Menopause is often connected with a ‘turning point’ in life – a sense that what now follows will be different from what went before. This is referred to by the Japanese as having an awareness of ‘fu shi me’, ie a defined mental outlook. In Asia, the menopause is regarded positively, rather than in the West were it’s often approached with dread.
It has been reported that the incidence of hot flushes, the most common of the symptoms of the menopause, varies from 70–80% of menopausal women in Europe, 57% in Malaysia, but only 18% in China and 14% in Singapore. Possibly due to their increased consumption of plant based food and phytoestrogens.
Food should be viewed as a powerful medicine that has a huge impact on the biochemical processes in the body:
- Phytoestrogens including soy (eat in their natural untesxtured, organic form so miso, tofu), lentils and chickpeas, kidney beans, seeds, garlic, celery. Isoflavones found in legumes, lignans in grains and seeds especially linseed are all phytoestrogens. Linseed is also a great source of Omega 3 and protein.
- Oily foods including nuts, fish, seeds and oils. EFAs deficiency often the same as menopause symptoms such as: irritability, breast tenderness, depression, difficulty losing weight, aching joints, dry eyes. Omega 3 is essential for memory and concentration – 60% of our brain is made up of essential fatty acids.
- Plenty of fruit and vegetables for antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Green juices are cooling to the body. High amounts of Vitamin C are needed on a daily basis as we don’t store it well in the body – it can also help with symptoms such as vaginal dryness. Magnesium is important for sleep problems, try Epsom bath salts too.
- Complex carbohydrates, including oats, brown rice, whole grain bread for slow-releasing energy
- Plenty of fibre: reduces problems with flatulence and constipation common during the menopause. It helps you feel fuller after meals and reduce the speed of blood sugar being released into the system. Soluble fibre (oats, rice, fruits, beans) stops old estrogens re-circulating (especially important if using HRT).
- Good fluid intake: needed with increase in fibre in diet as fibre increased water absorption. This also helps with water retention, a common menopause symptom. We are made up of 70% water. It is needed for every process in the body. Need it to control body temperature so especially important in those women with night sweats. Water retention is made worse with low water intake as the body holds onto it more.
- After menopause the adrenal glands produce oestrogen so it is important to nourish these glands that site on top of our kidneys. The key ways to nourish our adrenals include protein to give us a drip feed of energy (which reduces the stress hormone cortisol which is produced in the adrenals), plenty of Vitamin C and B vitamins. This is the basis of our Energy Elixir which also includes maca, an adaptogen which helps us deal with stress.
What foods to avoid
Blood sugar control is very important to keep anxiety and irritability levels under control. Symptoms can again be very similar to menopause: irritability, forgetfulness, weight gain especially round the middle, fatigue, anxiety, tension, sweating and lack of concentration. There is also a stress connection. When blood sugar falls the body release adrenaline and cortisol into the blood to get blood sugar raised. Creates blood sugar rollercosters. Very nutrient depleting and causes adrenal exhaustion and the inability to deal with any stress, hence the symptoms of irritability. Fat around the middle can also occur.
So a low GI diet with plenty of wholefoods and no refined carbohydrates is recommended to counter-act this as well as plenty of nutrients to help with blood sugar control such as cinnamon and the trace mineral chromium. Sugar also affects white blood cell activity. Make an exception for fruit but opt for whole fruit not fruit juices which don’t have the fibre which helps buffer the sugar affect on our body.
Aspartame is over 180 times sweeter than sugar and has been linked to weight gain and binge eating. It has also been linked to mood swings as it has been shown to alter levels of the brain chemical serotonin.
Stimulants can increase hot flashes by making blood vessels dilate. Just hot drinks themselves can make hot flushes worse, as can spicy food. On a hot day a hot drink encourages dilation which helps cool down the body. Caffeine can exacerbate breast tenderness. Tannins in tea can bind minerals and stop them being absorbed. Alcohol and weight gain (1small glass of wine=100 calories)
High salt=high blood pressure. The more sodium you consume the more potassium you need to counteract its affect. Reduce substances that can reduce potassium such as alcohol, coffee, sugar, diuretics and laxatives, keep your blood sugar stable, eat plenty of greens and reduce your salt intake.
Read more on menopause in my article on 50connect here: article