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Pop Culture Health

When it comes to health fads, some of them are easy to rule out… but others seem like they might actually help. This is because some of them actually DO help, AND are rooted in science. With that in mind, we decided to round up some of the most common health fads of the last few years that can actually help you live a better life, and explore the science behind them.

Buckle up, this is a big one - we are covering intermittent fasting, ice plunges, collagens/colostrums, and some magic mushrooms!

Intermittent Fasting

In recent years, intermittent fasting has gained significant popularity as a weight loss strategy and a potential aid during menopause - just looking at Instagram and Pinterest, Intermittent fasting seems like it is everywhere. This eating pattern involves alternating periods of fasting and eating, and it has shown promising results for shedding excess pounds while providing additional benefits for women navigating the challenges of menopause. But, why does intermittent fasting work for weight loss, how do you incorporate it into your routine, and what are its potential benefits during menopause?

Why Intermittent Fasting Works for Weight Loss:

Intermittent fasting triggers a series of metabolic changes in the body that contribute to weight loss. When you fast, your body depletes its stored glycogen (carbohydrate) reserves, leading to the breakdown of fat cells for energy. This process, known as ketosis, can help burn stubborn fat and promote weight loss.

Additionally, intermittent fasting has been found to increase levels of human growth hormone (HGH), which aids in preserving muscle mass while promoting fat loss. By maintaining muscle mass, your body's metabolic rate remains higher, even during weight loss, leading to a more efficient calorie burn.

How to Incorporate Intermittent Fasting:

There are several popular methods to practice intermittent fasting. Here are a few common approaches:

  1. 16/8 Method: This method involves fasting for 16 hours and limiting your eating window to 8 hours. Most people achieve this by skipping breakfast and eating their first meal around noon, followed by their last meal by 8 pm. This method also has other time windows (14/10, 18/6 and so on), meaning you can work your way up. However, there is some suggestion that women should not fast for more than 16 hours at a time.
  2. 5:2 Diet: With this approach, you eat normally for five days a week and restrict your calorie intake to around 500-600 calories on the remaining two non-consecutive days.
  3. Alternate-Day Fasting: As the name suggests, this method involves alternating between fasting days (where you consume very few calories or none at all) and regular eating days.
  4. Time-Restricted Eating: This approach focuses on eating all your daily calories within a specific time frame, typically 10-12 hours. For example, you might eat between 8 am and 6 pm and then fast for the remaining hours.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting During Menopause:

Many of us know that menopausal hormonal changes can lead to weight gain, particularly in the abdominal area. Intermittent fasting can provide various benefits for women going through this transition:

  1. Hormonal Balance: Intermittent fasting has shown potential in regulating hormones, such as insulin, ghrelin, and leptin, which play crucial roles in metabolism and appetite control. By improving hormonal balance, intermittent fasting may aid in weight management during menopause.
  2. Reduced Inflammation: Menopause is associated with increased inflammation in the body. Intermittent fasting has been found to decrease markers of inflammation, which may alleviate symptoms like hot flashes and joint pain.
  3. Enhanced Energy Levels: Many women experience fatigue during menopause. Intermittent fasting has been reported to boost energy levels by improving mitochondrial function and increasing the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the body's main source of cellular energy.
  4. Improved Cognitive Function: Menopause can sometimes lead to cognitive changes, including memory problems and difficulty concentrating. Studies suggest that intermittent fasting may have neuroprotective effects, potentially improving brain health and cognitive function.

Intermittent fasting offers an effective and flexible (and scientifically supported!) approach to weight loss, backed by its positive impact on hormonal regulation and metabolism. Plus, for women going through menopause, intermittent fasting can provide additional benefits by mitigating weight gain, reducing inflammation, boosting energy levels, and supporting cognitive function. Remember, it is important to consult a healthcare professional before embarking on an intermittent fasting regimen to ensure it aligns with your specific needs and health conditions - even more so if you are currently suffering from other health concerns or taking drugs that might interact with daily function.

Our take? This one is worth a try, as you can adjust depending on what works for you, and it might offer other menopause benefits!

