Menopause - Nutritional and Lifestyle Tips

Menopause is a daunting word we associate with hot flashes, mood swings and discomfort.  But we can adopt some nutritional and lifestyle adjustments to easily navigate this transition period.

We need:  Serotonin, Phytoestrogens, Calcium,  Vitamins C and E,  Sleep and a few lifestyle adjustments.

Let’s start with serotonin.

Recent studies report that hot flashes can be improved by increasing serotonin levels; in fact, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are widely prescribed by doctors, and are preferred to hormone replacement therapy today. Serotonin is also known as the Happiness Hormone because it improves mood.

So, how can we increase serotonin levels naturally?

Foods: chicken, turkey, lean meat, fish, low-fat milk, dairy products, legumes.

Note: carbohydrates promote penetration into the brain of tryptophan, the substance from which serotonin derives, so take a handful of carbs with your proteins.
Healthy carbs include brown rice, multigrain bread, oats, whole grains, barley, yam, sweet potato, etc.

New beginnings

Phytoestrogens

“Menopause is characterised by a decrease in oestrogen, which triggers the uncomfortable symptoms of hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, and vaginal dryness… Phytoestrogens are plant compounds with oestrogen-like properties.” (Chen et al. 2015).

Foods: 

soybeans and soy products (tofu, tempeh, miso paste), multigrain bread, rye bread, sesame bread, legumes, beans, lentils, hummus, green beans, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, garlic, olives dried dates, apricots and prunes, peaches, oranges, strawberries, pistachios, walnuts, almonds, cashews.

Calcium

Menopause is associated with loss of bone density and a subsequent risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
Hence, we need calcium. Discuss an appropriate calcium supplement with your GP.

Calcium-rich foods: sesame and chia seeds, cheese, yoghurt, sardines and salmon, beans and lentils, almonds, whey protein, dark leafy greens, edamame and tofu, dried figs.

Vitamins C & E (antioxidants)

Vit. E: almonds, raw seeds (sunflower, pumpkin and sesame), Swiss chard, mustard greens, spinach, turnip greens, kale, avocado, broccoli, parsley, papaya, olives.

Vit. C: strawberries, pineapple, oranges, mango, kiwi, papaya, bell peppers, broccoli.

 

Lifestyle

Exercise (i.e., yoga, tai chi, workouts at the gym, etc.). Sunlight.
Drink at least 1.5 L of WATER a day in small amounts.
Dress cool cottons and silks, in layers that can be removed when required.
Reduce spicy foods, alcohol, coffee and tea.

If you are overweight, shedding a few kilos will reduce hot flashes.

Sleep

Keep the bedroom cool, and layer the bedding.
Try to go to bed at the same time every day.
Have herbal tea at bedtime (ginger, fennel, chamomile, lemon balm, valerian root, passion flower).
Spend 5-10 minutes relaxing before you sleep (e.g., lie down, relax the body and silence your thoughts, inhale counting 3, hold your breath counting 3, exhale counting 3, hold for 3, and repeat).
Avoid exercise before sleep.
Avoid long naps (more than 15-20 mins.) during the day.
Do not take coffee, tea or alcohol before bedtime.

Sleep Enhancing Supplments

Melatonin

Magnesium
Studies have not reported interactions between these two supplements.

References

American Family Physician. 2006 Feb 1;73(3):457-64.
Journal of Psychiatry of Neuroscience. 2007 Nov; 32(6): 394–399.
Climacteric. 2015 Mar; 18(2): 260–269.
Journal of Mid-Life Health. 2013 Jul-Sep; 4(3): 140–146.
www.drugs.com (accessed June 2018)