Here’s an interesting question from a reader that I thought a lot of people might be able to relate to…
My midwife is interested in Paleo. She says she feels like Paleo is more for the 18 to 40 crossfit crowd than for her… She is nearly 50 though and she is curious if there is anything to do or not do specifically for hormone changes. Do you have any thoughts?
I think it sucks that Paleo has become so intertwined with the CrossFit scene that a 50 year-old woman doesn’t think it would be good for her. People of all ages, including babies, children, adults, and the elderly, can and do benefit from eating Paleo. Paleo is a diet to reduce inflammation – not just get people ripped – and 50 year-old women often have all kinds of inflammation, whether it be in their joints, their arteries, their digestive tracts, or their sinuses.
The diet is also awesome for so many reasons for people who have hormonal imbalances, like women on the brink of menopause or in the throes of it. Hot flashes, weight gain, night sweats, and other menopausal symptoms aren’t actually a normal part of getting older. They’re a product of life-long hormonal imbalances, very much brought on by eating neolithic foods like grains, dairy, and sugar. Here’s an interesting article on menopause that compares Western women to women from more primitive cultures.
So, how, exactly, will the Paleo diet potentially affect women in their pre/peri/menopausal years?
First, eating sugar and refined grains can really throw off your blood sugar, and blood sugar can severely affect how well your hormonal systems are working. If one hormonal system is off, like your adrenals or thyroid, then often your sex hormones get out of whack, too.
Dairy can seriously affect sex hormone balance for some reason. Often when women give up dairy, their menstrual cycles become easier to deal with (I can speak from personal experience with this), and since Paleo doesn’t have dairy in it, this is a good thing.
57% of the U.S. population does not meet the dietary minimums for magnesium, and magnesium can really affect sex hormone balance and cycle regularity (1, 2). The phytic acid in grains and legumes removes dietary magnesium (as well as iron, zinc, and calcium) out of the intestinal tract unabsorbed, so getting rid of the bulk of the phytic acid in a normal Western diet by eating Paleo is one of the greatest blessings of the diet.
We need fat to make hormones (and protein), and the right kind of fat at that. Since Paleo takes out the crappy vegetable oils, refined oils, and hydrogenated oils and replaces it with the fats we evolved eating, our bodies then have a much easier time creating balanced hormones.
Omega 6/Omega 3
Then there’s the omega 6/omega 3 fatty acid ratios. Too many omega 6′s cause inflammation, and those omega 6′s often come in the form of vegetable oils and grains, plus a lot of factory farmed meats. When you take those things out of the diet, you’re left with a way better ratio of 6/3.
There are many more reasons a middle-aged woman would want to go Paleo, and not one reason that a 50-year old woman or man wouldn’t thrive on this diet just as much as the 18-40 year-old crossfitting crowd does. I really hope she gives it a shot! And I know of a really great meal plan and ebook she could use to get started :)
Any middle aged women out there have anything to add to this?