hormone production that we’re getting. So they make the precursor to things like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. And they’re honestly the only glands that are producing these hormones if the ovaries are no longer doing so.

Amanda Montalvo [00:21:11]:

So if you’re perimenopausal, that’s not necessarily true, but if you haven’t had a period in over a year or two, then I would say you’re likely not producing any hormones from your ovaries anymore. And your adrenals are really it. They also are essential for having and thyroid adrenals go back and forth. They impact each other. And that’s why it’s hard to say which one is more important because it’s like, well, if you don’t have a healthy thyroid, then you can’t clear cortisol and that can mess with the production and how your brain is sensing cortisol and how your body’s using it. So that’s really important. But our adrenals are really important because a lot of what’s happening with our adrenals is making stress hormones, having a healthy stress response, which is important for our energy and feeling good and feeling like we can handle stress. But it’s also important we make ceruloplasmin primarily.

Amanda Montalvo [00:22:09]:

So it’s one of those things where it’s like, adrenals are huge. They’re really producing the only hormones that you have at that point. And if you don’t have a healthy stress response and you can’t handle stress, well, then we typically don’t feel good, right, because we’re always going to have stressors and we don’t want to mitigate and get rid of all of our stress. But you want to be able to handle that and feel like you can handle things and things that come up in your day. And if you can’t, then that can really affect your mental health, your physical health. So less hormone production, more hormonal chaos as far as symptoms go. And we can have that increase in stress hormone production worsen our symptoms like hot flashes, difficulty sleeping. So we really want to think about stress.

Amanda Montalvo [00:22:53]:

Are my adrenals being supported? Are they being overloaded? Am I too stressed in the way that I’m living my life? And then what can I do to kind of support that? Thyroid health is essential for healthy hormones, digestion energy, and more. Our thyroid is so important because it sets the metabolic pace of our body, which controls how every single system functions. Whether you think you may have some thyroid dysfunction going on based on symptoms you may have or have a confirmed diagnosis, chances are you haven’t been given the best tools to address your thyroid health. I’ve been there. Thyroid is a big part of my health journey and something I’ve been optimizing for the last decade. I’m very passionate about this topic, which is why I created a free thyroid training that walks you through how to assess thyroid health. All the labs I do cover blood work and what the optimal ranges are. I just want to say that I think we have to look beyond blood work when it comes to assessing our thyroid health.

Amanda Montalvo [00:23:49]:

That’s why I also cover hair, mineral testing, urine testing, and then basal body temperature, which is a measurement you can do at home to assess your thyroid health. I’ve had so many people reach out and say they can’t believe that this training is free. I promise you won’t be disappointed. I also cover nutrition tips for optimizing thyroid health. You can head to the link in the show notes or to my website, hormonehealingrd.com, to watch the training. There’s just so much lacking when it comes to helpful info on thyroid health, so I’m really hoping that this training helps you and fills that gap. So the release of stress hormones greatly impacts our thyroid function as well. I have a graphic that I’ve shared a few times on Instagram that talks about how stress hormones impact our thyroid and thyroid hormone production.

Amanda Montalvo [00:24:40]:

And cortisol, the main stress hormone that I’m typically talking about that our adrenals make, it can actually blunt TSH production. So, TSH, remember, I talked about that before. If you go to your doctor and you’re like, I want to test my thyroid, that’s typically what they’re going to measure in your blood. Thyroid stimulating hormone, it’s actually made by our pituitary. But cortisol will blunt that production, which is not good, because that TSH tells your thyroid, hey, we need you to make more thyroid hormone. So if you have this cortisol keeping that from happening, you’re going to have less production of free T four. That important thyroid hormone, which we then convert to free T three, which is the active form that works in all of our cells. And so it means that our thyroid is not getting the appropriate signal.

Amanda Montalvo [00:25:27]:

We don’t make enough thyroid hormone, and then that leads to the metabolism slowing down and all those symptoms I just described. And the issue is that if you test your TSH and you’re super duper stressed, it’ll usually look good. It won’t be high, it’s lower. And so this is why it’s so important to test your free T four and free T three levels as well. I talk about that more in the thyroid training, but you want to get the full picture, because if you have an optimal TSH, it could just mean that your body’s actually really stressed. So it’s lowering that TSH production, and then your body’s still not making enough thyroid hormone, which is why you have all these symptoms and hypothyroidism. So definitely want to get the full picture. As far as what can we do to support healthy adrenal function during this season of life, I would say the most effective way to reduce stress isn’t necessarily to add something in.

