I feel so blessed to live in New Zealand and every winter I travel to the beautiful South Island to a small place called Wanaka. Some of you may have visited it. I know some women on the MyMT programmes actually live there full time. They are indeed the lucky ones. These women know where to go to get their water and why, because they are in menopause, the natural spring water that is free from contaminants from nitrates (2017 Analysis) is important to them. Full of natural minerals, spring water from an underground acquifer is full of minerals that your body needs in abundance to keep your heart, nerves and blood vessels working for you during your menopause transition.
[Wendy at the Wanaka Spring, Bullock Creek]
I never thought about my need for minerals when I went into peri-menopause. But with my head buried in my PhD and women’s healthy ageing, I also began to understand that one of the most important changes that occur as we lose oestrogen, is the increased constriction of our blood vessels. Which took me on the incredible journey to better understand the role of specific minerals that help our nerves, blood vessels and heart to function as we age. When I studied the effect of low oestrogen on our physiology, metabolism and various organs such as nerves and muscles, this explained why so many women end up with sore muscles, restless legs, cardiac palpitations and increased anxiety. It then made sense to follow the pathway of the minerals that are important to helping our body function better as women passing through menopause.
As we go into a lowering oestrogen and progesterone hormonal environment during our menopause transition (the average age of menopause is around 51 years), we lose the effect that oestrogen has on our blood vessels, nerves and muscles. I hear from so many women who are regular exercisers and as they enter their menopause transition, they begin to experience sore joints, aching muscles, weight gain, gut health concerns and/or autoimmune concerns such as fibromyalgia, thyroid problems or arthritis. I know from seeing the nearly 2000 screening forms that I personally check when women join either of the MyMT programmes, that many experience increased hot flushes, anxiety, heart palpitations and a racing heart rate, despite being on HRT. I so understand their confusion, because I felt these symptoms when I was on HRT too. Whilst I always tell them to visit their Doctor or Specialist, many also state that their tests are normal -as mine were too.
That’s why, when I began to understand the incredible changes to other organs and structures in our body as we lose oestrogen, it made sense that as we lose muscle density and our liver, bones and heart wall change with ageing, then it was important to think about the minerals that are important to us in menopause too.
Positioning our menopause transition in women’s healthy ageing research has been fundamental to my improved understanding about what is going on with our biology at this time of our life … and what we can do to turn around all of our symptoms naturally. For example, world renowned cardiologist, Dr Stephen Sinatra, has been integral in enabling greater understanding about the role of a compound called CoQ10 (Ubiquinol), which helps oxygen get into mitochondrial cells. Levels of this important compound decline with age, leading to increased heart rate, blood pressure and the work of the heart and blood vessels. But for women in menopause, there’s more to this too. Our lowering oestrogen heralds in changes to our blood vessels, muscles, nerves, tendons and ligaments, leading to increased stiffening’ of blood vessels, sore and aching muscles and for many women, feelings of increased anxiety too.
Menopause is the ‘gateway’ to the next phase of our life – our ageing. Understanding the women’s ageing research has therefore, been integral in the resolution of my own symptoms, but this knowledge has enabled me to use ageing research to underpin the programmes I have designed (Circuit Breaker for thinner/ leaner women and ‘Transform Me‘ for women putting on lots of weight).
But there’s another issue with respect to our changing blood vessels, muscle soreness and cardiac health as we go through menopause too. We need the essential minerals that matter. Which brings me back to our water quality and intake.
Minerals that matter include magnesium, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, sodium and chloride. All are necessary for optimal heart, blood vessel and nerve function in a body that is losing oestrogen. Yes, you get these minerals through food, but also through good quality water. So, as I discovered too, the type of water that you are drinking matters and it’s why, when women come on board with me, one small change I’ve been helping them to understand (apart from learning to sleep all night which is also crucial to reducing muscle soreness and improving other symptoms), is how to have a renewed focus on the quality and amount of their drinking water.
Magnesium and Calcium are minerals that we need as we age. So too are other minerals such as potassium, sodium and phosphorous. All of these minerals are present in water that is sourced from underground. Paleolithic Cave-women would have drunk this beautiful water in abundance! This type of water is called Artesian or Spring water.
