REDUCE MENOPAUSE SYMPTOMS
The menopause is a change of life that, though completely natural and normal, can take time to come to terms with. A good diet plays an important role in effectively supporting the body through these years of change and into the next stage of life.
While it is true that for some women symptoms can come and go for several years, you have to remember that the menopause is a transition that you will get through eventually. And once your hormones have stabilised, you’ll feel calmer and steadier than ever before.
THRIVING IN MENOPAUSE
The shift in hormones that occurs as you transition through menopause years can affect your mood, energy levels, body temperature and digestion, to name just a few, but rest assured not everyone will experience all potential challenges.
If you head into menopause years active and healthy you will already be in a far better position than women who are inactive to capably handle menopause symptoms, and you’ll be pleased to hear there is no reason why you should not be able to continue exercising for many more years to come.
Good nutrition is massively important in helping you thrive through the menopause years. In this post we talk about three ways that the menopause may affect you, giving simple ways you can change your nutrition and lifestyle to keep you active and healthy for longer.
Hot flashes are one of the most commonly reported symptoms of menopause. This is all down to fluctuating hormone levels which affect your body’s temperature control, leaving you feeling hot, uncomfortable and self-conscious. The hormone oestrogen affects the way your blood vessels expand and constrict, technical term is vasodilation, and changeable levels of oestrogen tend to bring more heat to your skin.
Research reports that when blood glucose levels fall between meals some women experience an increase in frequency and severity of hot flashes. Therefore, eating regular meals and protein-based snacks may be of benefit to women going through menopause by keeping blood glucose levels balanced.
Spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine (in coffee, tea, chocolate) are all well researched as being likely to make hot flushes worse, so definitely consider reducing or eliminating these. If cutting back seems to a big deal to you, remember, this transition time does not last forever.
Great foods to add into your diet include soy foods (such as tofu, edamame beans, chickpeas, miso) as there is good evidence that phytoestrogens, plant-based oestrogens which mimic the effect of our body’s own oestrogens, can help reduce the severity and frequency of hot flushes in menopausal women. And remember the simple things, like hydration, too. Drinking water throughout the day
will help to keep you cool and hydrated.
Energy levels can take a nose dive as you move through the menopause, again due to changing hormones. Keeping active by exercising regularly and moderately will help to boost your energy levels. We know exercise will do us good; it’s the getting started that’s hard!
One of the best nutritional changes you can make to improve energy levels is reducing the amount of sugar you eat. Even though you may feel like you need a sugar boost to give you some energy, especially if you’ve been struggling with poor sleep, relying on sugar will only cause spikes and dips in your blood sugar levels that leave you feeling worse. Instead of using sugar as a fix, you want to be focusing on eating protein (such as eggs, beans, fish, poultry, nuts and seeds, meat) with every meal and choosing complex carbs like oats, seeded bread and wholegrain rice.
As mentioned earlier, alcohol and caffeine are more than likely to make hot flushes worse so are definitely worth cutting down on. Alcohol and caffeine are both also quite likely to impact on quality of sleep, in turn making you feel more tired the next day. Instead of a ‘relaxing’ glass of wine at the end of the day, why not try a soothing chamomile tea and calming yoga sequence to prepare you for a restful night’s sleep.
When women transition through the menopause slow gains in weight and a shift in weight distribution from lower body to more central areas often occur. Oestrogen hormone production reduces while androgen hormone production, the sex hormone naturally more dominant in men, increases. And it is this subtle shift in hormone production that is associated with mid-region weight gain. Although weight gain is a fairly normal part of ageing, due to the natural slowing down of your metabolism, you may find it more difficult to maintain the same weight as in your younger years which can be upsetting and frustrating. However, by following good, basic nutrition principles and habit techniques you have the power to minimise weight changes. Healthy habits really do make a difference.
In terms of food, you want to be focusing on healthy fats, such as olive oil, small quantities of butter, avocados, nuts and seeds. All in moderation. Choose organic grass-fed meat and dairy where possible and avoid hydrogenated and trans fats which are manmade and found in most processed foods including margarine, baked goods and jars of sauces.
Some foods have been shown to potentially boost your metabolism, helping with weight loss. Some foods to focus on are berries, green tea, leafy green vegetables like spinach, broccoli, cabbage and kale, spices such as cinnamon, turmeric and ginger though do be mindful if these make hot flushes worse.
One of the simplest yet powerful things you can do to maintain a healthy weight during the menopause is to keep a record of what you eat, as well as when and how you feel, for a short period of time. Keeping a food, symptom and mood diary allows you to become more aware and more honest, identifying unhealthy eating patterns and, importantly, addressing them.
Good nutrition is fundamental in supporting yourself through the menopause. We all transition through the hormonal changes differently and there is no one simple answer or method for the right nutrition and lifestyle changes during these years.
Working with a qualified registered Nutritional Therapist means you will get the right advice and support, tailored personally to you and your needs.
Helen is a Nutritional Therapist in Surrey. You can find out more about working with her by clicking her profile at the top of the page.