By Suzi Grant, nutritionist and author of Alternative Ageing
My favorite saying at the moment is: “it’s never too early or too late to start.” Anything! So, whether you’re 35 or 55 I want to share my experience of twenty years, practising as a nutritionist, to help you eat your way through a symptom-free menopause. Here are your top tips for a great menopause diet.
By incorporating just eight foods you may not have tried before, I hope to help you avoid the worst of the flushes/flashes and all that comes with The Change. So there’s not too much to change to have a good menopause diet.
The menopause happens when estrogen and/or progesterone and testosterone decline to a point where periods stop completely. It’s not a disease but a completely natural point of our lives!
The average age for menopause is 51 and for the perimenopause the symptoms can start in your late 30s but more usually in your 40s.
First, here are the symptoms to look out for when you are entering your perimenopausal stage. A fact I was reminded of by a sales woman in a large pharmacy who shouted at the top of her voice that I was getting spots in my early 40s because it was the perimenopause. Nice!
- Irregular periods
- Weight gain
- Hot flushes
And for those of you in your 50s, here’s what else to look out for. Oh joy of joys!
Menopause and post-menopause
- Loss of skin elasticity
- Wrinkles around the mouth
- Disturbed sleep
- Loss of libido
- Vaginal dryness
I managed to get through the menopause without HRT and only suffered with occasional hot flushes if I drank too much coffee.
I am not particularly pro HRT because of my naturopathic training and the fact that, apart from the health scares, when it is stopped, the menopausal symptoms usually come back more severe than before, and you can’t stay on it forever. I feel it’s like using a steam roller to crush a nut so, unless there’s no other way of dealing with your symptoms, try my suggestions first.
Top tips to avoid hot flashes and night sweats
Those nightmare sweats are often caused by fluctuating blood sugar levels as well as fluctuating hormones so avoid all foods on the high glycaemic index as much as possible, especially sugar in all forms such as sugary soft drinks & sugary foods, that also come in disguise as foods you might think of as innocuous like: white bread, potatoes & white rice! A full low-glycaemic diet is in my Weekend Weight Loss book and a free excerpt is on the above link
1. Drink 2 litres of water a day.
2. Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol and coffee as much as you can. They all exacerbate hot flushes.
3. Avoid over spicy or processed foods.
4. Make sure you’re going poo regularly! A blocked up colon is going to make things worse as you need to get rid of any toxic build-up. Top tip below shows you how to get them moving naturally.
5. This is the time to try a detox or a new healthy, eating plan, encompassing all the suggested foods in this blog, to eliminate any toxic build-up and help your body cope a bit better.
6. Foods rich in phyto-oestrogens, natural plant oestrogens, help women maintain hormonal balance as their body’s levels begin to fluctuate. They are exactly what you need to feed your body at this time, whether peri or post menopausal. The highest form of phyto-oestrogens and Omega 3 fatty acids, also essential for regulating hormones, is found in flaxseeds (and flaxseed oil), or linseeds, and – double whammy – they are one of the best ways to kick arse when it comes to constipation!
1.Buy golden flaxseeds only, not the dark brown ones.
2.Put a tablespoon of golden flaxseeds in a half pint glass of water last thing at night. Fill to the top.
3. The seeds are full of zinc as well as vitamin E and Omega 3 & phyto-oestrogens, all of which will come out of the seeds into the water.
4. In the morning: either drink the water, or drink the water & the seeds (don’t have the seeds if you have a bowel condition such as diverticulitis) or add the whole lot to a smoothie.
Seven more super foods
Omega 3 fatty acids help to produce the prostaglandin 3 series (PG3) which has been shown to reduce: inflammation, blood pressure, heart disease, as well as improving cholesterol levels, hormone production & metabolism. In fact everything. Even plumped up, young looking skin! It’s the single most important fatty acid for hormones, beauty, health & ageing.
So, apart from the golden flaxseeds, the highest in Omega 3, make sure to eat walnuts, hazel nuts and pecans, and other seeds such as chia, sesame and hemp seeds. And if you’re worried about weight gain, don’t be. Omega 3 is called an essential fatty acid for a reason. It’s so essential your body uses it rather than laying it down as fat!
Love my oily fish. Salmon is the highest of the oily fish for Omega 3 essential fatty acids – essential for the health of every cell in your body.
The human brain just hoovers up DHA – docasal hexaenoic acid – the most effective of the Omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish. The brain needs it in high levels to avoid low serotonin levels, which can cause depression, SAD, moods and forgetfulness.
A high intake of fish oils has been linked to significant improvements in memory, moods and mental problems as well as lowering the risk of developing ageing-diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
So if you want to avoid irritability, depression and forgetfulness, make sure to eat plenty of oily fish. The highest in Omega 3 are in this order:
- Fresh Tuna
You can also buy a clean, well sourced fish oil supplement and make sure to take at least 2000 mg a day. Preferably a.m. and p.m. Or by-pass the fish capsules altogether and go straight to what they eat for Omega 3! Krill is growing in popularity and will do the job just as well as getting those precious fats straight to where they’re needed: to every cell in the body to support your hormones.
Soya – to eat or not eat, that is the question
The soya bean is made up of amino acids, minerals and isoflavones, which also belong to the family of phytoestrogens. Isoflavones have been found to help prevent cancer, heart disease and menopausal symptoms. (In fact, there isn’t a word for “hot flashes/flushes” in the Japanese language because they are almost unknown thanks to their diet. )
However, it is also well documented, that large quantities of soya can increase the risk of breast cancer, because of the oestrogenic action in the body isoflavones may have. Far from balancing hormone levels, the isoflavones and other toxic substances found in soya, may actually disrupt the endocrine system leading to problems with infertility, thyroid disorders, early onset of puberty in children and a depletion of vital nutrients such as zinc, iodine and calcium.
