blitz the menopausal bloat

by Kate Shapland

For women in mid-life, both oestrogen and progesterone changes have important effects on both body fluid regulation and cardiovascular and lymphatic function. Many end up with tired, swollen legs and ankles, tightness in our breasts and some may also experience a bloated tummy. What you may not know, however, is that these concerns might also be to do with the changes that occur to your liver and your lymph vessels as you lose oestrogen with age.

While the effects of fluid regulation in middle-aged and older women are controlled by the kidneys, oestrogen changes in menopause can cause some inevitable sodium retention. And while much attention is paid to oestrogen changes as we move through menopause, the role that progesterone plays in fluid retention and fluid balance is as important.

Progesterone is the primary steroid involved in blood pressure changes around the time of the menopause and so it’s important for fluid regulation as well

But there is another issue too – our lymphatic system is ageing as levels of oestrogen and progesterone decline during our menopause transition. In both blood vessels and lymphatic vessels, this is known as ‘vascular stiffness’. And it means that when we are sitting or standing a lot or one of the few who have been taking long-haul flights again, the return of blood back to the heart from our lower extremities isn’t as efficient. We need to help it along otherwise we get swollen ankles or as it’s medically known, oedema.

Vascular stiffness contributes to increased fluid retention and risk of blood clots s we move through menopause.

Leg and ankle oedema is a sign of blood pooling in the veins as well as an inefficient lymphatic system. It’s a well-known problem among passengers during and after long-haul flights.

The main changes that occur in our ageing lymphatic vessels are:

    • Loss of around 20% of their contraction strength (just like our blood vessels)
    • Around a 70% decrease in contraction frequency
    • Increasing loss of lymphatic muscle cells which is linked to oxidative stress (inflammation)
    • A reduction in the levels of proteins that regulate muscle contraction
    • A thinning of the lymphatic vessel walls
    • As such, we need to better manage and help our lymphatic system as we move through menopause

And here are 3 things you can do to alleviate these changes:

    1. Because the lymphatic vessels don’t contract as efficiently as they used to, having increased plant sources of nitric oxide is important. You can add beetroot (beets) and celery to your diet or juice them instead.
    2. Learn to breathe better. I talk about breathing in all of the MyMT™ programmes and teach women the best breathing strategy to use to improve tissue oxygenation and to improve our lymphatic system in the programmes. Because our lymphatic system works really closely with our nervous system, even a stressful day can affect lymphatic drainage. This is also why improving our breathing helps to stimulate the lymph vessels to do their job of removing inflammatory proteins and dangerous toxins that have myriad deleterious effects around the body.
    3. Get moving (preferably in the morning). As part of our cardiovascular network, our lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump like the heart does. It relies on movement, massage, muscle contraction and improved breathing to function.

All hormones, nutrients and waste products going to and from the cells deep in our tissues, must pass through the interstitial or extracellular matrix. This depends on a reliable, functioning lymphatic system.

If the lymphatic channels can’t remove toxins properly, no hormone, gene, enzyme or molecule will work optimally, and there will be deposition of waste products into the tissues. This is why many of us feel more bloated, experience tissue swelling and cellulite increases as you move through menopause.

When we know that our lymphatic system is so important as we move through menopause, we can drink more water, put our feet up when we can, improve our breathing, wear flight stockings (even at work) and of course, get some massages or do some self-massage. Our Cellu-Lite Salon Secret For Legs was made for this.

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For those who like lots of exercise, the same rules apply. Exercise (especially, resistance training) also puts up your blood pressure and causes interstitial tissue swelling, so if you find that your recovery after exercise isn’t so great, find ways to improve your recovery after exercise to match your changing blood vessels and ageing lymphatic system during or after menopause.