Menopause is defined as cessation of menstruation and may last up to seven years. Hormonal changes occur, including a drop in oestrogen and progesterone levels. Symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats, lethargy, memory problems, decreased libido, reduced muscular strength and ligament attachment, which can cause aches and pains in the joints.
The body relies on the adrenal glands to produce sex hormones once the ovary stops producing, which means the adrenals need a high level support during this period for a smoother transition. Ensure a diet high in leafy greens for magnesium and vitamin C which are essential nutrients for the adrenal glands.
Eat a low GL diet with regular small snacks to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and reduce excess cortisol release from the adrenals and dysregulated insulin release from the pancreas. Any endocrine disturbance can exacerbate weight gain and hot flushes so also make sure your thyroid is working optimally.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
Avoid raw goitrogens such as broccoli and cabbage and limit soy intake.
…are found in a range of plant foods and include isoflavones, genistein or daidzein. These are chemicals which mimic oestrogen and act like selective oestrogen receptor modulators.
Phytoestrogen-rich foods may reduce menopausal symptoms, including the severity and frequency of hot flushes and include non-GMO fermented soy products such as tempeh or natto, which should be eaten with moderation, and alfalfa flaxseeds and pulses and red clover.
Vitamin E has a good effect to reduce hot flushes as it affects our capacity to regulate heat. It may also help to inhibit the breakdown of progesterone. Foods high in vitamin E include avocados, nuts, spinach, leafy greens, whole grains and some vegetable oils.
Avoid foods which aggravate hot flushes
…such as coffee, spicy food and alcohol. Drinking sage tea as a cold infusion soaked overnight also helps. I usually recommend 1 tablespoon of dry sage per pot or 2 tablespoons of fresh sage.
Low oestrogen levels increase a woman’s risk of cardiovascular disease after menopause. High levels of oxidative stress not only speed up the ageing process but impede the body’s ability to detoxify and repair.
Eat a diet high in antioxidants to ensure optimum repair and support a healthy immune system. These include vitamins A, C, E, selenium and zinc. These are found in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, preferably organic and good quality organ meats, shellfish, pulses, nuts and seeds.
Include lots of small cold-water oily fish in the diet for good quality anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids to reduce cardiac risk. Gamma linolenic acid, found primarily in vegetable oils such as hemp and evening primrose is also a useful addition to the diet as it spots health prostaglandin production to encourage health hormone levels.
Women who eat a diet containing foods high in lignans such as flax seeds and whole grains, rather than refined carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta, white rice or high-sugar foods have a better metabolic profile and insulin sensitivity than those who do not. High fibre foods also encourage healthy hormone metabolism.
Bone density may reduce as oestrogen levels decline, which may contribute to osteoporosis. Ensure a diet rich in calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K, with lots of leafy greens, nuts, seeds and good quality protein such as oily fish and vegetable proteins such as pulses and quinoa.
Vitamin D is required for calcium absorption and as most people in the UK are deficient unless they work outside in the sun every day, I usually recommend they get their levels tested and take a supplement.
Avoid fizzy drinks completely and ensure you don’t drink tea or coffee with meals as they may inhibit calcium absorption.
Often menopausal women find their moods can be very unpredictable and this is often down to fluctuating or declining oestrogen levels. I would recommend eating foods high in tryptophan such as bananas, sesame seeds, turkey and almonds to ensure a healthy serotonin release.
I would also add cherry juice, which contains natural melatonin at night to encourage sleep and a healthy circadian rhythm.