5 nutrition tips for managing menopause
Menopause is the time when periods stop. It can be confirmed once you’ve not had a menstrual period for the previous 12 months. The average age of menopause is 51 years, although it can occur naturally anywhere between 40 and 60 years.
Menopause symptoms can start a few years before reaching menopause. This is referred to as perimenopause. During perimenopause, oestrogen levels fall, and the normal pattern of your periods usually changes, for example they may be unusually light or heavy and the frequency may be affected.
Menopause symptoms can continue for a few years post-menopause too. The most common symptom is hot flushes, experienced by an estimated 75% of women.
The fall in oestrogen levels during menopause results in an increased risk of heart disease and lowered bone strength which increases risk of osteoporosis. Changes in your body weight and shape are also common around menopause.
There are lots you can do to support your heart health and protect your bones as well as positive dietary changes to help make menopause a little easier.
5 nutrition tips for managing menopause:
1. Include some protein foods at each meal
As well as supporting our muscles, protein also supports our bone structure. Including some protein foods at each meal so that your protein intake is spaced across the day, will help maintain the strength of your bones. Protein also helps satisfy hunger, helps balance blood sugar levels and may help reduce cravings which can be very helpful in maintaining a healthy weight.
2. Eat plenty plant foods
Including a variety of fruits, vegetables, oats, whole grains, brown rice and pasta and beans peas and lentils will provide beneficial fibre for your gut microbes. Oats and barley are great foods to include in the diet as they contain a type of fibre called beta-glucan, which can help reduce cholesterol levels.
A diet rich in plant foods would also make a good contribution to a range of phytoestrogens. These are plant-based oestrogens that have a mild oestrogen effect in humans when consumed regularly. Evidence suggests phytoestrogens are useful in relieving menopausal symptoms, particularly hot flushes.
3. Include foods providing calcium
Calcium is important for helping to reduce the losses of bone density that over time can lead to osteoporosis. Milk yoghurt and cheese provide half of the calcium consumed in the UK diet. Calcium is also found in fortified milk alternatives; fish with edible small bones such as sardines or pilchards; soybeans and soy products; green vegetables such as broccoli, kale and cabbage and nuts and sesame seeds.
4. Take a vitamin D supplement
Vitamin D helps to regulate the movement of calcium in and out of our bones, so is important for supporting strong bones. A vitamin D supplement is recommended in the UK, especially during winter months when we can’t make vitamin D from sunlight.
5. Include sources of omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for keeping your heart healthy. A healthy balance of fats is important and opting for unsaturated oils like olive oil and rapeseed oil are great choices. The best dietary source of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids is oily fish (for example: salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring). Omega-3s may help alleviate night sweats, although there doesn’t seem to be any benefit in reducing hot flushes or improving sleep quality.