Amanda Montalvo [00:26:23]:

I think this is like the way most people go. They’re like, okay, maybe you try meditation, maybe you try tapping or breath work. It’s not that these can’t be helpful. I definitely think that they can. I love breath work. It’s something that I utilize on a regular basis. But the number one thing that I hear from women is that they don’t have time for it, right? So it’s just like another thing that they put on their to do list. It stresses them out, which is the opposite of what we want to do right now.

Amanda Montalvo [00:26:55]:

So if we don’t have time to take care of ourselves, to add one modality that maybe you’ve been interested in and you want to try, my first question is, what do we have time for? Right? If you don’t have time for a few minutes for yourself, that’s a huge red flag. But I think a lot of people can relate to this. And rather than adding something in putting another thing on your plate, what if we looked at our days differently instead? Is there a place we can slow down, maybe just do a little bit less so we’re not rushing and burning up all our resources? Where can we do less? I have a podcast episode that I’ll link in the show Notes, that talks about a holistic approach to optimizing cortisol. And in that, I talk about doing an exercise that I like to do with clients. And I have it in my master minerals course called A Day in the Life. And that is when you write down what a typical day looks like for you. So what do you first do when you wake up in the morning? How are you eating your meals? Are you sitting? Are you relaxed? Or are you, like, doing a million things? Are you skipping meals? How often are you brushing? Or do you give yourself time for transitions and stuff like that? How much time do you spend outside that’s? That light exposure is a big one, especially for Adrenal, health cortisol production, hormone production. So I think light exposure is huge for this population.

Amanda Montalvo [00:28:19]:

And as far as supporting healthy Adrenal function and thyroid function, are you ever just doing nothing? Which I feel like no one ever has that on their day in their life. It’s like their whole day is completely packed to the brim, and they’re constantly moving from one thing to the next. And oftentimes people do feel frazzled by the end of the day. They do feel like their to do list is too long. So instead of adding another thing to your to do list, I would just say, like, what can we shift and what can we change about your current day? Because sometimes we don’t always need to do more. Usually we need to do less because a lot of us are just, like, living at a super fast, unsustainable pace. And that’s usually why we have health issues in the first place, right? So we can’t change our pace overnight, but I would say you can change your mindset around it. And this is usually where we start with people, because oftentimes when we look at your typical day, it’s like, all right, what are you doing really well, right? What things are we like, Please keep doing this.

Amanda Montalvo [00:29:21]:

And then usually we have a list of what do we probably want to change? And I always like to highlight people are doing well first because sometimes they don’t even know that that’s, like, a really great habit. And I’m like, keep doing that. So it’s usually people have a good amount of things they’re doing really well, and then they have things where I’m like, I don’t think that’s supporting you right now. And then we talk about it. And a lot of the times it’s like, what’s the rhythm of your day look like? Where do you want to experiment? What sounds like the most fun for you? Or what thing have you maybe been curious about? Because usually people are, like, reading and researching, especially if they have health concerns. And maybe they’re like, well, I’ve always kind of wanted to get outside in the morning and get light in my eyes, but I just never prioritized it because I’m waking up at this time and then I’m rushing to get to work or I have to get my kids ready to go to school or whatever it might be. And that’s something where it’s like, okay, well, let’s start there, because if you’ve been wanting to do it, it’s been on your mind. It’s probably really important for you.

Amanda Montalvo [00:30:22]:

And that’s usually one of the first places I like to start with everyone. But especially if we’re thinking about a lot of times. A lot of women that have gone through menopause or going through it have a good amount of blood work done. Maybe they’ve done a Dutch test so we can see their stress hormones as well. And that’s when it’s like, okay, how could we work on optimizing this? What is light responsible for? I mean, light is responsible for a lot of things, but it’s really important for a mitochondrial function, which is like energy production, right? Like minerals. And then it’s also really important for making sex hormones and having a healthy stress response because we want that light first thing in the morning so that we can make cortisol, that stress hormone. We don’t want to make too much, but we want to have a little boost in cortisol. And then we want it to slowly go down throughout the day so that then it’s low by the time we go to bed.

Amanda Montalvo [00:31:18]:

We can make melatonin and we can sleep well. So I think getting out, getting light in your eyes with no contacts or glasses first thing in the morning is so crucial. But especially if we’re thinking about you don’t really have much hormone production, maybe your Adrenals are taxed and you’re burnt out. And so it’s like, how can we start to reverse this? I think that’s one of the easiest things you can do. It also probably causes people to shift their day a bit, not looking at their phone first thing because we don’t want that light in our eyes. We want to just go outside and get that sunlight first. So that’s like a really healthy habit and you’re doing something for yourself first. You’re not immediately starting your day, like rushing and going, going.

