Nutritional therapist Henrietta Norton looks at how your diet can help relieve symptoms of the menopause
The menopause is a natural, transitionary stage moving a woman away from the child-bearing years into a stage that, according to ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine perspectives, is characterised by ‘soul development’. Indeed Dr Christiane Northrop beautifully says: “Our fertility stops being about having children and starts being about what we create for ourselves that benefits us and the people around us.” Nonetheless, this time of life also comes with physical symptoms that can be deeply uncomfortable for some women.
What can you do to support your body?
Whatever a woman is faced with it is vitally important to remember that this is not a disease, it is a natural progression to a different stage of a woman’s life cycle and that it is a mind, body and spirit experience. This means that any support programme should be holistic and that helping with the emotional impact is just as important as assisting the change in body chemistry.
Here are some of the best vitamins and nutrients for menopausal women and how to include them in your diet and lifestyle…
Phytoestrogens (Isoflavones, Lignands and Coumestans)
Isoflavones and coumestans are thought to be protective against hormone related cancers as well as moderate symptoms associated with hormonal imbalance (such as hot flushes).
Where to find them: Miso soup, edamame beans, chickpea, wholemeal bread, beansprouts, sprouts (alfalfa and chickpea), lentils and splitpeas are good sources. Research suggests that brown rice, oats, garlic, fennel, celery, rhubarb and parsely are also effective phytoestrogens for menopausal symptoms.
This has been shown to reduce vaginal dryness and hot flushes as well as reduce risk of heart attack in post-menopausal women. Where to find it: In foods such as sunflower seed oil, tuna, sardines, salmon, wheat germ, sesame seeds and unsalted/unroasted peanuts.
B vitamins (Especially B1, B2, B6 and B12)
The B vitamins support the adrenal gland, and therefore help to reduce symptoms such as irritability, tension, anxiety and poor concentration and energy.
Where to find them: In foods such as wholewheat, wholegrain rice, barley, oats, amaranth rye, quinoa and brewers’ yeast.
This is needed during stages of menopause to form healthy bone density and cardiac support. It can be used to support stress and anxiety symptoms associated with the menopause.
Where to find it: Wheat germ, almonds, cashew nuts, buckwheat, Brazil nuts, raisins and beans (especially anasazi, adzuki, black, chickpeas, black-eyed peas and lentils) are good sources. You can also find it in supplements such as Wild Nutrition’s Botanical Menopause (£25, wildnutrition.com).
Calcium helps to regulate blood levels of calcium and phosphorus for bone health.
Where to find it: Cheese (especially Swiss and cheddar) is a good source as well as almonds, brewers’ years, parsley, corn tortillas, globe artichokes, prunes and pumpkin seeds.
This nutrient helps to regulate blood levels of calcium and phosphorus for bone health. Vitamin D is also needed for the body to absorb calcium.
Where to find it: In foods such as alfalfa, kelp, cabbage and leafy greens. You can also make it from exposure to sunlight.
Folic acid can reduce homocysteine levels (associated with the increase in bone loss) in postmenopausal women.
Where to find it: Beans (anasazi, adzuki, black, chickpeas, blackeyed peas and lentils), kale, wheat germ, spinach, peanuts, sprouts, asparagus, sesame seeds and broccoli are all good sources.
This is needed for metabolism of calcium and magnesium and research has shown it can reduce risk of osteoporosis.
Where to find it: In foods such as alfalfa, kelp, cabbage and leafy greens.
Zinc is needed for proper absorption of osteoclasts and osteoblasts for bone turnover.
Where to find it: Oysters, pumpkin seeds, wholewheat, rye, oats, almonds and peas are high in zinc.
This is essential for thyroid function and therefore for hormonal equilibrium.
Where to find it: In foods such a organic yoghurt, organic milk, strawberries, iodized salt and seaweed.
This nutrient is needed to make osteocalcin and reduce the risk of oestoeporosis which is increased post-menopause.
Where to find it: In cabbage, alfalfa and green leafy veg.
DHA and EPA
These are needed for the production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins and improving calcium absorption and bone density.
Where to find them: Mackerel, tuna, salmon, sunflower seeds and flaxseeds are good sources.
Make small lifestyle changes
Support your physical and mental health by making tweaks to your lifestyle.
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