Right Foods To Improve Menopause

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Nutrition and the menopause

From magnesium and phytoestrogens to eating little and often — good nutrition is an essential step to ensuring this stage of life is a positive one.

Technically, the menopause is the point at which a woman has her last menstrual period and is therefore no longer fertile. For some time before this, periods may have occurred without ovulation, and they may have been getting gradually further apart or, in some cases, closer together.

Right Foods To Improve MenopauseAt the menopause, the ovaries stop producing the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which leads to other bodily changes. For example, although oestrogen is mainly thought of as a sex hormone, cells in the vagina, bladder, breasts, skin, bones, arteries, heart, liver, and brain all contain oestrogen receptors.

The peri-menopausal years - in other words, those leading up to that final period - may be as long as ten years, and are different for each woman.

What it is not

Menopause is not a medical condition or a disease. It is a natural process and brings with it advantages as well as disadvantages, notably no more pre-menstrual tension or worries about contraception. The important thing is to be as positive as possible and to view it as the next stage of life. With a proper diet, nutritional supplements and exercise, most of the unpleasant side effects of menopause can be minimised if not eliminated.
It must be said, however, that the earlier you start to take care of yourself, the easier the transition or 'change of life' will be. It is possible to go right through the menopause with few, if any, symptoms, but this is generally a question of good management rather than good luck.

Nutrition and diet

You may have survived for years on snatched meals and convenience snacks, but these now have to be a thing of the past. You may find that you feel better if you eat little and often as if your blood-sugar levels drop menopausal symptoms often increase. Always take time to digest and enjoy your food, which may mean having a little less to eat on any one occasion.

Foods should be as unprocessed as possible. Remember that the more highly processed or refined a food is the fewer nutrients it contains. This is a high-nutrient time of your life and you cannot afford to eat low-nutrient foods.


An important aim at this time is to introduce as many foods as possible which contain plant oestrogens (phytoestrogens). These weak oestrogenic compounds help to balance hormones, increasing the body's own levels when they are low, and decreasing levels when they are too high by sitting inside the receptor cells which are normally taken up by strong oestrogens.

Japanese women generally experience far fewer symptoms of menopause than Western women and this is thought to be because they consume more oestrogenic foods such as soya beans, tofu, miso, flaxseed, fruit and vegetables. They also have a much lower incidence of many degenerative conditions. As a general guideline, 4 oz tofu, 8 oz soya milk or a handful of soya beans per day provide optimum amounts of phytoestrogens.

Diet through the day

Breakfast could include whole grain cereals such as oat, rice or millet porridge, or sugar-free muesli, made with soya milk, and with fresh fruit and mixed seeds added. Equal portions of sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds can be mixed in a large container with a double portion of linseeds, and 2 tablespoons of the mixture added to the cereal. If you don't get hungry at breakfast time, some fresh fruit and a handful of mixed seeds would be fine. Eliminate or severely reduce coffee, as you may find this aggravates symptoms, and drink plenty of bottled or filtered water between meals.

At lunch, take the time to sit down and have a large salad with some protein in the form of fish, beans, eggs, or tofu. As tofu is not eaten traditionally, it's worthwhile getting a book with ideas for transforming it from the rather bland and uninteresting food you may know it as into an appetising 'superfood'. Being bland has the advantage of taking on the flavours of other foods you mix it with. It is high in phytoestrogens, high in protein, low in fat and low in calories! If you prefer something hot, a meal-sized soup containing lots of vegetables with lentils, beans, or soya and eaten with wholemeal or rye bread will give you plenty of nutrients.

If you prefer to have your main meal at mid-day, include fish twice a week if possible, chicken, soya, beans, lentils, chickpeas, eggs and a little lean meat with at least three portions of fresh vegetables. Fresh fruit and live yogurt or a soya-based pudding make a healthy dessert.

In addition to caffeine, some people find that alcohol, sugar, spicy and hot (high temperature) food may trigger hot flushes.

Nutritional supplements

Although manufacturers of nutritional supplements are not allowed to make specific claims, there is now a plethora of products which, as their names suggest, are aimed specifically at the menopausal woman. The main things to look out for are adequate amounts of:

Magnesium citrate

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 may cause symptoms of low self-esteem and insomnia. 300-450 mg of elemental magnesium per day is recommended.

Calcium citrate

Should be slightly less than magnesium in quantity and is, of course, needed for healthy bones and a good night's sleep.

Vitamin B6

Essential for the formation of serotonin, low levels of which are associated with depression and mood. It helps to disperse fluid retention, and low levels of B6 have been associated with osteoporosis. A supplement containing all the B vitamins may be helpful as they work better together.

Vitamin E

A powerful antioxidant which has been shown to relieve hot flushes and menopausal vaginal complaints. It may help with breast tenderness. Start off with 200 iu (150 mg) of vitamin E, increasing gradually to 800 iu (600 mg) or even 1200 iu (900 mg) until hot flushes diminish.

Essential fatty acids

Some people find that a supplement containing the Omega 6 fatty acids (evening primrose oil / gamma linolenic acid) and / or Omega 3 oils (EPA/DHA) are helpful - although not specifically for hot flushes - as they are involved in hormone production.

Dong quai

A traditional Chinese herbal remedy which appears to modulate the body's own oestrogen levels.

There are many other herbs used both individually and in combination, but as the choice seems to be increasingly great you may prefer to consult a herbalist before going down this avenue.

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