We are all aware that menopause is a natural transition in a women’s life as her menstrual cycle come to an end. While most of us also know that it is confirmed 12 months after your last period, what you may not know is that those symptoms can last for years.
In A Nutshell….
During the transition into menopause, the hormone estrogen begins to decline. This disrupts your normal cycle patterns of estrogen and progesterone. When your estrogen levels start to decline, it can negatively impact your metabolism, potentially leading to weight gain. The changes also sometimes affect your cholesterol levels and how your body is able to digest carbohydrates.
Often times women will experience the dreaded hot flashes, night sweats, and tend to have much difficulty with their sleep during this transition period. In addition, the hormone changes that occur can also lead to declined bone density, which can increase your risk of fractures.
While menopause symptoms can be downright uncomfortable and increase your risk to certain diseases; the good news is your diet MAY help reduce symptoms and ease the transition.
What Should I Eat To Help Reduce Symptoms?
As I mentioned above, a decline estrogen can mean an increase in potential bone fractures. Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, contain calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins D & K- all of these are essential to your bone health. Dairy has also been known to help improve sleep. A recent study showed that foods high in the amino acid glycine (found in milk and cheese), promoted better, deeper sleep in women with menopause symptoms. Even better, there is some evidence that links dairy consumption with a decreased risk of premature menopause- meaning occurring before the age of 45.
It is thought that healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids, may benefit women going through menopause.
In one review of 483 women, the supplementation of omega-3 supplements decreases their symptoms of hot flashes and the severity of their night sweats. Good sources could be but are not limited to, fatty fish like salmon or mackerel, as well as chia and hemp seeds.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES:
Fruits and veggies are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. A one year study of over 17,000 menopausal women was conducted. In that study they found that those eating more fruit, veggies, and fiber experienced a 19% reduction in hot flashes. The reduction was thought to be due to the healthier diet and weight loss, compared to that of the control group. In another 8 week study, women who consumed 200 mg of grape seed extract daily, seemed to experience fewer hot flashes, better sleep, and lesser rates of depression compared to the control group.
The decline in estrogen during menopause is linked to a decrease in muscle mass and bone strength. With that being said, it is a good idea for women going through menopause to eat MORE protein. Women over 50 are recommended to eat .45-.55 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily. Ideally, 10-35% of your daily calorie intake should come from protein.
BUT WHAT SHOULD I AVOID?
Avoiding certain foods can be helpful with reduction of hot flashes, weight gain, and bad sleep patterns.
ADDED SUGARS AND PROCESSED CARBS:
High blood sugars and insulin resistance have been linked to a higher likely-hood of hot flashes. Processed foods and added sugar is known to raise blood sugar quickly. The more processed, the more rapid the effect. Limiting your intake of added sugars and processed foods like white bread, crackers, cookies, etc…may help reduce hot flashes. It is recommended that less than 10% of your diet come from added sugars.
ALCOHOL AND CAFFEINE:
In one study it was shown that caffeine and alcohol triggered the severity of hot flashes in menopausal women, but not their frequency. In another study caffeine was linked to a lower occurrence of hot flashes. Therefore, it may be worth testing to figure out which way it affects you. What we do know is that caffeine and alcohol are known sleep disrupters. If you are already having trouble sleeping with menopause, it may be a good idea to cut the alcohol and caffeine.
Spicy foods is another one of those “it does or it doesn’t” categories. Pay attention the next time you consume spicy foods, pay attention to whether or not you end up with a hot flash. If you start noticing a trend or that spicy food is a trigger for you, it may be best to avoid.
Post-menopausal women can be at risk for developing high blood pressure as a result in the decline in their estrogen levels. Reducing your sodium intake may help reduce that risk.
THE BOTTOM LINE….Changes in metabolism, bone density reduction, and increased heart disease can all be attributing factors to Menopause. Along with all of the not so fun symptoms that come along with (ex. Hot flashes, night sweats, terrible sleep). A whole foods diet high in fruits, veggies, high quality proteins, some dairy, and healthy fats may help reduce menopause symptoms. Limiting added sugars, processed carbs, caffeine, alcohol, spicy, and high sodium foods may make this transition in your life a little easier.
Have more nutrition related questions? Feel free to reach out to me at Amber@FirstCapitalGym.com