Amanda Montalvo [00:32:01]:

You’re going and sitting outside. Even if you only get three to four minutes, that’s still going to give you a ton of amazing benefits when it comes to cortisol production, hormones, all that kind of stuff. And if you can get that because a lot of times menopausal women have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. I have seen this a ton and it can be very much so related to shifts in sex hormones. I also think it’s usually related to blood sugar and cortisol, for sure. Right. So one of the things that I like to have them do is try to take a walk in the morning or do something outside and get a lot of that light in their eyes in the morning. It doesn’t just have to be sunrise.

Amanda Montalvo [00:32:43]:

Like after sunrise, you get that UVA light and that is really helpful for melatonin production later that night. So it’s one of those things where you can get a ton of benefits for your cortisol stress hormone balance, but you can also help yourself later with that melatonin production. So that’s like one example of a way that you can start making shifts and changes. But I usually say, look at your day think about a habit that maybe you’ve been wanting to change. Maybe you’ve wanted to slow down. Maybe you’ve wanted to start stop constantly going. Maybe you want to stop and read a book for ten or 15 minutes at some point, or just sit and do nothing for ten or 15 minutes. But you have been putting it off.

Amanda Montalvo [00:33:24]:

I’m telling you, your nervous system, your stress hormones, your adrenals will be so happy if you try to implement something like that. And it can be really hard at first, but it’s one of those things where if you make changes slowly, it’s going to change how you view your day. You’re going to start to feel better, and then you’re going to want that feeling more. That’s usually what happens with the light exposure thing and not being on your phone first thing in the morning. Usually people feel really good, and then they’re like, okay, well, I want to have this feeling more. So I know that these other negative habits are not supporting me, so I’m going to focus on these other things. I think we just have to feel it first, right? And that’s why I usually start with, like, try the light in your eyes, avoid your phone first thing and try to slow down in your morning and see how that impacts you the rest of your day. And I know it’s not always easy.

Amanda Montalvo [00:34:14]:

I have a toddler. My husband’s deployed. But it’s not perfect every day, and that’s probably why I’ve been consistent with it, because I’m not trying to be perfect. I get up before her, I go outside. I get light in my eyes. That’s typically when I work out as well, so I’ll get a good amount of light. And then once she wakes up, we’ll eat breakfast together. I do have a snack before I work out.

Amanda Montalvo [00:34:37]:

Don’t worry. I would never work out fasted, but the menopausal population should definitely not do that. We’ll talk about fasting when we talk about nutrition, but that’s something where it’s like it can be really hard, and it can take experimentation. And I think that’s where a lot of people are kind of like, it didn’t work the first time, so I’m just not going to do it. Experiment. Be curious. It’s so important to be curious when you’re implementing a new habit, because sometimes you try something and that doesn’t work. Like, if I try to switch up our schedule and then it’s like a nightmare, that’s okay, but it’s worth trying and putting that effort in to see where it could possibly take you and how you can feel better.

Amanda Montalvo [00:35:09]:

So I know this can be really hard to make changes later in life because you’re kind of like, this has been my routine forever, and it can feel uncomfortable. And that could even be like a nervous system thing where your body doesn’t want to get out of that fight or flight, and that’s okay. You don’t have to force it, but slowly start dipping your toes in and making really small shifts very slowly. I think that’s crucial. So how can we support a healthy stress response outside of looking at our day to day and doing less or shifting how we’re living during the day? Basically, other ways that I think are really important are increasing potassium rich foods. This could be like in the form of adrenal cocktails. Typically the menopausal population does best with some coconut water, sea salt and lemon or lime version. It’s like a lower carbohydrate version of the adrenal cocktail.

Amanda Montalvo [00:36:05]:

I do find that a lot of my Menopausal clients have had quite a few histamine issues as well. I feel like everyone has histamine issues now, honestly. If they have a long history with their gut health, typically they’re like, oh, yeah, I actually get a weird reaction from citrus, I avoid it. Then maybe you try pomegranate and aloe vera juice. That’s like a really great low histamine option with sea salt. And it also tends to be naturally a bit lower in carbohydrate. So that’s one that I think can be really helpful, but also just potassium rich foods. It’s way more important because adrenal cocktails, even if you have one a day, it’s usually not more than like 500, 600 milligrams of potassium.

