The following is an excerpt taken from an article I wrote for Natural Medicine, September 2009
For many women, the menopause can be a turning point. Not only physically but psychologically as well. Because of this, the first step to managing the menopause is to keep a positive outlook: menopause is not a disease. It is the next natural phase of life, and with proper diet, nutritional supplements, and exercise, most of the unpleasant side effects of menopause can be minimized, and often eliminated.
The digestive tract becomes less efficient with age whilst metabolism and chemical reactions slow down. Although fewer calories are needed, the body requires the same amount of vitamins and minerals. Consuming the right foods can have a powerful effect on menopausal symptoms enabling the body to adjust to changing hormone levels. The healthiest diet during this time is one that is low in refined carbohydrates and sugar but high in wholegrains, vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, seafood, lean meats, fish, some oil and the occasional egg.
THREE VITAL THINGS TO DO:
Fibre is essential for maintaining a healthy gut and normalising intestinal transit time. It can therefore reduce menopausal symptoms like gas and bloating. It also helps control blood glucose levels and appetite. Eating a high fibre diet decreases the risk of many cancers, including bowel and breast cancer. High fibre foods include beans, lentils, green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
Increase the good fats
Saturated fat, which is found mainly in dairy products, meat and processed foods is particularly dangerous for menopausal women as it is linked to heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, cancers and obesity. However, Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), such as those found in nuts, seeds and oily fish can help reduce cholesterol and protect against heart disease.
Phytoestrogens are weak oestrogenic compounds present in plants structurally similar to human oestrogen. While they are not as strong as regular oestrogen, they may have a balancing effect on the body diminishing some of the discomforts caused by lower oestrogen levels during menopause. A wide variety of fruits (strawberries, apples, tomatoes, grapefruit), vegetables (garlic, asparagus, broccoli, sweet potatoes) and plant proteins (lentils, chickpeas) are good sources. Flax seeds contain more phytoestrogens than other plant sources but must be ground to be effective.
TWO ESSENTIAL SUPPLEMENTS:
Calcium becomes notably important during the menopausal transition. Declining oestrogen levels leave bones without the protective bone-building properties of this hormone. In turn, susceptibility to thinning bones increases and the risk for osteopaenia and osteoporosis. It is also essential for protecting the heart and controlling blood pressure.
Magnesium enables the body to metabolise calcium, thereby preventing osteoporosis. It helps with hormonal problems such as mood swings and breast tenderness. Lack of magnesium is also implicated in insomnia.