Menopause: What to eat and what to avoid

While menopause is linked to many uncomfortable symptoms and increases your risk of certain diseases, diet may help reduce symptoms and ease the transition.

Menopause can be defined as the final menstrual period. Menopause is the result of change in a women’s reproductive hormones and the ovaries no longer releasing any eggs. This usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 with the average age of onset being 51.

While menopause is linked to many uncomfortable symptoms and increases your risk of certain diseases, diet may help reduce symptoms and ease the transition. During menopause the hormone estrogen begins to decline. Declining levels of estrogen negatively impact metabolism, resulting in weight gain.

These hormone changes may also affect digestion and cholesterol levels. There is evidence to suggest that particular foods could relieve symptoms of menopause including hot flushes, poor sleep and decreased bone density.

Dairy products such as yoghurt, milk and cheese are important to include in the diet during menopause, as the risk of fractures increases due to a decline in estrogen levels. Dairy products contain important micronutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, vitamin K and vitamin D; all of which play a role in the maintenance and formation of bone.

Studies have also suggested that glycine, an essential amino acid found in dairy, assists in better quality sleep. Healthy fats such as omega 3 fatty acids assist in decreasing the frequency of hot flushes and the severity of night sweats.  Foods high in omega 3 fatty acids include fatty fish and seeds.

Menopausal women are encouraged to include dairy in their diet to strengthen their bones.

Declining estrogen levels are linked to decreased muscle mass and bone density. Therefore, women going through menopause should increase their protein consumption.

Alcohol and caffeine should also be avoided if possible, as these substances can trigger hot flushes in women going through menopause. The severity of hot flushes also increases with intake of these of these substances.

Caffeine also causes calcium loss via the kidneys, as it is a diuretic. Therefore, a high coffee intake accelerates bone loss in postmenopausal women. Eating a well-balanced diet can also potentially hold off menopause for a few women.

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