Here at Overlake OB/GYN, we try to focus on the positives of menopause, rather than wallowing in the potential negatives. Many of our clients sail through menopause relatively unscathed, or with a minimal amount of side effects, and truly appreciate the freedom that comes along with it. In cases where clients are experiencing more moderate menopause symptoms, we try to evaluate their diet and lifestyle choices because more often than not, small changes can go a long way towards relieving less-desirable menopause symptoms.
Here are examples of foods and beverages that can exacerbate menopause symptoms. Minimizing them or cutting them out altogether during this transitional time can help you to lighten up a bit.
- Coffee. We know; this is a hard one to read. But it’s true. A recent study by the Mayo Clinic evaluated the diets and habits of approximately 2500 menopausal women, as well as the types, frequency and severity of their menopause symptoms. An overwhelming two-thirds of the women who experienced more severe hot flashes and night sweats consumed higher levels of caffeine than their more-comfortable one-third counterparts. Try to wean yourself off the caffeine, at least through the height of perimenopause, to give yourself a break.
- Fatty meats. As estrogen production slows down, so too does your metabolism. This makes it harder for perimenopausal and menopausal women to lose weight. Additional weight isn’t good for your health, but it can also contribute to lethargy and a lack of self-confidence that doesn’t necessarily improve your mood. Try to be conscious of your fatty meat intake. Switch to turkey bacon, use ground beef with and 85/15 meat-fat ratio, and trim the excess fat off of steaks, pork and chicken.
- Sugars, especially refined sugars. No surprise here! Along with the difficulty losing weight, processed sugars make it harder for your body to maintain balanced blood-sugar levels, causing them to spike all over the place. You don’t have to cut it out altogether, but do try to moderate it. Instead, enjoy a single cookie and try satisfying your sweet cravings with ripe, seasonal fruits and healthy smoothies.
- High-Carb foods. Pastas, breads and potatoes – all the things found at social gatherings and holiday gatherings – are made of refined carbohydrates. They contribute to mood swings and fatigue in the non-menopausal population, so you can imagine what they do for women in menopause. Try to use whole-grain options whenever possible and/or serve yourself smaller portions so you don’t regret it later.
- Alcohol. A glass of red wine in the evening is fine and experts tell us it’s good for us both physiologically and emotionally. However, two or more drinks per day is not healthy and can significantly increase your hot flashes, mood swings and fatigue. Try to cut your alcohol ration down a bit if you are experiencing an adverse reaction to menopause. One way to do this is to mix wine spritzers with sparkling water, or use half-shots of your favorite liquor, so you can stretch “one” drink into two or more.
Conversely, there are plenty of delicious foods that can actually help you whether the menopause storm. These include things like:
- Whole-grain pastas, breads and brown rice. They make you feel full longer and are better at balancing your blood-sugar levels.
- Legumes, nuts and seeds. In addition to giving your body healthy fats and protein, the oils in these food items will moisturize your skin and nourish your hair and nails. Skin, hair and nails can suffer as a result of menopause.
- Foods with the amino acid tryptophan. Foods like turkey, cottage cheese, legumes and oats contain tryptophan, which can help to balance irritability and mood swings.
- Phytoestrogens. Foods that contain phytoestrogens, like soy beans, butternut squash, yams, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds and green beans can help to keep your hormone levels a little more balanced.
Have questions about menopause and how it is affecting your life? Schedule an appointment at Overlake OB/GYN.