Menopause is a dreaded word for a lot of women. Yet, it doesn’t have to be.
With a deeper understanding and a few informed dietary changes, it’s possible to make menopause a smoother, more positive experience, naturally.
What Is Menopause?
Menopause is the natural transitional period in a woman’s life when her menstrual cycles come to an end. A woman officially enters menopause when it’s been 12 months since her last period.
It can take from 7 to 14 years to move through perimenopause (when the transition begins, generally starting in the mid-40s), menopause (which usually occurs in the early 50s), and postmenopause (24 to 36 months after the last period, when symptoms begin to subside).
During this time, the body’s production of estrogen and progesterone, two hormones synthesized by the ovaries, can vary dramatically. These hormonal shifts are thought to be the cause of some rather unpleasant symptoms, which include (but are not limited to) hot flashes, mood swings, sleep problems, and vaginal changes – dryness and thinning of the walls. Further, postmenopausal women are at greater risk for bone loss and heart health issues.
It is estimated that as many as 85% of postmenopausal women have experienced a menopause-related symptom in their lifetime.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is often recommended by medical doctors to mitigate menopause’s unwanted symptoms. However, if you prefer not to use hormones or can’t use them due to your health history, more natural options are available.
As a first step, medical professionals typically suggest adjusting your diet to see if menopausal symptoms improve. Here are some tips on which foods to avoid and which to eat to help you during menopause.
Foods to Avoid During Menopause
If you have menopausal symptoms, the reduction or elimination of the following foods and substances can go a long way to helping you feel better.
- Caffeine– One study showed that menopausal women who consumed caffeine were more likely to have hot flashes than women who didn’t consume caffeine. Caffeine can also fuel sleeplessness, which is another common symptom that can additionally lead to low mood. Try limiting your coffee consumption to a few times a week to start, or switch to decaf or green tea. Skip caffeine-laden sodas and energy drinks.
- Alcohol- Excessive drinking is like pouring Miracle-Gro on your symptoms, disrupting sleep and increasing hot flashes, anxious feelings, low mood, potential weight gain, and the likelihood of a host of other health issues. Bottom line: drink alcohol moderately, or not at all.
- Spicy foods- Hot begets hot! Spicy foods like hot peppers, jalapenos, and cayenne can increase hot flashes. Avoid them.
- Fatty foods and refined carbohydrates- Try to keep fat-laden foods to a minimum. Also, stay away from white bread and processed cookies, cakes, and snacks that are high in refined carbohydrates as much as possible. Unhealthy fats can increase the risk of cardiovascular problems, which are associated with menopause. Also, spiking blood sugar with refined carbohydrates can add to moodiness.
Best Foods to Eat for Menopause
What’s generally good for health is also good for menopause – lots of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, healthy fats (from fatty fish and nuts), whole grains, and lean protein, as well as an abundance of phytoestrogen-rich foods.
Fruits and vegetables- Fruits and veggies provide your body with an abundance of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. A study that tracked more than 17,000 menopausal women over the course of one year found that those who lost weight and ate more vegetables, fruit, and fiber experienced a 19% reduction in hot flashes compared to the control group.
Fatty fish and nuts- These rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids may help improve mood and brain function. Omega-3s also can help maintain healthy blood pressure levels, which, in turn, help to minimize hot flashes. Fatty fish, like salmon and sardines, are especially good to eat because they also provide vitamin D, a key nutrient for both balanced mood and bone health!
Whole grains- Whole grains such as brown rice, barley, quinoa, kamut, and rye are rich in nutrients, including fiber and B vitamins. Eating whole grains has been linked to a reduced risk of heart issues, countering the increased risk of heart health concerns in postmenopausal women.
Protein- Women in menopause should eat greater amounts of protein as it helps your body retain muscle. Menopause is associated with decreases in bone mass density, muscle mass, and strength. Quality, protein-rich foods include eggs, poultry, fish, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Some legumes have the added bonus of being rich in calcium.
Phytoestrogens- Phytoestrogens, or dietary estrogens, are naturally occurring estrogens found in some plants and they can be very helpful to menopausal women. When you consume foods containing phytoestrogens, they mimic estrogen produced by your body because their chemical structure is very similar, although the effects tend to be weaker.
Phytoestrogens may help to combat hot flashes and maintain bone health. Also, emerging research shows that consuming phytoestrogens may help to balance hormones affecting mood. Foods containing phytoestrogens include soybeans, ground flaxseed, sesame seeds, berries, oats, barley, legumes such as lentils and mung beans, rice, alfalfa, apples, and carrots, to name a few.
Additional Natural Solutions
If you don’t find relief by following these basic dietary suggestions, talk to your doctor about effective nutritional/herbal supplements and other lifestyle changes you can make. There are many!
At BrainMD, we’re dedicated to providing the highest purity nutrients to improve your physical health and overall well-being. For more information about our full list of brain healthy supplements, please visit us at BrainMD.
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