Stay Cool With Ice Baths

AKA cryotherapy - Ice baths, cold plunges, chilly showers... they're all the rage right now (but menopausal women have been doing them for decades!), and the science of this cool crisp water actually, well, holds water! Let's take a look at how ice baths can improve mood, reduce hot flashes, and even help reduce those niggling aches and pains.

There are numerous proven benefits to ice baths: improved immunity, decreased inflammation, faster recovery time, less muscle soreness, reduced anxiety, improved mood, lowers core body temperature, and helps stress management. However, how much can cold water immersion help with menopause symptoms? Well, the obvious one... hot flashes! Since cold water therapy lowers your core body temperature, it is safe to say that it would help if you were having a hot flash right then and there, but what about long term? Well, since ice baths help with vasoconstriction (how well our arteries constrict), it can help reduce vasomotor symptoms, leading to less severe hot flashes overall.

Mood, as mentioned, is aided by ice baths - in fact, cold water exposure activates both the sympathetic nervous system, which triggers the flight-and-fight response and the parasympathetic nervous system which then calms the body down after a stressful response. This means that whilst it cannot regulate mood disruption from hormone imbalance, it can help you manage and self-regulate better during those times. Plus, cold water exposure can increase your baseline dopamine levels by 250% - helping you to feel good! There is also some suggestion it can help with the troublesome brain fog and fatigue we often feel during menopause; cold therapy increases levels of the hormone norepinephrine and low levels of this hormone have been linked with brain fog.

Many women also report joint aches and pains as a symptom of menopause. This is due to the decline in estrogen, and can be particularly uncomfortable, especially when coupled with workout pains or weight gain. However, cold plunges have long been beloved for the primary reason of... post workout pain relief - primarily because of their ability to reduce inflammation and muscle soreness, and this goes for menopause too. If that wasn't enough, cold water isn't just helping you feel good in the moment, they can also boost white blood cell count. White blood cells are essential to your immune system and help fight off infections.

You can take cold showers, find a chilly body of wild water (our fave!), or snag a cold plunge pod - we've linked some below!

Link: https://www.si.com/showcase/fitness/best-cold-plunge-tub

Probiotics, Collagen & Colostrum

We've covered the pains of icy plunges and intermittent fasting... and now we're on to another pop culture health trend that supposedly can help menopausal women with everything from weight gain to hot flashes - products like collagens, colostrum, and even probiotics. But, what are they each selling, and can they actually help you?

First off, let's break down what each one is:

Collagen: Collagen is like the superhero protein that helps hold your body together. It's found in your skin, bones, muscles, tendons, and even your hair and nails. Think of it as the glue that keeps everything strong and resilient. Collagen is a bit like the scaffolding of a building. Just as the scaffolding supports the structure, collagen provides support and structure to your body. It gives your skin its firmness and elasticity, making it look smooth and youthful. It also helps your joints move smoothly and keeps your bones strong. As we age, our collagen levels naturally decline, which can lead to wrinkles, sagging skin, and joint stiffness. That's where collagen supplements come in. Taking collagen supplements can help replenish the levels in your body, promoting healthier skin, stronger joints, and even healthier hair and nails. Some scientific studies suggest that collagen may also support joint health, which is great news for menopausal women who may experience changes in their bones and joints. [*1]

Colostrum: Colostrum, the superhero milk produced by mammals just after giving birth, has some tricks up its sleeve. Packed with essential nutrients, antibodies, and growth factors, colostrum offers a treasure trove of benefits for menopausal women. It may help support immune function, promote gut health, and even improve exercise performance. Talk about a natural superpower boost! [*2]

Probiotics: The Gut Guardians! Now, let's venture into the realm of probiotics, the friendly bacteria that work wonders in your gut. During menopause, hormonal changes can throw your body's delicate balance out of whack, resulting in digestive issues, bloating, and discomfort. Fear not - Probiotic supplements can come to the rescue, helping to restore harmony in your gut and alleviate some of those pesky symptoms. Plus, studies suggest that probiotics might have a positive impact on mood and mental health, which is particularly important during menopause when hormone fluctuations can bring on the occasional mood swing. [*3]

Scientific Studies for the Skeptics: "But wait," you say, "how can I trust these claims?" Fair question, we are all about science (which is why we have a whole page dedicated to Menopause Science)! We understand the need for solid scientific evidence. Here are a few studies to back up the claims we've made:

