Every day I receive messages and emails from women who are curious to know if their sore joints and aching muscles are anything to do with menopause.
It’s the same when women come to my live-events. When I ask who has sore joints and muscles, many hands shoot straight up. Nearly all of them have never identified their sore joints, aching muscles and restless legs as a symptom of menopause. As I didn’t either.
- Is joint and muscle pain affecting you?
- Are you going through or have you been through menopause?
- Are you experiencing joint pain for the first time since menopause?
- Or has your joint and/or muscle pain increased since menopause?
If you answered yes to these questions, you’re not alone.
When I reached my early 50’s, my joints began to ache. I thought it was due to weight gain and years of high-impact activity. For a long time I put my knee pain down to overuse due to 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 exercise life’ flashed through my mind! It’s the same for so many women who arrive in menopause and have been regular exercisers such as ex-professional ballerina, Andrea from Australia. And when we don’t sleep, our joint pain becomes worse as well.
If you’ve been an exerciser for years, then you need to know about the ‘wear and tear’ theory of your ageing joints!
As the first generation of women to enter our menopause transition in the context of all the exercise we have done over the past few decades, the wear-and tear theory matters. But so too does the loss of oestrogen. For women who have exercised regularly in the past and you’ve been a runner or you have done a lot of sports or high-impact exercise classes, then your changing hormones in menopause can be a double-whammy for joints and muscles.
When I began to look at Theories on Ageing as part of my doctoral studies, I realised that I needed to look through the ‘wear and tear’ lens. 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 more rapid ageing from the accumulation of inflammation. Like components of an ageing car, parts of the body eventually wear out from repeated use. Scientists now know that there is some basis to this theory, which is why it’s so important we look after our bodies as we enter the next phase of our lives. This is particularly so for those of you who are already regular exercisers and want to continue! Because the increased wear and tear on your joints also clashes with your declining oestrogen levels once you reach menopause.
As I often mention to women in my seminars or in my blogs, ‘menopause’ itself is not the issue with our symptoms. This is a natural stage of life that all women go through. But because we are moving through menopause, this makes us more vulnerable to increased inflammation, which can arise from the lifestyle that we have enjoyed over the years. If we don’t adapt to our changing hormonal environment, then our body can go into ‘distress’ – and this is what our symptoms are telling us!
Menopause is the time to get the right nutrients for healing our bodies, reducing symptoms and enabling joint repair – especially for women who have had a lifetime of exercise. It’s so important we nurture and support our body, because it needs to sustain us for decades to come.
This is exactly what the two different MyMT™ progammes teach you to do. Because menopause affects each of us differently, I’ve designed two different ones. Circuit Breaker is for women who are thinner/ leaner, and Transform Me is for women who are overweight. Both of these also include my BONUS module called ‘Restore your Joyful Joints’. Be sure to check them out so you know which is right for you. I also have an exercise programme called Rebuild My Fitness’ and if you are looking at restoring your healthy exercise, then check out this fabulous 12 week online programme when you can too.
Oestrogen plays an important role in our joint and muscle health …
Even when I stopped a lot of high impact exercise, my aching knees continued. I had myo-fascial release from my wonderful physio, bought insoles for my shoes and scheduled regular massages. Yet my knees still ached and although I knew that my weight gain was affecting them too, even when I lost weight they continued to ache! Not one professional I visited mentioned menopause and at the time, I had no idea that decreasing oestrogen levels might be contributing to the knee joint creaks and aches. Many women on my programmes find this too.
It was when I was teaching exercise and sports science students the role of oestrogen in female athlete knee injuries that I had my ‘lightbulb moment’. If oestrogen is important for joint stability and nutrition in female athlete ligaments and tendons, especially the knee tendon, then what happens when we lose oestrogen? This was my curiosity.
Oestrogen is essential for our joints and muscles, because its role is to protect and stabilise membranes. For those of us going through menopause, the role of oestrogen is even more important. As a fat-soluble hormone, oestrogen helps to strengthen the cell membrane and in so doing, it assists as an antioxidant.
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 produce as much oestrogen once we reach menopause. This is why getting the right nutrients during menopause is so important as is sleeping, which is when our body heals and repairs. As I often say to women at my live events, before embarking on too much exercise, it’s important to reduce inflammation by learning:
- How to sleep (link to sleep blog) all night and
- What nutrition can support your new hormonal environment
This is why I want to share with you the powerful nutrient your joints will love!
Olive oil, Inflammation and Joint Health – the powerful connection
Whenever I receive health screening forms in my in-box from women who sign up to the MyMT™ programmes, I look carefully to see if they have ticked the box indicating they are experiencing joint pain which has come on since they reached menopause. The majority of women tick that box. When I ask what their doctor or physio has said about their joint pain, invariably their response is ‘they can’t find anything wrong.’ That’s when I am thankful that they are on board with me because in each of the MyMT 12 week programmes I have a webinar called, Restore your JOYFUL JOINTS. It’s powerful. 🙂
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. I encourage the use of omega 3-rich olive oil and discourage the popular dietary emphasis on coconut fats and various cooking oils, which have not been researched for our joint health in menopause.
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 is crucial to reducing joint pain and improving cardiac health as we age. This is why I have a focus on a modified Mediterranean Diet in the powerful MyMT™ progammes, which I’ve specifically tailored from menopause, post-menopause and women’s healthy ageing studies.
Olive oil contains tocopherol (vitamin E); coconut oil doesn’t. Tocopherol or vitamin E is a powerful anti-oxidant necessary for hormonal and joint health during our menopause transition. Vitamin E is unique among vitamins because the biological activity of it varies considerably and for its 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 the entire body. Achieving this is not a one day wonder as many popular dietary fads promote. It requires a three 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].
From ‘struggle street’ to ‘marathon feet’!
If you are struggling with your changing health in menopause, then please join me on one of the MyMT™ progammes. Kaye did too. When she came into my Transform Me programme she was tired, sore and overweight. I don’t have a lot of exercise in the foundation programmes, because women must turn around their symptoms first.
So how amazed was I to get the photo of Kaye below, doing her first ever marathon, a year on from MyMT™! I love this image of her 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. Now look at her! She sent me this image recently and I was amazed that she had just completed her first-ever marathon!
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 the gateway to 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.
Please don’t give up your hope!
If you’re as frustrated by how you are feeling in menopause or post-menopause as I was, and are suffering from:
- lack of sleep,
- sore joints and muscles
- low energy (especially after exercise)
- weight loss or weight gain
- increased anxiety
- low mood and motivation
then please don’t lose hope. You can turn this around. When HRT and endless supplements didn’t help my joint problems and sleep issues, I became fed up with advice that wasn’t researched for our specific age and stage of life. Combining my hears of knowledge and experience from physiology, nutrition, exercise science and lifestyle-change as well as my doctoral studies into women’s ageing, I knew that I needed to dig-deeper into the research and find an evidenced way through menopause – a way that could help women restore health, energy and vitality, so as to enjoy feeling healthy and functional into the next phase of life.
That’s how My Menopause Transformation came about. When I untangled the milieu of menopause, I put what I discovered into two 12 week online programmes so that you can feel as healthy and energetic as I do today! There are monthly payments for three months as well and you can convert to the currency you need.
Over 2000 women from 18 countries around the world have joined me on their menopause transformation. I hope you can join me too. – many have kindly shared their stories HERE.
Dr Wendy Sweet [PhD/ MyMT™ Founder & Coach
PS: If you do have joint pain that is causing you increasing pain or discomfort, I encourage you to 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.