Easing Menopausal Symptoms with Food

By on August 13, 2013
broccoli spare

By Ellen Dolgen –

An apple a day keeps the hot flashes away. OK, not really, but it’s not as far off as you might think.

Diet is a huge factor in how perimenopausal and menopausal women feel and act, according to Susan Wysocki, WHNP, FAANP, president at iWoman’s Health. Research shows that what women eat can either quell or exacerbate just about every menopausal symptom from hot flashes and night sweats to mood swings and weight gain, she says. “The key to eating right during perimenopause and menopause is to eat foods that will improve health as much as they are to keep symptoms of menopause at bay,” she says. Unfortunately, most of us are filling up with the wrong foods. No more!

Here are three tips for eating your way to a healthier, happier menopause:

 

Pick More Produce

“Certain fruits and vegetables have a mineral called boron that may increase estrogen levels in certain women,” says Wysocki. However, even if produce doesn’t pick up your estrogen production, it can still do a menopausal body good. One large-scale study published in Menopause found that menopausal women who lost weight eating a low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables reduced or eliminated their hot flashes and night sweats. Talk about a two-in-one benefit: Fruits and vegetables can reduce your hot flashes and help you avoid menopausal weight gain. During perimenopause and menopause, many women gain weight as reduced estrogen levels trigger cells to store more fat, according to new research from Mayo Clinic.

Find the Right Fats

New research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that menopausal women who most closely follow a Mediterranean diet rich in produce, whole grain pasta, and healthy fats cut their risk of hot flashes and night sweats by about 20 percent. Meanwhile, menopausal women who eat diets high in sugar as well as saturated and trans fats increase their risk by 23 percent. “Research has also 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 women experience as symptoms of menopause,” Wysocki adds. Your move: Avoid foods such as butter, fast food, and baked goods that are rich in saturated and trans fats and opt for foods such as fish, olive oil, and canola oil that are rich in unsaturated, good-for-you fats.

Pass on Processed Foods

Packaged foods are breeding grounds for sugar and salt, according to Wysocki. “Refined carbs such as white bread, rice, pasta and potatoes release glucose into the bloodstream quickly, which can lead to high-low mood swings and weight gain, not to mention making you feel tired. Opt for low-glycemic carbs like wholegrain breads, cereals, and pastas that will provide energy without causing moodiness and fatigue,” she says. Likewise, opt for sugar-free drinks such as water and tea. Contrary to what most women think, even diet sodas aren’t safe. Artificial sweeteners trick the body into thinking it’s getting sugar. That means when you really do consume any sugar, your hips, butt, and belly will hold onto it as fat, Wysocki says. The simple way to find your grocery’s whole foods: Stick to the perimeter of the store. Many grocery stores are designed with whole foods like produce and lean meats around the perimeter. “Be careful in the aisles,” she warns. “That is where a lot of the ‘non-food’ food is.” If it comes in a box, can, jar, or bottle, read the label.

Food is fuel. So when we start eating to live rather than living to eat, it’s about impossible not to feel better in our bodies—especially when those bodies are going through all the changes of perimenopause and menopause. Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t indulge in the occasional pint of ice cream or candy bar from the checkout aisle; but “occasional” is the operative word. Remember: Absence makes the heart (and taste buds) grow fonder!

Ellen Dolgen

About Ellen Dolgen

For Ellen Dolgen, menopause education is a mission. Spurred by her own experience struggling with the symptoms of menopause, Dolgen has devoted the last ten years of her life to helping other women during this often difficult time. While she’s not a doctor or scientist, she’s “talked the talk” with countless menopause experts, so that she can “walk the menopause walk” and share the keys to this menopause kingdom.

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Easing Menopausal Symptoms with Food