The 'M' Word Part 1 - diet to help ease your way through the menopause


I cannot believe that I have been writing this blog for over a year now and not mentioned the menopause. I was diagnosed with 'early menopause' at 39 years of age. What was really happening was my body was suffering the effects of repeated bouts of pneumonia (see 'About Me') during which my weight had plummeted . What followed was several years of HRT. Eventually I said 'enough' and stopped taking it. As my health and weight improved, I discovered I had not had an early menopause at all!! 

By the time I did actually experience the menopause, I was passionate about taking care of my health and the only noticeable effect was an increase in migraines. Some ladies however suffer miserably with the menopause and the effects can last up to 10 years. The effects are due to the levels of oestrogen falling BUT do not despair there is a great deal you can do to ease your way through, starting with your diet.  

One of the miseries of the menopause is hot flushes.  These are made worse by caffeine in tea, coffee and even chocolate, alcohol and spicy foods. Caffeine also may contribute to insomnia, another symptom of the menopause especially if you have it after lunch. Try herbal teas or coconut water instead. Including phytoestrogens in your diet can help too including soybeans, oats, flaxseed and walnuts.  These are weakly oestrogenic, that is they mimic the effect of oestrogen.

Once we hit the menopause, loss of calcium from our bones accelerates because oestrogen helps prevent the loss of bone material.  For this reason it is important to take steps to prevent osteoporosis, a condition where the bones become thin and fractures become more likely. Olive leaf extract helps increase the osteoblasts that make bone. See http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/supplement-focus-olive-leaf-extract.html
You should also make sure your diet includes calcium rich foods.  If you are vegan and do not have dairy foods this means fortified soya milk, tofu, some vegetables such as broccoli and white beans. Foods that provide vitamin D should also be included because vitamin D helps the absorption of calcium. Vegan sources include fortified soya milk and mushrooms. Your body can also manufacture vitamin D if your skin is exposed to natural daylight for around 15 minutes each day. Avoid fizzy drinks containing phosphoric acid which accelerate bone loss. Support your bone health with an alkaline forming diet. This means eating plenty of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes and keeping red meat, poultry, fish and grains to a minimum. Too much salt also accelerates calcium loss.

If you can keep your blood sugar stable, you can help reduce fatigue, anxiety and mood swings which are also symptoms of the menopause.  This means avoiding refined carbs such as sugar, white flour, white bread and white pasta in favour of slow release carbs such as brown rice, quinoa etc.  It also means not going too long without food, so have some healthy snacks available.

Many women worry about weight gain caused by the menopause especially on the tummy and it does seem that oestrogen helps with weight control because of its effect on metabolism. BUT it is not inevitable. Focus on a healthy diet of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts, seeds and low fat sources of protein such as tofu, beans and lentils or if you are not vegan add poultry (no skin) and fish. Also include exercise in your daily routine. It is imortant to control weight because without the protection of oestrogen women's heart disease risk rises after the menopause to that of men.

Another concern for many women is that their skin will become dry and wrinkled after the menopause. Include foods rich in collagen. See http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/collagen-your-internal-anti-wrinkle.html I'll be talking more about this soon.  

A further fear is memory loss after the menopause, something else I will be talking more about soon. Make sure your diet includes omega 3s.  Please see
http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/where-do-vegans-get-their-omega-3s-from.html

Hope this helps
Janet x

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