"Women sit or move to and fro, some old, some young, The young are beautiful, but the older ones are more beautiful than the young."
Maca, the quick scientific bla-bla-bla…….
Maca is one of my favorite whole foods. The turnip looking plant, native to the mountains of Peru grows at and above 14,000 feet, and evolved to be a nutrient packed plant, in order to survive rough and frigid conditions in the Andes Mountains.
One sniff of the extremely pleasant "Strawberry Ice Cream" scented powder tells you you have something special. For me, maca definitely lives up to it's claimed health benefits for males. However, the plant has a wealth of benefits for women, especially as women push into their 40's, 50's, 60's and beyond.
A good "All about Maca" article can be found here.
Addressing menopausal issues
…….is one of the areas many women have reported positive results with maca. I've run across so many women raving about it, I felt it was at least worth presenting some of that general info, as opposed to just have it sit on my computer hard drive, hopefully presented in a more digestible way than the typical "guy-like" bunch of scientific and technical "mumbo-jumbo".
Hence came the inspiration (and fun challenge) for my blog section called "Girl Talk" …………..
When a woman goes through menopause
……there is a conflict between the brain and the ovaries (according to Menstruation.com), which causes some confusion. The brain is still sending out messages to the ovaries to drop an egg but the ovaries have gone into retirement and are not responding as they normally did.
Women may continue to have premenstrual symptoms, but no period because of this short-circuiting of a system that worked so well for years and years.
Many women will no longer submit to standard hormone replacement therapy
…….and risk the dangers of synthetic and horse-derived hormone drugs like Premarin® and Prempro®. Doctors persist in prescribing these drugs even after the Women’s Health Initiative exposed their deadly side effects in 2002 and 2004.
Maca root is highly beneficial to women entering menopause……
……because Maca encourages an increase and then a balance between estrogen and progesterone. This increase in estrogen helps especially to reduce hot flashes and vaginal dryness.
Maca root also helps to increase libido, restoring sex drive that was lost during menopause. Maca root is also thought to help decrease the effects of memory loss and osteoporosis research has documented maca’s ability to improve sexual desire and fertility and reduce menopause-induced stress and weight gain, along with beneficial effects on lipid levels and bone density.
The maca root does not contain plant estrogens….
……but, instead, is an "adaptogen" (adaptagens are herbs and plants that help the body adjust to environmental and internal factors that put stresses on the body). Maca induces favorable effects on blood lipid profiles and bone density markers, two parameters that decline drastically during menopause.
Maca operates differently than other natural interventions for menopause, promoting optimal function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis that governs hormone levels in the body.
The Dangers or HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy)
There seems to be a defection from the heavily promoted HRT (hormone replacement therapy) trend, with an increasing number of women not feeling right about consuming hormone pills to stifle the undesired effects of a natural hormonal shift.
With HRT's come the risk that are now widely known, blood clots, and increased risks of breast and uterine cancers. For an increasing number of women, short-term reliefs of Hormone Replacement Therapy don't add up to be worth the health risks.
Maca, however, is a whole food…..
….and conversely to HRT, there are no well-known adverse reactions with the use of maca. However, the toxicological profile of maca indicates that it has a low acute and subacute potential for acute oral toxicity. People with thyroid conditions should avoid maca because it contains glucosinolates, substances that induce goiter formation.
Also keep in mind that anyone, hypothetically, can have a food allergy to any food, or can have seemingly negative reactions that might be temporary, as some extremely healthy foods and herbs have the initial effect of pushing toxins out of the body, causing temporary bouts of bad skin, dry mouth, or whatever.
Extensive research (that Americans never seem to hear about 🙁 )
An international team based at Charles Sturt University in Australia has added substantially to these findings through extensive research in humans using an organic, standardized maca extract.
Their first study, a pilot, placebo-controlled test among early postmenopausal women, showed encouraging results: there were significant changes in the “background” hormones that influence sex hormone secretion, resulting in increased estrogen and progesterone levels after 8 months of supplementation.
The maca extract stimulated production of estradiol while simultaneously suppressing FSH levels—a nearly unprecedented induction of hormonal balance
Maca, addressing hot flashes and night sweats
In the same study, there was also a significant increase in beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) in supplemented women—but not in controls. Most importantly, from the women’s own experiences, maca significantly reduced both the frequency and severity of individual menopausal symptoms, particularly hot flashes and night sweats.
The authors of the study found in Maca, as they put it, “an attractive non-hormonal addition to the choices available to early-postmenopausal women in the form of a natural plant alternative to Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)—hence, reducing dependence on hormone therapy programs.”
Take your time!!!!
