MyMT™ Blog

The forgotten vitamin ‘heroine’ of your joint, muscle and skin health in menopause – and a peek into one of my brief coaching videos for women on the MyMT programmes.

When my mid-life menopausal body hobbled along to my Doctor, Physio, Personal Trainer and Podiatrist with sore joints, muscles and various aches and pains, not one of them mentioned my new ‘heroine’ of menopause joint and muscle health – Vitamin C – and to be fair to these wonderful specialists, nor did I give this vital vitamin a thought either. But I should have – and I also needed to take note that the reason there was a lemon tree in my garden, was that I needed to embrace this beautiful fruit during menopause.

This week has been ‘behaviour change’ week within the MyMT™ coaching groups. There are three programmes – all of which have coaching groups – Circuit Breaker, Transform Me and my exercise group, called ‘Rebuild My Fitness’. I love it when women turn around their symptoms and/ or weight with the foundation programmes and restore their sleep, energy and motivation to get back into exercise with joints and muscles that feel pain-free and functional. Yes, sleeping all night is crucial. This is because our healing occurs overnight, between the hours of 2-4am, which is so important for women if they are still exercising and their joints are tight, tired and sore. I get so excited when I get posts like this one from Leanne!

As I keep saying to women in the programmes and at my live-events, we are the first generation of women to go into menopause in the context of having participated in various fitness and sports programmes for decades.

Therefore, not only has there been ‘wear and tear’ on our joints as we reach mid-life, but because menopause hormonal changes create havoc with our joints and muscles too, then we must look after them as we age. All too often, we have seen our mother’s generation experience changing joint health, arthritis and become more sedentary because their muscles and joints go into age-related decline. When I began to look at menopause through the biological lens of ageing research and my own joints and muscles were aching during the day and giving me grief at night, I began to understand that my joints were craving Vitamin C.

This is all to do with collagen and our body’s need for collagen turnover in our joints, muscles and skin as we get older. It’s why I was talking to women online yesterday, whist standing in front of my beautiful lemon tree. It’s winter in New Zealand and the tree is prolific with lemons – even I can’t keep up!

As I began to put together the menopause-related sore joints-aching muscles-poor sleep connection, I never gave my lemon tree a thought.

That is until, I examined the incredible role of collagen turnover in our joints and our skin as we age. The skin is a multi-functional organ, the largest in the body, and our skin is important in menopause, because it too, suffers when oestrogen levels decline. Many women end up with skin conditions and if Vitamin C levels are insufficient, then we become more prone to skin infections and pathogens as well as problems with dehydration. With Vitamin C being so important for collagen renewal, it’s important for joint health as well. Our tendons also have oestrogen receptors in them and when these decline, our joints need more Vitamin C, not less. If we are routine exercisers, then yes, we also have to focus on our daily dose of Vitamin C.
Lemons-560x420

It’s why the Vitamin C from the lemons on my lemon tree is my new ‘heroine’ vitamin for women in menopause. And a shout-out to Dr James Lind – Surgeon to the Royal Navy in Britain in the mid-1700’s. Many of us know the story about Scurvy. Not that I am insinuating that we are at risk of this debilitating disease, but what we are at risk of, is not having enough Vitamin C, especially if we have problems with our gut health. Vitamin C is absorbed in the small intestine as we require it. We also need it every day. With his sailors experiencing swollen legs, tight and swollen joints, poor gum health and low energy and debilitating fatigue, Dr Lind conducted one of the very first dietary trials. Living on biscuits and dried foods, the sailors from the Admiral’s British Navy, were low on Vitamin C. When Dr Lind ensured that oranges, limes and lemons went on board the ships, the Sailors health changed dramatically. That’s why a sailor today is known as a ‘Limey’.

