For some women, menopause is a blessing – no more periods, and no more chances of getting pregnant. For others, however, it’s a dreaded tick-tock – a marker that’s quickly approaching when you haven’t hatched all the chicks you’re hoping for yet. Then, there are health issues to consider.
After menopause, women are more prone to developing medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis. So, it makes sense to hope menopause comes a bit later than average, rather than earlier, to keep younger hormone balances around for longer.
FYI: The average age for menopause is 51-years, and it is “officially” diagnosed when a woman hasn’t had any spotting or bleeding for 12-consecutive months.
Interestingly enough, medical research is proving that the foods you eat may delay menopause – good for your health (and your fertility).
How do foods affect menopause?
First, we can look at the reverse of this – what you eat can potentially cause early – or more intense – menopause. This is because many of the ingredients in processed foods, high-sugar intake and things like pesticide/herbicide residue and preservatives can both contribute to early menopause, as well as exacerbate menopause symptoms.
Doctors have known for a long time that healthy diets, exercise and positive lifestyle habits have a direct correlation with minimizing the side effect associated with menopause, like hot flashes, mood swings and sleep issues. Now, a recent study out of England, however, shows a more intricate connection between women who consume diets that include considerable amounts of legumes (beans, lentils, peas) – as well as oily fish – salmon, mackerel, anchovies, herring (SMASH fish) and trout with delayed menopause (about 1.5 years later than their counterparts).
On the flip side of that, researchers noticed that women who consume fewer of the legumes and fish, but increased amounts of simple carbohydrates such as pasta, chips and baked goods, started menopause roughly 2-years earlier compared with those who prioritized healthier diets.
Here are some of the research quick facts:
- Additional portions of daily fish were associated with 3-year delays
- Additional portions of daily legumes were associated with 1-year delays
- Increases in dietary (not supplemental) B6 and Zinc delayed menopause
- Women who aren’t vegetarian, who also ate junk-food snacks every day, started menopause 2-years earlier than non-vegetarian women who don’t.
- Childless women who eat more grapes and poultry start menopause later
Experts associate the increased antioxidants in legumes and grapes, and the lack of insulin resistance associated with healthy diets (insulin resistance is linked to hormone imbalance because it dysregulates estrogen production, among other things).
Don’t go overboard trying to delay menopause
We mentioned above why it makes sense to let menopause take its natural course – or focus on healthy foods that delay its arrival. That being said, researchers advise it’s not recommended to overload yourself on legumes and oily fish in efforts to delay menopause.
Just as early menopause has its associated health risks, women who go through menopause significantly older than the norm are more susceptible to certain types of cancers. Not surprisingly, the general message from this research is that the healthiest women are those who eat well-balanced diets, prioritizing healthy protein and fat intake and minimizing processed foods. In addition to balancing overall health – these diet choices will help to regulate hormone balance.
Are irregular periods or other symptoms signaling you’re beginning early-menopause? Schedule an appointment with us here at Overlake.