My advice is to TAKE YOUR TIME, start with partial doses for a few weeks (though I just dived right in with full doses), just to make sure your biochemistry likes the nutrient. Maca root actually can theoretically exasperate your hormonal symptoms and make them worse. It’s also an energy booster, in that one woman wrote that "I was feeling like my heart was beating faster all the time".
For me the blogwriter (as a male) there was definitely an energy boost from Maca, but amazingly smooth and natural, as opposed to the type of "jolt" that you would get from, say caffeine. Also it "seemed" like Maca help my sleep patterns get better, perhaps since I was more in balance.
I'm not a big fan of forcing anything in my body that is said to be healthy, but makes me feel "funny", or causes mild headaches, insomnia, etc., which happened to me with Vitamin D capsules. The Superfoods I stick with are the ones that have me feeling what I call, "strangely good", it often hits me a week after starting a new superfood this feeling of revitalized "well being".
Maybe my hormones have finally balanced out……
One woman made the following comment about taking maca: "I felt a heap of stress and I couldn't sleep at night. In fact, my herbalist is not a fan of maca and does not recommend it. The only reason he agreed that perhaps I should continue to take it was because for the past week with continued use of the Maca, my skin has started to clear".
"I’ve been happy all the time and not anxious or depressed at all. In other words, maybe my hormones have finally balanced out. Maybe it’s from the maca, or maybe not. He suggested that I keep taking it because it’s working, but if I experience the crazy PMT and mood symptoms again, that I should immediately stop taking it".
How do I get started, being careful with something new?
Many variables exist, and it's up to the individual if she wants to look into maca. I suppose there are three (or more) possible approaches, One is to ask your doctor. I personally never take that route because they seem to always have very little information for me.
Number two is the converse with an herbalist, nutritionist, naturopath, or other trained/licensed professional. A good option if you can find a good one.
I am from the third camp, in that I will just experiment with things on my own, as long as it's a whole food, since I do extensive homework, I am in tune with my body, and have no known food allergies.
Maca + "Latest Craze" = Ten Bogus Products for every good product…….
If one makes the decision to see what is up with Maca, make sure you do your homework not just with the issues pertaining to consuming a new food, especially one that affects hormone levels in the body, but as equally important is that you have to find a quality product.
To make the decision to see what nature has to offer, start a plan, and then buy a bogus product that doesn't work is a very common experience. At that point you will probably never try Maca again and might miss out on one of Nature's gifts. I have some reliable companies that I purchase from that I list below.
My general [hopefully reassuring] note about trying something new:
As I said before, I am no doctor, just a person who tries to stay informed on health and wellness issues, but my point is that anyone's biochemistry can have different reaction from any new food
I've learned that when you come in tune with your body, it will give you a positive or negative "vibration" when you consume a new food (although for me, sometimes it started off negative as toxins were pulled from my body, and then turned positive).
It's OK to be paranoid about putting something new in your body…….
…as I'm probably the "poster child" for that kind of paranoia. But, as I keep saying, IT'S OK TO BE AFRAID of something new, but at least DON'T BE AFRAID TO LOOK INTO SOMETHING NEW.
Doing some research and learn more about other women's experiences is always a good 60 minutes out of your life (I got a couple of links below to get you going).
Maca gave me such a positive "vibration", and great sense of balance and well being when I started with it, that's why I'm taking the time to write about it if this writing can perhaps be of help to others. This whole thing is about, in one sentence, using all that is at our disposal to become interactively involved with our health and well being.
….probably one of my top three or four finds on my wellness journey. Mother Nature just has this stuff waiting around for our benefit 🙂
Maca [to me] is easiest taken by adding a daily teaspoon to tablespoon of powder to daily smoothies.
You can get creative with getting Maca into your diet, as with this Great Maca Energy Bar recipe from the SuperLivingfood.com website (many more Maca recipes on that site!!!)
My current 4 suggested places to purchase Maca (though there are many others)
Although I take testimonials on websites that sell maca with a grain of salt, I do get value out of testimonials from people (like me) taking their time to get on the web and present what they think is a great product. A few Maca testimonials can be found below:
** A woman, Sarah G., who wrote me and said she has been using Maca for 2 years and loves the results (see comments below), has a great site called "Maca Root Review", with health tips, recipes, good info on maca
** As with everything else, FAKE MACA seems to be coming in from China….sigh. I'll update article as i get more info
A full research paper called "Use of Gelatinized Maca (Lepidium peruvianum) in Early Postmenopausal Women – a Pilot Study can be found here
….I hope this post serves as a good "starting point" for anyone interested in this subject, but doesn't have time to look into and/or doesn't enjoy researching these things (research is what I love 🙂 )