Amanda Montalvo [00:36:47]:

So if you can focus on potassium rich foods, like roots and fruits, of course, like winter squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, those are very high in potassium. But veggies, like spinach, Swiss chard, those are also really high. Meat and seafood, there’s potassium pretty much in most foods, but like meat, seafood, salmon has a ton of potassium. Cod has a good amount as well, and shrimp, so you’re going to get at least 300 to 700 milligrams per four ounce serving. And this population should be eating, I would say, probably closer to at least 6oz of protein at their meals. We’ll talk about that in a bit. But getting that potassium rich food, in getting that sodium, I would say like typically via sea salt, like adding salt to your food and then even dairy, beans, those are also great sources of potassium. So it doesn’t just have to be adrenal cocktails.

Amanda Montalvo [00:37:43]:

Usually I think adrenal cocktails are great, but it’s such a small amount of potassium versus how much you’re going to get if you focus on those potassium rich foods all day. The other big thing I would say, and the reason why I think sodium, potassium, most of this population is often low. I mean, a lot of women are, but I would say definitely by this point in life, they’re often low in sodium and potassium. So I think everyone can start there. The other big thing I would say is eat breakfast. Along with the whole getting light in the morning, trying not to start your day super stressed, eating breakfast is going to help set you up for healthy cortisol levels. Those stress hormone levels throughout the day. If you fast and you’re not eating breakfast, then typically you’re going to have even higher than normal cortisol in the morning and then that can really affect your cortisol and blood sugar levels throughout the day.

Amanda Montalvo [00:38:33]:

So eat breakfast. It’s going to be really helpful, especially because a lot of these women are like, oh, I’m dealing with brain fog and fatigue. I’m like, we can’t skip breakfast. We got to eat breakfast. We have to make sure you get enough protein at that breakfast. It’s going to pay off. It’s a really good habit to get into, I would say, for everyone, but especially for midlife women, and then considering adaptogens when appropriate, and I know I’m going to say it, and then everyone’s going to start with the adaptogens and you’re not going to see as many benefits. But adaptogens can be incredibly helpful once you’ve already worked on, okay, how am I living my life? Am I eating breakfast? Am I getting sodium, potassium rich foods in? Am I eating enough protein? That sort of thing.

Amanda Montalvo [00:39:19]:

They can be incredibly helpful typically, especially if people are having issues with sleep. That’s often when I implement them. But they’re one of those things where if you’re not doing the other basic foundations, they probably aren’t going to give you as much relief depending on what you’re using them for. And I just promise they are going to work way better if you work on those other areas first. But the ones that I really like for menopause, I would say Reishi is a great one. And I mean, I like this one for a lot of people, it’s a mushroom and it’s not going to push you in any one direction. So I’m going to talk about holy basil in a minute. That can actually lower cortisol.

Amanda Montalvo [00:40:01]:

And same thing with a lot of herbal adaptogens. Like Ashwagandha brings cortisol down, which can be a good thing, right, in the short term, but you don’t always want to lower cortisol, especially if you don’t know your cortisol levels. But if someone’s having issues sleeping, I would say, especially if you’re waking up at night, it makes me think that your body’s probably stressed out in an alert. So it could be definitely related to cortisol, and that’s when it could be helpful to implement. But Reishi doesn’t do that. I always like to take breaks from supplements, of course, but it’s one of those where you could take it a bit longer term. It’s also helpful for people with histamine issues, and a lot of my clients in this population have histamine issues. So it’s one where I’m like, okay, we can use it for multiple things and it can help support just like a healthy response to stress.

Amanda Montalvo [00:40:52]:

So it’s not pushing you from making more cortisol or reducing your cortisol. It’s just supporting that HPA access that controls that stress response. So Reishi is great. You could take it in capsule form. There’s liquid tinctures, there’s powders. I’m sure you guys have seen the mushroom coffee. So talk with your practitioner. See which one’s most appropriate for you if you’re interested in it.

Amanda Montalvo [00:41:15]:

Holy basil. I love it’s. Really helpful. Typically for women that are struggling with things like fatigue, anxiety, maybe they have blood pressure concerns, thyroid concerns, sleep, and blood sugar issues. I would say I probably mostly use it for sleep for this population, and it can help actually lower your cortisol. So you wouldn’t want to take it long term, right? It’s one of those where it’s like you don’t want to lower that hormone long term. You want to have healthy cortisol levels. But it can be incredibly helpful.

