Whenever I get a health screening form arrive in my in-box from women who sign up to the MyMT™ progammes, I look carefully to see if they have ticked the box that they are experiencing joint pain that has come on since they have reached menopause. The majority of women do. When I ask what their doctor or physio has said, invariably the response is ‘they can’t find anything wrong.‘ That’s when I am thankful that they are on board with me. Because I get them using Omega 3-rich Olive Oil and get them away from the emphasis on coconut fats and various cooking oils, which have not been researched for helping us to turn around our joint health in menopause.
When my joints began to ache when I reached my early 50’s, I thought it was due to weight gain and years of high-impact activity (and yes, this is partly true). However, I had no idea that decreasing oestrogen levels might be contributing to the knee joint creaks and aches, as was not changing my daily lifestyle to accommodate my changing hormones in menopause – this included having an anti-inflammatory diet and increasing the type of fats that help our joint health as we go through menopause. This included getting off all the various types of oils and going back to beautiful olive oil which has the right nutrients that our joints need in menopause.
For a long time I just put my knee pain down to over-use – you know, years of running, taking aerobic classes and doing lots of squats in all the BodyPump exercise classes that began in the late 1990’s. So when my knees started to ache at the end of the day, my ‘past-life’ doing lots of exercise flashed through my mind. But even when I stopped doing lots of high impact exercise, the aching knees continued. I had myo-fascial release from my wonderful physio and bought insoles for my shoes and had massage. Still my knees ached and although I knew that my weight gain was affecting them too, even when I lost weight they ached!
It’s why I’m so pleased that through my women’s healthy ageing studies, I discovered the incredible role that Olive Oil has in reducing inflammation in the body as we age. It’s also why I turned my back on all the hype about coconut oils and fats from the popular dietary advice that is not necessarily researched for women during menopause. For those of you who are regular exercisers, then this is important for you to think about as well. I say this because how much wear and tear you’ve had on your joints and muscles over the years means that menopause is a time when your joints can ache even more.
When I began to look at Theories on Ageing as part of my studies, I realised that I needed to look through this lens as well. The wear and tear theory of ageing was first introduced in 1882, by Dr. August Weismann, a German biologist. He believed that cells and tissues have vital parts that wear out resulting in ageing. Like components of an ageing car, parts of the body eventually wear out from repeated use, killing them so as they aren’t able to be replaced. Scientists now know that there is some basis for this theory, especially because when we lose the ‘hard-caps’ on our DNA, the telomeres, this is known to increase the rate of ageing.
For those of us going through menopause, the role of oestrogen is important. Oestrogen has a role to play in cell turn-over and healing of our joints, so we need to think about what happens when we don’t have oestrogen being produced (we still produce some as we age but not as much). This is where the type of exercise we do matters in menopause but most importantly, the type of nutrients that we get into us matters too.
Oestrogen is really, really important to our joints and muscles, because it’s role is to protect membranes from damage and stabilise the membranes. As a fat-soluble hormone, the role of oestrogen is to help strengthen the cell membrane and in doing this, it assists as an anti-oxidant. If your joints are aching and you have had them checked out by your medical or health professional (which I recommend obviously), then not only do you need to change your exercise to low impact (I have exercise programmes and videos in my other programme called, Rebuild My Fitness), but as I often say to women in my live events, before embarking on too much exercise, it’s important to reduce inflammation by sleeping all night and changing nutrition. Menopause is the time to get the right nutrients for healing our body, reducing symptoms and enabling joint repair – especially for women who have had a lifetime of exercise. This is just some of what the two online MyMT programmes teach you to do. One is for women wanting to lose weight (which will also improve joint health) and the other programme is for thinner/ leaner women.
Nutrients for reducing inflammation in your joints come from Olive Oil – especially the nutrients, oleocanthal and Vitamin E. According to Australia’s Olive Wellness Institute, adding olives and Extra Virgin Olive Oil to the diet (which is why I have a focus on the Mediterranean Diet in the powerful MyMT programmes) is crucial to reducing joint and cardiac health as we age.
Olive oil contains Tocopherol (Vitamin E). Coconut oil doesn’t. Tocopherol or Vit. E, is a powerful anti-oxidant and we need it to help our hormonal health and our joint health during our menopause transition. Vitamin E is unique among vitamins because the biological activity of it varies considerably and for it’s adequate absorption, it requires fat digestion to be functioning normally. This is why in both of my 12 week programmes, I have researched how to reduce the inflammation and congestion in our liver so that we can better absorb the specific healthy plant fats that our body needs for reducing inflammation not only in our joints, but throughout our body too. Achieving this is not a 1-day wonder as many popular dietary fads promote. It requires a 3 month commitment (hence the length of my programmes).
The Recommended Daily Intake from the FDA in America is 15mg daily but in New Zealand the Recommended Daily Intake is 7-10mg, so take your pick! I recommend Olive Oil on the MyMT™ programmes as this has around 1.5 mg of Vitamin E per tablespoon. Avocadoes, Almonds, Sunflower seeds and Hazelnuts are high in Vitamin E, as is Kumara (sweet potato).
“Evidence from randomised controlled trials shows olive oil exerts beneficial effects
on markers of inflammation and endothelial function.” [Schwingshackl et al., 2015].
If you are struggling with your changing health in menopause, then please join me on one of the MyMT programmes.
There is so much mis-information about how to look after our health these days, and as I discovered too, very little of it is supported by research specific to menopause. That’s why I had to use my expertise to figure it all out as part of my women’s healthy ageing studies. It’s so important for all of us to move freely and stay independent as we age. With menopause heralding in the gateway into your biological ageing, it’s time to look after yourself and ensure that your joints stay working for you, especially because we all need to remain as active as we can as we get older. I love this image of Kaye below – it was only just over a year ago that she was so troubled with insomnia, weight gain, sore joints and aching muscles when she went into menopause and now look at her .. she sent me this image recently and I was amazed that she had just completed her first-ever marathon!
If you’re as frustrated by how you are feeling in menopause or post-menopause as I was – not sleeping, sore joints and muscles, low energy, weight gain or increased anxiety – then please don’t lose hope. You can turn this around. When HRT didn’t work for me to help my joint problems or sleep, and nor did endless supplements, I knew that as part of my women’s healthy ageing studies, I needed to dig-deeper into the research and find an evidenced way through menopause that restored our health, energy and vitality so we can enjoy feeling healthy and functional, as we go into the next phase of our life. Hundreds of women have now come on board and many have kindly shared their stories HERE.
When I untangled the millieu of menopause, I put what I discovered into two 12 week online programmes so that you can feel as healthy and energetic as I now do too.
Dr Wendy Sweet [PhD/ MyMT™ Founder/ Member: Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine]
PS: Don’t forget that if you do have joint pain that is causing you increasing pain, then please get it checked out with your physio or medical provider as well.
- Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage and the Protective role of Estrogen. Sports Med. 2002, 32(2), 103-123]
- Schwingshackl, L., M. Christoph, and G. Hoffmann (2015). Effects of Olive Oil on Markers of Inflammation and Endothelial Function-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients, 7(9): p. 7651-75.