Are you looking for a healthy solution to managing the symptoms of menopause? Your diet can have a powerful effect on how well your body copes with the changes that happen during this period of your life. Simply adding certain foods and eliminating others can make a big difference in your MENQOL (menopause quality of life) and your post-menopause health. Here are some dietary dos and don’ts that can make this transitional period of your life easier to manage, keeping you healthy and strong as you enter this phase.
Dietary Do’s for Menopause
There are a few different aspects of menopause that are directly related to your diet. As your body loses estrogen and progesterone, it also loses its natural ability to combat high cholesterol. After menopause, bone loss increases, often leading to osteoporosis. However, by managing your nutrient intake, you can also manage some of the effects of menopause on your health. Here are a few dietary do’s to keep in mind before, during and after menopause.
- Do add more calcium. To combat bone loss that begins in your 30’s and escalates after menopause, you should be adding more calcium to your diet. Recent studies show that calcium from your diet are most beneficial to your body. Calcium-rich natural foods include low-fat dairy products, nuts, seeds and vegetables. Although calcium supplements are sometimes warranted.
- Do increase consumption of phytoestrogens. Many foods contain phytoestrogens that can promote hormonal health as your body stops producing estrogen and progesterone. Soy isoflavones found in soy products are an excellent source of phytoestrogens. Flax seeds and other seeds and legumes are also high in phytoestrogens, which have been linked to lower incidences of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Flax seeds are also high in fiber which can lower cholesterol, help stabilize blood sugar and promote proper functioning of the intestines.
- Do eat a heart-healthy diet. Estrogen helps promote “good’ cholesterol, HDL, and lower “bad” cholesterol, LDL. As you lose estrogen, you also lose that protection against heart disease that women have over men. To compensate, it is important to begin eating a diet lower in fat and higher in protein with more complex carbohydrates in lieu of simple carbohydrates.
Dietary Don’ts for Menopause
On the other end of the spectrum, there are things you should avoid in your diet when you hit the stage of menopause. To counteract some of the hormone changes and protect your health, it is best to eliminate some items from your diet. Here are some dietary don’ts as you begin to approach and experience menopause.
- Don’t drink caffeinated beverages. This is probably one of the most difficult diet changes for many women, but also crucial to your health. Caffeine can trigger hot flashes, and it is also linked to increased risk for osteoporosis and high cholesterol, both issues you need to combat with the onset of menopause. Caffeine can also contribute to insomnia, which is another symptom of menopause.
- Don’t over indulge in alcohol. Once again, alcohol, like caffeine, can trigger hot flashes and it is a risk factor for osteoporosis. However, studies fluctuate on whether alcohol can be beneficial for heart health. The best strategy is to only use alcohol in light to moderate consumption, which according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA) is less than seven drinks a week and no more than three drinks in any day.
- Don’t drink soft drinks. Although many nutritional experts recommend that menopausal women eliminate all carbonated beverages from their diets, colas seem to be the worst culprits. Soft drinks can lower bone density, and sodas in general may add unwanted calories and sugar to your diet.
- Don't eat spicy foods. Spicy foods can cause your body temperature to go up and you may start sweating. This may trigger an actual hot flash. It is good to be aware of the effect spicy foods could have on your body.
Making good dietary choices is more important than ever as you enter menopause. By eating right, exercising and avoiding certain food items, you can reduce health risks and aggravating symptoms associated with menopause.