The menopause is, unfortunately, an inescapable part of a woman's life, and the symptoms can be distressing to say the least. What many may not realise, however, is that diet can play a significant role in either abating or worsening those symptoms.
Take care with fats
We all need a certain amount of fat in our diet but the type of fat you consume can have a major effect on your health, and could make some menopausal symptoms worse.
Fat found in oily fish may improve your heart health and decrease your risk of diabetes, but too much saturated fat can increase your levels of oestrogen, which in turn could increase your chances of developing breast cancer. Cutting back on butter, full-fat milk and other dairy products and choosing low-fat alternatives will not only keep your weight down but also mean you're in better health generally.
Trans fats should be avoided altogether. This particular type of fat, often found in processed foods such as cakes and biscuits, has no nutritional benefit, but could contribute to symptoms associated with the menopause. Research has shown that trans fats increase bad cholesterol in the body and decrease good cholesterol, and too much in the diet could result in memory loss and an inability to concentrate, both of which some post-menopausal women experience as part of the symptoms.
Be careful with carbs
Carbs are an essential, but once again, which type you choose can have a significant impact on your symptoms. Refined carbs such as white bread, rice, pasta and potatoes release glucose into the bloodstream quickly, which can lead to the high-low mood swings and weight gain, not to mention making you feel tired. Opt for low GI carbs like wholegrain bread, cereals and pasta that will provide energy without causing moodiness and fatigue.
Mind the drinks
Everything we consume has an effect on our bodies and that includes liquids. During the menopause, for example, stimulants such as caffeine activate the adrenal glands, which are busy producing a form of oestrogen that protects your bones, and putting these stress glands under too much pressure could mean they're not doing their job properly.
Similarly, alcohol gives your liver an extra job to do, just when your hormone levels are going through a major change. Not only that but alcohol can leave you dehydrated and emotional, none of which you need when you're going through the menopause. There's no need to cut it out altogether, just moderate your intake and intersperse alcoholic drinks with soft ones.
Up your fresh intake
A US study earlier this year found that women who ate a diet filled with fresh fruit and veg saw a significant reduction in menopausal flushes, thanks largely to the weight loss associated with a healthy diet. Adding a good range of fruit and veg will give your body the benefit of a wide variety of vitamins and minerals that will keep the weight down and the hot flushes at bay. Pay particular attention to eating your greens, as leafy veggies like broccoli and cabbage are good sources of calcium, which is especially important at this stage of life.
And if hot flushes are a real problem, it might be an idea to cut out spicy or hot foods that increase your core body temperature and will only exacerbate the problem.
Don't suffer with sugar
During the menopause, it can be so tempting to get an instant boost, and a little comfort, from a regular sugar hit. But with the high comes the crash, and that means fatigue, mood swings, and in some cases headaches and anxiety.
Cut back, particularly on the refined variety, and you could enjoy reduced menopausal symptoms and better health.
Have you found something to ease the symptoms of menopause? Leave a comment and let us know below...