On diet, exercise, and the menopause

Tank Green/ November 16, 2023/ Health

Women talk a lot about the menopause lately, which is good, I guess. However, I am noticing a distinct pathologising of a biological process which doesn’t need to be much more than ‘now you can’t naturally have a baby’. And ‘hurrah, no more periods to deal with!’

I went into menopause when I was 39 or 40, so I’ve been menopausal for nigh on a decade. After the initial shock of mortality, I can’t say I have experienced any particular issues as a part of menopause. Aside from the cessation of my periods, I have never had any of the symptoms listed on the NHS page for menopause. (Or, to be more specific, I’ve never had them as a consequence of menopause.) I suppose the biggest symptom I have had, is a general feeling of gratitude to be rid of something which was always superfluous to requirements: I have never needed or wanted the capacity to have a child.

As a menopausal woman, I strength train three times per week, and either run 5km or hike 20km+ once a week. I do this every week, week in, week out. I am consistent because I like it and because it makes me feel good. I do calisthenics for my strength training at the moment, which involves things like pull-ups, push-ups, monkey bars, 1 arm hangs, pike push-ups, L-sits, hanging leg raises, and so forth. I repeat, I am a 48 year old menopausal woman and my body functions just fine. It does not limit me in some magical way now that I am no longer fertile. I am still strong, healthy, and active.

So when I read articles like ‘how I learned to navigate exercise after menopause‘, I can’t help but call bullshit. Whatever is wrong with that woman to make her suddenly so inflexible, keep nocturnal peeing, have abdominal fat, hot flushes, and be dry as the Sahel, etc., it’s not because she’s not bleeding anymore. I’d wager it’s because she’s metabolically fucked from a trashy, carbohydrate- and oxalate-rich diet, and that she is in denial about how much she is contributing to her own illness through what she is consuming in terms of food and beverages.

I think that because, whilst menopause has been a non-issue for me, perimenopause was not. This was even more so as I had no idea that the symptoms I was experiencing were related to the perimenopause, given that they occurred in my thirties. At that time, I was coming off the back of a 20+ year ‘whole foods’ vegetarian diet, which was obviously extremely carbohydrate heavy. Whilst I started eating meat when I was 33 years old, my diet still revolved around refined carbohydrates: bread, pasta, rice, oats, and so forth until I was diagnosed with serious IBS at the same time as the menopause.

I started on my journey of carbohydrate restriction due to the severity of my IBS: the symptoms were so bad that they thought I had some kind of gynaecological cancer. This is why they tested my female hormone levels in the first place. Over the course of the last eight or nine years, I have experimented with more and more carbohydrate restriction, with exponentially increasing positive outcomes. I started off just removing all refined carbohydrates which MASSIVELY improved almost all of my symptoms, and now I waver between a ketogenic diet and full-on carnivore as that’s removed the rest of them.

Given that perimenopausal symptoms are generally similar to menopausal ones (I had most, but not all, of those listed on the NHS menopause page during my perimenopausal thirties), and given that my symptoms disappeared with carbohydrate restriction, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that (peri)menopausal symptoms are not (peri)menopausal symptoms at all: they are shitty diet symptoms. I think that aging brings a lessened capacity to recover and compensate from a poor diet (which includes a ‘whole foods’ vegetarian diet like I used to eat), which is why these symptoms are associated with aging and the menopause. Similarly, hangovers are nothing to speak of when you’re young, but are beasts post-thirty.

Point is: LADIES, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO FEEL LIKE SHIT JUST BECAUSE YOU’VE STOPPED AND/OR ARE STOPPING OVULATING. All you need to do is start progressively restricting your carbohydrate intake and I guarantee you will start feeling better. Okay, I can’t guarantee it, but what have you got to lose by trying?

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