  • [*1] A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that collagen supplementation improved skin elasticity and reduced the depth of wrinkles in postmenopausal women. (Link: Study)
  • [*2] Research published in the Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology explored the immune-modulating effects of bovine colostrum, highlighting its potential benefits for immune function. (Link: Study)
  • [*3] In a randomized controlled trial published in the journal Menopause, probiotic supplementation was found to improve menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes and vaginal dryness. (Link: Study)

So, these pills and powders may very well offer an easy way to improve gut health, skin health, and of course - vaginal health, but, studies are limited. Our take? This might be worth a try if you have the funds for it, but since science is still limited, and there are ways to incorporate these things into your diet naturally, you may want to try that first!

Mushroom Magic (and other Adaptogens)

Maybe you know all about nootropics, or maybe it's a new word for you, but it describes cognitive enhancers or smart drugs; these substances that can improve cognitive function, memory, creativity, motivation, and overall brain health. They are becoming increasingly popular among students, professionals, and individuals who want to enhance their mental performance. There are different types of nootropics that have been classified based on their mode of action and chemical structure.

Why are these gaining traction for menopause? Well, with their brain benefits, some women have reported less brain fog, better cognitive function, and even sleep benefits!

Firstly, there are synthetic nootropic drugs:

Racetams - Racetams are a class of synthetic nootropics that include piracetam, aniracetam, and oxiracetam. They are believed to enhance cognitive function by increasing the production of neurotransmitters, such as acetylcholine, in the brain. Racetams are commonly used to improve memory, learning ability, and attention span.

Cholinergics - Cholinergics are a class of nootropics that enhance the function of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain. Acetylcholine plays a critical role in learning, memory, and attention. Some common cholinergic nootropics include alpha-GPC, CDP-choline, and huperzine-A.

Additionally, some types of mushrooms have been shown to have potential nootropic properties, particularly those that contain the compound called "psilocybin." Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychoactive compound found in certain species of mushrooms, including Psilocybe cubensis and Psilocybe semilanceata. Studies have suggested that psilocybin may have neuroprotective effects and can promote neuroplasticity, which can improve cognitive function, memory, and overall brain health. Additionally, psilocybin has been shown to have potential benefits in treating depression, anxiety, and addiction. It's important to note that the use of psilocybin-containing mushrooms as a nootropic is still controversial and not widely accepted. The use of these substances should only be done under the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional, as they can have potential risks and side effects. Additionally, the use of mushrooms for nootropic purposes is not legal in all jurisdictions.

However, there are also 'natural' nootropics, that occur in plants that we can take advantage of, either in supplement or whole form (yay!):

Omega-3 Fatty Acids - Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that are important for brain health. They are found in oily fish, such as salmon, as well as nuts and seeds. Omega-3 fatty acids can improve cognitive function, memory, and overall brain health. They are also believed to have anti-inflammatory properties that can protect the brain from damage.

Bacopa Monnieri - Bacopa monnieri is a herb that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries to improve cognitive function and memory. It contains compounds called bacosides, which can enhance the function of neurotransmitters in the brain. Bacopa monnieri can improve memory, learning ability, and attention span.

Ginkgo Biloba - Ginkgo biloba is a tree that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. It contains compounds called flavonoids and terpenoids, which can improve cognitive function, memory, and overall brain health. Ginkgo biloba can also improve blood flow to the brain, which can improve cognitive function.

Rhodiola Rosea - Rhodiola rosea is a herb that has been used in traditional medicine in Russia and Scandinavia for centuries. It contains compounds called rosavins, which can enhance the function of neurotransmitters in the brain. Rhodiola rosea can improve cognitive function, memory, and overall brain health. It can also reduce fatigue and improve mood.

Green Tea Extract - Green tea extract is derived from the leaves of the green tea plant. It contains compounds called catechins, which can improve cognitive function, memory, and overall brain health. Green tea extract can also reduce anxiety and improve mood.

Natural nootropics are a diverse group of substances found in nature that can improve cognitive function, memory, and overall brain health. It's important to note that natural nootropics are not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle, which includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep.

Out take? Stick with the natural stuff and enjoy those green teas and mushrooms all you want!