This blog is written by our clinicians and aims to keep patients informed with up to date information on medical conditions.
The Menopause: Getting Your Nutrition Right!
Menopause is characterised by the reduction of oestrogen production in the body, which leads to the ending of the menstrual cycle in women. Some women rejoice at the thought of finally never having a period again, whereas others dread menopause, as the sign of the end of their fertility. In different countries, menopause is perceived differently. It is said that menopause is a cause for celebration in Traditional Chinese Medicine – menstruation represent your life’s energy slowly leaving the body. When menstruation ends, the busy child bearing years are over and you can begin to spend more time on yourself, enriching your spirit and soul.
However you feel about it, it will happen eventually. And there are some things you need to know.
Yes – you’re more likely to gain weight after menopause
After speaking to a number of ladies who are currently experiencing menopause and associated symptoms, they seem to all agree that it is easier to gain weight during and after menopause. This is well documented in research. A study by Dubnov found that the weight gain is likely due to a combination of two factors:
- the decline of oestrogen and
- physical inactivity.
Postmenopausal weight gain and obesity may have knock on effects such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, arterial disease, osteoarthritis, gallstones and even some hormone related cancers.
It is not all doom and gloom however. There are things you can do to help yourself and certainly, nutrition is key. Eating a diet which is naturally high in antioxidants will help improve you inside out. Protein is also very important, with meats, fish, eggs and beans being a fantastic source of B vitamins and minerals such as zinc and iron.
A healthier nutritional lifestyle is achievable to absolutely anyone who is dedicated and has the right support network.
Hot flushes occur due to hormonal imbalances and your body is trying to maintain its internal temperature.
Some women’s experiences are very mild and ‘are barely noticeable’. However, some women report having a troublesome 20 hot flushes per day. The majority of women can find hot flushes to be a nuisance, embarrassing and feel like they are in a furnace. Unfortunately, there is not a lot that can be done once a hot flush has begun.
If you find that you suffer from hot flushes and you can avoid triggering them through avoiding drinking alcohol, coffee and eating spicy foods. Each one of those has been linked to increased occurrences. Additionally, steer clear of thick jumpers and polo necks.
Irritable moods, Stress and Anxiety
Many women have reported changes in mood during menopause, which can be expected when going through hormonal changes. Fortunately, there are a number of dietary changes which have been scientifically proven to induce calmness and relaxation which may help. The ancient routine of drinking tea daily certainly proves to have some benefits, with L-theanine, a natural amino acid found in teas, providing benefits above flavour alone. Camomile and lemon balm have also seen to have beneficial effects on mood. Bottoms up!
Soy intake and Ethnicity
Depending on your ethnicity, there appears to be differences in severity of menopausal symptoms.
20% of Asian women reported having hot flushes, compared to a much higher 75% of Western women experiencing hot flushes. So is it down to ethnicity, or perhaps differences in diet?
Soya contains phytoestrogens, which have a very similar molecular structure to oestrogen. The phytoestrogens have a ‘weak oestrogenic effect’ on the body. So when your bodily production of oestrogen decreases, a dietary intake of soya can mimic some of the effects of oestrogen. The Asian population has been found to have fewer negative associated symptoms with menopause and coincidentally, they have a much higher intake of soya.
There are many studies on soya which often produces unclear results: each study has a different method of assessing participants, a different dosage or a different style of study. These differences do not always make the results straightforward or easy to assess.
You may already be aware that breast cancer is linked oestrogen, and some have questioned whether soya may also increase breast cancer risk due to the similar structure phytoestrogens have to oestrogen. This American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) have reported that consumption of soya does not place anyone at an increased risk of breast cancer; indeed, some studies suggest lifelong consumption of soya is important, with lower rates of breast cancer reported and lower reoccurrence of breast cancer. The safety of soya based foods have been reviewed thoroughly by the Food Safety Act in the UK, and are approved for sale and consumption in the UK.
The general consensus for soya is that it is not harmful and may provide beneficial effects to the body, particularly during menopause.
Menopause does not mean ‘lost youth’!
It does however, mean you are at a stage in your life where you really ought to take care of your body and love yourself. It is certainly easier at this age to develop related diseases or complications – but by eating right and exercising you can stay healthy.
If you have any questions about menopause, or if you experience any symptoms such as changes in mood, irritability, weight gain or bone health (osteoporosis), please contact Adriana MacNaughton, Nutritionist at ROC Private Health Clinic.
If you have any concerns about nutrition or your health, please book a private consultation today.