For many women, menopause can introduce new health challenges. In addition to the symptoms that perturb basic quality of life like hot flashes, headaches, night sweats, and irritability, menopause is also associated with higher risks for serious health concerns like osteoporosis, cognitive decline, and metabolic syndrome. This has made the standard treatment for menopause—hormone replacement therapy, or HRT—a multi-billion dollar business.
A few weeks ago, I explored the benefits and risks of HRT. It has its merits certainly, but it’s not for everyone. Today’s post is for those people who want to try something else. Say you’ve waded through the morass of HRT research and would prefer a different route. Or maybe you’ve actually tried conventional or bioidentical HRT and found it just didn’t work for you. Whatever the reason, you’re probably interested in using “natural” products if you can swing it and if it’ll actually help.
From time to time, my wife Carrie pops in to answer questions from readers requesting a Primal woman’s perspective. Today, we’re updating a post she a while back regarding hot flashes and menopause. This topic continues to generate a lot of interest, so we wanted to ensure that the info here is up to date. Enjoy!
Hi, everyone! Thanks for the opportunity to offer my perspective on living Primal. I love this community and always enjoy contributing!
CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid, is the “good” trans-fat that occurs naturally in meat and dairy, especially from grass-fed animals. In the stomach of ruminants like cows, sheep, or goats, millions upon millions of bacteria help the animal digest its food. They also help convert dietary grass-based linoleic fatty acids into saturated fatty acids. Well, that conversion takes several steps, and one of the steps is the creation of CLA, some of which never gets fully saturated and instead shows up in the animal’s body and milk fat.
Twenty-eight different CLA isomers, or structural arrangements of the molecules, appear in CLA-rich animal fat. It’s very complex and quite different from trans-fat created by partially hydrogenating vegetable oils. Those lab-created trans-fats have definite negative metabolic and health effects, while the panoply of various CLA isomers from grass-fed dairy and meat seem to be beneficial.
What about CLA supplements? Is synthetic CLA just as good for you as naturally-occurring CLA?
A couple weeks ago, I answered 20 of your burning questions about collagen. Today I’m back for part two of this series with 20 MORE questions.
Before starting, let me make a general disclaimer so I don’t have to sound like a broken record: To offer an optimal supplementation strategy with any confidence, you need a fairly substantial body of evidence to draw upon. While collagen is a hot topic, there really isn’t a ton of research on collagen supplementation yet, particularly not studies done in humans. That’s not to say we’re shooting blind here. We know that collagen used to be abundant in the human diet, and we need collagen to balance out the methionine we get from meat. Plus, there is a growing (but not yet extensive) literature on collagen supplementation, as well as a fair number of studies aimed at understanding the effects of specific amino acids—glycine in particular—that are found in collagen.
All this is to say, while I can provide my educated opinion about best practices, some of the nitty-gritty questions you submitted require data we simply don’t have yet. I’m hopeful that it’s forthcoming. In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been able to glean from the available science.
Of all the topics I write about, collagen garners perhaps the most questions. Not that I’m complaining. I’m happy to wax on about the benefits of collagen all day long. I’ve said before that I consider collagen the fourth macronutrient, and it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. The more people who get turned on to it the better, as far as I’m concerned.
Collagen used to be abundant in the human diet, back in the days before we decided that gnawing on bones, eating the stringy bits, and boiling down the skin was “icky.” We lost a significant source of critical amino acids when we started eating the lean muscle and discarding the rest, and we’re less hearty as a species because of it. And yes, my company produces a line of collagen products, but that’s not why I harp on it so much. The opposite, actually. I started making collagen supplements because I think collagen should be on everyone’s radar, not the other way around. Frankly, I don’t even consider collagen “supplemental.” It’s food.
Today I’m rapid-fire tackling twenty questions that have come in recently. A bunch more remain in the queue, so I’m already planning a follow-up post. If there’s something else you’d like me to cover, leave your question in the comments section below.
Gut health is an enormous topic that just got even bigger.
You know about probiotics: bacteria that provide benefits to our gut, metabolic, and/or overall health when eaten. Some probiotic bacteria colonize our guts—they take up residence in our digestive tract and provide lasting effects. Some probiotic bacteria are transients—they visit and impart benefits and interact with our guts and its inhabitants, but do not stay.
You also know about prebiotics: non-digestible food components that nourish and provide food for the bacteria living in our guts. Prebiotics include fermentable plant fibers, resistant starch, “animal fiber,” and certain polyphenols.
This is standard stuff. Entire store shelves are devoted to fermented dairy, pickles, sauerkraut, supplements, kombucha, and other sources of probiotics. You’ve probably got all sorts of strange gums and fibers and powders that serve as prebiotic substrate for gut bugs. Gut health is mainstream.
But you probably don’t know about postbiotics.