About the menopause
Most women dread the word menopause. In reality it affects women in completely different ways, but the most common symptoms include hot flushes, sweating, insomnia, anxiety, impairment of memory and fatigue. Long term consequences can include a decline in libido, osteoporosis, heart disease, even dementia – all linked to reduced oestrogen levels.
Typically, a woman’s ovaries stop releasing eggs in her early 50s, and the menstrual cycle stops. Some women can sail through with only the odd hot flush, but others can struggle with symptoms such as weight gain and fluctuating emotions. The physiological reason why the body starts changing is largely down to the drop in oestrogen production and the effect this has on other hormones.
As the ovaries stop manufacturing the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, symptoms may begin. For example, oestrogen helps lift our mood so, when levels drop, we may feel depressed. Some women opt for hormone replacement therapy (HRT); others try natural remedies. Whether or not you decide to take HRT, following the guidelines below won’t hurt and will assist in the pursuit of an all-round healthy lifestyle.
It has been noted that eating, and avoiding, certain types of foods can make the menopause a lot more bearable. Here are common problems those going through the menopause may face and some foods to watch out for…
Try to cut down on foods that are likely to trigger or worsen hot flushes and night sweats. For instance, avoid stimulants such as coffee, alcohol and chocolate and spicy foods, especially at night – they’re notorious for setting off hot flushes.
Avoid snacking on sugary foods – all too often a sharp rise in your blood glucose level may be followed by a sharp dip which leaves you feeling tired and drained. Choose fresh fruit with a few nuts instead.
Depression and irritability
Ensure you eat enough protein foods which contain the amino acid tryptophan. You can find it in turkey, cottage cheese, oats and legumes. Tryptophan helps manufacture the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin helps moods and may help control sleep and appetite which can make you feel better in yourself. Other useful strategies to help you feel less irritable are to eat breakfast and not miss meals in order to ensure you keep your blood sugar stable. Erratic blood sugar levels may lead to irritability and mood swings.
Eat foods high in magnesium and boron. These are minerals which are important for the replacement of bone and thus help to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Apples, pears, grapes, dates, raisins, legumes and nuts are good sources of boron.
Talk to your doctor about whether you may benefit from a calcium supplement. Other vitamins and minerals that are vital for bone health are magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin D and zinc. Weight-bearing exercise is important too, but if you have been diagnosed with any form of bone loss, check with your doctor that you can exercise safely and effectively.
Eat more phyto-oestrogens
This page was last reviewed on 8 August 2018.
Kerry Torrens is a qualified Nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
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