Menopause typically occurs to women who are in their mid-forties to fifties and refers to their final or last menstrual cycle. Once their menstrual cycle has stopped for 12 months they are considered post-menopausal.
However, during the years leading up to that point, known as perimenopause or menopausal transition, two-thirds of women may already experience hormonal changes such as irregular periods, mood changes, sleep problems, weight gain and slowed metabolism, and vaginal dryness to mention some.
The effect of the natural decline in reproductive hormones have can result in changes in bone or heart health, hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, irritability, and tiredness. In addition, menopausal women are also at higher risk of diseases like osteoporosis, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
As particular lifestyle changes, including your diet, can make symptoms more tolerable, I would like to share my list of the Top 5 foods to help reduce the symptoms of menopause.
Foods rich in calcium and vitamin D
Hormonal changes during menopause can cause bones to weaken, which can increase the risk of osteoporosis. Calcium, collagen, and vitamin D are linked to good bone health, although calcium also plays a significant role in blood clotting, helping muscles to contract, and regulating normal heart rhythms and nerve functions.
The recommended dietary intake for calcium is 1,200 mg per day with an upper limit around 2,500 mg. It is recommended that you take at least 600 IU per day of Vitamin D, although 1000-2000 IU per day has shown benefit to reduce fracture risk Many foods are calcium-rich, including dairy products like yogurt, milk, and cheese, while green leafy vegetables such as kale, collard greens, and spinach have lots of calcium too. It is also plentiful in tofu, beans, sardines, and other foods.
Sunlight is your main source of vitamin D since your skin produces it when exposed to the sun. However, as you get older, your skin gets less efficient at making vitamin D and if you are not out in the sun much or if you prefer to cover up your skin, either taking a supplement or increasing food sources of vitamin D may be important.
Rich vitamin D dietary sources include oily fish, eggs, cod liver oil, and foods fortified with vitamin D.
Collagen makes up 1/3 of your bone’s composition. It is a complex long chain protein that provides elasticity to skin and stops bones from becoming brittle. Collagen peptides can help reduce the rate of bone degradation and help with bone formation. Good sources of collagen in the diet are bone broths, chicken and chicken skin, fish, and shellfish.
Eat lots of fruit and vegetables
Fruits and veggies are low in calories, full of phytonutrients and fiber, and can help you feel full, so they are great for weight loss, management, and weight maintenance. They may also help prevent several diseases, including heart disease, as the risk of heart disease tends to increase after menopause. This could be due to factors such as age, weight gain, or reduced estrogen levels. Finally, fruits and vegetables may also help prevent bone loss.
Avoid trigger foods
Certain foods may trigger hot flashes, night sweats, and mood changes. Common triggers foods include caffeine, alcohol, and foods that are sugary or spicy. An effective way to track which foods trigger your symptoms is by keeping a symptom diary. By tracking what you eat and how you feel, will help you to soon pick up which foods are causing your symptoms to trigger or intensify.
Eat more foods that are high in phytoestrogens
Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring plant compounds that can mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. Owing to its effects in your body they may help balance hormones. Asian countries such as Japan are known to have a high intake of phytoestrogen foods and it is thought to be the reason menopausal people in these places rarely experience hot flushes. Foods rich in phytoestrogens include
- soybeans and soy products
- sesame seeds
Even though some studies found that diets high in soy were associated with reduced cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and reduced severity of hot flashes and night sweats, there are other debates over whether soy products are good or bad for health. As everyone is so unique it is worth keeping the food and symptom diary to track how it works for you.
Several women speak about dryness as an issue during menopause, caused by the decrease in estrogen levels. Drinking eight to12 glasses of water a day can help with these symptoms. Drinking water can also reduce the bloating that can occur with hormonal changes. Drinking 500 ml of water, 30 minutes before a meal, may lead you to consume 13% fewer calories during the meal
- A diet rich in calcium, collagen, and vitamin D is important to prevent the bone loss that can occur during menopause
- A diet rich in fruit and vegetables may help keep bones healthy and can help prevent weight gain and certain diseases
- Certain foods and drinks can trigger hot flashes, night sweats, and mood changes. This includes caffeine, alcohol, and sugary or spicy foods
- Foods rich in phytoestrogens may have modest benefits for hot flashes and heart disease risk. However, the evidence is mixed
- Drinking enough water may help prevent weight gain, aid in weight loss, and reduce symptoms of dryness.
- Test don’t guess. You can’t fix something if you don’t measure it. Knowing your nutritional levels of key vitamins and minerals allows you to make any necessary changes to balance and optimise your body.
Contact Dr Shelley Cavezza to get a personalised health management plan to support your transition through the peri menopause, menopause, and post menopause stages