30 Aug Diet and Lifestyle Changes for Managing the Symptoms of Menopause
Many women dread the onset of menopause: hot flashes, night sweats, changes in libido, weight gain and other symptoms can cause concern or discomfort. As you might have already guessed, good nutrition can play a key role in helping to ease some of these symptoms and discomforts of menopause.
Here is what the current research has to say about nutrition/lifestyle & menopause symptoms:
Get Enough Sleep
Going through menopause and having trouble sleeping? Well you’re certainly NOT alone! Many women experience this symptom of menopause called insomnia. The decline in estrogen and progesterone when a woman hits menopause is what contributes to insomnia1. Recommendations from the Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine to improve sleep quality include1:
- refraining from drinking caffeinated beverages four to six hours before bedtime and alcohol within three hours of bedtime
- practicing a regular sleep routine
- eating a light evening meal
- exercising early in the day or at least three hours before bedtime
- going to bed only when tired.
Implementing these tips into your daily routine can help you to feel tired at the end of the day instead of wide awake. If you want to take it a step further you can give acupuncture a try! A review of several studies found that acupuncture may increase estrogen levels, which can help reduce symptoms and promote better sleep2.
Make Changes to Your Diet
Eating foods that are high in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients can help prevent and relieve common symptoms of menopause. In addition, making a few small changes to your diet can produce great results. For example, in a one-year intervention study in over 17,000 menopausal women, those eating more vegetables, fruit, fiber and soy experienced a 19% reduction in hot flashes compared to the control group3. The reduction was attributed to the healthier diet and weight loss. Maybe it’s time to add more soy into your diet. One study found that diets high in soy were associated with reduced cholesterol levels, blood pressure and reduced severity of hot flashes and night sweats among women who were starting to enter menopause4.
Try Out These Supplements
Vitamins and supplements can be a key component of a woman’s care during and after menopause. One study concluded that the intake of calcium, vitamin D, and isoflavones is reported to have a positive effect on the quality of life parameters (hot flashes, anxiety, and depressive symptoms), sexual life, body composition, and metabolic parameters in menopausal women5. In addition, a review study on 483 menopausal women concluded that omega-3 supplements decreased the frequency of hot flashes and the severity of night sweats6. Lastly, a 2008 study in the journal Menopause reported a 43% reduction in hot flashes after eight weeks of treatment with a fermented soy germ product high in daidzein. Taking the supplement longer produced even better results: After 12 weeks, there was a 52% reduction in hot flashes reported, compared with a 39% reduction in the placebo group7.
How to Combat the Weight-Gain
For many women, the hormonal upsets of menopause also come with the added frustration of unwanted extra pounds. Some studies suggest that high estrogen levels may promote fat gain, this is because high estrogen levels are associated with weight gain and higher body fat during the reproductive years8. Don’t worry! Here are a few things you can do to prevent weight gain around menopause:
- Add fiber: Eat a high-fiber diet that includes flaxseeds, which may improve insulin sensitivity8.
- Get enough sleep: Try to relax before bed and get enough sleep to keep your hormones and appetite well-managed9.
- Be mindful of calories: weight gain can be reduced by modest calorie restriction, along with adequate protein intake!
As you can see, there is great evidence-based research supporting that small changes in diet and lifestyle can make a big difference in the way that women going through menopause feel.
|Maryann Walsh, MFN, RD, CDE
Registered Dietitian/ Nutrition Communications Specialist