spices to reduce inflammation
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Reduce Inflammation by Eating Intuitively

As I learned more and more about my changing hormones during menopause, I realized that I needed to make small, consistent changes in a few areas to lose the weight I had gained. I did this through intuitive eating over many months.

I could not go back to dieting and restriction. I had to get confident and trust myself to listen to my hunger cues and know when I felt full. It took time but I got honest with what I truly needed.

Intuitive eating is a non-diet approach to changing your eating habits as you trust your body to know what it needs. It can be scary at first, but it truly was the only path I was willing to go on after many years of beating myself up if I didn’t eat ‘perfectly’.

I focused on reducing inflammation during menopause for better health while also being satisfied with my food choices. As a nurse, I know increased inflammation can speed up diseases.

My Story with Intuitive Eating

Like many women, I have a history of trying to eat less and exercise more but not always choosing the best foods for health benefits. The more I knew about declining sex hormones and health concerns I was at risk for as I aged, the more I recognized I had to approach losing weight differently.

I embraced an anti-inflammatory diet as I ate intuitively and began adding spices to my meals to keep food tasting good. I also knew that putting more protein and fiber into my diet and reducing sugar would help me feel satisfied. Like many women, I had gravitated towards eating too much sugar to give me boosts of energy in early peri-menopause and menopause but was left more exhausted as the energy spike dropped.

Decreasing my sugar intake over time and improving my food choices gave me the energy to stay consistent with picking up weights twice a week (most of the time). I also prioritized my sleep to improve my health physically and mentally. I did not deprive myself of any food completely.

Losing the 20 pounds I had gained during menopause didn’t fall off overnight. However, the choices I was making were helping me stay focused on reducing inflammation and not feeling deprived.

I noticed that the foods and spices I chose were also balancing my blood sugar and making it easy for me to say no to sugar-rich foods. Something I’ve always struggled with. I eat any foods but understand that sugar doesn’t have the nutritional value I seek to feel and look my best! Look at my RESOURCES page to get tips and recipes high in protein and fiber to feel your best!

At this stage, I’m not interested in going on a diet. I’m okay with being on a slow and steady road that I know I can sustain because I enjoy my choices. My energy level is better than it’s been in years, I get 8 hours of good sleep and lost the 20 pounds I gained with hormonal changes. I can honestly say that with healthy choices 80% of the time, the weight and inflammation continue to decrease!

This is the approach I also take to help other women get the results they are looking for without deprivation because I know it works. Check out my blog Menopause and Intuitive Eating for more information.

Why Does Menopause Cause Inflammation?

As peri-menopause (the 7 to 10 years leading up to menopause) and full menopause arrive, estrogen fluctuates and ultimately declines causing inflammation in the body to increase. This inflammation can damage your organs, joints, and arteries leaving you at risk for deteriorating bone, brain, joint, and muscle health. Inflammation symptoms can be silent for many years.

Along with the increased health risks of declining estrogen due to the wave of low-grade inflammation, you have the added joy of weight gain showing up in the abdominal area. This weight is known as visceral fat — the kind you don’t want.

This type of fat leaves you at risk for a collection of disorders that include obesity, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, and high blood pressure. Clearly, losing weight and reducing inflammation has more to do with your overall health than just your appearance. Something many of us have been focused on for much of our younger years.

Does Hormone Replacement Therapy Help Reduce Inflammation?

Taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can certainly help with reducing inflammation and possibly preventing bigger health concerns. However, lifestyle choices need to be addressed as well since not all women are candidates for HRT or feel comfortable taking it. A more extensive discussion with your doctor will help you make the right decision.

