- Reference Number: HEY-191/2018
- Departments: Gynaecology
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This leaflet has been produced to give you information about the menopause and natural ways to cope with it. It is not meant to replace discussion between you and your doctor or nurse but can act as a starting point for such a discussion. If after reading it you have any concerns or require further explanation, please discuss this with a member of the healthcare team.
Menopausal symptoms are a result of hormonal changes that can affect women’s’ health including increasing cholesterol, which can in turn increase risk of stroke or heart attack.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been a lifeline for many women. However, studies have shown links between HRT and increased rates of breast cancer, heart attacks and strokes, so alternatives have been sought.
There are other alternatives to HRT these include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which is a type of talking therapy that can help with low mood and stress, exercise and yoga which can help boost mood and also making changes to your diet can benefit you.
Benefits of a Good Diet
Eating and / or avoiding certain types of foods can make the menopause more bearable.
You may be fortunate and go through the menopause with no problems at all, but a lot of women are affected by some of the symptoms i.e. hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, low libido, insomnia and forgetfulness.
Many of the symptoms that are associated with the menopause are linked with a drop in oestrogen and progesterone (hormone) levels. For example, oestrogen helps to lift our mood so, when levels drop, we may feel depressed. No-one yet understands exactly what causes hot flushes but it has been observed that women in Japan have far fewer menopausal symptoms and one theory is that this is because their diet includes a lot of soya.
Whether or not you decide to take HRT, following the guidelines below would help in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Dietary solutions to help with the following symptoms
The following stimulants such as tea, coffee, alcohol and chocolate may trigger hot flushes, especially when taken at night.
Avoid snacking on sugary foods, all too often a sharp rise in your blood glucose level may be followed by a sharp dip and leave you feeling tired and drained. Choose fresh fruit instead.
Many people associate the menopause with weight gain but, as we get older, we need fewer calories as our metabolic rate slows down. Eating slightly less sounds a simple solution but combined with doing more exercise, this will help. Walking is good for your heart; it burns calories and helps to protect your bones from osteoporosis. Aim for 30 minutes brisk walking at least 5 times a week.
Depression and Irritability
Eat more complex carbohydrates such as oatmeal, bran and brown rice as they will help to increase serotonin levels. This will help control appetite and make you feel better in yourself. Other useful strategies to help you feel less irritable are to eat breakfast and also to eat little and often which will balance your blood sugar.
Healthy balanced eating will help to keep your bones strong.
Eat meals which include a wide variety of foods from the four main groups, including;
- fruit and vegetables
- carbohydrates (potatoes, pasta, cereal)
- milk and dairy products
- protein (fish, pulses, nuts, meat, eggs)
A balanced diet will provide all the vitamins and minerals that you need to keep your bones healthy.
Calcium is vital for bone health and most people get enough calcium through healthy eating, without the need to take a supplement. The Recommended National Intake (RNI) for calcium is 700mg daily.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. The best source is sunlight and most people get enough sunshine in the summer months to build up enough vitamin D for the year.
Stop smoking as this has a toxic effect on your bones and stops bone density being built up.
Reduce alcohol intake. Excess alcohol is a significant risk factor for osteoporosis and fracture. The weekly recommended amount of alcohol for women is 14 units.
Increase your intake of phyto-oestrogens by eating more:
- soya milk and soya flour
- pumpkins seeds
- sesame seeds
- sunflower seeds
Phyto or plant oestrogens are natural chemicals found in food, which act in the body in a similar way to oestrogen but help keep our natural hormones in balance. They block the uptake of excess oestrogen and raise low levels when needed. They may help with the symptoms of menopause.
6 Easy steps to healthy eating during the menopause
- Eat the right fats by replacing foods high in saturated fat (foods such as butter) with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (found in polyunsaturated spreads, sunflower or olive oil) will help reduce bad cholesterol and will be better for your heart.
- Eat five to seven portions of fruit and vegetables per day.
- Eat plenty of pulses, beans and oils rich in phytoestrogens
- Include plant sterols / stanols in your diet. Sterols are present naturally in small quantities in many fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, cereals, vegetable oils, and other plant sources. Stanols occur in even smaller quantities in the same foods.
- Increase calcium intake. There is a strong link between osteoporosis and the menopause so it is very important to ensure plenty of calcium and vitamin D is included in your diet. The best sources of calcium include diary products (low fat versions), canned sardines and salmon, green leafy vegetables, fortified breads and breakfast cereals.
- Reduce salt intake – the recommend salt intake is 6 grams per day.
Women’s Health Concern is a leading UK charity providing an independent and unbiased service to advise, reassure and educate women about their health and lifestyle concerns. For fact sheets and details of the email advisory service see: www.womens-health-concern.org
Gynaecology Outpatients (01482) 607829
Women and Children’s Hospital
Women Health Outpatients (01482) 624045
Castle Hill Hospital
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