Meno Health. Clinical Evidence.

TWC #051: Nutrition can be so important during the menopause!

Dear MHI reader

In today’s newsletter, our Clinical Nutritionist Breda Gavin-Smith looks at the complex relationship between diet and the menopause and offers practical tips for optimal health.

When women are at this important stage in their lives, it’s important to understand how diet can support health and alleviate symptoms.

A healthy, varied diet for the menopause

Eating a healthy, varied diet and increasing exercise in your daily life can alleviate some menopausal symptoms. The good news is that these changes can also help reduce the risk of some longer-term health problems associated with the menopause that many don’t even know about. These include osteoporosis (a condition that weakens bones) and cardiovascular disease (such as heart disease and strokes).

Nutrition with phytoestrogens

Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that mimic the effect of oestrogen in the body. When consumed regularly and in sufficient quantities, they can have a mild estrogen-like effect, which can be useful when estrogen levels drop. Foods rich in phytoestrogens include soy products, flaxseed and pulses. They can alleviate menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes.

What should I bear in mind with a phytoestrogen diet?

– It can take two to three months for plant-based oestrogens to take effect.

– They seem to work better for some women than others. The difference could lie in the intestinal bacteria.

– Taking plant estrogens several times a day seems to be more effective than taking a higher dose once.

A healthy, varied diet supports heart health

The menopause is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. A heart-healthy diet can help to lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

A diet rich in fruit, vegetables and fiber-rich foods (e.g. whole grains) and limiting the consumption of foods high in saturated fat, sugar and salt is crucial for heart health.

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish, can help reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, and promote a healthy cardiovascular system. Try to eat at least one portion of oily fish per week. Fatty fish includes sardines, mackerel, salmon, trout and herring.

Calcium and vitamin D are part of a healthy diet

From the age of 35, we slowly lose calcium from our bones. The fall in oestrogen levels during the menopause increases the rate of loss and therefore the risk of osteoporosis. An adequate supply of calcium and vitamin D is therefore important for bone health. To meet your calcium and vitamin D requirements, you can eat enough dairy products, leafy vegetables and fortified cereal products and spend time in the sun. Hormone replacement therapy also helps to maintain estrogen levels and protect bone health.

A healthy diet also helps with weight management

Hormonal changes during the menopause can lead to weight gain, especially around the abdomen. But other factors such as ageing, lifestyle and genetics also influence weight gain. For example, muscle mass decreases with age, while the proportion of fat increases. The loss of muscle mass slows down the body’s calorie consumption. This process can make it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight. If you watch your calorie intake and portion sizes and exercise more, you can prevent weight gain. Strength training is particularly important to maintain and build muscle mass.

Reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption is part of a healthy diet

Excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption can increase symptoms such as hot flushes and disrupt sleep patterns. Try to reduce your consumption of caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea and cola or drink decaffeinated or herbal teas. Stick to the recommended amount of alcohol – about two/three units per day (1 small glass of wine 125 ml = 1.5 units). Avoid alcohol if you feel it is making your symptoms worse.

The menopause is particularly challenging, but a balanced and nutritious diet can support both physical and emotional wellbeing. Remember that small changes to your diet will enable you to cope with the menopause with vitality and resilience.

We hope this information will help you to better understand the menopause and take practical steps to manage it. If you need personal advice or support on your journey through the menopause, contact The Women Circle here.

In our next edition, again on Saturday at 9am, we will cover more aspects of the menopause and women’s health. Stay informed and feel comfortable in this special phase of life.

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