Menopause is a natural part of life and a transition that all women go through, however, it can be a grey area for a lot of us and approached with apprehension.
As a woman approaching her middle years (shall we say!) I know I am slightly in fear of the unknown.
The peri-menopause can start from late 30’s and during this time our ovaries produce too much oestrogen. Periods can become heavy and irregular and we may experience PMS symptoms that we’ve never had before like breast tenderness. The perimenopause can last for up to 8 years at which time oestrogen levels start to diminish and periods stop. One year from this point is usually when it’s said that a woman has reached menopause.
Menopausal symptoms can differ from one person to the next but are typically hot flushes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, reduced libido, vaginal dryness, low mood, headaches, urinary tract infections, joints stiffness and pain (1)
Below are my top tips and the benefits that these will have during your menopausal years.
1. Increase phytonutrients, these are plant oestrogens that work to balance hormones. Studies suggest that they may help to reduce the frequency of hot flushes (2).
- Celery, garlic, apples, plums, cherries, broccoli, carrots, sage, fennel, cinnamon, chickpeas, lentils, good organic soy products – ie miso soup, sesame, pumpkin and poppy seeds, alfalfa and mung bean sprouts, rice, oats, barley, rye
2. Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables for:
- Increased antioxidants levels as these decline as we get older making us more susceptible to age-related diseases. Combined with the loss of oestrogen during menopause can see an increase in heart disease and osteoporosis (3)
- Increased fibre and cruciferous veg for detoxification of hormones and toxins. Menopausal symptoms can be worse if our liver is not functioning optimally.
3. Increase calcium levels to help enhance bone density that is lost during oestrogen decline. However, calcium cannot work alone, magnesium is needed for better absorption in our bodies.
- Calcium foods – Sardines (with bones), dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, natural full fat yoghurt, kefir.
- Magnesium fFoods– Spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, almonds, avocado, figs, dark chocolate (4)
4. Fermented cod liver oil.
- Studies suggest that including this in your diet can satisfy the need for Vitamin D in early postmenopausal women where the quality of sunlight for production of vitamin D is diminished. Vitamin D, amongst many other functions, is also needed for better calcium absorption, helping to protect against greater bone turnover, bone loss and obesity (5)
5. Eat organic where possible to help reduce exposure to chemicals and pesticides which may disrupt our own hormones.
6. Increase gentle forms of exercise to help prevent weight gain, to strengthen bones and help to boost your mood
- Try yoga, walking, tai chi, swimming.
Having the right nutrition and lifestyle approaches can really help to naturally support a women’s body through one of the biggest changes it may ever have to go through.
1. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Menopause/Pages/Symptoms.aspx, accessed 10 April 2017
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4389700/ Efficacy of phytoestrogens for menopausal symptoms: a meta-analysis and systematic review, MN Chen, et al, accessed 10 April 2017.
3. Becker B. N. et al. Reassessing the cardiac risk profile in chronic hemodialysis patients: A hypothesis on the role of oxidant stress and other non-traditional cardiac risk factors. J Am Soc Nephrol. 1997; 8:475–486.
4. https://draxe.com/magnesium-deficient-top-10-magnesium-rich-foods-must-eating/, accessed 10 April 2017.
5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18329355, Vitamin D status in postmenopausal women living at higher latitudes in the UK in relation to bone health, overweight, sunlight exposure and dietary vitamin D. accessed 10 April 2017.