Menopause. The change. Whatever you call it, it’s important to remember that it’s not a disease to be treated, but rather a normal stage of life. Menopause “officially” starts 12 months after your last period. That happens, on average, around the age of 51. Perimenopause often starts in the early- to mid-40s. This is when some may start feeling symptoms like:
Weight gain—especially around the midsection
Hot flashes and night sweats
Why does this even happen? Some of the reasons behind all these changes include your changing hormones, metabolism, stress levels, and lifestyle.
Because your body goes through all these changes, its nutritional needs also change. Here are some expert nutrition tips to help you navigate the onset of menopause.
Nutrition tips for Perimenopause and Menopause
1. Hydration is Helpful
Some key menopausal symptoms may be improved simply by drinking more fluids. If hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, or bladder infections are affecting you, try drinking at least six 8-oz glasses of water per day to help hydrate you. It’s important to remember that we all slowly lose our sense of thirst with age. This means you can become less hydrated without even noticing it, through no fault of your own. So find ways to make it easy and appealing to sip on a hydrating beverage all day long. If water is challenging to drink, try herbal teas or jazz up your water with a lemon or lime. Start early in the morning so you get your fluids in well before it wakes you up in the middle of the night.
2. Rethink that Night Time Drink
Although that glass of wine feels like a great way to unwind at the end of the day, think about whether it is truly helpful. Alcohol can worsen hot flashes and make it harder to stay asleep. It can also increase your risk of getting or worsening many health conditions. Not to mention it can make you forgetful and confused, and can even lead to loss of muscle mass, balance problems, falls, and accidents. A nightly glass of wine may also be contributing unnecessary calories, especially with a heavy pour.
3. Cut down on spicy foods, caffeine, and sugar
If hot flashes bother you, consider avoiding common triggers like spicy foods and caffeine.
When it comes to sugar, the simplest way to cut down is to replace sugar-sweetened drinks with water or herbal tea. Also, excess sugar can be coming from things like chocolate, doughnuts, pastries, desserts, and snacks. If the thought of cutting out all sweets doesn’t sound fair (we agree), try eating smaller portions or even half-sized desserts. A recent study showed that menopausal women who ate more sweets, fats, and snacks suffered from menopausal symptoms more than those who ate more fruits and vegetables.We’re talking hot flashes, night sweats, muscle and joint problems, and bladder issues were all worse for the dessert-lovers. Again, that doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself completely! Find creative ways to enjoy sweets in a new, healthier way.
4. Be mindful of your energy needs.
For most, metabolism slows down gradually as we age. It happens for many reasons including the fact that we tend to move around less throughout the day, exercise less, and we lose muscle mass that doesn’t get used regularly. This means that by continuing to eat the same amount of food as you did in your 30s and 40s, you’ll start gaining weight. On average, women in their 50s and 60s gain about 1.5 pounds every year. Mindful eating can help. Try starting with smaller portions and paying attention to how much you need to feel full and satisfied.
PRO TIP: Avoid eating large meals close to bedtime, particularly if you have trouble sleeping.
5. Eat higher-quality foods
Focus on quality foods packed with nutrients (i.e., nutrient-dense foods). Think fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Eating enough protein cans support your muscles and bones. You can get protein from legumes, nuts, seeds, fish, and/or poultry. A recent study showed that menopausal women who ate the most greens had the fewest complaints about typical menopausal symptoms like hot flashes. By eating more nutrient-dense foods like these ones you’ll get more vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein—all of which are very important to maintain your health at and beyond menopause.
PRO TIP: Your bones love calcium and vitamin D. Some of the richest sources of these are dairy products, fish with bones, and foods fortified with these nutrients (check your labels).
A few simple diet and lifestyle changes can help you navigate the onset of menopause.
Be sure to drink enough fluids, but minimize alcohol; cut down on spicy foods, caffeine, and sugar; eat mindfully and focus on higher-quality food. Lastly, include soy foods in your diet if you enjoy them, but don’t expect it to miraculously solve any bothersome menopausal symptoms.
If you’d like personalized nutrition recommendations and coaching to help you feel your best during perimenopause and menopause, let’s start with a phone conversation to see how we can help! Set up a call today.