Mike Fitzpatrick, a toxicologist, has made the comparison of drinking two glasses of soya milk a day to ingesting 2 birth control pills a day. Japanese researchers have known for the last fifty years that a high consumption of soya can suppress thyroid function, a fact re-iterated by every thyroid expert I have ever met. But a lot of these scary reports are down to the type of processed soya we consume in this country.
The reason Japanese women are famous for sailing through the menopause is because of the type of soya-rich diet they consume. Here are some facts: they only eat 7-8 grams of soya a day. They consume more sea vegetables and so replace the iodine levels that are depleted by soya. (Add sea vegetables to your list!)
Their source of soya is less processed. And they don’t consume much tofu or soya milk. They mainly eat miso, tempeh or tamari, all of which are fermented, which, unlike other forms of soya, are unlikely to block the uptake of zinc, iodine and calcium. So try those three instead of soya or tofu for that extra boost of phytoestrogens.
Beans mean happy hormones!
Beans, peas and lentils also contain compounds that can help your body produce natural progesterone. For happy hormones and high nutrition, they are a must for peri or post menopause. Try to incorporate more of these into your eating plan:
- Aduki beans
- Chick peas
- Pinto beans
- Flageolet beans
- Kidney beans
- Black beans
- Green peas
Supplements in food form
Apart from your five, make that seven, portions of veg and fruit each day, there are other foods I want to recommend to you for your menopause diet. They are, strictly speaking, supplements but they’re natural foods and are not synthetic, so easier absorbed by your body. I have tried them all for various menopausal symptoms as have many of my clients in the past. With great success. These are my favorites, although there are many other suggestions out there for you to consider.
1. Bee Pollen
Bee pollen was great for me when I started suffering from an over-active bladder. The effects take a maximum of three months but within a couple of weeks my weak bladder was under control and I no longer suffered from stress incontinence! I have no idea why or how it works – but it does!
These little golden, coloured granules are very easy to eat but can cause a heavy stomach, bloating or diarrhea. So start with only a few granules and build up very slowly till you can have a teaspoon without any side effects. You can sprinkle it on yogurt, cereal, and bread or take it straight off the spoon.
2. Goji Berries
Goji berries, sometimes known as wolfberries, come from wild bushes that grow in China. Goji means wolf in Chinese. They are known as “happy” berries because it is said that a handful of these berries will keep you jolly for the rest of the day.
Not only that, but these little red, raisin like fruits are associated with longevity and, unlike ginseng, large amounts can be eaten continuously throughout the day. They may help you with menopausal symptoms such as depression, poor sleep and immunity.
Spirulina is the botanical name of a blue-green algae, well known in the anti-ageing world for promoting cellular regeneration
Many women have less trouble from menopausal symptoms if they take spirulina. You may feel calmer, certainly more energetic and in balance as well as having less bother from hot flushes. The reason is that spirulina contains large amounts of gamma-linolenic, another fatty acid that is converted into prostaglandins, the precursors to hormones.
It has successfully helped with PMS, painful breasts, and raging hormones. It is ridiculously high in protein and B12, which is essential for vegetarians and vegans, as well as containing masses of iron, beta carotene, calcium, magnesium & chlorophyll. All great for anyone at any age!
Because I am well past the menopause I have been forgetting to put it into my smoothie as well as the green powder I use. But I was given a pack of Focus Supplements and have to say my energy levels have soared since I started adding it to my green smoothie!
Finally, here’s another powder that is well researched and has helped many women, including me.
Maca revitalizes the middle aged and elderly both mentally and physically as well as helping with fertility, libido and maintaining menopausal hormonal balance. It is useful for treating chronic fatigue as well as stress, depression and immune weakness. But, most importantly, it is a safe, natural alternative to HRT, alleviating so many of my clients’ symptoms that it has become a must for any woman of a certain age.
Symptoms maca can help:
- Hot flushes
- Vaginal dryness
Maca is rich in all the minerals you need for optimum health, as well as B vitamins. But most importantly, for an ageing body and ageing hormone production, maca also contains four alkaloids that have been shown, in research, to nourish the endocrine glands and therefore your hormone producing glands. Worth a try.
Finally, a word about herbs. There are some amazingly helpful herbs out there, from black cohosh to sage, for alleviating the worst menopausal or perimenopausal symptoms by up to 50%. However, I wouldn’t recommend any here as I don’t know what medication you might be on and think it much safer to suggest you see a qualified herbalist, practitioner and/or your doctor before taking any potions. They’re powerful.
You should be totally safe with my suggestions but always check with a physician if you are suffering from any illness or disease, taking HRT or are on any other medication. Or just unsure.
Please comment below if you have new and exciting foods to share with us all! And, of course, you can read up on all age-related issues in Alternative Ageing . Remember, it’s never too early or late to start on your good menopause diet!
Look forward to hearing from you.
This article was first published on Alternative Ageing and Suzi has kindly allowed us to republish it here.
Why not check out Rachel’s workshop on Natural Menopause. Click here to check out our courses page.
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Suzi Grant was a chain smoking, hard drinking reporter/presenter in TV & Radio for most of her working life. But when her mum died of a heart attack at the age of 63, she decided to take stock of her health and trained as a nutritionist. She then wrote three books, including Alternative Ageing, continues to broadcast as a health & fashion expert, and moved from London to Brighton, where she has enjoyed life to the max ever since! She started her Alternative Ageing Blog in 2014 to share all the things she loves and knows about: health & nutrition, style & travel. Top tips on looking good and feeling great, whatever your age!