As Benjamin Franklin once said, "The only things certain in life are death and taxes." But then again he was a man. The other thing he forgot about is that all women go through menopause.
Women can begin experiencing symptoms anywhere between the ages of 39 - 51 and they can last for at least 5 years or more. The most common symptoms are hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, weight gain, sleep disturbances, forgetfulness and fatigue. Sounds great? Not exactly. But you must remember that menopause is not an illness nor does it mean it's all downhill after this. These symptoms are real and can be very uncomfortable, but you don't have to accept them without a fight.
I tell women to take a careful look at their daily lifestyle. What are they eating? Are they overweight? Are they exercising enough? Often if you're not paying attention to these areas this could be the cause of more severe menopausal symptoms.
Your diet and lack of exercise can lead to more than just these symptoms of menopause, they can lead to heart and stroke disease, osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes type 2 and even certain cancers.
So what are some of the foods that relieve and lessen menopausal symptoms?
Calcium Rich Foods
Menopause can cause a higher risk of osteoporosis due to hormone levels dropping. This means a greater likelihood of broken bones. Consume more of the following:
• Greek yogourt, plain, lower fat
• Milk, lower fat
• Cheese -- low fat Mozzarella, low fat Parmesan, low fat Swiss
• Non dairy -- rhubarb, sardines, spinach, kale, shrimp
Omega 3 -- Fatty Acids
Women experiencing menopause can cut their night sweats by 20 per cent by eating foods rich in omega fatty acids, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Here are some examples:
• Olive oil, organic canola oil, walnut oil
• Fatty fish such as Tuna, Salmon, and Mackerel
• Ground Flaxseed
Soy products can offer relief from hot flashes and night sweats since they contain phytoestrogens which helps to balance hormones. Try these foods:
• Tofu -- use in stir frys, miso soup
• Soy beans
• Soy protein powder -- smoothies
• Soy milk
• Soy beans
Nuts, Beans, Whole Grains and Dried Fruit
These foods contain valuable vitamins and minerals which ease symptoms of mood swings and depression. They help to keep blood sugars level.
Vitamin B Rich Foods
Not getting enough B vitamin rich foods can lead to mood swings and depression during menopause. Try including these on a daily basis:
• Whole grains
• Lentils, beans
• Lean meat, poultry, liver
Fruits and Vegetables
Naturally high in vitamins and minerals, there are plant chemicals called phytoestrogens that trick your body into thinking it has more estrogen relieving menopause symptoms.
Here are foods that can increase menopausal symptoms and should be eaten only occasionally.
Sugar increases blood sugar levels which can cause mood fluctuations. It also adds to weight gain and fatigue.
• Soft drinks/sugar beverages,
• Chocolate bars/candy
• Breakfast cereals
• Fruit yogurts
Alcohol leads to disruptive sleep and can also affect your mood. In addition alcohol has excess calories leading to weight gain.
Leads to hot flashes and sleep problems.
• Caffeinated beverages
These foods lead to weight gain, high blood sugar levels and fatigue. So it's best to avoid them when you can.
• White bread
They raise your body's core temperature and increase and worsen hot flashes.
• Chili peppers
• Hot sauce
Saturated and Trans Fats
They increase weight gain, increase heart and stroke disease and certain cancer. These include:
• Fatty meats
• Trans fats
When I was going through menopause, I found that by eating better and exercising I kept my weight in control, slept better, maintained balanced blood sugar levels, and lessened my hot flashes and night sweats. I felt healthy and was actually thrilled I no longer had to deal with my monthly period. Since there are 4.5 million baby boomer women in Canada alone between the ages of 48 and 67 currently experiencing menopause, it's important to make the distinction between the myths and the facts and open up the discussion about menopause.
Remember you're not alone; we're all in this together.