“Can food help my symptoms?” We are asked this all the time. Also, “what foods might make my symptoms worse?”. There is a clear link between how we fuel our bodies and how we feel.
These foods are not a miracle cure. The first thing you need to do is take an honest look at what you are eating. If you’re eating lots of processed, high sugar foods and relying on alcohol to help you relax and coffee to get you going, adding in one of these foods is not going to make a difference.
You need to tackle the “big rocks” that are going to have the biggest impact. Our guide on optimum nutrition is a great place to get you started.
If you feel your diet is generally good here are a few things to consider adding to support your healthy eating:
Food to consider adding to your diet:
Green Leafy Vegetables
If you can eat these raw it is better as no nutrients are lost during the cooking process. But be cautious if you have digestive issues or hypothyroidism as raw cruciferous vegetables can supress your thyroid function. Cooked green leafy vegetables will still give you huge benefits
Oily fish (Salmon, Mackerel, Sardines, Trout etc.)
You will have heard fish being talked about as brain food. If you consider our symptoms of brain fog and word memory, you can see why it is important to ensure we have enough oily fish in our diet. Omega 3 found in oily fish helps with serotonin levels which can improve our mood and reduce forgetfulness.
Drink at least 2 litres of water a day. Hydration is so important and if you’re sweating more you need to ensure you replenish what you’re losing
Beans Peas and Lentils
Beans, peas and lentils also contain compounds that can help your body produce natural progesterone.
Seeds and Nuts – in particular, flaxseed, chia seeds and walnuts
These are rich in phyto-oestrogens and Omega 3 fatty acids which are essential for regulating your hormones. They can also help with constipation. Try adding these can to a smoothie.
Soy – Miso, tempeh or tamari
For a long time, Soy has been talked about in relation to relieving menopause symptoms. Reports and research into why Japanese women don’t suffer with symptoms such as hot flashes has been linked to their soy intake. This has pushed the popularity in using soy in our diets.
The soya bean is made up of amino acids, minerals and isoflavones, which also belong to the family of phytoestrogens. Isoflavones have been found to help prevent cancer, heart disease and menopausal symptoms. However, it is also well documented, that large quantities of soya can increase the risk of breast cancer, because of the oestrogenic action in the body isoflavones may have. Far from balancing hormone levels, the isoflavones and other toxic substances found in soya, may actually disrupt the endocrine system leading to problems with infertility, thyroid disorders, early onset of puberty in children and a depletion of vital nutrients such as zinc, iodine and calcium.
The focus should be on adding less processed soy into your diet and focusing on fermented soy i.e. miso, tempeh or tamari.
Gut health is essential in how we feel. We cover more about the importance of a healthy gut in Understanding Your Way Through the Menopause. These foods really help to promote gut health:
Stick to natural yoghurts; fruity yoghurts usually contain sugar and additives, which might cancel out any potential health benefits.Some yoghurt drinks contain very high numbers of bacteria that are considered to promote health – far more than you would find in a normal yoghurt. However, they can also contain lots of sugar and can be expensive – make sure you read the label.
Sourdough breads have fermented slowly using a wide range of bacteria and fungi found naturally in the air and ingredients. Commercial yeast, used in most breads, is a single strain that causes bread to rise much faster. Many people claim they find sourdough easier to digest than other bread, but it is likely that the lengthy fermentation process is most beneficial. This is because microbes have had more time to break down the protein strands that might otherwise cause digestive problems.
Vegetables from the Sunflower and Lily families
Sunflower family – artichokes, radishes, lettuce, tarragon. chicory and salsify and the lily family – leeks, chives, shallots onions, garlic an asparagus are particularly helpful to gut bacteria.
Probiotic supplements, including spirulina, might be helpful, but it hasn’t been proven that the bacteria reach the gut intact. Some supplements have other well-established health benefits, but they tend to be expensive. Most probiotic supplements contain a limited array of microbes compared to what you can get from a good diet. Even if they do have health benefits, they are no substitute for eating a balanced diet.
Things to avoid or reduce:
Blood sugar levels as well as fluctuating hormones have been linked to the symptoms of hot flashes and night sweats. Reducing especially processed sugar can have a huge impact on their severity and regularity.
Alcohol and coffee
Reduce as much as you can. They both exacerbate hot flushes.
Avoid over spicy or processed foods
Again these have been reported as exacerbating hot flashes
As we’ve discussed before, the menopause and symptoms are unique to every woman. In the same way, how your bodies react to certain foods during the menopause is different. Use our Food Diary to start looking at how you are fuelling your body. How do certain foods make you feel? This is the best way to come up with what you need to change in your diet.