Menopause facts and fixes

We take a look at some dietary strategies for managing the menopause

If you’ve spent your life being able to eat what you want, when you want, without noticing any difference, you might find your perimenopausal years are a time of change. Many women notice some weight gain and find it harder to shift the pounds. But your diet isn’t just about keeping you in svelte shape. You can make some adjustments to what you eat and help to keep your hormones in balance. We’re not talking faddy eating or quick-fix diets. This is about introducing changes – gradually if you like – to overhaul your eating habits once and for all.

The stress hormone cortisol, along with adrenaline, is produced by your adrenal gland. These two hormones are essential to your continued health and wellbeing, allowing you to respond appropriately to danger and external stresses such as family issues, relationships, work – essentially, life. But when these hormones are constantly raised due to ‘ life ’ , they can play further havoc with the delicate dance of menopause hormones. One prime example is that the adrenal glands produce small amounts of oestrogen and progesterone as the ovaries decline, but they can’t do this efficiently if in a constant state of high alert as the stress hormones have priority. This in turn leads to internal stress – symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue and anxiety. So it makes sense to identify and manage your external stressors and reduce your internal stress – which is where good nutrition comes into play.

Reduce your sugar and refined carb intake

Have you found that when you’re under stress of any kind, when you feel out of control of your body, mind and life in general, you reach for the refined sugars and carbohydrates, alcohol, caffeine and processed foods? This is because your body is searching for something to make it feel good, get a quick fix, and these are easy, immediate solutions. But have you also found that you can’t just eat one biscuit or piece of chocolate? This is because the fix is short-lived, and you ‘need’ more to feel good again, raising both cortisol and adrenaline levels even higher. The more sugar you eat, the more insulin your body will produce – which in turn will send your hormones out of whack and make your menopausal symptoms worse. And the more sugar you eat, the more likely you are to be overweight – again a disruptor to your fine hormonal balance. You might find it helpful to keep a food diary and note down your own triggers.

Stay hydrated

It’s important to take in a minimum of two litres of water every day. Try a large glass with a slice of lemon on waking, another glass 20 – 30 minutes before food, and the rest throughout the day.

Nurture with nature

Eat a wide variety of foods of different colours found in nature, and include home-made juices and smoothies for a nutrient blast.

  • Introduce complex wholegrains, such as rolled oats, brown rice and quinoa.
  • If you have a sweet tooth, try indulging with mixed berries or melon instead of cake.
  • Try phytoestrogens, plant-based foods such as oats, barley, beans, lentils, yams, rice, alfalfa and mung beans.
  • Reduce your alcohol intake. Your liver metabolises waste oestrogen and ensures its production after the menopause, so it’s important to keep it as cleansed as possible.
  • Eat more healthy proteins, such as nuts, eggs, fish, seeds, beans and lentils.
  • Stick to good fats, found in avocado, oily fish, coconut oil, nuts and seeds.

Extracted from Menopause: The Change For The Better by Henpicked. Published by Green Tree, £14.99. Available now.

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