As women lose the anti-inflammatory effects of hormones during menopause, it’s imperative to decrease inflammation through lifestyle choices. Making better choices with nutrition, sleep, exercise, and stress management will bring significant health benefits and help you manage your troublesome menopausal symptoms.

weight loss and reduced inflammation tips during menopause

Spice Things Up to Keep It Interesting and Reduce Inflammation

  • Cinnamon helps balance blood glucose levels and has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties giving you overall better health. I add a sprinkle to my morning coffee and a teaspoon to my smoothie at lunch. I notice it helps me balance my blood sugar levels preventing me from choosing high-sugar foods.
  • Cayenne Pepper is thought to have weight loss properties since it is spicy. I add a dash of this to my smoothie (it tastes good with the banana and berries) as well as roasted sweet potatoes and chicken dishes for a little kick.
  • Turmeric contains curcumin which helps the body burn fat by increasing heat. I enjoy this spice sprinkled on roasted vegetables.
  • Oregano contains carvacrol, a substance that may help weight loss by directly affecting some proteins and genes that regulate fat synthesis in the body as well as helping with digestive health. It’s a delicious addition to Mexican, Italian, or Spanish dishes.
  • Cumin has a nutty flavor and is thought to speed up weight loss and fat burning within the body. I enjoy it on roasted potatoes and in marinades for chicken dishes.
  • Garlic makes food tastier and has the added benefit of helping the body burn fat by increasing metabolism and immunity.

More Ways to Reduce Inflammation

macbook pro on white table
  • Adding protein to each meal (25-30 grams) is essential for women as they age and lose muscle mass. It also helps maintain blood sugar levels. I spent many years getting a lot of my energy from simple carbohydrates that essentially break down to sugar. It caused a lot of inflammation that I could see on the outside (my skin) and was no doubt building up on the inside while helping me pack on the pounds. Read more about getting more protein at my blog Protein’s Health Benefits for Women in Midlife. Check out my resources page to get delicious recipes to help with protein and fiber intake.
  • Adding fiber to your meals has many health benefits. It helps manage blood sugar and cholesterol levels. It also helps keep you satisfied longer and aids in moving the bowels. Just make sure you are having 6-8 cups of water daily and add fiber slowly over a week or two to get up to 25 grams daily.
  • Snacking in between meals may be necessary some days. To stay satisfied, choose fruits, nuts, a hard-boiled egg, vegetables, or protein-rich plain Greek yogurt with fruit. Having healthy snacks on hand helps me stay ahead of a drop in my blood sugar — keeping me from craving sugar-rich foods.
  • Reduce sugar intake. Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages, energy drinks, and fruit juices. Be aware of the sugar content in bottled condiments such as salad dressings, mayonnaise, and ketchup. Do your best to reduce intake of these items by making your own dressings. Try to limit your intake of refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, and pasta. Remember these foods are not ‘bad’. Just notice how you feel when you consume them. When I consume these foods, I make it a point to add protein to eliminate a blood sugar spike and then a drop that refined carbs alone can cause.
  • Exercise has so many physical and mental health benefits. Getting outside, even on a cloudy day, is an overall mood booster. When your mood is improved, you tend to make better overall health decisions. After getting the okay from your doctor, add weight training to your routine two to three days a week even if you only have 15-20 minutes. You will build muscle for added strength and balance and helps you burn more calories for additional weight loss.
  • Sleep is imperative to your overall health. It promotes growth, and heart health, supports weight management, and helps with memory and learning. Getting a good night’s sleep has the added benefit of helping us make good overall health decisions.

Remember, consistency is better than perfection. If you only have time for a 15-minute walk, that’s better than no exercise. None of us are getting in shape, gaining energy, and getting healthier by thinking about it. You have to put a plan in place and be forgiving if the plan doesn’t work out some days. Add one spice to your day and additional protein to one meal to start.

Staying the Course

Entering menopause is like puberty in reverse. Symptoms vary from person to person and until recently there hasn’t been a lot of accurate information to help us navigate this journey. We certainly got the ‘what to expect when you’re expecting’ message (for those of you with children) but someone dropped the ball with what to expect when you reach menopause.

Get to know what works for your body and mind when it comes to food choices, hours of sleep you need, managing stress, and finding exercise you enjoy. Slow, steady, and intuitive eating is the way to go to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Check out my Tips and Tricks to Make Habits Stick blog post to help with small, consistent habit changes.

Reach out to me if you would like to learn more about how I can help you on your quest for better health!

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