Menopause and Perimenopause - can changes to your diet help you manage symptoms?

Updated: Jul 7




Menopause Symptoms

Menopause and perimenopause symptoms can include hot flushes, weight gain, joint pains, more frequent headaches, fatigue, mood changes, irritability, night sweats and poor concentration.

As Oestrogen levels fall, periods may become irregular and/or heavy.

Menopause symptoms are very individual and each woman will experience symptoms differently.


Diet and Menopause

As with all life stages, there are specific considerations that may help you manage menopause symptoms. Lifestyle changes including diet can help make some menopause symptoms more tolerable.


Weight gain and Menopause

During the menopause, muscle mass reduces, meaning that we need fewer calories. This change can have an impact on weight, leading to weight gain. Looking at portion sizes, overall calorie intake and our physical activity levels can be helpful to manage weight.

As can initiatives to help to preserve and build up muscle mass such as resistance exercises using weights.

Don't underestimate walking for weight management, just 30 minutes of fast walking per day can lead to around 7kg in weight loss per year.




Bone Health

From age 35 we slowly loose calcium from our bones and low oestrogen levels can speed us this calcium loss. This can increase our risk of Osteoporosis.


Aim for two to three portions of calcium-rich foods every day which can include:

  • a third of a pint/200ml semi skimmed milk or calcium fortified milk alternative.

  • a matchbox size piece of cheese,

  • a small yoghurt or

  • a milk-based pudding like custard or rice pudding.

It's not just dairy products that contain calcium, other foods are also high in calcium such as tofu, fish with bones such as sardines, tinned salmon and fortified breakfast cereals. Some vegetables also contain calcium such as spinach, kale and bok choi.


Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important for bone health. The main source of Vitamin D is sunlight. We can get Vitamin D from the sun by exposing our skin once or twice a day for around ten minutes. However it's still important to wear sunscreen and avoid burning.

Some people may absorb less Vitamin D from the sun including women aged over 65 years, those with darker skin including women from African, African-Caribbean and South Asian backgrounds or those who have less exposure to the outdoors and the sun.

These people may benefit from a Vitamin D supplement all year round. The recommended daily dose is 10 micrograms for adults.

In autumn and winter months (September-April) most people could benefit from a supplement.


Some foods contain Vitamin D including;


  • Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, pilchards, trout, herring, kippers and eel contain reasonable amounts of vitamin D.

  • Cod liver oil contains a lot of vitamin D, but don’t take this if you are pregnant.

  • Egg yolk, meat, offal and milk contain small amounts but this varies during the seasons.

  • Margarine, some breakfast cereals and some yoghurts have added vitamin D



Plant Oestrogens

These are very similar to human Oestrogen and if eaten regularly enough, may be beneficial as Oestrogen levels decline. They may help to reduce menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes.


It is recommended to;


  • Trial for 2-3 months to see if menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes improve.

  • Consume plant oestrogens several times a day instead of all at once.

  • Foods high in plant oestrogens include tofu, edeame beans, soya milk and soya products, linseeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds.


Some women find including these in the diet more helpful for hot flushes than others. It is thought that this may be due to differences in gut bacteria.


Fatigue

Changes to your diet can help manage fatigue. Sometimes we tend to turn to sugary or high carbohydrate foods when we feel tired but this can have a big impact on our blood glucose levels, making the tiredness worse.


We can try;

  • A regular intake of 3 meals per day and 2 snacks.

  • Choosing high fibre options when possible, this helps to manage blood glucose levels and keeps us feeling fuller for longer. We can make swops to higher fibre varieties such as wholegrain bread and cereals and crackers or add some high fibre foods to our meals and snacks such as beans, pulses, lentils, seeds, nuts, vegetables and salad.

  • Monitor of portion sizes. We need to eat enough to feel full but overly large portions can effect our blood glucose levels and leave us feeling sluggish.

  • Make sure you have enough protein in your diet. Good sources of protein include meat, fish, meat alternatives, beans and pulses, lentils, nuts and seeds, dairy products and eggs.



Heart Health

Menopause can increase risk of heart disease. Help keep your heart healthy by;


  • Reducing intake of saturated fat such as red meat, full fat dairy products including butter and cheese, fatty meat, cakes, biscuits, pastries, pizza, chocolate and animal fats.

  • Increase intake of unsaturated fat particularly monounsaturated fat including olive oil, olive based spreads, rapeseed oil, avocado, some unsalted nuts such as almonds, brazil nuts and peanuts and some seeds such as sunflower or sesame seeds.

  • If you eat fish, try to have 2 portions of fish per weeks including one portion of oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, trout or pilchards.

  • Reduce intake of refined sugar including sweets, chocolate, cakes and biscuits.

  • Increase your fibre intake. Choose high fibre wholegrain options including wholegrain breakfast cereals, oats, brown rice or other high fibre foods such as nuts, seeds, lentils, beans, vegetables, salad and fruit.

  • Aim for your 5 a day fruit and vegetables. These contain antioxidants that are beneficial for heart health. These can be fresh, tinned, dried or frozen.


Hot flushes


Caffeine and alcohol can make hot flushes worse for some women. Keep alcohol intake within recommended limits and aim for a moderate intake of caffeine. Reducing wine or coffee can always be trialed for a short period of time to see if hot flushes improve.


Supplements

Supplements can be helpful and necessary for some women. This will depend on lots of things including your current diet. A Registered Dietitian can assess your diet and advise further on this. Supplements that may be necessary include calcium, Vitamin D, iron or B Vitamins. However this will depend on your current diet and lifestyle.


Summary

There are a number of dietary and lifestyle considerations that may help you manage menopause symptoms. As symptoms are very individual, some people may find certain changes more helpful than others.

Don't forget to seek help with menopause symptoms when needed.

Your GP will be able to discuss options available including hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

A Registered Dietitian can support you to make the right changes to your diet.


If you want to explore dietary changes further

A Registered Dietitian such as myself can help you devise a personalised dietary plan. Changes to diet can help manage health and help you feel as well as possible.

I offer a free 15 minute telephone chat prior to booking to find out how I can help you. You can book this here https://www.healthfuldietitian.co.uk/book-online




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