Nutrition: Menopause demands a lifestyle change

MENOPAUSE is a hot topic. It is defined as the time in a woman’s life when her period has stopped for a year, but women can struggle with symptoms long before this.

Symptoms of menopause usually affect women between the ages of 45 and 55. Of course, some women will experience an early menopause and this may be due to surgery, genetics or a medical condition.

Thanks to Davina McCall and other celebrities highlighting how menopause affects them, we have become familiar with the term peri-menopause.

This is when women begin to feel the mental, emotional and physical effects of fluctuating hormone levels.

It’s great to see the conversation opening up around menopause and increased awareness that it’s about much more than just the occasional hot flash or night sweat.

Menopause will affect everyone differently and no two women will experience exactly the same symptoms. Officially, there are 34 symptoms of menopause, including:

:: A change in your period – this does not always mean lighter or less frequent periods. Over many periods can become more frequent and heavier.

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:: Mood changes

:: Changes in sleep patterns

:: Poor memory or concentration

:: Joint pain and muscle pain

:: Headache or migraine

:: Palpitations

:: Weight gain and changes in body shape

:: Dry and itchy skin

:: Low libido

When it comes to diet, there are a few things that we can change that can have a really big impact on how we manage the symptoms of menopause. Do one thing at a time, at a pace that suits you. Think of this as a lifestyle change rather than a quick-fix diet. Here are my top tips:

1. REDUCE THE CARBOHYDRATES

If your body shape has started to change as you approach menopause, you’re not alone. Changes in sex hormones affect our blood sugar and insulin balance, which means we can’t get away with eating so much bread, pasta and sugary snacks.

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Drop the white, high-sugar, refined carbohydrates from your diet. Switch to whole grains but don’t overload your plate with spuds, rice and pasta.

Rebalance your plate to get more vegetables and protein, and drop your carb portion to no more than a quarter of your plate.

2. EAT ENOUGH HELPFUL FATS

Fats are important for hormone balance. Include fatty fish like salmon and mackerel a few times a week, and add seeds (especially flaxseed) to your daily diet.

Add a splash of olive oil where you can (to salads, steamed vegetables or soups) and swap your processed margarine for butter.

3. UP YOUR PROTEIN

Keep your protein levels up to help with muscle tone, appetite control and hormone balance. Aim for a palm-sized portion with each meal. This can be animal-based – eggs, meat, fish, natural yoghurt, cheese – or plant-based, including beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and quinoa.

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4. PACK IN BRASSICAS

Brassica vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts can help support the healthy metabolism of hormones. Aim for at least a fist-sized portion each day. Shredded, steamed, stir-fried or added to soups, stews and curries – however you like.

5. ADD A DAILY DOSE OF FLAX SEED

Flaxseed is a bit of a superhero when it comes to hormone balance. Packed with plant-based hormone balancers called lignans, a daily dose of flaxseed can be an important part of your nutritional toolkit for managing menopause symptoms.

Local brand Linwoods has a new product called Menoligna which has a higher concentration of lignans, as well as added calcium, vitamin D and magnesium for bone support and coQ10 and B vitamins for energy and support for the function of our nervous system.

6. THINK ABOUT YOUR DRINKS

Cutting back on caffeine and alcohol should be part of your plan to support mood, manage sleep, and reduce stress.

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