Six PeriMENOPAUSE diet and lifestyle considerations
Perimenopause is the time before the menopause when a woman’s oestrogen falls and is usually between the ages of 45 and 55. The decline is responsible for most perimenopausal symptoms. The menopause is when a woman has had 12 months without a period.
Perimenopausal symptoms include: High blood pressure, High cholesterol, Losing calcium, Weight gain, Hot flushes, Night sweats, Sleep disturbance, Irritability, Poor concentration, Headaches, Joint pains, Anxiety and Sexual dysfunction.
Diet and lifestyle can help and please don’t be embarrassed; help can go beyond diet and lifestyle – speak to your GP about it!
Menopause does not result in weight gain but there may be a redistribution from pear to apple shape as a consequence of falling oestrogen and a progressive decline in growth hormone. Body fat around the tummy area is most damaging to health, particularly relating to heart disease and diabetes.
Prevent the weight gain creep:
- If you’re overweight try losing through healthy eating and at the same time increase exercise. Cutting calories without exercise tends to result in loss of muscle, which long-term will make weight control harder.
- Get sweaty! The equivalent of 30 minutes of fast paced walking per day could result in 15lbs weight loss over a year.
- Include your muscles: Interval training is quick (20-30mins) and easy to fit into a busy life. It includes the cardio and muscle strengthening. It encourages growth hormone, helps shift stubborn fat and builds muscle mass.
- If you are affected by ongoing stress or anxiety, engaging in body and mind activities such as yoga and pilates could be helpful. The stress hormone cortisol can encourage fat around the tummy. Relaxation exercise helps muscle strength with the added benefit of stress reduction.
2. HEALTHY DIET
Eat a healthy diet including:
- At least five portions of different coloured fruit and vegetables
- Favour wholegrains and avoid refined carbohydrates
- Eat more fish; including one portion of oily fish per week
- A handful of nuts & seeds (including linseeds) daily
- Add peas and beans where you can
- Calcium rich foods for bone health
- Trial reducing caffeine and alcohol intakes to help manage hot flushes
3. BONE HEALTH
From the age of 35 we slowly lose calcium from our bones. Losing oestrogen increases the losses. Prevent osteoporosis by eating a diet rich in calcium with sufficient Vitamin D.
Aim for two to three portions of calcium-rich foods every day which can include:
- a third of a pint/ 200ml semi skimmed milk,
- a matchbox size piece of cheese,
- a small yoghurt or
- a milk-based pudding like custard or rice pudding.
Your skin makes it in response to sunlight, but in the UK this can only happen between April to September.
All adults should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D, especially during autumn and winter.
4. PLANT OESTROGENS
For some women including (as part of a balanced diet) calcium-enriched soya products like milk, yoghurts, soya and linseed bread or edamame beans 2-3 times each day could be sufficient to help relieve menopausal symptoms, particularly hot flushes.
Foods containing plant oestrogens (such as soya and linseeds) are also heart friendly so it’s worth trying.
Decreasing oestrogen levels leads to lower levels of collagen, which can leave skin wrinkled, dry and at greater risk of sun damage. Adequate levels of vitamin C can help protect the skin but at high doses can cause diarrhoea or kidney stones.
Before you reach for herbs and vitamins, try the above diet and lifestyle advice (and get your blood tested for the listed vitamins) and speak to a dietitian, GP or pharmacist.
They are not risk free and it’s difficult to assess their effectiveness and their interaction with other drugs. For example, Vitamin A is associated with an increased risk of lung cancer in smokers; regular high doses of B6 could cause nerve damage; and high doses of Vitamin C kidney stones.
A balanced diet should provide all the vitamins you need. A deficiency could affect your health and make your menopausal symptoms worse. The following vitamins are useful around menopause and worth checking if you have not had a balanced diet:
- Vitamin D, Sources include egg yolk, oliy fish, fortified spreads, fortified breakfast cereals and liver.
- Vitamin E. Sources include plant oils, nuts & seeds, avocado, spinach, broccoli, kiwi, mango, tomato, wheat-germ, shellfish and squash.
- Vitamin A. Sources include liver, fish liver oil, egg yolk, dairy products and yellow vegetables and fruit, broccoli, spinach and other leafy greens.
- Vitamin B12. Sources include animal derived foods.
- Vitamin B6. Sources include pork, poultry, fish, wholegrain cereals, eggs, vegetables and soya bean.
- Vitamin C. Vegetables and fruit and especially berries and citrus fruits