A good, balanced diet is integral to everyone’s health and wellbeing, and poor diet and lack of exercise can have a significant impact on ladies’ overall health during the Menopause.
Diet can play a significant role in the severity and frequency of menopausal symptoms. Some foods and dietary factors may make menopausal symptoms worse, while others may help relieve them.
Hot flashes and night sweats
Certain foods, such as spicy or acidic foods, caffeine, and alcohol, can trigger hot flashes and night sweats in some women. Limiting or avoiding these foods may help reduce the frequency and severity of these symptoms. Make sure you’re staying within the recommended guidelines for alcohol – that’s no more than 14 units a week spread across 3 days or more. 14 units is around 6 medium (175ml) glasses of wine – calculate your units with the Drinkaware unit calculators.
Menopause can be associated with weight gain due to reduced muscle mass and needing fewer calories. Eating a balanced diet that is high in fibre and low in processed foods and added sugars can help maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of weight gain. It’s also important to keep your portion sizes under control and make time for physical activity. UK guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week – that’s around 30 minutes a day over 5 days – but if that sounds a lot to you, start off with something more manageable.
The loss of oestrogen during menopause is associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become brittle and fragile. Eating a diet that is rich in calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients that support bone health can help reduce this risk. Include plenty of fruit, vegetables, and dairy products in your diet, as well as oily fish and vitamin D fortified foods. Taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help maintain oestrogen levels and protect bone health.
Some women experience mood changes during menopause, such as irritability, increased anxiety, and depression. You can support your overall mental and emotional wellbeing by eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats.
Vaginal dryness is a common symptom in menopausal and perimenopausal women. Whilst there are many ways to help relieve this symptoms, from changing personal hygiene products, to medication, your diet can also have an effect. Drinking plenty of water and avoiding alcohol and caffeinated drinks is a good start. Eating foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish, nuts, and seeds, may also help improve vaginal moisture and lubrication.
Menopause is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Eating a heart-healthy diet that is low in saturated and trans fats, and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, may help reduce this risk. Simple food swaps can make a big difference, such as swapping crisps for a portion of unsalted nuts or grilling rather than frying your food.
Diet is just one tool to manage menopause symptoms
It's worth noting that while diet can play a role in managing menopause symptoms, it may not be sufficient on its own for all women. Every woman's experience of menopause is unique, and dietary needs and preferences may vary so there is no one-size-fits all approach. In some cases, additional treatments such as hormone therapy or medication may be necessary to manage symptoms effectively, and some women find relief from alternative therapies.
The Association of UK Dieticians have produced a Menopause and diet fact sheet that provides comprehensive information relation to diet, bone health, nutrition and vitamin health during the Menopause.
At All Health Matters we work alongside specialists who help support women through their menopause journey, including nutrition specialists. See our Who We Work With directory (*coming soon*) for details of further services to support you during menopause.