How to Beat 6 Major Menopause Symptoms with Your Diet
Menopause, a dreaded word in almost every woman’s vocabulary, is a phase in a woman’s life that is inevitable, yet improvable. In fact, all the hot flushes and periods of fatigue that you’re expecting may not even take place in your case.
Every woman is affected by menopause differently but the most common symptoms remain constant, such as hot flushes, excessive sweating, anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, mood swings, poor memory and weight gain.
The frequency and intensity of these symptoms may vary from person to person.
Long term complications associated with menopause include, osteoporosis, decline in sex drive, heart disease, diabetes and dementia. All of these consequences are linked to falling estrogen levels in a menopausal woman’s body.
In most cases, a woman’s ovaries stop releasing eggs by the age of 50, resulting in the cessation of her menstrual cycle. This leads to a myriad of unpleasant symptoms, and sometimes no symptoms at all.
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Some women may only suffer from an occasional hot flash, while others may have to deal with symptoms such as mood swings, weight gain and fatigue almost all the time. Research shows that the physiological cause of these changes that happen in the body is largely due to a dip in estrogen production, which further affects other hormones in the body too.
As your ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone, you begin to experience symptoms that your body may be completely unfamiliar with. Estrogen is a hormone that’s responsible for keeping your mood in balance, a drop will likely result in increased stress and depression.
There are many treatment methods for menopause symptoms, ranging from natural to medical. The most popular medical treatment for menopause symptoms is hormone replacement therapy or HRT. HRT has been linked to a wide array of side effects and complications, which is why women seek natural treatments that are often risk-free and healthy.
One great way to boost health and reduce the troubling effects of menopause symptoms is modifying your diet. Keep reading to find out how you can tackle certain menopause symptoms and complications by including nutrient-rich foods in your lifestyle. The sooner you begin incorporating these foods and nutrients into your diet, the easier and more pleasant your coming menopause years will be.
How to Beat 6 Major Menopause Symptoms with Your Diet
1. Mood swings
While transitioning to menopause, many women complain about fluctuating moods, increased negativity and decreased sense of well-being. To counter this and increase the positivity in your life, you need to make positive nutritional choices. Understanding what foods can boost your mood can marginally stabilize your mood and make menopause a much more pleasant experience.
To tackle mood swings, your diet should be armed with the following:
- Fruits and vegetables
Fish is packed with omega-3 fatty acids which has a direct link with your mood. Choose oily fish such as tuna, mackerel and salmon. If you’re vegetarian, some great choices include nuts, whole grains and almost every woman’s favorite green thing, avocado!
Chicken are turkey are rich sources of tryptophan and vitamin B, which play a huge role in the production of serotonin – a feel-good hormone – in the body.
When planning a diet to boost mood, opt for the most vibrant fruits and vegetables as these are the ones packed with antioxidants that are great for your mood. In addition, beetroot, asparagus and Brussels sprouts are packed with B vitamins that are great for mood too.
Green veggies such as peas, spinach and kale are rich in folic acid, a B-vitamin which is required in the production of serotonin.
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Bonus food: Dark chocolate! Sugar is horrible for health and your menopause symptoms but this doesn’t mean you have to cut back on all your treats. Dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants and magnesium, which help reset your cortisol levels. Plus chocolate brings a smile to every woman’s face.
Research shows that complex carbohydrates may help in the release of tryptophan, an amino acid which promotes the production of serotonin. Serotonin helps people fall asleep and enjoy deeper slumber. Foods you should consume to improve sleep include:
- Whole grains
Turkey is also an excellent source of tryptophan, which is why you feel so good after having it. Other great sources include soy protein, egg whites, cod and warm milk. All these foods promote healthy sleep.
Additionally, consuming whole grains such as quinoa, whole grain cereal and whole grain bread can help you sleep better at night. Pair these with omega-3s from fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout and tuna to boost your meal’s sleep-inducing effects.
Cherries are a fabulous source of melatonin. Having cherries or a tart cherry juice without sugar can help regulate sleep. Read more about it here.
Try having chamomile tea as well. Research shows that chamomile has a soothing effect in the body which may also promote deep sleep.
Make sure you avoid having large meals and alcohol at night and these may affect sleep negatively. Needless to say, caffeine should also be minimized or avoided during the p.m.
3. Hot flashes and night sweats
Many studies show positive results with the Mediterranean diet to combat hot flashes. This diet comprises the following beauties:
- Olive oil
- Whole grains
- Fruits and vegetables
Although the diet was designed for weight loss, modern research suggests that women who follow the Mediterranean diet are 20 percent less likely to suffer from hot flashes and night sweats. This is a double win because menopause is likely to cause weight gain, which can be managed with this diet.
According to researchers, the high fiber and omega-3 content of this diet helps stabilize estrogen levels in the body, and thus reduces symptoms. Furthermore, this diet keeps blood sugar levels in check too, which explains why so many dieticians recommend it for diabetic patients.
Note that even though you’re supposed to have more of the aforementioned food, you shouldn’t drop other food groups just as meat, fish, nuts and seeds. Make sure your diet has more real foods and fewer processed and synthetic products. Foods such as coffee, alcohol, spicy food, sugar and excess salt are common culprits for triggering hot flashes in menopausal women.
Including foods rich in phytoestrogens is also a great idea to fight menopause symptoms. Phytoestrogens are simply plant estrogens that bind with estrogen receptor sites to give a better hormonal balance in the body.
