Nutrition Tips : Type of Diet & Exercise for a Menopausal Woman
How to Ease Menopause Symptoms with Diet
You might think that symptoms of menopause need to be cured. But, menopause is not a disease. It's a transition from a reproductive age to a non-reproductive age where you no longer menstruate. While every woman's body responds differently to this transition, some women experience problems caused by reduced estrogen levels. Fortunately, changing one's diet can improve many side effects of menopause.
Relieving Specific Symptoms Through Diet
Include soy to relieve hot flashes.If you're getting hot flashes around your face and upper chest, try taking soy products. Soy contains phytoestrogens that mimic or slightly block your body's estrogen. Many women find that eating more soy or soy products relieves hot flashes within days or weeks. Eat one or two servings of tofu, soy milk, or soy yogurt every day.
- If you've had an estrogen-dependent breast cancer, avoid soy and soy products. You should ask your doctor if your breast cancer was estrogen-dependent before you increase the soy in your diet.
Eat fiber to manage weight gain.During menopause, your metabolism might slow down which can make you gain weight. You can control weight issues by eating more fruits and vegetables. These contain fiber which can help you feel fuller longer and curb your appetite.
- High-fiber foods include: beans, legumes, raspberries, pears (with the skin), apples (with the skin), split peas, artichokes, and green beans.
Reduce your sugar intake to fight fatigue.You may feel over-tired. To improve your energy levels, avoid sugary foods or drinks. Excess sugar can increase your blood sugar quickly which makes you feel tired. Limit your sugar to 2 tablespoons a day. Read food labels to watch for added sugars.
- Instead of eating sweet snacks, choose high-protein snacks like nuts, seeds and sugar-free yogurts or smoothies.
Adjust your diet to get better sleep.If you find it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep at night, have a snack. You can eat nuts, a banana, yogurt, whole-grain crackers, an apple, peanut butter, or cheese. These can keep your blood sugar stable and help your body release healthy levels of serotonin, a brain chemical important for sleep.
- Avoid any sugary snacks before you go to bed. Your snack should always include a lean, high quality protein like cheese or lean meat. These can help your body make serotonin.
Eat foods that may improve your mood.If you find your moods swing or you're more likely to cry or get upset, eat foods that can reduce irritability and anxiety. Many mood-improving foods contain selenium and tryptophan. These contain neurotransmitters that can regulate mood and sleep. Try to eat 1 to 2 servings of these foods every day:
- Brazil nuts: 3 nuts count as one serving
- Oats: 1/2 cup is considered one serving
- Bananas: one serving is a medium banana
- Poultry: eat some chicken, turkey, or game hen a few times a week
- Lentils: 1/2 cup of cooked lentils
Improving Your Diet in General
Prepare your own food.Since more research is needed to determine how chemicals from food contribute to menopausal symptoms, it's best to avoid processed or conventionally grown food. Keep your food as close to its original or natural form as much as possible and choose organic foods. Try to cook from scratch so you can control what you're eating.
- If you are pressed for time, try using a crock pot or preparing the basics (like rice, beans and even meats and vegetables) ahead of time and freezing those basics.
Eat more complex carbohydrates.90 to 95% of the carbohydrates you eat should be complex. This means that when the carbohydrates break down into sugars, they break down into more complex molecules that take longer for your body to process. This prevents blood sugar from spiking quickly. Get complex carbs from whole, unprocessed foods like grains, peas, lentils, beans, and vegetables.
- Eat most of your complex carbohydrates at lunch so your body has longer to digest them and cut down on the portion sizes for other meals.
Reduce your sugar intake.Unlike complex carbohydrates, simple carbohydrates that are found in processed foods are broken down quickly by your body. This means that your blood sugar will peak rapidly. This can make menopausal fatigue even worse. To cut back on simple carbohydrates and sugar, avoid foods like white bread, white pasta, white rice, candies, cookies, cakes and other confections.
- Read labels and avoid products that contain a lot of added sugars like glucose, sucrose (table sugar) and fructose (most often added as high fructose corn syrup(HFCS)).
- Studies have found that drinking beverages with HFCS increases your risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Eat foods high in fatty acids.Fatty acids (omega-3s) are healthy fats that can reduce inflammation, improve brain and heart heath, and can regulate mood swings. Studies have shown omega-3s can relieve depression symptoms caused by menopause. To get omega-3s in your diet, eat:
- Wild-caught fish: salmon, mackerel, tuna, cod, haddock
- Ground flaxseeds: these also contain a lot of fiber
- Limit foods high in saturated fats (like beef or poultry with skin)
Eat more fruits and vegetables.Try to eat at least 3 to 5 fruits and vegetables of any variety. Switch out what produce you're eating so that you're getting a variety of colors and nutrients. The nutrients in produce (like phytoestrogens, vitamins, and minerals) are good for keeping your heart and bones healthy during menopause.
- You should also drink more water throughout the day. Try to drink 1 to 2 liters or 6 to 8 eight-ounce glasses of water each day.
Trying Herbal Remedies
Take valerian to relieve sleeplessness.If you're having trouble falling asleep at night, you can take chamomile or valerian as an herbal supplement or tea. Studies have shown that valerian (a plant) can help you fall asleep faster and improve your sleep quality.
- You can use valerian occasionally, but don't make a habit of relying on it to fall asleep. You should also ask your doctor about any drug interactions if you're taking medication.
Use black cohosh.The root of the black cohosh plant has traditionally been used to relieve cramps, mood swings, irritability, and hot flashes caused by menopause. Studies have shown that black cohosh is actually more effective than some prescription medications in treating hot flashes and night sweats. Black cohosh is most effective when you take it as a tablet supplement.
- Some doctors advise against using black cohosh for more than 6 months.
- Since black cohosh might contain plant estrogens, talk with your doctor before using it if you have breast cancer, a history of breast cancer, or are at risk for breast cancer.
Try taking evening primrose oil for hot flashes.More research is needed, but evening primrose oil is often taken to relieve the symptom of hot flashes. Evening primrose oil (and black currant oil) contain gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). This fatty acid is an anti-inflammatory.
- Evening primrose oil (specifically the GLA) can interact with certain medications. Talk with your doctor before taking this supplement.
Take ginseng to reduce irritability.More research is needed, but some studies have found that taking ginko biloba supplements may improve mood and relieve depression caused by menopause. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions and consider taking it with a vitamin and mineral supplement.
- Ginseng comes from the same plant as ginko biloba, but ginseng is extracted from the roots (not the leaves and seeds, as in ginko biloba).
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