Menopause for most women is an un-tamable monster. Scary and complex. It sounds the siren for a host of changes in a woman’s life. Menopause is a phase of both physical and emotional experiences in her life as she comes to terms with an onslaught of transformations. In reality it affects each woman in completely different ways.
As ovaries stop producing enough estrogen and progesterone, women start undergoing various symptoms like excessive and sudden sweating commonly known as hot flushes, constipation, weight gain, depression etc. Long term consequences can include reduced libido, osteoporosis, heart diseases, certain kinds of cancers and also dementia all of which are linked to low estrogen levels.
Research indicates that eating and avoiding certain kinds of foods can make the years around your menopause a lot more comfortable and bearable. Therefore, let food be thy medicine.
It is very important to have cooling foods to manage the flushes. Avoid having food that is too hot and spicy, caffeine, chocolate and alcohol as they are known triggers. Have ample plant based foods as they contain phytoestrogens which help relieve hot flushes. Two kinds of phytoestrogens – isoflavones and lignans are particularly helpful. Have foods rich in Vitamins E and C.
Food Sources: flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, various legumes, coconut water, iced tea, soybean, wholegrain cereals, berries etc.
Depression and Mood swings:
Ensure that you consume foods rich in protein and calcium. Many protein rich foods contain an amino acid called tryptophan. Tryptophan helps manufacture serotonin which helps moods and may help sleep and appetite. Also have foods rich in Vitamin B complex. These foods not only help moods but also alleviate tiredness and fatigue.
Food Sources: milk, paneer, oats, low fat cheese, legumes,eggs, fish, dried dates, yogurt, banana, peanuts, beans, nuts, lean meat etc.
One of the long term consequences of menopause is osteoporosis. As estrogen levels drop in the body there is loss of calcium from the bones. Avoid foods containing phosphorous like aerated drinks, processed foods as they affect the integrity of the bone and lead to faster depletion of the minerals calcium and magnesium from the bones, further affecting bone health. Having foods rich in the mineral Boron is beneficial at this time. Also consume alkaline foods to prevent mineral loss. Also supplementation of vitamin D is essential during this time as this too helps in maintaining the bone health.
Food Sources: milk, paneer, cheese, beans, fortified cereals,apples, pears, grapes, dates, raisins, berries, broccoli, onion, beets, bell peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, wheat, plums etc.
Menopause does not cause heart diseases or strokes, however certain risk factors increase during menopause. High fat diet, smoking, unhealthy lifestyle can all contribute towards it. Estrogen is believed to have a positive effect on the inner layer of artery wall, helping to keep blood vessels flexible. Assorted changes in the body occur with menopause. Blood pressure starts to go up. LDL cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, tends to increase while HDL, or “good” cholesterol declines or remains the same. Triglycerides, certain types of fats in the blood, also increase. Opt for healthier fats like omega 3 and 6.
Fish, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, olive oil, mustard oil etc.
As we grow older our metabolism slows down, and women have lower metabolisms to begin with. Onset of menopause brings with it bloating, water retention and constipation. Fluctuating hormones slow down the digestive system. It’s hence advisable to have fiber rich foods like fruits and vegetables. Two and half cups of fruits and 2 cups of vegetables are recommended to be consumed daily. Be physically active. Also include weight bearing exercises in your fitness routine. Reduce your intake of salt and sugar. Also, it is very, very important to maintain good hydration levels. It not only helps in flushing out the toxins but also gives a push to your slowed digestive system.
Exercise and being physically active is not only vital but also tied to proper diet. Along with helping to maintain bone health and keeping off the weight, exercise also improves circulation, heart health and mental well being.
Menopause, for most women is understandably a not so eagerly anticipated, inevitable time in their lives. But thankfully this time can be managed well with the help of right nutritional choices.
So ladies, this mother's day, make the right choices and enjoy your forties like the twenties!!