Do you have menopause, or know someone who is going through it? Read below and find out what is the best diet and how it can manage the symptoms of menopause.
By definition, menopause is the absence of menstrual periods for 12 consecutive months; hormonal changes, particularly a decrease in oestrogen mean that periods are less regular, and stop altogether.
The age of onset varies for each woman, however, in the UK most women tend to start menopause in their 40s and 50s.
What are the symptoms of menopause?
The most common symptoms of menopause are hot flushes and night sweats, but other symptoms include issues with memory, vaginal dryness, urinary issues, mood swings, irritability, thinning hair, dry skin, low libido, sleep disturbances, headaches, weight gain and joint and muscle stiffness.
The length of these symptoms also varies in women, roughly lasting around 4 years after your last period. The reason these symptoms occur is that the ovaries produce less oestrogen, which is associated with many in the body, including the brain and emotions, temperature regulation and libido. Often, doctors give women hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which replaces the oestrogen that is not produced from the ovaries.
Oestrogen depletion long-term can cause changes to bones and the cardiovascular system which means that post-menopausal women have an increased risk of certain chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.
What can I eat to help with my symptoms?
In effect, there is no specific diet or single vitamin/mineral supplement that has been proven to get rid of menopausal symptoms; alongside a balanced diet, regular exercise and a stress-free lifestyle must be maintained to prevent symptoms worsening and potentially leading to chronic conditions.
1. Fruit and vegetables
Diet for menopause should be a healthy balanced diet; aim for at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day – these are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Also, protein intake should be increased for the growth and repair of muscles and tissues. Sources of protein include meat and fish, nuts and seeds, eggs, low-fat cheeses and fermented soy (tempeh).
Fibre is essential as it aids with digestion and elimination. Whole grains such as quinoa, millet, brown rice, and oats can reduce and prevent constipation or sluggish bowels.
Good fats such as olive oil, coconut oil and oily fish are very important as they are needed for joint health, brain function (especially memory) and healthy skin.
What foods do I need to avoid?
Refined sugar such as sucrose and any foods containing refined sugar should be avoided as this contributes to weight problems, which are more common in the menopause as your metabolism can slow down anyway, and over stimulates the nervous system, triggering hot flushes.
Caffeine can also trigger the nervous system causing flushes, palpitations, dizziness, and sleep problems.
Wheat is best avoided if possible, as it can cause bloating, wind and constipation. If you must keep it in your diet make sure it is wholemeal. The same goes for pasta – and also avoid white rice, which has no nutritional value.
High intake of sodium in the form of table salt can contribute to high blood pressure, which often appears in menopause.
Alcohol consumption should be limited as this affects the nervous system and can strip you from vital minerals such as magnesium, which is needed for mood, relaxation and sleep.
If this resonates with you then…
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