Amanda Montalvo [00:41:44]:

It’s hard to make changes if you’re not sleeping right, and I’m sure so many people listening can relate to that, even if they’re not menopausal. I think sleep, having issues with sleeping is like one of the hardest symptoms on a healing journey. So holy basil can be very helpful. Maca is my third one. It’s really good for chronic stress. So if you have a long history with chronic stress, you feel like you’re super burnt out. It’s also very helpful for more of those hormonal symptoms night sweat, sleep issues, weight gain, high blood pressure. But it does support that HPA axis, which is what helps us have a healthy stress response, and there’s a good amount of research on it.

Amanda Montalvo [00:42:26]:

I know some people hate on maca, but I think for this population, it can be extremely powerful, and I’ve seen a lot of success with it with clients, but it is technically considered an adaptogen. So reishi holy basil. Maca, I think, can be helpful for certain people for supporting a healthy stress response, because they’re supporting that HPA access, which is how you make your stress hormones. But again, do the other things first, right? Don’t start with that. So then nutrition. So nutrition is, I would say, almost always a major stressor for women, whether it’s because they have a history of chronic dieting undereating, maybe they have a history of food restriction, blood sugar, imbalances. Learning how to eat in a way that supports your female physiology, especially during menopause, is a great way to also support a healthy stress response, and it can take a huge burden off of your body. So I already talked about supporting sodium, potassium, eating breakfast.

Amanda Montalvo [00:43:24]:

I still think those are crucial, but I would say there’s three other things that I think women in this season can do. So number one is eating enough protein. And I would say you want to typically aim for 30 to 40 grams of protein at your main meals minimum, especially to start with to make sure you’re eating enough. The exact amount is going to depend on the person. It’s one of those things where usually I’m recommending, like, 0.8 to a gram of protein per pound of body weight. So if someone’s 150 pounds, then that would be a range of 120 to 150 grams of protein a day. Now, if you are eating 60 grams of protein a day right now, I would never recommend jumping right up to that 120. You probably won’t feel good.

Amanda Montalvo [00:44:09]:

It’s one of those things where you want to do it slowly. And again, it’s not about being perfect. I think it’s really helpful to understand where you’re at, though. So it can be very powerful to track your food for like, two, three days, see how much protein you’re typically getting. I like the Chronometer app, and I like it because it shows all the micronutrients as well. You can make the settings so that it shows just the protein if that’s all you want to see. Because I know sometimes tracking can be stressful for people, but just a couple of days of tracking, see how much protein are you typically getting? If it’s below 100 grams, probably concerning, but I would compare it to your body weight and then the 0.8 to 1 gram per pound of body weight, I would say most women probably need 1 gram at this point. It’s one of those things where often muscle mass is decreasing during this time.

Amanda Montalvo [00:45:05]:

But you can mitigate that. You can prevent that by eating enough protein and by doing strength training. And you can even gain muscle during the season of life, which I feel like people don’t realize. Your health doesn’t just go downhill when you hit menopause, right? I think it’s just that there’s not a ton of great information out there for how you can actually support your body in a healthy way. Because usually at this point, it’s like, okay, well, how can I improve my hormones? How can I make it so that I can stop gaining weight and that I can sleep? And oftentimes, if you go to your regular doctor for that, they’re probably going to give you prescription medications, which may not help, and they may not be like, the number one solution that you’re looking for. So eating enough protein is huge. Slowly increasing it is going to be really important. And if you’re like, I feel like I’m not digesting this well.

Amanda Montalvo [00:45:54]:

Don’t force it. I would say you might want to try some type of digestive support, like apple cider vinegar. I talk about this in the how to have healthy digestion episode. But just a couple of teaspoons of that before meals can really help with stomach acid production, enzyme production, and help you break down that food better. So eating enough protein is huge. I talked about eating breakfast. I think eating regularly is another really big one. Obviously, breakfast is going to kind of set that tone for cortisol and blood sugar throughout the day.

Amanda Montalvo [00:46:27]:

But not skipping meals is also very important. So I feel like intermittent fasting is popular for the menopausal population, and it’s often marketed to that season of life. And how to help you lose weight when you’ve gone through menopause. But I find for most menopausal women, this does not work. And it typically especially because if they have a long history of stress, dieting, thyroid issues, it makes everything worse. So I would say do not do fasting for most people. And it can just raise those cortisol, that stress hormone, which can blunt that thyroid hormone production, which is going to add to that laundry list of symptoms that you’re already experiencing. Right, so eating regularly, I would say for most women in this season, it’s probably three meals a day, sometimes also a snack.

