Could your diet be the answer to combating menopause?Posted on: 18 October 2017 by 50connect editorial
If you’re struggling with night sweats and fatigue, changing your diet could help ease your symptoms explain Nutritional therapist Karen Newby.
The Menopause is often connected with a ‘turning point’ in our lives - a sense that what now follows will be different from what went before. This is referred to by the Japanese as having an awareness of ‘fu shi me’, i.e. a defined mental outlook. In Asia, the menopause is regarded positively, rather than approached with dread like it is so often in the West.
It has been reported that the incidence of hot flushes, the most common of the symptoms of the menopause, varies from 70–80% of menopausal women in Europe, 57% in Malaysia, but only 18% in China and 14% in Singapore. Food should be viewed as a powerful medicine that has a huge impact on the biochemical processes in the body.
Key foods to help support the body during menopause
Including soy (eat in their natural untextured, organic form) so miso, tofu, lentils and chickpeas, kidney beans, seeds, garlic, celery. Isoflavones found in legumes, lignans in grains and seeds especially linseed are all phytoestrogens. Linseed is also a great source of Omega 3 and protein.
Including nuts, fish, seeds and oils. EFAs deficiency often the same as menopause symptoms such as irritability, breast tenderness, depression, difficulty losing weight, aching joints, dry eyes. Omega 3 is essential for memory and concentration – 60% of our brain is made up of essential fatty acids.
Fruit and vegetables
Great for antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, green juices are cooling to the body – Pack’D Smoothies are an easy way to stay on top of your fruit and veg intake. High amounts of Vitamin C are needed on a daily basis as we don’t store it well in the body – it can also help with symptoms such as vaginal dryness. Magnesium is important for sleep problems, try Epsom bath salts too.
Including oats, brown rice, whole grain bread for slow-releasing energy
Reduces problems with flatulence and constipation which are common during the menopause. It helps you feel fuller after meals and reduces the speed of blood sugar being released into the system. Soluble fibre (oats, rice, fruits, beans) stops old estrogens re-circulating (especially important if using HRT).
Good fluid intake
Essential alongside an increase in fibre as fibre increases water absorption. This also helps with water retention, a common menopause symptom. We are made up of 70% water. It is needed for every process in the body and is especially useful for controlling body temperature, an important symptom in those women with night sweats. Water retention is made worse with low water intake as the body holds onto it more.
After the menopause, the adrenal glands produce oestrogen so it is important to nourish these glands that site on top of our kidneys. The key ways to nourish our adrenals include protein to give us a drip feed of energy (which reduces the stress hormone cortisol which is produced in the adrenals), plenty of Vitamin C and B vitamins. The Alchemy Energy Elixir blend which also includes maca, an adaptogen which helps us deal with stress.
Foods to avoid during the menopause
Blood sugar control is very important to keep anxiety and irritability levels under control. Symptoms can again be very similar to menopause: irritability, forgetfulness, weight gain especially around the middle, fatigue, anxiety, tension, sweating and lack of concentration. There is also a stress connection. When blood sugar falls the body release adrenaline and cortisol into the blood to get blood sugar raised. Very nutrient depleting and causes adrenal exhaustion and the inability to deal with any stress, hence the symptoms of irritability. Fat around the middle can also occur.
So a low GI diet with plenty of whole foods and no refined carbohydrates is recommended to counter-act this as well as plenty of nutrients to help with blood sugar control such as cinnamon and the trace mineral chromium. Sugar also affects white blood cell activity. Make an exception for fruit but opt for whole fruit, not fruit juices which don’t have the fibre which helps buffer the sugar effect on our body.
Aspartame is over 180 times sweeter than sugar and has been linked to weight gain and binge eating. It has also been linked to mood swings as it has been shown to alter levels of the brain chemical serotonin.
Stimulants can increase hot flashes by making blood vessels dilate. Just hot drinks themselves can make hot flushes worse, as can spicy food. On a hot day, a hot drink encourages dilation which helps cool down the body. Caffeine can exacerbate breast tenderness. Tannins in tea can bind minerals and stop them being absorbed. Alcohol and weight gain (1 small glass of wine=100 calories)
High salt leads to high blood pressure. The more sodium you consume the more potassium you need to counteract its effect. Reduce substances that can reduce potassium such as alcohol, coffee, sugar, diuretics and laxatives, keep your blood sugar stable, eat plenty of greens and reduce your salt intake.
Karen Newby is an expert nutritional therapist who runs a clinic in Brighton and lectures at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition. She is also the founder of Alchemy Organic Super Blends, four nutrient-rich, organic, protein and superfood blends. Alchemy are offering a special 30% off discount code on all Alchemy products, to get your discount, enter code 50connect30 at the checkout.
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