From food cravings to hot flashes, menopause brings about a lot of physical and emotional changes that can be disconcerting at the very least and debilitating at the worst. One of the more frustrating aspects of going through menopause is figuring out what foods you should be eating and which ones you should avoid because they may trigger unpleasant symptoms. In this article, we’ll break down which foods you should eat when you’re going through menopause, as well as provide you with some information on which ones to avoid.
What Happens During Menopause?
The female body goes through a lot of changes during menopause. Not only do hormone levels fluctuate, but women have to deal with new symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. While you can’t control your hormones, you can focus on making small changes in your diet that will help minimize some of these symptoms and keep you feeling healthier overall.
While it is a natural part of aging, its symptoms can be uncomfortable. Menopause refers to when your body stops producing hormones that allow you to get pregnant. In addition, during menopause, your ovaries stop releasing eggs and your monthly menstrual cycle comes to an end. Your menstrual cycle typically begins in puberty and ends at around age 50 or 51. You produce estrogen, progesterone, and other reproductive hormones in large amounts during these years.
The Symptoms of Menopause
It is known that during menopause, many symptoms can appear, including hot flashes, night sweats, and sleep disorders. However, an even more common consequence of menopause is a significant gain in weight caused by an increase in appetite and a decrease in physical activity.
The main reason for gaining weight during menopause is hormonal changes in women as they age. Hormones are chemical messengers released into our bloodstream and tell cells how to behave. During ovulation, hormones also cause an increase in appetite and decrease physical activity, which makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint because if we’re not hungry or moving around, we aren’t burning calories or finding food. Hence, we’re more likely to survive long enough to procreate.
While women are most likely to experience menopause during their late 40s and early 50s, it can also occur earlier or later in life. During perimenopause (the years leading up to menopause), a woman’s ovaries may stop releasing eggs regularly. The production of hormones fluctuates and leads to fertility issues that may require medication or other interventions before she can conceive.
Foods to Eat
During menopause, it’s important to avoid irritability and hot flashes. To do so, you’ll want to avoid certain types of foods while consuming more healthy foods. Some great foods to consume during menopause include:
Fruits and vegetables: Brightly colored fruits and veggies are abundant in vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, carotenoids, and flavonoids that help keep your heart healthy.
Fatty fish: Several fatty fish, including herring, mackerel, salmon, and tuna, are high in omega-3 fatty acids. They can help lower cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of heart disease and increase your overall health by reducing inflammation throughout your body.
“Cooling foods” – Including more cooling foods in your diets, such as cucumbers, apples, broccoli, eggs, green tea, and lettuce. These will help keep you cool during menopause. Cooling foods are best consumed raw or lightly cooked with little to no added fat, according to Women’s Health.
Water: Dehydration can make your body temperature spike and cause a hot flash. Try to drink at least eight glasses of water per day. Keep an eye on how much you’re drinking throughout your day. If you’re constantly thirsty, you may be dehydrated.
Foods to Avoid
It’s normal to have some adverse reaction to certain foods, but during menopause, there are a few categories that everyone should avoid. These foods will likely come with issues.
Spicy foods: Spicy foods are troublesome for many women going through menopause due to heartburn issues that commonly appear. In addition, spicy foods cause sweating, headaches, and depression due to their bioavailability affecting serotonin levels in our brain, which results in an imbalance causing mood swings. Make sure you avoid foods like hot peppers, jalapenos, and cayenne during menopause.
Alcohol: Many women find they can’t tolerate alcohol very well during menopause. They can experience symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, dizziness, and nausea. If you already struggle with these symptoms regularly, it’s best to stay away from alcohol during menopause. It will only make things worse. If you plan on drinking, have no more than one drink per day.
Fatty Foods: Some women find that fatty foods make their menopausal symptoms worse. These symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, and weight gain. If you notice these symptoms due to eating fatty foods, it’s best to avoid them during menopause. Instead, go for leaner meats like chicken breast or salmon, which have a lower fat content. Also, choose low-fat dairy products such as skim milk and non-fat yogurt instead of whole milk and full-fat yogurt.
Importance of Improving Diet During Menopause
A natural menopause diet may help keep hot flashes, night sweats, and other symptoms of menopause at bay. Eating various nutritious foods is beneficial for overall health during perimenopause (the time just before menopause) and menopause. A poor diet can trigger many uncomfortable symptoms; you may find relief by eating foods that provide nutrients that are lacking in your body. A high-fiber diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, helps keep your digestive system running smoothly.
Incorporating small, frequent meals and snacks also helps prevent dips in blood sugar levels that can trigger a hot flash. Eating whole foods provides many health benefits and is always better than following a fad diet. If you experience frequent symptoms, try to keep track of your daily intake by writing down everything you eat and drink for several days to get an idea of what may be causing problems for you.