This explains why populations with predominantly plant-based diets are less likely to experience menopause symptoms. To get phytoestrogens from your diet, have more soy protein, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds, green beans, rhubarb and celery.
4. Declining sex drive
Many women experience a decline in their sex drive during menopause, which is caused by a drop in estrogen levels. Low libido and vaginal dryness are common symptoms many menopausal women complain about.
The North American Menopause Society states that:
“Desire usually (but not always) wanes with age. In general, sex drive decreases gradually with age in both men and women, but women are two to three times more likely to be affected by a decline in sex drive as they age. Reduced sex drive becomes much more common in women starting in their late 40s and 50s.”
To boost your sex drive and reduce vaginal dryness, you need to include the following in your diet:
- L-arginine-rich foods
- Fresh fruits
- Dark chocolate
Some great sources of L-arginine include oatmeal, granola, dairy, nuts, soybeans, chickpeas, garlic and green veggies. These foods aren’t only incredibly healthy; they’re good for your sexual wellness. Pairing an L-arginine-rich food with avocado is a good way to battle lowered sex drive as it’s packed with potassium. Potassium helps regulate thyroid hormones and it even boosts libido.
Chocolate is a popular aphrodisiac for women but it’s important you stick with dark chocolate as milk chocolate contains too much sugar and may worsen menopause symptoms. Dark chocolate stimulates the release of serotonin, thus inducing feelings of happiness and pleasure, somewhat similar to sex.
Don’t go crazy on the chocolate and have it before (or during, if you know what we are talking about) your lovemaking session for maximum benefits.
Asparagus is rich in vitamin E and fresh fruits are packed with antioxidants that boost sexual health.
Many fruits are primarily composed of water, making them great for vaginal dryness. Make sure you stay hydrated all day to keep vaginal dryness at bay. Vaginal dryness is caused by decline in estrogen levels and is a common complaint among menopausal women.
However, making sure you drink plenty of water and fruits can help offset vaginal dryness and improve your skin health too. As a bonus, water also prevents water retention and thus, decreases bloating and abdominal discomfort – two common problems associated with hormonal changes.
Bloating, as mentioned above, is another symptom associated with dropping estrogen levels. Moreover, the body converts androgens (male hormones) to estrogen – this process is called aromatization and increases with weight and age.
To avoid bloating, say yes to the following:
- LOTS of water
- Fresh fruits, herbs and vegetables
- Herbal teas
Fresh fruits, herbs and vegetables such as parsley, asparagus, juniper berries, artichokes, asparagus, watercress, celery seeds, watercress and dandelion are amazing for bloating. We also can’t stress enough on how important it is to drink plenty of water!
Not a fan of drinking water regularly?
No problem, have juicy fruits, fresh juices or infused water instead. Infused water is simply water flavored with berries, strawberries, lemons, oranges or any other flavor you love. Just add fruit wedges to a bottle of water and enjoy! Mint and ginger are some excellent options too.
However, you have to make sure that you avoid alcohol, coffee, sugar and fizzy beverages to prevent bloating. Reducing salt in your diet can also massively help. The Mayo Clinic points out:
“Belching or burping is your body's way of expelling excess air from your stomach. It's a normal reflex caused by swallowing air. You may swallow excess air if you eat or drink too fast, talk while you eat, chew gum or suck on hard candies, drink carbonated beverages, or smoke.”
6. Declining bone health
Declining bone health is a serious issue many menopausal women experience as they age. When estrogen levels begin to fall, women experience quicker bone loss as well. If you’re not getting hormone replacement done, make sure you get at least 1200 mg of calcium every day to sustain your bone health and prevent or at least, slow down the development of osteoporosis.
Women taking hormone replacement therapy should take around 1000 mg of calcium per day.
The Cleveland Clinic explains the process as follows:
“There is a direct relationship between the lack of estrogen after menopause and the development of osteoporosis. After menopause, bone resorption (breakdown) overtakes the building of new bone. Early menopause (before age 45) and any long phases in which the woman has low hormone levels and no or infrequent menstrual periods can cause loss of bone mass.”
To boost your calcium intake, make sure you consume more dairy such as milk, nonfat yogurt and cottage cheese, which are excellent sources of protein too.
Vitamin D is also an important nutrient required for bone protection during menopause. Since vitamin D is a sunlight vitamin, it only makes sense to spend some hours in the sun. However, SPF and sun protection greatly reduces vitamin D production in the body when exposed to sunlight.
A smarter way to do it would be to exercise in the a.m. outdoors – you’re getting a workout and some vitamin D action but just make sure you have sunscreen on at all times! Talk to your doctor about the right amount of vitamin D you can get from a supplement as well.
Too much phosphorous can accelerate mineral loss from the bones too therefore; foods such as processed foods and fizzy drinks should be avoided. Red meat is also a source of phosphorous which should be minimized. Moreover, avoiding high-sodium foods and caffeine can also help the body maintain its calcium reserves.
Alkaline foods such as fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and yogurt are excellent choices that help inhibit the loss of calcium stores from bones. Foods rich in boron and magnesium are also vital for bone replacement and thus, for reducing your risk of osteoporosis. Some fabulous sources of boron include apples pears, raisins, dates, nuts, grapes and legumes.
If you’re going to take a supplement to improve or maintain your bone health, choose one with a combination of vitamin D, E and K and calcium, magnesium, zinc and boron. All these minerals in the correct proportions will bring forward the best effects.