If you walked into my kitchen yesterday afternoon, you would smell the beautiful roasted garlic that had just come out of my oven. It’s hard to describe this smell, but it’s rich and pungent and you definitely know it’s garlic. I roast my garlic whole, with just the fibrous ends chopped off, and always toss it in olive oil before placing it in a hot oven. I’m sure famous chefs of the world would be horrified at my garlic-roasting approach, but when you are a busy working woman, you don’t want to faff around when it comes to garlic. Simple is best.
I wish my late mother had added more garlic to her meals. Because maybe then she would not have needed all the heart pills that were prescribed for her as she got older. On reflection the decline happened in her late 50’s and 60’s – yes, her post-menopause years. My greatest regret is that I hadn’t, at the time, explored the women’s healthy ageing research, so I didn’t know how to help her adjust to her changing health in post-menopause – although to be fair, some of the research hadn’t even been undertaken.
After a busy winter with lots of overseas travel, on and off crowded planes, subways and in and out of hotels, I always return home and roast a batch of garlic. I add it to soups, and my roast vegie salads. This pumpkin, sweet potato and garlic soup is one I’ve been making for years and it features in the MyMT™ Food Guide. It’s a winter favourite with women on the programmes.
As I say to the hundreds of women who do the MyMT™ programmes, our hormones like a good routine. They like predictability as does the rest our brain, liver, and gut. So when we have times that we are out of our routines, we need a routine re-set. One of the first things I do when I’ve been away is fill my empty fridge with lovely anti-oxidant vegies and fruits. Yesterday, I went to my local fruit and vegetable shop and filled my basket with everything I needed over the next few days to help boost my immune system and get myself back on track with the Mediterranean-magic nutrition that we all need at this time of life.
The Mediterranean Diet, which I’ve adjusted specifically to suit our menopause transition, includes garlic.
Garlic has been used for thousands of years to boost immune health. But there’s another reason that it’s important for women transitioning menopause. It contains specific compounds which help to dilate ageing blood vessels which means that including it in our diet is important to help manage our blood pressure. This new knowledge is too late for my mother’s generation unfortunately, and I realise now with hindsight, that her menopause transition was the time that her normally healthy blood pressure changed. Like so many women of that generation she was placed on all sorts of blood pressure pills, including statins for high cholesterol.
I’m always telling the MyMT™ community how ageing affects our blood vessels and how this starts in menopause. Many of you with varicose veins will already have seen how quickly blood vessel lose elasticity and permeability.
Blood vessels have oestrogen receptors in them. The consequence of this is that as oestrogen declines in the body as we move through menopause, our blood vessels become less elastic. It’s a normal part of our biological ageing and it’s why many of you may not be recovering well from your exercise sessions. Your tolerance to heavy exercise changes as your hormones change in menopause and your blood vessels become less elastic.
This is why the types of food and nutrients we add to our diet are important. Adding garlic, beetroot and celery to your diet will give you beautiful blood-vessel-dilating magic. These foods are all part of the Mediterranean diet as well.
I first heard about the powerful effect of Kyolic garlic when I attended the Australasian Lifestyle Medicine conference last year. Listening to lead researcher, Professor Karin Ried, I was fascinated with the long-term studies that our mother’s generation didn’t get to know about. Kyolic garlic has been aged for 20 months. The compounds in this aged garlic is well evidenced in helping to normalise blood pressure as we age and take 5 years off your biological ageing as well as prevent some cancers [Ried et.al., 2018, The GarGIC Trial].
In clinical trials Garlic significantly lowered central blood pressure, pulse pressure (the difference between systolic and diastolic measurements) and arterial stiffness.
But perhaps of greater significance to women in menopause, was that Vitamin B12 status played a role in the responsiveness to garlic on blood pressure. This interested me, because many women move from peri-menopause whereby they are menstruating heavily to post-menopause, whereby their periods have stopped for a year or more, so Vitamin B12, Folate and Ferritin (stored iron) status can fluctuate hugely over this time-frame. That’s why it pays to get your Doctor to test these important nutrients in your blood work.
Whilst I used ordinary locally grown garlic in my cooking yesterday, Kyolic Garlic is sold as a supplement. I now have a bottle of it in my pantry. When I began to research many of the expensive menopause symptom reduction supplements and found that they were not as well evidenced as we might believe, I removed many of them out of the pantry and into the bin. I often talk about supplements that are well evidenced in my private coaching community for women on the programmes. 20 year aged Kyolic garlic extract is one of these well evidenced supplements.
