Making appropriate dietary changes can notably affect the occurrence, duration, and severity of perimenopause and menopause symptoms while also supporting general wellness. Recognizing the powerful influence of diet on menopause, learning what foods are helpful or harmful, and implementing effective dietary changes may ease the transition through perimenopause and menopause.
What is Perimenopause/Menopause?
For many women, the thought of going through menopause is a source of anxiety. Fortunately, some of this can be alleviated by becoming more familiar with the condition.
Menopause is the time in a women’s life when she loses that ability to bear children. A woman is officially considered menopausal when she has not had her period for at least 12 months. On average, women experience menopause around the age of 51. However, it is possible for menopause to develop earlier or later in life.
Perimenopause describes the transition from healthy menstruation into menopause.
Compared to menopause, the occurrence and duration of perimenopause is inconsistent. Perimenopause tends to begin around 40 years of age but can develop as early as the 30s. Furthermore, perimenopause may remain for as little as six months or linger for upwards of ten years.
Both menopause and perimenopause are accompanied by a similar set of symptoms. Some common indicators of perimenopause/menopause include irregularities in period frequency, intensity, and duration; hot flashes; changes in weight, libido, and mood; fibroids; fatigue, and insomnia. In some cases, menopause may increase the risk of developing chronic issues such as depression, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and other degenerative conditions. Studies suggest that perimenopausal/menopausal women may be able to alleviate these and other related issues through lifestyle optimizations, specifically diet.
Constructing an Effective Perimenopause and Menopause Diet
As a woman enters and progresses through perimenopause/menopause, the nutritional demands of the body can change dramatically. As such, it is important to respond with an appropriate diet plan. The primary goal of a perimenopause/menopause diet is to provide the nutrition needed to normalize and maintain healthy function while eliminating substances that contribute to hormonal imbalances, inflammation, and other disruption. Below are some of the best inclusions and exclusions for an effective perimenopause/menopause diet.
Foods to Include in a Menopause Diet
The following foods provide notable support to various areas throughout the body that can help improve the symptoms of perimenopause/menopause.
Foods that contain healthy fats such as olive oil, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds are excellent inclusions. Fats regulate hormone activity, appetite, insulin response, and nutrient absorption. Furthermore, studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids, found in many healthy fats, may provide unique benefits to women going through menopause. One study found that menopausal women who took omega-3 supplements had a notable decrease in the severity and frequency of hot flashes and night sweats.
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Reduced bone density and regeneration is a common problem among menopausal women. One way to help counteract bone degradation is by consuming whole dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. These foods contain important bone-building substances including calcium, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins D and K. Additionally, increasing dairy consumption may relieve insomnia and sleep difficulties.
Menopausal women may benefit from increasing their intake of whole grains. Quality grains contain nutrients that help reduce the long-term impact of menopause. Studies suggest that a greater intake of whole grains can lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and early death in menopausal women. Furthermore, whole grains rich in fiber have the added benefit of lowering cholesterol and blood sugar and may alleviate constipation. Good sources of whole grain include brown rice, quinoa, and rye.
Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and vegetables are well known for containing an impressive number of beneficial vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Some studies suggest that menopausal women can reduce the severity and intensity of various symptoms by increasing their fruit and veggie intake. For example, greater consumption of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, promote better hormone activity and estrogen balance, which can temper perimenopausal/menopausal issues.
Phytoestrogens are substances that have a mild estrogenic effect on the body. Studies suggest that increasing the intake of foods containing phytoestrogens can improve levels of circulating estrogen and limit the occurrence of hot flashes in menopausal women. Examples of foods containing phytoestrogens include chickpeas, peanuts, flax seeds, barley, grapes, berries, plums, and green and black tea.
Foods to Remove from a Menopause Diet
The following foods can disrupt bodily function and contribute to increased frequency, severity, and duration of perimenopause/menopause symptoms.
Studies show that menopausal women who have high blood sugar, insulin resistance, or metabolic syndrome are more likely to suffer hot flashes. One of the primary contributors to these conditions is the consumption of highly processed and sugary foods. As such, limiting the intake of foods like white bread, crackers, sodas, and other processed or sugary products can improve perimenopause/menopause symptoms.
Caffeine and Alcohol
Increased consumption of caffeine and alcohol has been implicated in contributing to the severity of perimenopausal/menopausal symptoms. Specifically, studies show that consumption of these substances is linked with more intense and frequent hot flashes and sleep disruptions. Therefore, it may benefit menopausal women to limit their intake of or entirely avoid caffeine and alcohol.
Research suggests that high salt intake contributes to reduced bone density among menopausal and postmenopausal women. Declining estrogen values coupled with greater salt consumption is likely to lead to bone degradation. Additionally, research shows that menopausal women who reduce their salt intake may experience improvements in mood and other menopause symptoms.
Easing the Perimenopause/Menopause Transition through Diet
Diet is an essential part of overall wellness. However, during menopause, it takes on even greater importance. Making the appropriate dietary changes when moving through perimenopause/menopause can help improve bodily function, ease discomfort, and alleviate symptoms. If you are perimenopausal/menopausal consider eating more high-quality whole fats, dairy, grains, fruits, and vegetables. Additionally, do your best to limit consumption of detrimental foodstuffs such as processed or high-sugar products, caffeine, alcohol, and excessively salt foods. Making these dietary changes can ease your transition through perimenopause/menopause.
At Holtorf Medical Group, our physicians are trained to properly diagnose and treat perimenopause and menopause using BHRT and other innovative therapies. Additionally, our physicians will work with our certified Health and Nutrition Coach to develop an individualized diet plan to fit your needs. If you are experiencing symptoms of perimenopause/menopause, but aren’t getting the treatment you need, contact us to see how we can help you!