The island of Ikaria off the coast of Greece is home to some of the healthiest, most vibrant older women on earth. Their lifestyles were researched by Dr Gianni Pes, from the University of Sassari in Italy and Ikaria became part of the Blue Zones group of countries. This is a term coined by Belgian demographer Dr Michael Poulain, who together with Dr Pes, have been studying the pockets of countries around the world who have the healthiest older people on the planet. These are called Blue Zone’s countries. Australia, New Zealand, the UK and USA are at the bottom of the ‘healthiest countries’ lists and with hormonal changes in menopause throwing thousands of women into obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, depression and joint problems in their post-menopause years, I knew I had to understand what women in these countries were doing to enjoy symptom-less menopause and a healthy older age. For the hundreds of women who have joined me on the revolutionary MyMT™ programmes, they are pleased I did as well.
With MyMT™ and Blue Zones research by your side, you discover the freedom of feeling healthy again!
Over the past week, I’ve felt so privileged to have hundreds of women join me in both Perth and Canberra for my ‘masterclass on Menopause’. In these presentations I teach them that their menopause transition is the biological ‘gateway’ into our ageing and although in our brain we still feel young-at-heart, there are numerous changes that occur in our body when we make this biological passage towards the next phase of our life – our older age.
Understanding what menopause is, was life-changing for me. Because much of the research on women’s health as they age is replete with information about inflammation and the contribution that this makes to worsening health as we age. Yet, much of the popular information about lifestyle change, nutrition and exercise resonates with younger people, athletes and males. But as I said to women in the seminars, we are unique! We have had a different life compared to our mothers generation (the first of the Baby-boomers) and we exercise, eat and manage our lives with information that is not suited for this stage of life. Women in their 50’s today are the first generation to be going into menopause facing the complexities of modern life – and the scientific exercise and nutrition research hasn’t kept up with this pace of life-course change. For example, the highest incidence of poor health as women age stems from post-menopause heart disease and many exercise practitioners and health practitioners have not had the understanding about this from an exercise and lifestyle perspective, so they continue to train women with exercise prescription that has been intended for younger people and athletes. After all, this is the main content of sport, exercise and health-education curriculum’s. I am yet to see any academic institution teaching sport and exercise science on menopause!
From insomnia to depression to hot flushes to weight gain, to increased anxiety to low energy to sore joints, to changing gut and heart health, these are all signs of our body being in ‘distress’.
It’s in this distress because the way we live our modern lives is clashing with our ancient evolutionary biology as we transition menopause. Our body gets into distress when things change, e.g. our lowering reproductive hormones, and then other hormones try to re-balance the internal environment but these hormones then get a bit out of balance too – especially for women, our thyroid, adrenal and pituitary hormones because this pathway of chemical messages are all connected. When our body is in ‘distress’, one of our stress hormones called cortisol increases. But, as I’ve been explaining in my seminars this week, high levels of cortisol impact negatively on our immune health, blood pressure, sleep and our weight. This happens because for our adrenal glands to keep producing cortisol, it uses precious progesterone – our lovely calming hormone. And for our transition through menopause, this isn’t good. When progesterone crashes in relation to changing oestrogen levels our immune health, weight, sleep and hot flushes get worse as well.
You see, we already know from science on female athletes, that high cortisol causes hormonal chaos and worsening inflammation in our body. But when cortisol is high when it shouldn’t be, such as in the afternoon and evening, it competes with your lovely sleep hormone called melatonin. And before we go to bed, we need all the melatonin we can muster – without it we wake up in the night and don’t recover from our day-to-day activities.
Worsening sleep habits, worsening inflammation and worsening hot flushes, depression, sore joints and for many of you, increasing belly-fat.
When I began to put the menopause-jiqsaw together and look at why so many women experience worsening symptoms, I followed the women’s health research. That’s when I began to look at other cultures and how, around the world, there are women from different cultures who don’t have the symptom experiences or health changes that many women from western cultures experience. This led me on a journey to explore our changing health in mid-life and most, importantly, how we could reverse the effects of symptoms in menopause using scientifically-evidenced lifestyle change strategies instead.
