Did you know that what you eat and stress reduction techniques may help you reduce your menopausal symptoms?
Common symptoms of the menopause include hot flushes, mood swings, decreased libido, anxiety, insomnia, fatigue and many more. These symptoms can be a huge challenge for many women and others apparently, sail through the menopause with few or no symptoms! As the hormones change this can also effect your joints, your muscles , menopausal tendonitis/arthritis. Oestrogen is the WD40 of the body, and without it, in some women the soft connective tissue goes hard and brittle. Quite often its the women that are not effected with hot flushes , sleepless nights get to around 50/55 thinking yeah I’ve got through this are the ones that are more likely to suffer from this. Always see your GP to rule out any other causes before you assume it’s just another symptom of the menopause.
What can you do as self help?
In Asia, where the diet contains high amounts of tofu, miso, lentils and soy sauce, only 14% of menopausal women experience hot flushes. In the western world, hot flushes affect over 80% of menopausal women. Some research has shown that soy throughout life is beneficial not just at the time of menopause, the quality of the soy is also important, fermented products such as soy, miso, tofu are superior products and avoid processed alternative soy meats. A good soy supplement (if you really cannot consume it via your diet ) is a lamberts product which they have confirmed as both vegan and vegetarian. By taking a plant oestrogen which is found in soy, it competes in the body for the stronger body oestrogen for absorption , reducing the overall uptake in the body of these stronger oestrogen.
Ensure you are eating adequate amounts of Omega 3 in your diet from oily fish and flaxseed (highest amounts), avocados, free range eggs. An imbalance in essential fatty acids contributes to disease risk and menopausal symptoms.
Reduce white carbohydrates
Reduce carbohydrates from refined white flour and switch to whole grain alternatives, short grain brown rice, millet and quinoa. Overeating carbohydrates contributes to weight gain, overproduction of cortisol and insulin sensitivity. Aim to eat slow energy release foods and adequate protein, to reduce carbohydrate and sugar cravings.
Another reason to consume more fibre, is that fibre absorbs the oestrogen, which relieves hot flashes by reducing the amount of oestrogen reabsorbed from bile salts released into the intestine to be mixed with stool. It is recommended that women should be consuming 25-30 grams of fibre daily. Enjoy fibre-rich foods throughout the day such as whole grain breads and cereals, apples, pears, broccoli and cauliflower.
The National Institutes of Health recommends that post menopausal women get 1,200 mg of calcium daily. Calcium cleanses excess oestrogen from the liver, making this nutrient vital in reducing hot flashes. Calcium-rich foods include low-fat milk, low-fat yogurts and low-fat cheeses. In addition post menopause due to the reduction of oestrogen in the body women, women are less able to absorb calcium and therefore require greater amounts. Foods rich in calcium include, diary products, broccoli, and kale. Some people may think taking a strong one a day supplement may solve this problem however with calcium it has been found that the higher the dose the less you will absorb so two doses of 500mg will be far more effective than one dose of 1000mg.
Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption, vitamin D is now frequently seen as a common deficiency in the Northern Hemisphere, both due to lack of sun, covering up with sun tan lotion as soon as we do have any sun and reducing our fat intake, vitamin D is fat soluble and this fat helps the body absorb the vitamin.
While exercise may not have a direct benefit to menopausal symptoms, it is beneficial for long term health. The lack of oestrogen puts women on the same risk factors as men with heart health, muscle strength can decrease and loss of bone. Women often exercise less as they approach the menopause which also adds weight gain into the equation.
Muscle mass deteriorates with age by about 1/2 a pound per year, however muscles hold all the power cells, the mitochondria, that help burn energy (calories), so the less muscles the less calories we will burn. In turn we also tend to consume more calories, (thinking of my mother here and her cake and coffee and cream tea consumption)
- Exercise increases the cardio respiratory function
Exercise can help create a calorie deficit and minimize midlife weight gain.
- It increases the bone mass. Strength training and impact activities (like walking or running) can help to offset the decline of bone mineral density and prevent osteoporosis
- It also reduces low back pain
- It is proven to help reduce stress and improve the mood
It is never too late to start exercising. The key is to start slowly and do things one enjoys such as walking, cycling, vigorous yard work, swimming, cardio machines or attending group fitness classes. Regular exercising can help in improving the overall wellbeing. Even moderate physical activity like simply moving the body enough to get the heart pumping brings great health benefits including more energy. The activity should be fast enough to get the heart pumping without being out of breath or exhausted.
If you have not exercised for many years or have health conditions always check with your GP before commencing a new exercise schedule.
There are also a number of herbs that may help reduce menopausal symptoms, such as black cohosh and soy isoflavones, but each herbs helps with different symptoms, so please seek nutritional advice according to your symptoms and seek the advice of a trained herbalist to make sure you are taking the correct dose, in addition many herbs and supplements interact with both prescribed and over the counter medications so its essential to check that there are no contra indications.
Surges in cortisol the stress hormone, may effect menopausal symptoms, even a stressful thought may raise levels in susceptible women. When cortisol levels are high the brain is less less sensitive to oestrogen, so symptoms of oestrogen deficiency can occur such as hot flushes. You do not have to be deficient in oestrogen for this to occur, its due to the way the brain processes under stress.
High levels of oestrogen and stress combined with a bad diet can make the corps lute malfunction during mensuration, which is turn may cause the body to stop making progesterone. If you have high levels of oestrogen and low levels of progesterone you will be classed as having oestrogen dominance. Oestrogen dominance has been linked to heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis.
Between 35 to 50 years of age there is a 75% reduction in production of progesterone but our levels of oestrogen during the same period only declines about 35%. By menopause, the total amount of progesterone made in the body is extremely low, but oestrogen is still present at about half its pre-menopausal level.
You could also consult a nutritional therapist to carry out a dietary evaluation, as they will be able to work out from your diet history – past and present – how to improve what you are eating, what foods to avoid or if you are low in certain food groups such as protein or other nutrients that may help reduce your menopausal symptoms. – Quote menopause to receive 10% off the standard quick diet review price.
All links and products correct as on date of page publication.
Copyright – Susan Monk 2018