Perimenopause & Immunity
Perimenopause/Menopause are inevitable life stages that will happen all women and they can also put great demands on your immune system. The gradual decline of hormones, primarily oestrogen and progesterone, that occurs at this time puts an added stress onto our immune system. However, there are many steps you can take to protect yourself at this time. Over the last few months in the world of #COVID19, you will have heard of many of the essentials of keeping yourself healthy. From sleep, good food, downtime, vitamin C and Vitamin D…these form the heavy hitters. On top of these one fundamental area, I find that many people overlook is your bowel health – the foundation to immune health.
A vital step in immunity is ensuring your bowels are regular, this will help release toxins from your body and keep your energy flowing as it should. Ideally a daily bowel movement without straining or any discomfort with the feeling of the bowel being totally empty. In theory, we should have a bowel movement after every meal, the very act of eating creates a wave-like effect to happen in our bowels which moves wastes product through our bodies down to our bowels. It’s long been ingrained to ignore these messages, so our digestive system becomes sluggish. If you think of a baby or young child, they will generally have a bowel movement after each meal – this changes as we get older as we hold on/control this process more. Also please ensure to go to the toilet when you need to and avoid putting it off – this is not good for your body and can in time led to constipation.
Water and fibre intake are essential steps in ensuring good bowel health, regular intake of water throughout the day will help here and will also keep your body well hydrated. Fibre goes back to ensuring a plentiful diet of fruit and vegetables enhanced with probiotics foods.
Probiotics are not just important for digestion, and good gut health – they reach much further across our entire bodies. The two heavy hitters – Lacto acidophilic and bifidobacteria, for instance, have been shown to have anti-viral properties and may help reduce the length of a viral respiratory infection. Probiotics produce antibodies and these antibodies attach on to foreign/unknown bacteria or viruses and encourage your white blood cells to attack them. So, two key actions (1) production of antibodies that attach onto the virus and (2) releasing a chemical which encourages the production of white blood cells. White blood cells are key in helping the body fight against viruses and bacteria. When looking at foods think of prebiotics too – these are like fertilizers for probiotics.
Probiotics: fermented foods (yoghurt, milk kefir, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut etc.), vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds. (I would encourage you to select natural yoghurt with no added sugar).
Prebiotics: lentils, beans, garlic, leeks, bananas, broccoli, beetroot, parsnips, onions, artichoke and oats.
Simply at this time you want to load up on fresh fruit and vegetables, more fibre basically. Wholegrains are your friends too and if possible, use brown rice instead of white, try quinoa and other grains.
Catherine O’Keeffe (@WellnessWarrior.ie) is Ireland’s first peri-menopause coach, mother of three boys and a newly minted marathon runner. Following a degree in management, Catherine retrained in complementary medicine and is a self-confessed health geek, a regular contributor to menopause websites and a speaker at health events throughout Ireland and the UK.
A former financial services director, Catherine regularly works with corporate clients on menopause support in the workplace. Catherine’s experience of 25+ years in the corporate world places her in a great position to support women there. She is a regular guest at events throughout Ireland and holds Perimenopause Unplugged events all over the country to discuss all things menopause. As a menopause activist, she has participated in the Women’s Health Taskforce, launched by the Department of Health and the National Women’s Council of Ireland in 2019. Catherine is also co-founder of the highly successful M Word event – Ireland’s first menopause summit, held in October 2019.
Catherine’s aim is to share her knowledge, educate and empower women on every aspect of menopause. She is passionate about reaching all parts of Irish society and ensuring all women receive the support they need at this time in their lives.