Can You Ease Menopausal Symptoms With Food?

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An apple a day keeps the hot flashes away. OK, not really, but it’s not as far off as you might think.

Diet is a huge factor in how perimenopausal and menopausal women feel and act, according to Susan Wysocki, WHNP, FAANP. “Research shows that what women eat can either quell or exacerbate just about every menopausal symptom from hot flashes and night sweats to mood swings and weight gain. The key to eating right during perimenopause and menopause is to eat foods that will improve health as much as they are to keep symptoms of menopause at bay,” she says.

Unfortunately, most of us are filling up with the wrong foods. No more!

Here are three tips for eating your way to a healthier, happier menopause:

Pick More Produce

“Certain fruits and vegetables have a mineral called boron that may increase estrogen levels in certain women,” says Wysocki. However, even if produce doesn’t pick up your estrogen production, it can still do a menopausal body good. One large-scale study published in Menopause found that menopausal women who lost weight eating a low-fat diet rich in fruits and vegetables reduced or eliminated their hot flashes and night sweats. Talk about a two-in-one benefit: Fruits and vegetables can reduce your hot flashes and help you avoid menopausal weight gain. During perimenopause and menopause, many women gain weight as reduced estrogen levels trigger cells to store more fat. Grab an apple instead of that cookie to help you keep that muffin top at bay!

Find the Right Fats

Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that menopausal women who most closely follow a Mediterranean diet rich in produce, whole grain pasta, and healthy fats cut their risk of hot flashes and night sweats by about 20 percent. Meanwhile, menopausal women who eat diets high in sugar as well as saturated and trans fats increase their risk by 23 percent. “Research has also shown that trans fats increase bad cholesterol in the body and decrease good cholesterol, and too much in the diet could result in memory loss and an inability to concentrate, both of which some women experience as symptoms of menopause,” Wysocki adds. Your move: Avoid fast food and baked goods that are rich in saturated and trans fats and opt for foods such as fish, olive oil, and canola oil that are rich in unsaturated, good-for-you fats.

Pass on Processed Foods

Packaged foods are breeding grounds for sugar and salt, according to Wysocki. “Refined carbs such as white bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes release glucose into the bloodstream quickly, which can lead to high-low mood swings and weight gain, not to mention making you feel tired. Opt for low-glycemic carbs like wholegrain bread, cereals, and pasta that will provide energy without causing moodiness and fatigue,” she says.

Likewise, opt for sugar and artificial sweetener free drinks such as water and tea. Lately, I have been marinating water with cucumber, lemon, and mint.  It is yummy! “Contrary to what most women think, even diet sodas aren’t safe. Artificial sweeteners trick the body into thinking it’s getting sugar. That means when you really do consume any sugar, your hips, butt, and belly will hold onto it as fat,” Wysocki says. The simple way to find your grocery’s whole foods: Stick to the perimeter of the store. Many grocery stores are designed with whole foods like produce and lean meats around the perimeter. “Be careful in the aisles,” she warns. “That is where a lot of the ‘non-food’ food is.” If it comes in a box, can, jar, or bottle, read the label.”

Food is fuel. So when we start eating to live rather than living to eat, it’s about impossible not to feel better in our bodies—especially when those bodies are going through all the changes of perimenopause and menopause. Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t indulge in the occasional ice cream or candy bar from the checkout aisle; but “occasional” is the operative word.

You can learn more about how to deal with hot flashes, mood swings, insomnia, painful sex and many more symptoms of menopause in my FREE eBook, MENOPAUSE MONDAYS The Girlfriend’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving During Perimenopause and Menopause

Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN! 

After struggling with her own severe menopause symptoms and doing years of research, Ellen resolved to share what she learned from experts and her own trial and error. Her goal was to replace the confusion, embarrassment, and symptoms millions of women go through–before, during, and after menopause–with the medically sound solutions she discovered. Her passion to become a “sister” and confidant to all women fueled Ellen’s first book, Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness. As a result of the overwhelming response from her burgeoning audiences and followers’ requests for empowering information they could trust, Ellen’s weekly blog, Menopause MondaysTM, was born.

  • Eating healthy food is always good advice. Doesn’t surprise me that this is anothe one of its benefits, el. Thanks for sharing.

    • Yes, eating healthy food is really a key factor in our overall health. My husband and I help each continue to make eating healthy a priority in our lives.

  • I’ve stuck to a mostly Mediterranean diet and it’s worked for me to avoid most menopausal symptoms except for weight gain. I will not allow any soda except for sparkling water in my house and avoid eating anything out of a package. It truly makes a difference.

    • Me, too! I went cold turkey on the sodas years ago – especially the ones with artificial sweeteners. I like sparkling water with fresh lime squeezed in it. I find it refreshing.

  • Eating well is always a good idea. If it helps with reducing some of the problems like night sweats and hot flashes, all the better! Great tips Ellen.

  • Cathy Lawdanski

    Diet is the key to everything, I’m convinced! Great reminders, Ellen!

    • Yep! I think it is good for all of us to be reminded as this is one thing we have control over.

  • these tips are perfect for anyone who wants a healthy body Ellen – we all need to eat more natural food and less rubbish – and if it benefits us hormonaly too then it’s extra good.

    • Totally agree, Leanne! It is amazing how many times we are being reminded how important what we eat is to our overall health.

  • This article caught my eye because, when I went through menopause, I never had night sweats or hot flashes, and I was eating a lot of eggs, butter, and sausage, and liver once a week. So maybe it was all the cholesterol, which is turned into progesterone. I also never took hormonal contraceptives. Any thoughts on this?

    • Interesting question, Joan. I am not knowledgeable on how cholesterol levels impact our progesterone levels. Maybe ask your menopause specialist next time you go in for your yearly check up. Circle back with us and share of the info!