Can diet help manage symptoms of the menopause?
With so much information available around improving your diet with the ‘right’ foods during menopause, it can be hard to make choices that best suit you. Especially if you like cooking, and enjoy a wide variety – identifying foods to avoid during menopause can be time-consuming and stressful.
Many women take a holistic approach to treating symptoms of menopause, and this includes making simple changes in diet that can have a hugely positive impact on overall health.
Food as medicine during menopause
As well as nourishing your body, food nourishes the mind, and is often a source of pleasure. Nadia Brydon is a highly experienced women’s health nutritionist working with us at The Medical Chambers Kensington. And rather than building a strict, difficult-to-manage menopause diet and exercise plan, she stresses the importance of assessing how menopause can affect your body and the way you feel. Although there may be foods to avoid during menopause, there are plenty you can look to include in your diet, as a way of improving certain menopausal symptoms.
Show your bones some love
Menopause can affect bone density, so as well as strengthening and stretching your body through exercise, it’s important to include a range of foods in your diet that will help to maintain strength in your bones. Magnesium is a vital mineral, as it helps to lower the risk of osteoporosis. So plenty of green leafy vegetables such as kale, broccoli and spinach, plus nuts and seeds can help you here.
Calcium is also important for bones, and gives your body the best chance to build a healthy immune system. Yoghurt is an excellent source of calcium, and if you opt for the live product you’ll be boosting the good bacteria in your gut, too, which also helps to boost your immune system.
Look after your hair and nails
Due to the decline in oestrogen during the menopause, you may notice that your hair, skin and nails become dryer. Including a wide range of omega-3-rich fatty acids in your diet can help to make nails stronger, joints more supple and hair shinier.
You don’t always need to pick fresh mackerel or sardines either as high quality tinned varieties are brilliant sources of omega 3. If you don’t eat fish, you could consider supplementing with highly nutritious flax and chia seeds. The body struggles to break down the whole seed, but grinding them before using them (they make toppers for yoghurt or porridge!) helps with absorption.
Plant-based body balance
There’s a variety of oestrogen rich foods for menopause, and those found in certain plant-based foods behave in a similar way to the hormone of the same name. Known as phytoestrogens, studies have shown women with a high intake in their diet experience far fewer hot flushes than those who don’t include much plant-based food on their plate. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest that phytoestrogens may be good for reducing many common menopausal symptoms, so you might want to stock up on milk, tofu, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and green beans on your next grocery shop. Plus, eating a wide variety of plant-based foods ensures you’ll be taking in the all important vitamins, including C, K and D.
Foods to avoid during menopause
Disturbance in sleep and a change in hormones may mess with your energy levels. Certain foods can help, though, and some should be avoided.
First off, try to reduce sugary foods that will give you a spike of energy followed by a sharp dip. Complex carbohydrates such as wholemeal bread, pasta and brown grains will help to keep your blood sugar levels stable, and leave you feeling satisfied for longer.
Anything that ups the temperature in your body, such as spicy foods and alcohol, tends to make hot flushes worse. It can be difficult to deny yourself things that you love to eat, so if you like an occasional glass of wine for example, try to keep your intake down and if you are drinking throughout a meal out, a wine with soda water (a spritz) lowers the alcohol intake and keeps you well hydrated.
For more information about your diet’s impact on menopause
Nadia Brydon is a highly experienced women’s health nutritionist, who can guide and advise on the foods to help you feel your best during the menopause.
To find out more about nutrition and our women’s health team, please call 020 7244 4200 or make an appointment online.