The Menopause Diet: Does food affect your symptoms?
Hot flushes, mood swings, weight gain, brain fog – for some, menopause symptoms are far from easy to navigate but what many women don’t realise is that occasionally, some simple diet and lifestyle changes can go a long way in managing symptoms.
If your fluctuating hormones are getting you down, you’ll be pleased to know there are steps you can take to feel more balanced.
There’s no ‘right’ way of doing it, you need to find what works best for you.
Whether it’s speaking to a doctor or menopause specialist, adjusting your lifestyle, taking Hormone Replacement Therapy (either traditional or bio-identical), or a combination of medical and natural solutions, you don’t need to silently suffer with the problems that hormones can bring.
There’s plenty that you can do yourself at home. Diet is a crucial component of a healthy menopause, and for some women, managing their diet allows them to have an easier menopausal experience without the need for hormonal intervention.
The foods to focus on
Phytoestrogens became of interest to scientists because they realised that women in certain traditional cultures like that of Japan, who eat a diet rich in these plant-based foods have fewer menopausal symptoms than Western women.
Eating foods rich in phytoestrogens, such as soy, oats, barley, beans, lentils, and yams, can help boost a woman’s natural oestrogen levels enough to reduce symptoms such as hot flushes.
Cholesterol and fats
Although we’ve been told throughout our life to avoid cholesterol in our diets, it’s actually very helpful for producing testosterone and making new cell membranes. Unfortunately, I’m not talking about cakes or biscuits, but good fats like oily fish, avocados and eggs.
Foods rich in Vitamin D and calcium
Foods rich in calcium and Vitamin D are crucial to help preserve bone density and joint health. It’s also a useful time to reassess your diet overall, as it’s common to gain central weight during menopause.
Balance your blood sugar levels
High blood sugar triggers a release of insulin, which stresses your entire endocrine system – a collection of glands that produce hormones that regulate metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, sleep, and mood – and can inhibit the production of oestrogen. Swapping processed sugars for healthier alternatives will really help.
Maintain a healthy weight
Staying at a healthy weight by decreasing calorie intake will also help to minimise the risk of other health problems, such as cardiac problems, as you age. Your body is working harder than it ever has before to achieve hormonal balance as your oestrogen and progesterone levels decline. And changing hormones can have a significant impact on your weight and where your body stores fat. The drop in oestrogen prompts your body to store excess pounds on your tummy instead of your bottom and thighs. Maintaining a balanced diet that includes the right types of food can help keep the tummy fat at bay.
When women experience menopause, they are usually going through others changes in their life too such as children moving out or changes in career. But no matter what you’re going through in your life, it’s crucial that you’re able to manage and reduce stress levels accordingly. Increased cortisol can result in weight gain and over-eating. Exercise, walking, yoga, meditation and talking therapy are all great stress-busting tools to explore.
The foods to avoid
Equally, it’s possible to worsen menopause symptoms through your diet. Diets rich in processed foods and refined carbohydrates can increase insulin resistance and hot flashes. Alcohol and spicy foods can also exacerbate menopausal symptoms by worsening hot flushes and irritability.
If you’re struggling with menopause symptoms or simply wish to make some healthier lifestyle choices and need some guidance, it may be helpful to work with a nutritionist to create a nutritional plan tailored to your needs to ensure you’re getting the most from your diet.
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Disclaimer: Please be aware that results and benefits may vary from patient to patient taking into consideration factors such as age, lifestyle and medical history.