Anything that helps to offset arterial stiffness as we get older is important. This is because improving vascular stiffness is related to better heart health and aerobic fitness, while the risk of cardiovascular disease is reduced.
I tell many of you that women aren’t focusing enough on their heart health as they move through menopause – and we all should because as Dianne found, when we re-discover how to sleep better, eat better and change our exercise, we heal and prosper and turn around the inflammatory changes that for many of us, have been building up for years.
The clinical GarGIC trial also showed that Kyolic Garlic has pre-biotic properties as well. This was evidenced in improved gut microbiota and higher microbial richness and diversity in trial participants. According to the researchers, there was a marked increase in Lactobacillus and Clostridia species after 3 months of supplementation. I’m not surprised at this one, because as a young Physical Education student at Otago University, I heard Clinical Nutritionist, Professor Jim Mann talk about this 30 years ago as well. I had forgotten that over the years.
To help absorb the immune-boosting compounds in garlic, we also need Vitamins B12, B6 and Folate in the pathway. This is also why this wonderful immune-boosting nutrient was on my nutritious leafy-green folate-rich salad yesterday as well.
One of the things I describe in my seminars and discuss in my online programmes, is that the social, economic and political landscapes have changed so much over our life-time and this includes food production, the choices we have in shopping for food as well as preparation of it. It’s why many of us become so confused about how to look after ourselves in menopause – there is too much confusing information available.
As we go through menopause and into our post-menopause years, what we need to get back to is simplifying our food shopping and preparation as well as keeping our diet as natural and as wholesome as possible. This is especially so for our generation because of the influence of all the processed foods, alcohol and medicines that are now known to have changed our gut microbiome, small intestine and liver health. In menopause we have a double whammy with these organs, because they also change in size and structure as we lose oestrogen and we go into our biological ageing.
All of this was reiterated to me recently when, the Lancet Medical Journal reported on a large study about the effects of diet on death and disease as we age. But the time frame for the study resonated with me – the researchers had looked at global health statistics between 1990 to 2017 – the period through which there has been the most change in food production and of course food marketing. In 2017, 11 million deaths and 255 million nutritional-related disabilities were attributable to dietary risk factors – these included high intake of sodium from processed foods, low intake of whole grains and low intake of fruits and vegetables.
As the lead researcher stated, “Countries where people eat a Mediterranean diet — high in heart-healthy fats and fibre — scored the best results, with Israel ranking No.1 in terms of the least number of diet-related deaths. Afshin [the lead researcher] defined the Mediterranean diet as one with a high intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts and healthy oils, such as olive oil.”
I no-longer get swayed by the food marketing that has appeared on the TV, magazines, diets and on supermarket-shelves. We’ve been subjected to this advertising for decades, but much of it doesn’t necessarily suit us in menopause. This is why I only follow the nutritional research that has been conducted on women in mid-life and older. As I often say in my Masterclass on Menopause seminars, our menopause transition is the gateway to a new stage of our life – our biological ageing … and I want you all to feel healthy as you move into the next phase of your life.
For too many years, menopause has been medicalised and seen as ‘problematic’. But as it is the opposite life-stage to puberty, why is this? That was my curiousity when I embarked on following research on women’s healthy ageing. That was the start of turning around my own symptoms when HRT and supplements failed to give me precious sleep and failed to restore me to a healthy blood pressure as well as improved joint and gut health too. One of the things I did, was linked to getting beautiful Kyolic Garlic into me and adding it into my soups and salads too.
All of this information and so much more is in the powerful My Menopause Transformation programmes. If symptoms are getting your down, I hope you can join me one day too.
For more information about how to reduce your symptoms in menopause and/or losing weight using powerful lifestyle-change strategies, please click on the link below to go to the two different 12 week online programmes on the My Menopause Transformation website.
Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990–2017: A systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study. The Lancet Online, April 3, 2019 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(19)30041-8
Ried, K., et al (2018). The Effect of Kyolic Aged Garlic Extract on Gut Microbiota, Inflammation, and Cardiovascular Markers in Hypertensives: The GarGIC Trial. Frontiers in Nutrition, 5, 122