The Truth About Hormones and Nutrition – Free Workshop Recording. Nutrition can help support your hormone health. We share nutrition tips to help with sleep, your menstrual cycle, stress, and appetite.
We all have something that makes us tick…. biological clocks. The fan favorite is the circadian rhythm, responsible for helping shape your behavioral, physical, and mental patterns on a 24-hour basis. However, those with female reproductive organs have a second internal clock called the infradian rhythm. Alisa Viti, CEO of FLO Living, notes that this clock works on a 28-day basis, regulating the menstrual cycle which is made of 4 phases: menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase. As you embark on the infradian journey, your hormones change with the seasons of the cycle causing a cascade of effects in your body. Therefore, nutrition can be a key component in supporting your body through each phase. So let’s find out what foods best fit the phase you’re in!
Menstruation is the phase of disposing the endometrial lining that built up from the previous cycle. On average it can last anywhere from 1-7 days. During this time hormone (progesterone and estrogen) levels start to decline. In fact, estrogen hits its lowest point right before the flow. So what does this really mean? Menstruation is the perfect time to slow down, rest, and honor your body because it is experiencing some inflammation during this phase.
Tofu, spirulina, kidney beans, chickpeas, green peas
Healthy, friendly fats such as:
Anti inflammatory foods/drinks to help with symptoms:
Green, black, oolong, or raspberry leaf teas
Avoid pro-inflammatory foods like fried foods, processed foods high in refined sugars, dairy products, and fatty foods as these can worsen symptoms
As the bleeding comes to an end, you transition into the follicular phase, which typically occurs 7-10 days after menstruation ends. The coaches at Flo Living note, in the beginning hormones are at their lowest, but slowly begin to rise throughout this phase, preparing your body for ovulation. So, it is common to feel like your best, energized self. You might feel more focused, motivated, calm and in control during this time. You might notice you aren’t as hungry as other times of the month as metabolism is slower during this time. That is why it is important to focus on balance, nutrient density, fiber, and color during this phase.
Foods to eat during this phase of your cycle:
Chicken and eggs
Oats and barley
Broccoli, carrots, kale, spinach, and peas
Berries, apples, pears
Flax seeds, cashews, and walnuts
Sauerkraut and kimchi
Up next is ovulation! Typically taking place mid cycle and averaging about 3-4 days in length. Estrogen levels continue to rise and luteinizing hormone (LH) triggers the release of an egg. Testosterone will also be on the up and up, making you feel energetic. This is a great time to focus on fiber to help your body flush out excess estrogen to avoid cramps or pain. Supplying your body with nutritionally rich foods will give it the fuel it needs.
Foods to eat during ovulation include:
Smoothies and salads
Raw fruits and veggies like:
Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries
Pecans, pumpkin seeds, chocolate
The 10-14 day period after ovulating is called the luteal phase. Estrogen and progesterone levels continue to climb, and metabolism speeds up.
However, in the second half of the luteal phase, right before menstruation begins again hormone levels will dip down to their lowest point again. This is usually the time many experience fatigue, irritability, poor concentration, GI upset, bloating and/or appetite changes. However, adequate nutrition can help prevent the hormone imbalances that cause PMS. Since your metabolism is higher during this time, opt for nutrient dense foods and don’t refrain from protein and healthy fats.
Help stabilize your blood sugar during this phase with complex carbs like:
Help prevent fluid retention with magnesium and calcium rich foods such as:
Cooked leafy greens
Dark leafy greens
If you experience painful cramps, try adding ginger to your meals or beverages, it has been proven to help with painful cramping
Other great foods to eat during this time:
Monitoring your cycle is a great way to keep in touch with your body, allowing you to record symptoms and optimize nutrition depending on your body’s needs. There are many period tracking apps that help you do so. Cycle tracking provides you with the information you need in order to support your body and recognize when something may be out of balance with your hormones. Nutrition and lifestyle choices play a huge role in hormonal balance and reproductive organ health. Focusing on freshness, balance, nutrient density, and variety can benefit your body as it travels along its 28-day cycle. If you’d like to learn more about hormonal health and how nutrition can support it, please sign up for our monthly webinar by clicking the link below!