A high concentration of Vitamin C is needed deep within our cells and tissues – our intracellular life-giving cells. But perhaps the most important issue for all of us in menopause and post-menopause, is that the highest concentration of Vitamin C in the body is found in pituitary and adrenal glands, our eye lens, white blood cells (leukocytes) lymph glands, brain and internal organs. No wonder the British sailors were drastically sick with plummeting levels of Vitamin C. It’s roles in the body are life-giving and life-enhancing. It must also be remembered that Vitamin C also enhances the absorption of non-heam iron (this is non-meat sources of iron) and again this is achieved in the small intestine. I have numerous women who find that their gut health has changed as they reach mid-life and I always ensure that they are getting enough Vitamin C i n the wonderful MyMT Food Guide fruit and vegetable lists and the recipes.

Which brings me back to my beautiful lemons and it’s why I was outside talking to women on the programmes about lemons and Vitamin C the other day.

It was a long time before anyone understood why lemon juice cured diseases such as scurvy. But as nutrition research expanded and the role of all the vitamins were discovered, it was assumed that the scurvy was cured when sailors had enough ascorbic acid (Vitamin C). The first clinical trials were undertaken on guinea pigs and in 1927, a Hungarian biochemist, isolated a compound called hexuronic acid and the guinea pigs fed this compound thrived, whilst the other group developed scurvy. The experiment demonstrated that yes indeed that the compound (now called Ascorbic Acid or Vitamin C) in lemon juice was the key ingredient. So began a new understanding about Vitamin C and a Nobel Prize for the Hungarian biochemist for his work in 1937.

One of the greatest concerns that I have for women going into and through menopause is that we are being subjected to so many supplements that don’t necessarily get to the heart of our symptoms.

I used to take a variety of these too. But what I know better now is that all of these supplements are not getting to the heart of the issues with our symptoms. We experience many of our symptoms because we aren’t sleeping and because, as we transition through menopause, our joints, tendons, muscles and other organs are ageing. This sets up inflammatory changes in our body, making our body feel stressed. That’s why we need to work with our body so that we resist the acceleration of inflammation and ageing. One of these things is having Vitamin C – and no, we don’t necessarily need it in a supplement, because an ageing gut doesn’t recognise supplements. Our gut recognises real food and juices, such as lemon juice.

There are long traditions of healthy ageing in Mediterranean countries including the Blue Zone’s countries where some of the worlds healthiest and longest-living men and women live.

This is why I’ve based most of the information in the MyMT programmes in this research. In many of these countries there is a focus on growing citrus fruits such as lemon trees and as such, research on citrus fruits has gathered momentum over the decades. It’s now well evidenced that Bergamot oil has antiseptic and anti-bacterial qualities and is also used as an anti-depressant. Lemons are also well evidenced as being great for heart and liver health too. I find it interesting that poor liver health, cardiac health, immune system concerns and depression are all recognised symptoms in menopause.

It’s really important that we all understand how to look after ourselves as we transition through this important life-stage. For many of us, it’s also time to turn-back-the clock and get our body feeling healthy again. It’s why I designed the MyMT programmes as well – my passion is to help women understand what to change with their lifestyles to match our changing hormonal environment in menopause. Too many other programmes are not focused on women at this life-stage. If you ever do come onto the programmes, then everything you learn will be specifically tailored to menopause. When you’re ready, I hope you can join me, oh and yes, you will be having lemons. 🙂

[‘Lemons’ Still Life Painting by Anita May Blanchett, New Zealand]

References:

  • Attlee, H. (2014). The land where lemons grow. Penguin Books: London, UK
  • Kato, Y., Domoto, T., Hiramitsu, M. et.al (2014). Effect of blood pressure on daily lemon ingestion and walking. Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, Article ID 912684, 1-6
  • Mann, J. & Trusswell, S. (2007). Essentials of Human Nutrition. Oxford University Press: London, UK
  • Pullar, J., Carr, A. & Vissers, M. (2017). The roles of Vitamin C in skin health. Nutrients (9), 866, 1-27.
“If you have ever wondered if there was a clear easy plan to follow to sleep all night, reduce hot flushes and prevent or reduce your weight gain during menopause, then ‘welcome’ – you’re in the right place now.”

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