Water is so important for our body and to help us reduce our hot flushes, improve cardiac health, improve nerve conduction and to lose weight. It’s more important than food.
As women come into both of the MyMT programmes, they soon discover that the initial aim of the programme is to improve firstly sleep, then secondly, turn around liver and kidney function. As we go through menopause and into post-menopause, lowering oestrogen has an effect on these many organs in the body including the liver, kidneys, heart and blood vessels. The liver and kidneys are crucial for removing toxins, as well as excess oestrogens from your body, so it’s important that these organs continue to function well as we move through our menopause transition.
The starting point for helping these organs to function better is drinking enough good quality water that is rich in natural minerals. Drinking more water also has a bonus effect of improving toxin clearance, which build up from medications and/or the environment and our food choices. When water intake is adequate, then this also helps to improve our lymphatic system (our cleansing system), which in turn helps our cardiovascular system to function more efficiently too. Remember, that none of our organs work in isolation.
That’s why I want to tell you about water! When I visited the small alpine village of Le Chable in Switzerland earlier this year, I realised that women living in this alpine village have easy access to water that is rich in calcium and magnesium, phosphorous and sulphur. All minerals that our body needs to help it function better in menopause. When I spoke to some local women in Le Chable, they told me that the water there is some of the highest quality in Switzerland. As I walked around locals were drinking it adn tourists were filling their water bottles from the numerous wells throughout the village. Water that tumbled down from the mountains above, makes this water high in calcium and magnesium – two essential minerals that help our bone and heart health in menopause and our years beyond. As women discover in the nutrition part of the MyMT programmes, our body needs calcium every day – it does not make it. 1200mg of calcium daily is the general recommendation in most countries around the world and for women living in Le Chable, 1 litre of water from the wells in Le Chable provide nearly half of that. Amazing! I was also told that people who have lived in this valley all their life and have been drinking the water have really good dental health too. I’m not surprised.
The quality and quantity of your WATER intake is the most crucial thing for you to start improving your menopause symptoms. It’s just one of the factors that I talk about in the learning modules that women listen to on the MyMT programmes. Our water intake is important to begin to kick our menopause symptoms into touch.
When I was trying to understand why my muscles were aching during menopause and I couldn’t tolerate the exercise I loved to do, I turned to my physiology books. I knew from many years of teaching sort and exercise science, that our muscles function based on the presence of calcium in our muscles.
I was always telling students, many of whom were doing high amounts of exercise training, that they needed adequate calcium in their diet, because their muscle strength, power and their recovery depended on calcium helping muscles to contract and relax. It’s why women who are still exercising need adequate amounts of calcium and magnesium, but it’s also why, when it comes to helping sore legs and muscles, we need to maintain adequate levels of these minerals. And we can use water to help us. That’s why I wanted to share this with you about the different types of water. When water is sourced from underground, it is generally higher in natural minerals.
1. Metropolitan water supplies are often full of particles and minerals that even home filters don’t necessarily clear (and yes, I have a filter on my tap). Over a few decades, depending on where you live and source your water from, these minerals can accumulate in the body. This can put your electrolyte balance out of kilter. Whether you do a lot of exercise or not, peri-menopause hormonal changes cause dehydration and water retention in cells (because of low oestrogen affecting the kidney and blood pressure hormones which get out of balance too). This can make you feel bloated and ‘puffy’.
2. Bottled waters which have become so much more prolific in the marketplace are developed by various companies which often take tap water and then strip all the elements out of the tap water and replace what you see in the contents. So you aren’t necessarily getting the quality of micro-minerals or trace elements that you get from natural spring water.
3. Artesian or Spring Water is currently the purest water you can get apart from very, very expensive Reverse Osmosis water (even I don’t fully understand this one). Spring water has been filtered by the earth and contains a wide variety of trace minerals that the human body desperately needs. Ideally, drink only spring water from remote places as it should be freer from pollutants and nitrates (we hope). That’s why the women living in Wanaka and the women living in Le Chable in Switzerland, are very lucky to have this free source of artesian water!
Wendy Sweet, PhD [Women’s Healthy Ageing Researcher & MyMT Lifestyle Coach]