Menopause is a natural phase in the life of all women that usually begins in the late 40s or early 50s. It is accompanied by metabolic shifts, hormonal changes, and erratic menstruation. Menstrual periods generally taper off and, ultimately, stop completely. This is a period of transition that marks an end to the fertile years.
Menopause and Estrogen
During menopause, the most significant hormone change relates to a drop in estrogen levels. The lowering of estrogen levels impacts the skin, hair, heart, urinary system, memory, and bone health and also leads to declining energy levels. Many women experience a range of common symptoms which include hot flushes, sweating at night, irritability, mood swings, and depression. For most women, these symptoms usually wane in a while. But at least one-third require some clinical intervention in the form of hormone replacement therapy.1
Nutritional Tips For Menopause
Good nutrition coupled with suitable weight-bearing, bone-building exercises, and simple lifestyle changes (such as quitting smoking and cutting back on alcohol) can lower some of the risks associated with menopause like osteoporosis, heart issues, metabolic diseases like diabetes and weight gain.2 While a balanced diet is crucial, it’s equally important to understand what foods should be avoided or limited during menopause. These foods usually impact the body negatively and worsen the symptoms of menopause.
- Spicy foods are a big no-no. The American Academy of Physicians points out that hot flashes can be triggered by foods high on the heat scale.3 So think twice before you reach for the extra-hot jalapenos or salsa.
- Foods high in sugar and other additives can further exacerbate the fluctuations in blood glucose associated with menopause. High-sugar foods can also add to your weight, lead to metabolic disorders such as diabetes type 2, and impact your cardiovascular health.4
- Processed or fast foods high in preservatives and salt are another health hazard during menopause. It adds to your salt intake and leads to bloating and dehydration.
- Alcohol should be limited in consumption. Heavy drinking can increase your hot flashes and cause restlessness and insomnia.5 According to the North American Menopause Society, menopausal women are at a higher risk of depression and excessive drinking may increase this risk. “Heavy drinking itself can lead to depression, and women who show signs of alcoholism are two to seven times more at risk of developing depression than men.”6
- Caffeine and other stimulants found in tea, coffee, and chocolates are known to trigger hot flashes, especially at night, along with sweating.7
- Excess intake of salt can increase menopausal women’s risk of high blood pressure, bloating, water retention, and heart diseases.
- Saturated fats found in red meat, fried foods, and junk food add to the burden of weight apart from impacting heart health, bone health, and hormone health.
- Excess phosphorus in the diet can lead to loss of critical minerals such as calcium and magnesium (bone health). Avoid foods like red meats, processed foods, and fizzy drinks.
What Should Be Included In An Ideal Menopause Diet?
This should comprise about one-third of the diet. Healthy starch is found in boiled potatoes, whole-grain, whole-meal foods like brown rice, whole-wheat bread, and whole-wheat pasta.8
Fruit And Vegetables
Fruit and vegetables should be consumed at least 5 servings per day
Low-fat milk and dairy foods like yogurt, cheese, and whey are also important.
An important element that helps in tissue rebuilding and recovery from injuries. Choose lean protein found in legumes, fish, white meats, and white of eggs. Nuts are rich in fiber as well though they should be consumed in moderation
Antioxidant vitamins like vitamin A (carrots, broccoli), C (lemon, oranges, kiwi, strawberries) and E (avocado, spinach, hazelnuts).9
Vitamins B6 and B12 are essential to protect the nervous system. These are found in whole grains, vegetables, nuts, and legumes.10
Folate is necessary for avoiding anemia and keeping the blood healthy. Rich sources include spinach, turnip, greens, and cereals.11
Though phytoestrogens like soy isoflavones (soya beans, tofu, and other soya-based products) are believed to help maintain health during menopause, studies indicate no specific benefits. A randomized controlled trial of the effect of dietary soy on the quality of life and hot flashes during menopause (Lewis, Nickell, Thompson, Szalai, Kiss et.al., 2006) indicated no specific positive effect.
|↑1, ↑2||Menopause, British Nutrition Foundation.|
|↑3||Menopause, Family Doctor.|
|↑4, ↑5, ↑7, ↑9, ↑10, ↑11||Diet, Nutrition and the Menopause, Women’s Health Concern.|
|↑6||Drink to Your Health at Menopause, or Not? The North American Menopause Society.|
|↑8||Healthy eating during the menopause, NHS.|