Eating Well During Menopause
Almost all women going through menopause will get some menopause symptoms, however in 50% of women menopause symptoms are severe enough to affect quality of life. Nutritional Therapist, Lauren Southern, helps understand which nutrients can support menopause and those which should be avoided during this time.
Which nutrients support menopause & why?
- Essential Fats: essential fats are needed to synthesise hormones and neurotransmitters, as well as protect the heart, support joints and plump up skin. We get essential fats from oily fish (“smasht”- sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon, herring, trout) and from some plants (olives, olive oils, avocado, nuts and seeds)
- Phytoestrogens: these are special plant compounds which have a mildly oestrogenic affect, and can therefore create a slight oestrogen increase which is useful when oestrogen is on the decline. Studies have shown phytoestrogens can help prevent bone loss, boost libido and protect the heart. Best sources are fermented soya, flax seed, oats, barley, sesame seeds, yams, and red clover.
- Calcium, Magnesium & Vitamin D: These vitamins are essential for bone protection. The decline in oestrogen due to the menopause means that bones stop being protected. Bones need calcium, vitamin D and magnesium and it’s important to obtain these from your diet, as well supplementation. High levels of calcium come from small fish bones, eg anchovies, sardines and canned salmon. Sesame seeds are also a good source – try tahini paste on your salad, or hummus. Magnesium is present in nuts, seeds, wholegrains and dark green leafy veg. Make these an integral part of your diet. Vitamin D is hard to obtain from food as our bodies synthesize it from the sun. It’s advised to supplement vitamin D daily.
Which nutrients should be avoided during menopause & why?
High sugar foods and high processed foods are best avoided. This is for a number of reasons:
- These foods provide very little nutrition, so they fill you up without giving anything supportive to the body.
- High sugar foods can play havoc with blood sugar. For hormone balance it is essential to have a balanced blood sugar. If it’s not balanced it can lead to mood swings, fatigue, excess sweating, food cravings and weight gain.
- A diet high in processed foods and sugar will also negatively impact on digestion. If digestion is not functioning optimally then it will become harder to absorb any of the essential nutrients provided from food and supplements.
Should caffeine & alcohol be avoided during menopause?
Both caffeine and alcohol can have a negative impact on blood sugar(seeabove) and can also prevent absorption of nutrients.
- Caffeine, specifically coffee can make night sweats and hot flushes worse, and the tannin in tea can prevent absorption of minerals such as iron and calcium.
- Alcohol unfortunately can also exacerbate depression and anxiety which can occur due to menopause, as well as affect sleep and cause dehydration which can negatively affect hot flushes.