Nutritional therapist, Susie Perrie Debice on the two ways to approach menopause! You can bury your head in the sand and let hormone imbalance rule your roost OR once you hit 45 you can empower yourself with knowledge and get inspired to make a few diet and lifestyle changes. You can be in control of your menopausal experience!
What to expect
Most women begin to see tell-tale signs their hormones are changing around the age of 50, so if you count back 5 years, you reach a very sensible time to start preparing for the peri-menopause. Irregular and heavy periods, hot flushes, vaginal dryness, night sweats, anxiety, changes in mood, memory and skin and hair conditions are all indications that you are transitioning towards the menopause. Most women sail through the menopause within 4-5 years but for some women the menopause can last for as long as 10-12 years.
There are certain elements of your menopause that are completely pre-determined and out of your control. You can’t change the genetic factors that influence your hormonal disposition and this determines when your menopause begins. There are also certain life-saving medications, surgical procedures and cancer treatments that have an impact on the menopause.
Having a few uncontrollable factors influencing your menopause doesn’t mean you can’t carve you own path. Fortunately, there’s a list of diet and lifestyle factors for you to turn your attention to once you hit 45. The more progress you make down this list the more bearable and less extreme your menopause is likely to be.
Top of the list is smoking.
It’s well-documented that women who smoke have more frequent and more severe hot flushes and night sweats compared to women who don’t smoke. So why not make it your mission to give up smoking by the time you reach 45.
Next up is your BMI.
Being overweight or obese (so having a high BMI) also notches up the severity of hot flushes; this is thought to occur because the extra layers of stored fat add a layer of insulation making it harder for the heat generated during a hot flush to escape the body. Now is the time to get active and follow a healthy eating plan. Aim to have a healthy BMI during your menopause and beyond.
Food glorious food.
Also on the list is your diet, you are totally in control of this one! Get savvy and ditch the junk – processed foods, convenience foods, sugary snacks, energy drinks, refined carbs, saturated fat, caffeine and alcohol all play havoc with hormone balance. Slowly eek these out of your diet in your early 40’s so you can be ‘clean eating’ past 45.
Foods containing phytoestrogens help to support hormone balance. Flax seeds, fennel, cucumber, chickpeas, lentils, oats, alfalfa, tofu, miso, soya yoghurt, tempeh all provide a dietary source of these plant-based oestrogens.
Boost the B’s
It’s B-vitamins that help fire-up our energy and metabolism; vitamins B1, B2 and B6 are particularly important for this time of life with regards to supporting hormone balance, combating fatigue and helping lift your mood. It’s complex carbs (brown bread, brown rice), wholegrains, pulses and lentils that are rich in B-vitamins so ditch the refined carbs and make the swap to the wholesome alternatives!
You’ve probably heard that calcium and magnesium are important for healthy bones which is why they are so important as you get older. These two minerals are also important for the nervous system and help to relax the mind and melt away anxiety. Magnesium is also particularly important if insomnia and stress are part of your peri-menopausal picture. These minerals are found in green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, hemp, chia) and tahini.
There are so many reasons to make sure you get enough omega-3’s in your diet and this is because they are important for a multitude of physiological functions. Omega-3 found in oily fish, krill oil, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds contribute to brain function, mood, hormone balance, metabolism, weight management and they even help switch off inflammation and dampening down pain.