We may or may not have heard of the menopause but one thing is when you get it you won’t know what has hit you.
- Hot sweats
- Extreme tiredness
- Lack of concentration
- Memory loss
The list above is just a few of the symptoms a woman will go through when the primary sex hormones oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone within the body go up, down. In the case of testosterone will not be produce if the ovaries are removed.
These hormones regulate a number of changes that a woman goes though such as puberty or sexual development, the menstrual cycle, maintaining a pregnancy and regulation of your sex drive (sorry ladies this also goes down when you go through the menopause).
I know this may not be relevant but recently my female cat was spayed or had her ovaries and uterus removed. The first thing the vet said to me was reduce what she eats because now her metabolism will slow down and she will put weight if you don’t monitor her food intake.
This conversation really hit home and made me think about all the things women talk about when going through the menopause (see above) weight is never mentioned, well not that I’ve have heard of. I did remember once when a woman came to see me in my clinic saying “how negative and out of control she felt about the changes that have been put upon her since her menopause” and “did not understand why she was putting on weight”.
I could not understand at the time what she was going though but now I am going though it myself I do. I often wake up in the early morning but with a feeling like I have a heavy weight on my shoulders and with no energy. This does begin to subside throughout the day and you then have feeling of excess energy and unable to relax and calm the body and mind until you feel exhausted again early evening.
When this particular woman came to see me, I did start looking into nutrition and the menopause and found there was very little information regarding it. I found out that when you go through the menopause it is important to consider nutrition because the physical changes that may happen to you such as, increased blood pressure, changes in cholesterol levels and weakening of the bones due to your falling oestrogen. These symptoms could last for a few months or longer. The range of menopausal symptoms and severity is very individual. Early symptoms of the menopause could include weight gain due to a fall in metabolic rate by around 10%. Also a loss of oestrogen could increase the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, joint pain and bone weakness however by choosing to eat a well-balanced diet could support and aid symptoms.
NUTRITION AND THE MENOPAUSE
The foods that may reduce your symptoms:
Soya – studies have shown that dietary intake of soy could reduce the effect of menopause-induced osteoporotic bone loss, which may increase when oestrogen levels fall. It was also shown to help the severity and rate of hot flushes.
Soya is low in saturated fat, high in protein and fibre and can help reduce the body’s natural cholesterol-producing capacity in the liver (bda.uk.com, 2015).
Soya is a good source of protein and Isoflavones which are a type of naturally occurring Isoflavonoids, that acts as phytoestrogens (PE). Phytoestrogens have been suggested as a safe alternative to hormone replacement therapy because they can imitate or mimic oestrogen in the body. However, they are not effective in everyone because impact of PEs will depend upon the gut microflora and whether they metabolise PEs to equol. This is more likely to be the case with a vegetarian diet.
Phytoestrogenic need to consumed as the body does not produce them naturally these foods include soya which can be eaten or drank easily in the form (milk, yogurt, edamame beans) or soya nuts (roasted edamame beans), Tofu, soya deserts or custards, shakes, dried soya beans).
Other foods include
Calcium rich foods – although the rate of bone loss occurs with age it does accelerate after the menopause, because of the reduction of oestrogen production. By eating a diet containing calcium rich foods each day such as leafy green vegetables such as kale, broccoli, dried apricots, yogurt and milk products can boost bone mass density.
In addition, vitamin D which is made in the skin in response to sunlight is also very important for bone health if eaten with calcium rich foods. Exposing the skin to the sun each day can benefit bone health also however, in the autumn and winter months it may be worth considering a vitamin D daily supplement containing 10 micrograms or eating foods such as oily fish, eggs or foods fortified with vitamin D such as breakfast cereals.
Additional foods include:
- Pulses (lentils, chickpeas, beans)
- Linseeds (flaxseeds), Pumpkins seed and sunflower seeds
- Yams (sweet potatoes)
- Green beans
Low-Glycaemic foods – in particular, whole grains, non-juice fruit, vegetables and high fiber foods help you stay fuller for longer and aid steady blood sugar levels, in addition to being rich in B vitamins which has been shown to affect hormonal balance in your body and your mood (by raising serotonin levels)
Omega 3 oils – a type of good fat that cannot be made in the body so must be taken in via food. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA – (docosahexaenoic acid) can be predominantly found in oily fish such as salmon – and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) which can be found in many plant based foods such as linseed also known as flaxseeds, chia seeds and quinoa has been shown to reduce hot flushes and low mood.
Fruit and vegetables – containing B vitamins (thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pantothenic acid, B6, Biotin, folic acid and B12) can improve hormonal balance and mood.
- Fresh and dried fruit,
- Brussels sprouts.
Vitamin E rich foods – has been shown to reduce the effect of hot flushes in menopausal women. Foods include almonds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, cooked spinach, butternut squash, avocado and dried apricots.
Foods to avoid
Spicy foods – can increase hot flushes and nights sweats due to raising body temperature, in turn your body will try and cook it’s self-down by sweating.
High-Glycaemic and sugary refined foods – has been shown to be a risk factor for depression in post-menopausal women due to variations in blood sugar levels in addition to possible weight gain.
High levels of saturated fats – such as butter, lard, full fat cheese, whole-fat dairy products like cream and milk can increase your risk of gaining weight which you will find harder to burn due to the decreased energy expenditure and declining in oestrogen levels during the menopausal change.
You may also find you are eating less dietary protein and fiber intakes, which may increase risk for weight gain.
Increasing physical activity and monitoring healthy dietary choices may prevent weight gain and fat around the inner organs of the body whilst in menopausal change.