What is it?
Menopause is characterized by when your period ends and stays gone for one year or more. However, the transition and symptoms of menopause can last several years.
What happens to your body during menopause?
As your period stops, your estrogen and progesterone levels decline. This drop in hormones negatively impacts metabolism, weight loss, cholesterol and changes the way you digest carbohydrates. The most common symptoms include- but are not limited to hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disruption, unwanted weight gain, decreased muscle mass, decreased bone density, and mood changes. Some women also complain of dry skin, hair, brittle nails, dry mouth, vaginal dryness, and changes in memory/ ability to focus. So if this is inevitable- how can we best prepare and support our bodies throughout this change?
Foods to Avoid/ Limit:
1. Sugar and processed carbs. I know, I know "groan groan," but sugar tastes good! Look, I'm not saying NEVER have it but don't build it into your typical day of eating. You can still go out for ice cream or order pizza sometimes. It's what you do every day that matters more than what you sometimes do. High blood sugar, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome are linked to the higher incidence of hot flashes. Plus, remember how I said you process carbs differently after menopause? The decline in estrogen increases the production of insulin, bringing overall metabolism down. When insulin levels go up, sugar is moved out of the blood and into the muscles and liver. If you are consistently fueling on carbs, i.e., bagel for breakfast, sugary coffee for a snack, sandwich for lunch, etc., insulin levels are always high and working on overdrive. High insulin levels bring more cortisol ( your stress hormone) into your blood. And when cortisol levels are chronically high, more body fat is created and deposited, especially around your belly ( visceral fat) or legs/hips.
2. Alcohol & Caffeine. Both of these items increase the severity of hot flashes, but their frequency stays the same. Plus, both of these substances are known to be sleep disruptors.
3. Hot foods ( temperature or spicy) these food choices can also exacerbate hot flashes.
4. High salt-containing foods. High salt intake has been linked to lower bone density in postmenopausal women. In a study of over 9,500 postmenopausal women, sodium intake of more than 2g/day was linked to a 28% higher risk of low bone mineral density.
How to make this transition easier?
1. SLEEP! Unwanted weight gain is linked significantly to lack of sleep. When you receive adequate sleep - your hunger hormones leptin and Ghrelin play a crucial role in hunger. Lack of sleep or interrupted sleep causes excess amounts of Ghrelin (which tells your brain you're always hungry) and decreased amounts of leptin ( tells your brain you are full). Getting adequate sleep will balance these two hormones. But when you do not get adequate sleep, you are setting yourself up for failure. I know that sleep can be difficult for menopause because you may wake up with night sweats, so for that- give some Black cohosh a try! You can also keep your room cool, take melatonin or magnesium citrate ( Calm), use a weighted blanket, or take a cool shower before bed. These are great to improve your sleep pattern!
2.EXERCISE!! Exercising boosts metabolism. For those with low estrogen levels - this is extremely important. Weighted exercise is also essential to incorporate as research shows an increase in muscle mass and bone density by doing weighted exercise.
3. Less processed carbs- more fats and protein! Protein for loss of muscle mass and fat for dryness in hair, skin, and joints.
FOODS TO EAT:
1. Foods high in Vit D, Calcium, Vit K, phosphorus, and magnesium. ( see our previous blog on eating for bone health! ) Example: leafy greens, some dairy products, beans, nuts, and fish.
2. Fats like fish, seeds, nuts, avocado, grass-fed butter, hummus, coconut oil, or olive oil.
3. LOTS OF FRUITS AND VEGGIES - seriously, all the fiber you can get! But especially berries, broccoli, and phytoestrogens. Berries are high in antioxidants and help lower blood pressure. One study showed that broccoli decreased the levels of estrogen linked to breast cancer and increased levels of estrogen that protect against cancer. Phytoestrogens are "weak estrogens" that stimulate your body's estrogen levels. You can find Phytoestrogens in foods like non-GMO soy, soybeans, chickpeas, flax seeds, peanuts, grapes, plums, and green or black tea.
4. Protein. Lean proteins help retain muscle mass. Snack on protein and veggies between meals. Lean proteins such as eggs, fish, beans, chicken, and turkey.
5. Foods high in vitamin B like oats, rice, or quinoa. Vitamin B may help some women ward off menopausal depression and increase energy by boosting serotonin levels. It also may help with insomnia and hot flashes.
Set up a personalized Consultation with Tina!
Tina Durham, Nutritional Consultant
Phone: (267) 481-5024