Menopause can be a difficult phase that many women undergo due to the many physical and psychological changes that may arise during that period. Hot flashes, weight gain, fatigue, mood swings and sleep problems are the symptoms that are quite common. But can dietary changes be helpful in minimizing those symptoms?
Understanding the changes during menopause
Menopause is a period of life characterized by the end of the menstrual cycle for 12 consecutive months. It is often preceded by perimenopause which is the transitional period leading to menopause. Perimenopause could last between 2 to 7 years before menopause, and oftentimes, it is during this period that symptoms such as irregular menstruation, hot flashes and weight gain arise. Those symptoms are the results of a decrease in the secretion of hormones (estrogen and progesterone).
Relieving the hot flashes
Hot flashes are one of the most common and uncomfortable symptoms experienced by many women during perimenopause and menopause.
Some studies demonstrate that soya and its derivative products could help in reducing the intensity and frequency of hot flashes. This can be explained by the fact that soya contains isoflavone, a molecule that have weak estrogen-like effects.
Hence, with a daily consumption of one of those soy-based foods for at least 3 months, you could see an improvement in your symptoms:
- 1 cup (250 ml) of unsweetened soy beverage
- 100g (½ to ¾ cup) of tempeh or tofu
- ½ cup of edamames
- ¼ cup of roasted soy nuts
Minimizing alcohol and caffeine can also be beneficial in reducing the severity and frequency of hot flashes.
Managing weight gain
Menopause is a time during which the woman’s body undergoes many physical changes, and weight gain can be quite common. That body transformation is normal and is due to the secretion of lower levels of estrogens and a slowdown in the metabolism, resulting in a gradual loss of lean muscle mass with age.
To help you boost your metabolism, make sure that you have an adequate amount of proteins (lean meats, fish, eggs, pulses, soy, nuts and seeds) at your meals and snacks. Maximizing your fibre intake is also a winning strategy for weight management since fibre contributes to making you fuller. Hence, choosing whole-grain starches and having an adequate amount of vegetables and fruits in your diet can help you regulate your appetite.
Also, during perimenopause and menopause, our energy needs decrease, therefore leading to a reduced degree of hunger. However, because we are so used to eating on autopilot mode, we often maintain the same portions of foods compared to before menopause. Being more in tune with your hunger and fullness cues could hence be beneficial in attaining your health goals.
Beware of drastic diets!
While drastic diets can be very appealing, you should however be careful before going on one.
Those diets could make you lose weight at the beginning but they could also result in a decrease in your metabolism and therefore leading to weight gain in the long run.
Instead, try seeking help from a nutritionist who can accompany you in your journey to healthy eating and therefore help you in managing your weight.
Minimising risks associated to osteoporosis
Since estrogen helps to keep bones healthy, women tend to lose bone density faster during menopause as estrogen levels drop. This can increase the risk of developing osteoporosis, whereby the bones become fragile and more prone to fractures.
A diet with rich calcium sources such as dairy products, fortified milk substitutes like soy beverages, nuts, beans, tofu and some vegetables and fruits can therefore help in strengthening your bones. Calcium supplements could also be helpful in meeting your needs.
Combined with a calcium-rich diet, it is also necessary to take a vitamin D supplement as the latter is needed for the absorption of calcium.
Menopause is certainly not an easy period to go through for many women. For better management of the changes and body transformation brought about by menopause, feel free to contact a nutritionist who can guide you with individualized recommendations according to your needs, preferences and lifestyle.