Nutrition and the Menopause

It’s January and following the gluttony and overconsumption of the holiday period, many of us take a stance of new year, new you outlook, but honestly this approach never ends well (please don’t shoot the messenger!).  Short term, quick fixes, with aesthetic goals as the core emphasis simply don’t work, end of conversation!

When looking to make long-term sustainable changes we have to accept it will take time and it will require us to really invest in making ourselves a priority by taking stock of everything in our life. Starting small and simple is fundamental, an elimination attitude is a sure-fire way to disappointment, instead focusing on progress and how much better you are feeling are key.

Step one requires us to be brutally honest with ourselves to truly understand what is serving us well and what isn’t. There are no two-ways about it, we have to examine every aspect of our lifestyle to be able to get to the root of those answers (even if we don’t like them).  Good nutrition doesn’t just happen on the plate, it’s about looking at all the primary pillars of our wellbeing; relationships, career, finances, spirituality to see what is truly nourishing us and what needs to be addressed.

Today we are focusing on food nutrition and generally we all know what the fundamentals are, but more importantly, I want to help you understand how our choices can really be the make or break in supporting the changes in our bodies during the menopause.  It seems really simplistic to say that better nutrition and how we fuel our body can have a profound effect on our symptoms, but honestly and from first-hand experience, I know this to be the case.

It really is a major factor and can help to reduce vasomotor symptoms, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, improve bone density and muscle mass whilst maintaining a healthy weight.  Just as critical though are the psychological health benefits, making good choices can significantly improve how we feel about ourselves and help to foster a more positive mindset.

Weight gain is one of the most common side effects experienced during the menopausal journey affecting at least 50% of individuals.  As oestrogen levels decrease the body changes the ways and the places it stores fat, with an increase average of around 5-7% visceral fat and this coincides with a slowdown in our metabolic rate, as lean muscle mass reduces.

So, what’s on the menu?

Fruit & Vegetables

The general baseline for a sustainable healthy eating plan is focused around eating the following; a variety of fruit and vegetables consuming at least 5 a day with a recommendation that you eat up to 30 different types to assist your gut microbiome which is where 70% of our immune system sits.  Try to fill half your plate for each meal.

Whole Grains

During midlife there is an increase risk of cardiovascular disease and related health issues and eating whole grains can help to reduce that.  Choose quality whole-grains packed with fibre.

Protein

Choose high-quality proteins like lean meat, fish, nuts and eggs to help rebuild muscle mass.  Eating enough protein will also help digestion, thyroid function, bone growth and give your sex hormones a boost.

Healthy Fats

Focus on Omega-3 fatty acids which aids the reduction of inflammation a major factor to reducing symptoms such as night sweats and hot flashes but also the added benefit of helping with any aching joints or muscles.  Fish such as salmon and chia or flax seeds are a good source.

There is a lot of scientific evidence to suggest that an anti-inflammatory diet is a fantastic way to tackle and approach the hormonal changes that effect our physical and mental wellbeing during our menopausal journey.  I can certainly attest to that, when I started my wellness journey this was the foundational light bulb moment which transformed and changed my life in more ways than one.

Now, it goes without saying that we also need to take stock of all the foods that play havoc on our bodies during this time.

Sugar

During the menopause our two main hormones oestrogen and progesterone diminish and can result in insulin resistance, which exacerbates the tiredness and fatigue already being felt.  Avoiding refined sugars can improve sensitivity to insulin and help reduce symptoms.

Refined Carbohydrates

These are sugars or grains which have been stripped of all fibre and nutrients which are usually found in highly processed foods and drinks.  Their high GI content cause unhealthy spikes in blood sugar levels and contribute to fluctuations in mood and energy.

Alcohol

The use of alcohol can worsen or even trigger symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats and of course is also a sleep disruptor, so it’s worth considering a reduction here especially if these symptoms are your most challenging.   Let’s not forget there are also other health risks associated with alcohol too.

BUT….let’s get one thing straight here, I’m not part of any anti-fun campaign, I like to eat out, drink alcohol, munch on chocolate and generally have a good time with my nearest and dearest.  However, I am hugely conscious of the impact all these things have on me, especially as I navigate through my own menopausal journey.  My life is really about self-awareness, creating balance and understanding what works for me and what doesn’t, without living a life of abstinence.

 

“Balance is not something you find, it’s something you create”

-Jana Kingsford-

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