Dr. Mary Claire Haver’s top tips for fighting chronic inflammation and fatigue in menopause….
Do you feel tired?
Are you experiencing unexpected mood swings and unexplained weight gain?
All of these symptoms can be linked to aging, menopause and chronic inflammation.
The Good News: A few small swaps in your diet and shifts in your routine may significantly reduce these symptoms.
Chronic inflammation increases with aging and the menopausal hormone changes. Furthermore, research shows that our diets are a significant contributor to chronic inflammation. When you consistently eat pro-inflammatory foods, you are constantly feeding the fire of chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is linked to weight gain, drowsiness, skin problems, mood disruptions, cognitive decline, digestive issues, and a host of diseases, from diabetes to obesity to cancer.
An anti-inflammatory diet removes or limits your body’s exposure to triggering invaders such as preservatives, chemicals, and processed carbohydrates. Instead of highly processed and engineered nutrition, you get back to basics and real food: fruits, veggies, lean protein, healthy fats, and fiber.
My “try this instead of that” swap suggestions to get you on the path to reducing chronic inflammation.
- Instead of adding cream, sugar, or artificial sweeteners (all common triggers of chronic inflammation) to your coffee, give black coffee a try. It took me a while to get used to not adding milk to my coffee. Once I found a few coffee blends that weren’t bitter, I became a fan of having a cup of black coffee every morning. On occasion, I will give a splash of almond milk for a dose of creamy texture and healthy fats.
- Shake things up and switch from drinking coffee to drinking tea. Peppermint tea is excellent to perk up your sluggish mornings, and ginger tea is a spicy and delicious drink that can also help to reduce inflammation; both can aid with digestion. If you don’t want to give up the caffeine, green tea is rich in polyphenols which are powerful antioxidants that can help to fight inflammation.
- Thirsty? Here is a game-changer: Instead of soda, try a thirst-quenching infusion of still or sparkling water with lemon and cucumber. Orange slices and mint are other delicious combinations. Each sip of fruit and herb-infused water is like a trip to the spa.
- Now that many of us are going back to our busy schedules, you may need healthy grab-and-go snack ideas. Instead of insulin spiking choices like a muffin or toast, try a greek yogurt bowl or smoothie. If you have time for a more leisurely protein-packed option, try Scrambled Eggs with Spinach and Tomato.
- When it comes to healthy, ant-inflammatory eating, a key to avoiding stress and managing your time is FOOD PREP. I can’t emphasize the importance of food prep enough; food prep changed my life! We rarely make healthy choices when in a rush, tired, or under stress. Knowing what to eat, how much to eat, when to eat, and then preparing your meals is a discipline that pays off and provides a healthy, balanced diet. Meal prep helps you have a few staple foods to prepare and cook ahead in batches, then use in several different ways. Well-balanced doesn’t have to be boring. One hour of food prep on Sunday= healthy eating all week, and you won’t have to worry about dinner each night. Take a look at some of these food prep ideas from Buzzfeed.
- When I’m feeling worn down and stressed, I fall into the habit of letting meal prep go and grabbing whatever is available like chips, or easy comfort food, like pasta or pizza. To avoid falling back into old habits, I try to start each morning by taking 10 minutes for my version of self-care. For me, that is meditating or taking my dog for a quick walk. It is essentially whatever makes you feel grounded and ready for the day. My morning “me time” helps me focus my day on creating healthy eating habits, recognizing the signs of feeling stressed, and addressing them instead of letting them in the driver’s seat.
- The best of intentions can still end up with us feeling rushed and harried. A few healthy, anti-inflammatory snacks that are easy to have ready and waiting are cream cheese-filled celery sticks, Walnut Cocoa Collagen Balls, or a small apple with a smear of almond butter.
- A few other popular Galveston Diet easy to prepare, anti-inflammatory recipes include Almond Chicken with Broccoli and Seared Shrimp Salad. For more meal prep tips and recipes that focus on an anti-inflammatory diet check out our meal plan page.
- Don’t consume caffeine late in the day.
- Finally, our body needs time to fully rest and repair. We often miss the importance of sleep in how our body functions and no amount of healthy foods, mindfulness practices, or exercise can replace the necessity for its restorative powers. Sleep is where our body regenerates on a cellular level. For instance, human growth hormone is secreted in higher levels during deep sleep, hunger triggering hormones are regulated, and the stress hormone, cortisol, decreases. Lack of sleep can cause weight gain and moodiness and increase the risk of diabetes and autoimmune recurrence. Here are a few tips to optimize your sleep and make your “zzzzz’s” count: Avoid blue light exposure 2 hours before bedtime.
- Turn off your screens and open the pages of a book.
- Make sure your bedroom is at a comfortable, cool temperature.
- Don’t consume caffeine late in the day.
- Make your room dark so your circadian rhythms can get in synch.
- Meditate and remember that a deep breath will slow your pulse.
To optimize a healthy system, several factors work together to keep the body running without the glitches caused by chronic inflammation. None of them alone is a magic bullet, so try adding them in one, by one. Remove the dietary and environmental stressors that initiate inflammation, make healthy food swaps to sustain a happy gut, practice self-care, like meditation, help de-stress by getting your blood pumping through exercise, and make sleeping soundly a priority.