Menopause and Diet
During the natural transition to menopause (perimenopause) the body can change in many ways. Throughout this period the oestrogen levels in the body fall which can affect the menstrual cycle, fertility, cholesterol levels, increase blood pressure and reduce calcium density in the bones.
Other symptoms of perimenopause can include weight gain, hot flushes, night sweats, irritability, poor concentration, headaches, and joint pains. The range of symptoms, how severe and how long they last are different for each woman.
Be Aware of Weight Gain
During this phase of life, the muscle mass in the body decreases. Consequently, the number of calories you need to consume decreases. If you do not lower your energy intake, then over time this can result in weight gain. To prevent weight gain adjust calorie intake, portion sizes, and do more physical activity. Resistance activities, such as weight training, are particularly key to preserving and building muscle mass.
Keep Your Bones Healthy
Generally, calcium density in the bones declines from the age of 35. A consequence of losing oestrogen during menopause is that this calcium loss increases, which can increase the risk of osteoporosis.
HRT maintains oestrogen levels and thus, protects bone health. However, many nutrients help keep bones healthy. It is important to have a balanced diet, eat a variety of foods; consuming lots of fruit, vegetables and dairy products as these are rich sources of calcium.
Calcium and vitamin D work dependently to protect bone health; calcium builds and maintains bones, while vitamin D ensures your body efficiently absorbs calcium. Vitamin D is a product of a chemical reaction that occurs in the skin as a reaction to sunlight. Unfortunately, in the UK this can only happen between April to September. Foods that contain vitamin D include oily fish, red meat, fortified plant beverages (soya or oat milk), fortified breakfast cereals and eggs. Check out my Vitamin D blog post to find out more: https://www.nutritionu.co.uk/blog/143-all-about-vitamin-d
Eat More Plant Oestrogens
Plant oestrogens (also called phytoestrogens) are very similar to human oestrogen. When phytoestrogens are consumed, the oestrogenic compounds bind with oestrogen receptors in cells within the body which helps to balance hormone levels. If eaten regularly, and in sufficient quantities, they can start to have mild oestrogenic effects which is beneficial as oestrogen levels decline during menopause. Foods that are rich in plant oestrogens include; soya milk and soya flour, linseeds, tofu, tempeh and miso, pumpkins seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, celery, rhubarb and green beans.
For some women, these oestrogenic effects can help relieve menopausal symptoms, predominantly hot flushes. However, it can take 2-3 months of regular consumption for benefits to be seen. It has been found that consuming plant oestrogens several times a day is more effective than eating larger quantities less frequently.
Another benefit to consuming plant oestrogens is that many foods containing these substances can also improve heart health. Therefore, it could be beneficial to include calcium-rich soy products such as milk, yoghurts, soya and linseed bread or edamame beans two to three times each day before choosing supplements.
Women who are experiencing perimenopause or menopause should try to alter their diets and lifestyle to ensure good health and reduce symptoms.
A few things from Susan's favorate page to take control of your menopause
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