Ladies, we have all experienced the ups and downs associated with our menstrual cycle. Between the cramps and mood swings, we often dream about the days when these symptoms will no longer surface on a monthly basis — but be careful what you wish for. Menopause will follow.
For those who have experienced menopause, you know that it can be a bumpy ride. Signifying the end of your menstrual cycles once and for all, this time period comes with its own unique symptoms. Being a transitional phase, you undergo a gradual process that is unique to you.
Although hot flashes and mood changes are common (and challenging), you are not powerless. What you choose to eat and drink, will significantly influence how you feel.
Your menopause experience is unique to you
Before we dive into the possible remedies, it is important to note that each woman experiences menopause differently. After all, menopause is caused by hormonal changes in the body. Typically beginning in a women’s early 50s, the ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone.
Some women will be highly agitated and even depressed, while others will quickly pass through this period, experiencing some sweaty nights along the way. Regardless of your experience, know that you are not alone. As stated in one review, published in the Journal of Women’s Health, menopausal symptoms are prevalent and bothersome, driving nearly 90 percent of women to seek coping advice from healthcare professionals.
In some cases, women will experience hot flashes for a single year, whereas in more severe cases, others will have hot flashes for more than a decade. Depending on the symptoms that specifically affect you, a menopause diet can help you better address these problematic side effects.
Alter your diet, beginning with these nutrient-dense options
It is no secret that diet and optimal health go hand-in-hand. In order to alter the way you feel, you must alter your lifestyle, beginning with your diet.
Although you may not be able to ward off menopause, you can actively change what you put in your body. In turn, this influences everything from your ability to sleep to the ways in which you regulate emotion.
Happily eat and drink these nutrient-dense options to make your menopause journey more comfortable while optimizing your post-menopausal health.
Just like bananas and turkey, walnuts offer a rich source of serotonin via tryptophan — which is the amino acid needed to produce this “happy” brain chemical. Since menopause causes serotonin levels to drop, women often experience mood swings, poor sleep quality and low energy. It is also believed that low levels of serotonin cause us to crave sweets, worsening the cycle.
2. Fermented foods
Also believed to impact serotonin, fermented foods directly impact your gut. Often referred to as your “second brain,” the gut contains approximately 95 percent of the body’s serotonin, influencing potential feelings of depression and anxiety. This is why you should focus on consuming more probiotic foods, including kimchi, quality kombucha, cultured vegetables, kefir and miso.
3. Green tea
Although green tea will not magically stop your hot flashes, it has been shown to reduce the risk of bone fractures among menopausal women. One study also found that catechin, an antioxidant and flavonoid in green tea, improved symptoms of menopause-induced overactive bladder.
Whether you toss flaxseed in your morning smoothie or on top of your lunchtime salad, flax contains lignans, a phytochemical that has an estrogenic effect on the body. Believed to help address hot flashes, one study found that women who ate flaxseed for three months experienced decreased menopausal symptoms and an increased quality of life.
5. Oily fish
If you are frightened that you will go through menopause early, it is recommended that you consume oily fish. Fish is rich in essential nutrients and after studying 116,000 women, it was found that a high consumption of vitamin D and calcium cut one’s risk by 17 percent and 13 percent respectively. A higher intake of omega-3 may also reduce symptom severity, including the incidence of hot flashes.
6. Dark leafy greens
Offering a wide spectrum of nutrients, including folate, vitamin K, iron and calcium, dark leafy greens can improve digestive health and lower your risk of osteoporosis. Also rich in magnesium, this mineral is believed to help balance the body’s hormonal levels. Be sure to consume a combination of kale, spinach, watercress, arugula, mustard greens and collard greens.
The sooner you begin to make changes to your diet, the better. However, whether you are 31 or 51, it is never too early or late to improve your diet. When aiming to alleviate symptoms of menopause, focus on a low-fat, vegetarian diet. That means, cut out most animal protein, processed foods, sugary foods and caffeine.
In addition, you need to become more physically active. This will not only help you control your weight as you support optimal heart health, but will also strengthen your bones. Although bone fractures are most common among postmenopausal women, studies have been shown to improve bone density.
And remember, each woman’s journey is unique — so listen to your body. Approach menopause with a positive mind, an active body, and a wholesome diet. After all, eating well is the greatest form of self-respect.
It is time to love yourself, hot flashes and all.
— Krista Hillis