Reduce Menopause Misery! With Diet and Lifestyle Changes
Published by: Vitalité Quebec | October 2011 Issue
Written by: Marita Schauch, ND
Menopause represents a natural but major transition period in the lives of most women. The average age of menopause is 51 with most women entering menopause between the ages of 45 and 55. Up to 80 per cent of women will experience mild to moderate menopause symptoms, while 10 to15 percent will suffer severe symptoms. Symptoms include: anxiety, hot flashes, night sweats, sleep problems, brain fog and memory problems, mood swings, irritability, depression and weight gain.
Nutrition and diet can greatly influence menopause and menopausal symptoms. One of the most important dietary recommendations for all menopausal women may be to increase foods that are high in phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are plant versions of the human hormone estrogen. They’re considered to be weak estrogenic compounds with an average of about two per cent of the strength of estrogens. They can be beneficial when estrogen levels are either too high or too low. When metabolized, they bind on the same cellular sites as do estrogens, altering estrogenic effects. The best food sources of phytoestrogens are non-genetically engineered soybeans, flax seeds, oats, rye, lentils, fennel, chickpeas, alfalfa and sesame. Much research shows that women in Asia experience less menopausal symptoms because their diet contains a higher concentration of phytoestrogens, compared to women who adopt a North American diet.
Our North American diet is also typically deficient in essential fatty acids (EFAs), which are very important in many health conditions, ranging from inflammation and PMS to menopausal symptoms. Supplementing with essential fatty acids from flax or better yet from a good quality fish oil rich in omega 3s will also help with various menopausal symptoms.
Other important health tips to include are:
- Eat a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage and kale). Cruciferous vegetables contain Indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane, important nutrients for maintaining balanced hormones in our liver while reducing our risk of breast cancer.
- Eliminate food sensitivities, as hot flashes can be reduced by 50 percent if sensitive foods are removed.
- Eliminate carbonated beverages as too much phosphorus competes with calcium absorption and the carbonation causes the body’s pH to become acidic thus increasing bone resorption.
- Try to consume organic meats wherever possible (no hormones, by-products or antibiotics). The estrogen in animal meats will bind tightly to estrogen receptors encouraging breast cancer.
- Minimize exposure to exogenous estrogens: HRT, pesticides, herbicides, plastics, and hormones used to fatten livestock and promote milk production (meats and dairy).
- Increase complex carbohydrates (fibre) which aids in the elimination of xeno-estrogens.
- EXERCISE! Aerobic and weight bearing to improve heart function, decrease bone loss, give relief from hot flashes, reduce BP, decrease cholesterol, increase mood and energy.
- Eliminate caffeine, cigarettes, alcohol and sugar. These foods create an acidic environment in the body and thus calcium is leached out of the bone to balance the body’s pH.
After you’ve corrected your nutritional intake by your choice of food and lifestyle changes, choose supplements and herbs wisely. Strategies should include ways to balance fluctuating hormone levels, support the adrenal glands and prevent the risk for osteoporosis and heart disease. Look for a formula at your local health food store containing black cohosh, chasteberry, gamma oryzanol, hesperidin and dong quai to reduce hot flashes, night sweats and other symptoms of menopause naturally.
Dr. Marita Schauch BSc ND is a graduate of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, Canada’s premier institute for education and research in naturopathic medicine. Dr. Schauch’s recent book, The Adrenal Stress Connection, and health articles educate the public about health and wellness and have been featured in numerous print media. She currently resides and has her clinical practice in Victoria B.C.