Amanda Montalvo [00:47:20]:

But having those three good high protein meals a day is going to be crucial. And then if you’re not sleeping as well at night, you can definitely experiment with a snack, maybe before bed or between lunch and dinner, depending on the person. And then the last big nutrition thing is balancing your meals in a way that’s going to support blood sugar. I went through this in a lot of detail in a previous episode, so I’m not going to go through it a ton. It’s in the first one of this season, like how to eat to support your hormones, but there’s a few that I think are especially helpful for this population. So number one, eating your protein rich foods first. That can help offset the blood sugar response that you’re going to get from any carbohydrates you have in that meal. So try to eat your protein foods first.

Amanda Montalvo [00:48:05]:

Experiment with the amount of carbs. Right? Because typically as estrogen goes down, you are often going to be less sensitive to insulin, which can lead to more weight gain. But I find that most women don’t do great with no carbs, even in this season, especially if they’re struggling with thyroid and adrenal health. So I would experiment with the amount of carbs. Maybe you feel really good with about half a cup of carbs at most of your meals. Maybe it’s a little less, maybe it’s a little more, but you’re not really going to know until you experiment. You don’t necessarily have to track your food to do this, but just pay attention to how much you’re eating at each meal. How do you feel, how did you sleep that night, how was your energy the next day when you woke up? All those types of things.

Amanda Montalvo [00:48:48]:

And then eating dense meals. Try not to eat really snacky meals. I think of like yogurt and fruit. That’s really more of like a snack. And you’re probably going to be a lot hungrier sooner if you have that meal for breakfast versus something like eggs, cottage cheese, and like potatoes or fruit. Right. That’s going to be like a denser meal. And trying to have animal proteins at your main meals, right.

Amanda Montalvo [00:49:14]:

Those are going to be they’re going to take your body longer to break down. They’re going to provide more protein, fat and micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. So really trying to hone in on am I eating real meals with mostly whole foods, that’s going to have a huge impact on blood sugar, which again, when we make less estrogen, you’re going to be less sensitive to insulin and that’s typically what leads to the insulin resistance and the weight gain. And then just being consistent, experiment and be consistent. You don’t have to be perfect and something might not work for you right away. You might need to play with it a little bit, but I would just say don’t be afraid to switch it up, but also to give it time. Sometimes we make changes and we’re like, I don’t feel better right away, this isn’t working for me. But give it a little bit of time because it took us a long time to get Dysregulated, so it’s going to take us a while to get back to that functional state.

Amanda Montalvo [00:50:10]:

Okay, the last thing, I’m going to wrap it up because it’s getting really long, our daily habits, and I just think it’s so important to look at what we’re doing every single day. How can we slowly start to shift our habits and just understanding that the power that they have. We can make changes, we can make even really tiny changes like eating breakfast, that could have a significant change on your mental, physical and emotional health long term. And it’s nothing crazy, it’s not like you’re doing anything monumental, but eating breakfast I think is so huge. Eating that 30 to 40 grams of protein at your meals, so huge. And then slowing down and really evaluating your pace of life. Are you happy with it? Do you feel good? Do you have enough time for yourself? If you don’t have time to do things for yourself, why, those are going to be the biggest things. The next episode I’m going to go into common mineral imbalances that I see in Menopause.

Amanda Montalvo [00:51:09]:

I’m going to talk about five minerals specifically, so I’ll dig more into that then because I’m sure there’s questions around like bone health, inflammation, that sort of thing. Promise I’m going to cover it in that next episode. But those are the four main areas that I like to focus on thyroid stress and adrenals nutrition and then our daily habits. I think that working on those can be incredibly helpful and make it so that you can thrive during or after this season and you’re supporting your long term health. Thank you for listening to this episode of the Are You Menstrual podcast. If you want to support my work, please leave a review and let me know how you like the episode. This lets me know what you guys want more of less of. I read every single one and I appreciate them more than you know.

Amanda Montalvo [00:51:54]:

If you want to keep learning, you can get access to the bonus episode and additional resources on patreon.com hormonehealingrd. I’d love to have you in there. Thanks again and I will see you in the next episode.

Amanda Montalvo

Amanda Montalvo is a women's health dietitian who helps women find the root cause of hormone imbalances and regain healthy menstrual cycles.

Master Your Minerals

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Hormone Healing RD