Nutrition tips for The Effects of Menopause

Drink enough fluids

As you age, you may slowly lose your sense of thirst. This means you can become less hydrated without even noticing it, through no fault of your own. Plus, some key menopausal symptoms may be improved simply by drinking more fluids. If hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, or bladder infections are affecting you, try drinking at least six 8-oz glasses per day to help hydrate you. Ideally, that drink is water or herbal tea. Tea with adaptogens is a double win as it gives you a great way to help the body adapt further to stress and help maintain that homeostatic balance. Here’s a link for a few favorites!

Avoid alcohol

You know that alcohol isn’t the best drink for your health—especially too much. Alcohol can worsen hot flashes and make it harder to stay asleep. And it certainly affects actual sleep quality (measured on sleep trackers). It can also increase your risk of getting or worsening many health conditions. Not to mention it can make you forgetful and confused, and can even lead to loss of muscle mass, balance problems, falls, and accidents. Plus, it has nutrient-free calories that can contribute to weight gain.  For the summer mocktail, try this simple pomegranate juice (unsweetened) with sparkling water over ice. Refreshing, slightly bitter (think Aperol Spritz)  and like a tonic. Antioxidant benefit for heart health and polyphenols for your gut health and microbiome. I drink this several times a week in the summer.

Cut down on spicy foods, caffeine, and sugar

If hot flashes bother you, consider avoiding common triggers like spicy foods and caffeine. 

When it comes to sugar, the simplest way to cut down is to replace sugar-sweetened drinks with water or herbal tea. But if one desires or finds a slower “taper down” approach, it can be worthwhile to try some non-nutritive sweeteners…ideally not for long-term use. There are a few worth trying such as Stevia and monk fruit, but my favorite hack here is glycine since many are deficient in this amino acid anyway. 

Menopause

Eat higher quality foods

It’s really important to eat quality foods with a lot of nutrients (i.e., nutrient-dense foods). These include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. When it comes to protein for your muscles and bones, eat legumes, nuts, seeds, fish, and/or poultry. Check out this excellent book called Nutrivore that is an example of how we practice nutrition at Precision Metabolic Health…though we do individualize it further based on a person’s history, labs, personality, and environment.

By eating more nutrient-dense foods like these ones you’ll get more vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein—all of which are very important to maintain your health at and beyond menopause.

Briefly we will focus on three particular areas of nutrition from a macroscopic perspective. Fiber is a key macronutrient that most are deficient in. Aim for 30-35 grams a day. If you cannot tolerate that amount of fiber, you absolutely need gut health support to get to that point.

Protein is another key area for midlife menopausal transition. We cover plant based protein and animal protein at length in our Food As Medicine Academy.

Your bones love calcium and vitamin D. Some of the richest sources of these are dairy products, fish with bones, and foods fortified with these nutrients (check your labels). But my favorite, which happens to be plant/legume based has calcium and protein together. Anything with Great Northern beans…is often a win. Try this recipe! And don’t forget to look at the Recipe Pack I sent earlier this month because many of those will be flavor -enhancing!

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What about soy and phytoestrogens?

Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that mimic the effects of estrogen—the hormone that your body slows down the production of during menopause. Soy is the best-known food containing these phytoestrogens and is often recommended for menopausal symptoms like hot flashes. In addition to food sources, you can also find dietary supplements with high amounts of phytoestrogens. Some women choose to take these supplements instead of hormones.

Research shows inconsistent results when it comes to phytoestrogens for menopausal symptoms. That means some studies show a small reduction in hot flashes, while others don’t.

If you’re interested in taking these phytoestrogens, speak with your healthcare professional first.
In addition, there are a lot of nutraceuticals/supplements that can be helpful for perimenopause and menopause. But be wary of where and what you choose and purchase. Not only should these ideally be personalized to your biology, they ought to be of high quality. In addition, they ought to be monitored so that you aren’t stuck with being on long-term supplements.

Bottom Line on Optimizing Effects of Menopause

When it comes to nutrition for menopause a few simple changes can help you optimize the effects of menopause.

Be sure to drink enough fluids, but not alcohol; cut down on spicy foods, caffeine, and sugar; eat smaller quantities of higher-quality food; eat a lot of fiber, and have soy if you enjoy it, but don’t expect it to miraculously solve any bothersome menopausal symptoms.

If menopausal symptoms are bothering you, book an appointment with me to see if my services can help you navigate this time in your life. 

References

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2018, December). The Menopause Years. Retrieved from
https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/The-Menopause-Years

Mayo Clinic Healthy Lifestyle Women’s Health (2016, April 21). Menopause weight gain: Stop the middle age spread. Retrieved from
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/menopause-weight-gain/art-20046058

Medscape. (2018, March 19). Mediterranean Diet May Help Protect Bones in Postmenopausal Women. Retrieved from
https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/894109

Medscape. (2018, July 27). Weight Effects of Plant-Estrogens May Vary After Menopause. Retrieved from
https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/899858

Medscape. (2018, November 6). Diet Rich in Fruits and Vegetables Tied to Fewer Menopause Symptoms. Retrieved from
https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/905407

Medscape. (2017, October 10). Docs Call Attention to Women Piling on Pounds in Midlife. Retrieved from
https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/886795

Medscape. (2017, June 8). Heavy Drinking Increases Postmenopausal Sarcopenia Risk. Retrieved from
https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/881339

NIH National Institute on Aging. (n.d.). Menopause: Tips for a Healthy Transition. Retrieved from
https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/infographics/menopause-tips-healthy-transition

NIH National Institute on Aging. (2017, June 27). What is menopause? Retrieved from
https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-menopause

NIH National Institute on Aging. (2017, June 16). What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Menopause? Retrieved from
https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-are-signs-and-symptoms-menopause

NIH National Institute on Aging. (2017, June 26). Hot Flashes: What Can I Do? Retrieved from
https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hot-flashes-what-can-i-do

NIH National Institute on Aging. (2017, May 13). Sleep Problems and Menopause: What Can I Do? Retrieved from
https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/sleep-problems-and-menopause-what-can-i-do

NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2017, March). Treatment for Bladder Infection (Urinary Tract Infection—UTI) in Adults. Retrieved from
https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/bladder-infection-uti-in-adults/treatment

NIH National Institute on Aging. (2017, May 16). Facts About Aging and Alcohol. Retrieved from
https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/facts-about-aging-and-alcohol

NIH National Institute on Aging. (2019, April 29). Choosing Healthy Meals As You Get Older. Retrieved from
https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/choosing-healthy-meals-you-get-older

NIH National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health Clinical Digest. (2016, February). Menopausal Symptoms and Complementary Health Practices:
What the Science Says. Retrieved from
https://nccih.nih.gov/health/providers/digest/menopause-science

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