What to eat to reduce your menopause symptoms
Are you dreading the onset of menopausal symptoms? Or maybe you’re already experiencing them? Find out how you can change your diet to reduce menopause symptoms.
The first signs of menopause symptoms can come as a shock – suddenly your body feels like it belongs to someone else, and your hormones are all over the place.
But the menopause doesn’t have to be something you dread and endure. With a little knowledge and some small life changes, you can reduce your menopause symptoms, and continue to enjoy your life – as nutritionist Sonia Grimes explains.
We’ve learned to dread ‘the change’
As the menopause looms on our not so distant horizons, we women of a certain age have been known to panic a little.
This is quite understandable, since we have grown up hearing from our mothers, aunts and other more mature ladies all discussing ‘the change’, this impending change can seem daunting. I am sure we had all heard about the hot flushes, mood swings, weight gain, dry, ageing skin, lack of energy, lack of sleep and a lowering in sex drive, it doesn’t seem like much to look forward to.
Well, I am here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way. Nor do you have to follows strange rituals or buy expensive products to alleviate the symptoms of menopause (and leave behind soaked sheets, wild eyed sleepless staring and unexpected tears and tantrums).
First I will give you a quick recap on our bodies changes during the menopause. Please bear with me, I expect most of us know this, but still, I do have a reason for writing this!
How your body changes during the menopause
When you stop ovulating, your need for oestrogen drops off dramatically. You do still produce some oestrogen, but in much smaller quantities in your adrenal glands and adipose tissue (fat cells).
The menopausal symptoms we come to dread, the hot flushes, sleepless nights and mood swings are simply the result of the lowering of estrogen.
We don’t tolerate the drop in oestrogen because in our Western diet of high fat and low fibre, we are accustomed to much higher levels of this hormone than our bodies need. Basically we go into oestrogen withdrawal, and as our bodies struggle to re-equalise this balance, we swing from one feeling to another.
So, that’s the science. Thankfully, as with all perfectly natural bodily functions, Mother Nature has left us equipped to deal with these changes in the form of diet.
A plant-based diet, packed with phytoestrogens along with a reduction in caffeine, alcohol and processed foods, can and does dramatically alleviate menopausal symptoms.
What to eat to reduce your menopause symptoms
In order to combat these debilitating symptoms, you need to plan ahead. I am such an advocate of pre-planning as much as possible in every aspect of life, and in particular food planning for weight loss and through the menopause. It is key to all success!
So even if you are not a natural planner or organiser, follow these healthy eating tips to plan for a less stressful menopause:
- Eat plants and good fats – fill your diet with plants, antioxidants and healthy fats. Minimise sugar, excess protein and all food products (think wholefoods not pre-packed nonsense however ‘healthily’ it is marketed to us)
- Cut down on alcohol – wave cheerio to the regular large glasses of wine. Sorry ladies, but if you want to minimise your symptoms, you really need to do this and believe me you will feel so much better.
- Prepare foods from scratch – cook simple, phytoestrogen-packed foods that can be stored in the fridge or freezer.
- Go nuts for nuts – buy bags of mixed nuts, portion out into sandwich bags and pop in your handbag or car.
- Stay hydrated – keep water with you always.
- Limit caffeine – have your daily coffee or tea, but limit it to one or two cups.
- Keep your fibre up – eating fibre helps you feel fuller longer and have a healthier gut.
- Eat a good breakfast – eat protein and healthy fats for breakfast (oats, eggs and avocado). On a busy day, simply boil a couple of eggs to eat on the train with a banana.
- Prepare your work lunches in advance – for lunch make a huge salad on a Sunday, and portion out for work each day. Fill your salad with amazing, colourful vegetables and add some drained beans, lentils, chick peas, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds etc. These are all packed with phytestrogens, vitamins and antioxidants.
- Add healthy fats and protein – add some healthy fats, some chopped avocado or salmon, and some good quality protein, a chicken breast, or some tofu. Fill yourselves with the foods that your bodies need, know how to process and will make a dramatic difference to your symptoms.
- Prep healthy dinners – dinner is also so easy. Prepare in advance (maybe at the weekend), steam a pile of veggies, top with chilli, ginger, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, onion, turmeric. Make these the largest portion of your meal.
- Go meat-free – try to have a meat free day once a week, mainly because you will fill up even more on the veggies and add soy products such as tofu instead. Tofu is an absolute phytoestrogen powerhouse.
- Eat fruit for dessert – for desserts, chop fruit and add to natural yogurt and sprinkle cinnamon on top fora creamy, natural sweet treat.
- Include dairy – include some dairy, but not too much due to the fat levels.
- Eat a bone friendly food – don’t forget to keep up your calcium intake. Aside from dairy, green, leafy vegetables (broccoli, cabbage and okra, but not spinach), soya beans, tofu, nuts and fish with bones in it (sardines and pilchards) and bread made from fortified flour are all good sources of calcium.
You CAN alleviate your menopause symptoms
The take home message is is that there really is so much you can do to alleviate your menopausal symptoms.
You just need to understand exactly what it is the cause of the symptoms, and then take that knowledge on board and change your diet – and reduce those symptoms.
Need more advice on your hormones?
Ou can read more tips on the menopause and hormones in these articles:
- Why the menopause can be a change for the better
- 11 things you need to know about your hormones
- How to work during your period
- How to avoid (and beat) anxiety and depression
Sonia is a nutritionist and weight loss specialist based in Beaconsfield. You can find out more about her work on her website, YOUtrition.