Nutrition and Menopause

 

Menopause! Yes, it is real (you are going through it, headed there or know someone who is) and it is one of the most trying stages in our lives if not managed well. I must say I am privileged to be helping a few of my clients who are going through menopause. It has been a different experience with each of them and working together to find what works with each of them has been a great blessing. They have taught me a lot about honoring this journey.

For women, menopause raises a number of health issues. For one thing, there are many women who suffer severe symptoms including hot flushes and mood swings. Weight gain can also be a significant problem for women going through menopause. In addition to dealing with a slowing metabolic rate, women can also find themselves gaining weight as a result of stress. Losing weight at this stage becomes such a stressful process as it never seems to “get off”

When stressed, it is highly likely for food to become a comforter. By far the best way to deal with menopause is to maintain a healthy diet and to exercise regularly, whether or not the symptoms are severe and weight gain is a significant issue.

Because of the changes the body is experiencing it is particularly important to control what we eat, less calories serve our bodies better. A slowing metabolic rate means that energy is being burned less quickly, so women need fewer calories at this stage in their life. Women need to ensure the proper intake of vitamins and minerals, drink plenty of water and consume plenty of fiber. A good amount of fruits and vegetables are a great source of these nutrients.

To stabilize moods (which seem to be all over the place during menopause) a diet containing healthy fats is also advisable with plenty of protein and non-starchy vegetables providing the bulk of the calories as opposed to refined carbohydrates (simple sugars). Less intake of simple sugars help to improve mood swings and night sweats as there is a blood glucose balance. These include candies and cookies, sugary cereals, refined grains like bread, soda and sugary drinks etc…they are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream as they contain no fiber and can create a “sugar rush”; a short-lived high-energy feeling that is shortly followed by a “crash”. The crash is a lack of energy brought on by the rapid pace with which simple sugars are processed within the body, leaving the blood stream as fast as they entered it. This can have health consequences, as foods that contain simple sugars often lack nutritional value and are very high in calories- this does not serve our bodies at all.

Many women find their tolerance of alcohol is diminished at this time. This may be due to the extra work that the liver and other organs are carrying out due to hormonal changes. If you are constantly on processed foods, your liver can become overwhelmed. Remember your liver also helps you burn body fat so if it is kept busy cleaning out toxins, it has no time to get rid of your unwanted fat!

Nutritional experts often advise women to eat more foods containing phytoestrogens (Phyto- is from the Greek phyton meaning plant. A phytoestrogen is a naturally-occurring plant nutrient that exerts an estrogen-like action on the body).  These include soy, lentils, flax seeds, whole grains, chickpeas and herbs. Phytoestrogens are thought to block the body’s uptake of unhealthy estrogens and where there is a deficiency of estrogen, provide an alternative source.

Other common issues are thyroid problems. Many women report symptoms of mild hypothyroidism at this stage in life. These include, weight gain, fatigue, dry skin, hair loss and increased susceptibility to cold.

Some of the most important tests to be done during menopause include; hypothyroidism, vitamins and mineral tests to detect deficiencies before supplementing.

Menopause affects women differently. There are some who actually never face any complications. Do you have any concerns about irregular periods, mood swings, night sweats or hot flashes…? Please talk with your doctor. You may need to undergo the tests mentioned above so as to properly diagnose the issue at hand.

By the way, it has been said that women tend to undergo menopause at an age similar to that of their mothers! When is the last time you called mum...? NOW is a good time!

 Blessings!