Diet and Menopause: Why What You Eat Matters
February 25, 2022
It’s 3 p.m., and you’re trying to focus on work. But instead, all you can think about is how hungry you are.
What’s in the fridge?
Do I smell something good on my co-worker’s desk?
Ugh, the crave is on for sugar and carbs even though lunch was just a few hours ago.
Sound familiar? If so, your hormones may be to blame.
During menopause, estrogen levels decline, which can lead to changes in your appetite and cravings. This is because estrogen helps control the release of the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates hunger. So when estrogen levels drop, ghrelin production increases, leading to an increased appetite and more frequent sugar cravings.
And giving in to those cravings could have a negative impact on your health. If you say “hello” to that pint of ice cream every night, you might be saying “goodbye” to your waistline because a diet high in sugar is linked to an increase in abdominal fat.
How What You Eat Can Aggravate Menopause Symptoms
The hormones[VL1] estrogen and progesterone are involved in regulating the menstrual cycle and fertility, so when they start to decline, it can cause a variety of unpleasant side effects, including:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Weight gain
And these symptoms can last anywhere from seven to 14 years! Sugar cravings are one of the most common signs of depleted hormone levels[VL2] . Eating sugar can temporarily elevate our mood-regulating neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which is why many women experience increased cravings for sweets once their periods stop.
But before you head to the coffee shop and buy a hot caramel latte with whipped cream, you might want to know how it can impact your hormones. Did you know caffeine and hot beverages can make menopausal symptoms worse? The same goes for alcohol and spicy foods.
Alcohol can trigger vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats, which are experienced by up to 75% of menopausal women.
How Diet and Hormone Therapy Can Help Relieve Symptoms
Fortunately, there are things you can do to help manage symptoms. Doctors often recommend bioidentical hormone therapy (BHRT) to restore estrogen and progesterone levels, which help manage menopause symptoms like hot flashes! Bioidentical hormones are made from plant estrogens and have the same molecular structure as the hormones your body produces.
Compounding pharmacies[VL3] like Belmar Pharma Solutions can provide personalized BHRT based on your doctor’s prescription. Talk to your doctor [VL4] about BHRT and how dietary changes could help make your menopausal journey a little easier.
What Foods to Eat — and Avoid — to Help Alleviate Menopause Symptoms
So now that you know what foods can aggravate your symptoms, let’s focus on some foods that can help.
- Eat more fruits or adopt a Mediterranean-style diet. A 2020 study found that eating more vegetables, fruits, cereals and nuts was linked to fewer menopause symptoms and complaints.
- Incorporate more plant estrogens (phytoestrogens) into your diet. Plant estrogens like isoflavones and lignans can work in the body like a weak form of estrogen, and a 2017 study suggests they may help reduce the chance of developing menopausal symptoms during perimenopause. They may also reduce menopause symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. Some good sources of plant estrogens include beans, chickpeas, crushed or ground flaxseed, fruits, grains, lentils, red clover, soybeans, soy milk, tofu and vegetables.
- Drink more water. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends drinking water to help reduce hot flashes. Some researchers recommend drinking at least two liters of water a day.
- Avoid foods that may trigger hot flashes. We know. It’s hard to give up alcohol, caffeine, hot beverages and spicy foods forever. If you can’t quit them cold turkey, at least cut down on how much and how often you consume them.
Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to eating during menopause. The key is finding what works for you. The changes in your body during the menopausal journey are temporary, and we want to empower you to take charge of your health so you feel your best along the way.