The more I read, the more I began to leave behind the traditional models of menopause management. I also began to question the fitness and nutritional messages that we were subjected to as well. I had become so confused about how to look after myself because of the changing messages around nutrition, ketogenics, paleo, exercise, weight loss strategies, menopause supplements, HRT and more. And if I was confused, then I figured that a lot of other women might be confused too.
This was the start of how I began to think about how we could remove the confusion of menopause. Understanding that menopause is a natural life-stage that we all go through and because it’s the gateway into our biological ageing, that meant that how we look after ourselves, needs to sit in women’s healthy ageing research. Because how we are transitioning through menopause, matters to our health as we get older.
Which bought me to the Blue Zones research.
Blue Zones refers to a geographic area in the world where residents have greater longevity and health and from this research I was able to develop my 7 Pillars of Health and symptom reduction as women go through menopause into their healthy ageing.
Understanding this research changed my life and I hope it will change yours too when you join me! What changed my life the most though, was understanding that to reduce symptoms in menopause, lose weight, get more energy, and restore joint health, I needed to use this research to focus on healthy ageing and reduce the decades-long inflammation that menopause hormonal changes had made worse. Now this research that I have in the MyMT programmes is changing hundreds of women’s lives as well. It was so cool meeting Sara last night in Canberra and when she posted this last night in my private coaching group for the Transform Me programme, I knew that her life had changed too.
Putting on our healthy ageing hat and following the research also means that we eat differently, although this is only one component of enjoying a long, healthy and vibrant life for women. For example, Ikarian women eat at least 2 cups of green, leafy plants a day. More than 150 varieties of wild greens, such as purslane, dandelion, and arugula (rocket), grow all over the island of Ikaria. These rich, dark, wild mountain greens are a great source of minerals like iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium, as well as carotenoids–the colorful pigments the body converts to Vitamin A. So, one of the first things I did, was to eat more green-leafed plants.
To increase the absorption of my greens, I did start to juice them, but I also put them in salads and made it my goal to eat them every day. This is now one of my ‘non-negotiable’ daily nutritional strategies and it is the same for women on the MyMT programmes as well. Centenarians in all of the “Blue Zones” regions have access to leafy greens and hearty vegetables and they make up a large portion of their daily diets. In New Zealand, Australia, the UK and America, where many of you are from, there are plenty of these wild greens available and access to organically cultivated greens like collard, mustard greens, beetroot greens, spinach, silverbeet and kale that have nearly the same plenitude of nutrients. Today, Ikarians are almost entirely free of dementia and some of the chronic diseases that plague Western countries.
The basis of the MyMT symptom reduction programmes have come out of my doctoral research on women’s healthy ageing as we transition through mid-life. With menopause as the gateway to our ageing years, this is why some of the Blue Zones research features in the MyMT programmes as well as in the coaching posts and nutritional information I provide as part of each 12 week programme. If you are finding that your health and energy levels are changing during your menopause transition, then I would love you to have access to all the fabulous information I have in these programmes. Not only do I teach you how to turn around your sleep, liver health, energy and symptoms, but for those of you who need to lose your menopause weight, then will you join me? Because I have an entire programme dedicated to your weight loss – it’s called MyMT Transform Me.
There are food plans and recipes in the MyMT Food Guide and recipe book which I have put together so you no longer have to worry about what to eat from now to the end of your days! Everything is sourced from your exclusive member area on the website.
Every day women tell me how much healthier and energetic they feel. I love it when they feel like this, because we all have a whole lot more living to do (30 years in fact) and we need to remain healthy, happy and free of the diseases that plagued our mother’s generation. Come join me on your healthy ageing journey…. and leave all your menopause symptoms behind.
Happy weekend everyone. 😊🌿