Eat to ease the menopause

Many of the symptoms associated with the menopause can be managed by lifestyle

A healthy balance of the right foods, in the right quantities, will make the menopause easier to manage. Photographs: iStockphoto

A healthy balance of the right foods, in the right quantities, will make the menopause easier to manage. Photographs: iStockphoto

 

With a well-balanced diet and a regular exercise routine, you can look after your waistline, your blood pressure and your cholesterol levels, all of which will influence a woman’s heart health in her middle years. The combination of weight-bearing exercise and what you eat will either be a solid foundation for strong bones, or a weak support that will prematurely age you.

Many symptoms associated with the menopause can be minimised or managed by lifestyle, including choosing a healthy balance of the right foods, in the right quantities. Many symptoms are the result of the declining female hormones – oestrogen and progesterone. Here we look at how you can manage symptoms with your diet.

Declining oestrogen levels

What to do:

Declining progesterone levels

What to do:

Irregular menstrual periods

What to do:

Weight gain

What to do:n

the new you doing the things you won’t do now because you are overweight. Repeating this exercise regularly helps to see yourself as who you want to be.

nMake life easier by making sure

your personal trigger foods are out of reach.

nRealise that you always have choices. Make them consciously, not on automatic pilot.

Weigh up the consequences of your food decisions and then choose.

nAs a rough guideline, 1,500 kcal per day is usually effective to support weight loss. Many free food-diary apps calculate calories

on smart phones or tablets.

Hot flushes and night sweats

Hot flushes may be associated with palpitations and feelings of anxiety. As with other menopause symptoms, they follow a pattern unique to each woman and there is no way of predicting when they will start or stop. What to do: Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring compounds found in plant foods. They have a similar but not identical structure to oestrogen. Some studies suggest that eating phyto-oestrogen rich foods helps diminish hot flushes and night sweats. Natural foods are best including: nIsoflavones mainly found in soya (edamame) beans and soya products (tofu, miso, tempeh), chickpeas and other legumes, nuts and nut butters and whole grains. nLignans primarily found in seeds and seed oils (such as linseed/flaxseed oil) and legumes.

Food supplements are not recommended. Certain preparations can inhibit important thyroid enzymes. This is a real health concern, especially where there is borderline iodine deficiency.

Sleep disturbances or insomnia

What to do:

nn

nAvoid caffeine and cut down on fluid in the evening. Drinking too much of anything can disrupt sleep.

nMilk contains tryptophan, the raw material the brain uses to build both serotonin and melatonin.

These compounds help us relax and prepare for sleep. While the amount of tryptophan in a glass of milk may not be enough to cause any real drowsiness, a glass of warm milk warms the body and helps muscles relax. nWarm baths, lavender, layered cotton bed linen are helpful to some.

Fatigue and flagging energy levels

What to do:

Include a protein-rich food at lunch such as tuna or chicken salad with wholegrain crispbreads; hummus/falafel with cherry tomatoes and lettuce in a warm wholegrain pitta bread; omelette with roasted veg and rocket leaves; bean or lentil veg soup with rye crackers.

Eat an early evening meal: seafood/poultry/lean meat stir-fry with wholegrain rice and generous portions of iron and folate rich green leafy vegetables.

Drink 1-2 litres of fluid throughout the day. Try green tea or red bush tea.

To sustain your energy throughout the day avoid the following:

High sugar foods:

Alcohol:

metabolise large volumes of alcohol.

Anaemia

Underlying illness

Paula Mee is a dietitian and a member of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute pmee@medfit.ie @paula_mee

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