Menopause is a natural part of life that will occur for all women. It is the point in life where menstruation stops and the ability to conceive a child ceases. This change in the female menstrual cycle usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. The ovaries stop producing the female sex hormones, estrogen, progesterone and the androgenic hormone, testosterone. In fact, hormone production within the ovaries actually begins its decline many years before ovulation ceases and this phase is called perimenopause.
Hot flushing is the most common of the perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms with around 70% of women experiencing hot flushes. The drop in estrogen around this time, along with testosterone, is believed to be a contributing factor in other physical symptoms including lack of libido.
Progesterone is one of the “feel good” hormones in the menstrual cycle and its rapid decline at this time is thought to be responsible for lower mood with around 40% of menopausal women suffering from depression. Other menopausal symptoms can range from insomnia, decreased concentration, joint pain, fatigue, headaches, and sweating. Many women also experience a rise in cholesterol commencing with their menopausal years due to the decrease in estrogen.
There is evidence that dietary factors can alleviate some of the symptoms of menopause so be sure to keep reading through my tips below.
It is also essential not to forget about bone health during and post menopause. Osteoporosis is a huge concern for women around this time. From our mid thirties there is an imbalance between bone production and bone breakdown, resulting in a gradual decrease in bone strength as age increases. The lowering of estrogen levels during menopause makes osteoporosis a major problem in older women. It is therefore essential that women maintain a good intake of calcium for their bone health. Adults need 1000 mg of calcium each day and women over the age of 50 (or post menopause) require 1300 mg of calcium daily. Foods that boost calcium include; milk, yoghurt, sardines, watercress, all leafy greens, parsley, nuts and seeds, dried figs, raisins, and miso.
TOP 10 tips for nutritional support during menopause
Include Phytoestrogens in your daily diet – Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring nonsteroidal plant compounds that are similar to estrogen. Good sources of phytoestrogens are fermented soy like miso and tempeh, flaxseed, nuts, whole grains apples, celery and alfalfa.
Vitamin E – can be helpful in the reduction of hot flushes and may help with vaginal dryness – good sources of Vitamin E are wheat germ, nuts and seeds, egg yolk, corn, and beef.
Bio flavonoids - are found in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables and in combination with vitamin C may help to reduce hot flushing
Evening Primrose - dietary supplements derived from the evening primrose plant have been shown for some women to be helpful in reducing mood swings, flushing, and fluid retention.
Grapefruit has been shown to inhibit the breakdown of estrogen.
Increase foods rich in vitamin C and vitamin B5 such as avocado, green leafy vegetables, milk, oranges, sweet potato and wholegrains. These nutritive foods can help boost adrenal gland function. The adrenal glands take over the production of estrogen after the ovaries stop. They also help to control the body’s response to stress, so nourishing these important glands is vital during menopause.
Healthy Cholesterol - Increase dietary fibre and omega 3 essential fatty acids from fish and plant sources. Minimise saturated fat intake by trimming all of the white visible fat off meat. Adding oat bran or ground flaxseed to cereals, and opting for grainy breads and brown rice at meal times will help.
Ensure adequate daily sunlight exposure for optimal vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is important for calcium metabolism and bone health.
Avoid too much alcohol, caffeine, sugar, spicy and hot foods as they can bring on hot flushing.
Get regular moderate aerobic and weight bearing exercise. This will help to alleviate stress and strengthen bones!