When hot flashes suddenly crashed headlong into my life, I wasn’t prepared. I thought that unbalanced hormones were just a right of passage and I’d just have to ‘suck it up’. Clueless about sugar and its toxicity, I didn’t know that refined carbs throw the feminine ‘flashing’ midlife body into a whirlwind. Seen as the gasoline that ignites your flammable estrogen, sugar is toxic to the menopausal body.
Menopause surprised me when it arrived on my doorstep like a tornado. I never put a name on the whole perimenopause thing (arriving years before) with its crazy cycles and moods swings. I just thought I was caught in a crazy whirlwind time of my life with stressful moves and a house full of teenage hormones.
Then the monthly cycles disappeared, and instead of relief that should follow, the door opened to a whole new set of issues, the biggest being hot flashes. Talk about a nuisance. They can drive you to the brink of crazy. Read about how to thrive in menopause here.
One day, literally years into the whole hot flash thing, I noticed something interesting. (My brain must have been on-point that day.) I noticed that literally moments after eating something sugary or loaded with carbs I would have a hot flash. Huh? So then I started paying attention to what I was eating and when I was having hot flashes.
I had long ago cut out sodas from our home, and I’m not a big baker, so sugar is not too much of an issue for me. But carbs? Bread? Pizza? Yum. We lived in Germany for a time and hot buttered brötchen from the corner bakery was a daily necessity. My mouth is watering even now. (I am thanking God for holding off my menopausal symptoms until we were back stateside.)
Once I started paying attention to my flashing cycles, and I noticed that more often than not, I had them after I ate something carb related, sugary or not. Then I had to research all this. Why did I not know what sugar does to the menopausal woman?
I’d love to send you my free printable Menopause Foods: What to Eat and Avoid! Just shoot me your email at the end of this post.
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. (I know. This revelation is groundbreaking.) I don’t even play one on TV. BUT, I have been around the block and know that you need to take care of yourself and see a doctor ANNUALLY. Finding possible issues before they are a problem can actually put YEARS on your life. You’re welcome.
Why is sugar toxic?
Without going into all the biological reasonings (an area in which I am NOT an expert), I will explain what I’ve found so far in my own journey. Here is the bottom line. Too much sugar messes with your estrogen.
During menopause, your hormone levels are literally all over the place. It’s your hormones that drive your other bodily system functions. Your thyroid (mine has been defective for 15 years so I have done my fair share of research) is like the cockpit (autopilot) of your brain. It produces and controls the hormones, which affect everything else. When it doesn’t function correctly, it messes up all the other systems.
Menopause causes your estrogen and progesterone to decrease, causing your periods to eventually stop. Concurrently, insulin resistance is increasing, making it harder for our bodies to regulate refined carbs.
Our once hearty hormones, dwindling and feeble, are now vulnerable to the toxic destruction of sugar from our lowered insulin resistance. Ugh.
Let’s be honest here. When you get right down to it, sugar has always been bad. Our bodies eventually turn it into fat. Consuming too many refined carbs screws up everything digestively. And in case you didn’t know it, your gut is ultimately responsible for your mood swings, fatigue, sleep difficulties, even depression. Now you know.
Brain health (and in menopause, hormone health) comes from gut health.
How do I nix sugar?
I’m a truth-teller. Don’t we all appreciate friends who tell it like it is?
Here it is.
Sugar is addictive. Detoxing your life from this innocent looking substance is not an easy road. But you can do it, and eliminating (or at least reducing) your sugar intake will make the hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms more tolerable.
So how do you do this?
First, read food labels. Sugar has literally infected everything in the American diet. Crazy. It’s even added to things like ketchup. Most of the time we don’t know what we’re eating when we buy products from the grocery store shelves.
Set aside some time to browse at the grocery store and really read the labels of the products you normally buy. Prepare to be surprised. If sugar is listed as one of the first ingredients in the product, ditch it.
Warning: Your body will not like you suddenly taking away this drug. Sugar is a drug. You’re going to crave it. You might want to gradually phase out some items as you use them up.
As midlife women, 5 teaspoons of sugar per day is the recommended limit. It sounds like a lot but you have to figure in all the places where hidden sugar may be sneaking into your diet. (Comparatively speaking, a Coke has 8 teaspoons.) EIGHT! In one Coke!!! Let that sink in.
Cook from scratch more. Now I know that this isn’t always possible but remember, you are probably at the end of your days where you must cook for a houseful every day. There’s more time on the horizon. There’s more time for you to pay closer attention to your diet.
This is the time in your life where small changes can make a huge impact. It’s the stage in your life to reevaluate your food choices.
My personal tricks:
FRUIT!!! Having some fruit when the carb cravings come really helps. Fruit is also considered a carb, but not refined. The fiber that comes packed in fresh fruit (along with water), offsets the natural sugars.
DARK CHOCOLATE!! When you really need a ‘hit’, try some dark chocolate. I keep some Dove dark chocolate stashed for such emergencies. Dark chocolate contains less sugar than milk chocolate. If you remember, this is also why chocolate cravings were so powerful during your menstrual periods.
RAW HONEY!! We almost never use refined sugar in things like coffee and tea anymore. We use a quality raw honey in our coffee cups in the morning. Experiment with other natural sweeteners like Stevia and Agave.
I recently read that green beans will take away powerful sugar cravings. Yep, right out of the can. (I’m trying this myself. Email me and let me know if you try this and how it works for you.)
How do I improve my menopausal nutrition?
While you’re decreasing the sugar, increase your nutritious foods to help balance the other side of the scale. Increase phytoestrogen foods like chickpeas, grapes, peanuts, soybeans, plums, barley and flax seeds, to name a few.
When you are detoxing from it, be aware that you will probably experience some rebellion from your gut in the form of cravings. Sugar is just as powerful as any other drug that your body is very comfortable with now.
Once you get serious about putting the good stuff back into your body, I promise the sugar cravings will lessen and eventually stop. (I know. Just one more thing to make you crazy in these menopausal times.)
To jumpstart my own gut health, I have also discovered probiotics really help my own system feel more regular and ‘normal’. You might find that a chat with your local expert at the health food store is beneficial. I know mine was very knowledgeable about digestive health and recommended a brand that I love.
Surprisingly, as I’ve weaned myself from so much sugar, my tastes have changed. (Being a Southern girl, I used to like me some sweet tea.) Now, I can’t stomach the sweet tea from fast-food restaurants, it’s just too sweet. This was a nice surprise!
Menopause seems to revolve around the idea of balance. We’re balancing our lives in a new way with our families needing us in different ways. Likewise, we’re figuring out how to balance our diets and hormones.
And, what we’ve learned today is that the less sugar you allow into your home and life, the calmer and saner you will be!
Less is more.
You can do this!
I believe in you.
Don’t forget to sign up for free access to my Resource Library below. In it you will find Menopause Foods: What to Eat and Avoid plus many other printables and goodies for your midlife adventure.