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A HOLISTIC APPROACH TO MENOPAUSE

Published: 28/03/2024 | Author: Caroline Cummins MSc is a Registered Nutritionist and a member of Oriflame’s Nutrition Council.

Menopause is much more than hot flushes at the end of the reproductive years – it’s a transformative journey, uniquely experienced by every woman as a natural part of ageing – and the beginning of the rest of your life! Whether or not you're using hormone replacement therapy (HRT), learn how good nutrition and other lifestyle choices can not only help to ease the symptoms of menopause, but support good health as you head towards your senior years.

MENOPAUSE IS UNIQUE TO EVERYBODY

Menopause typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 but can happen earlier or later (Santoro et al., 2021). This transition can bring about both physical and emotional challenges due to fluctuating hormone levels. Today, women may spend up to 40% of their lifetime in post-menopause due to increased life expectancy (Takahashi et al., 2015).

MENOPAUSE AFFECTS HEALTH IN MANY WAYS

Menopause is officially diagnosed when a woman has gone 12 months without a menstrual period (Santoro et al., 2021). The time leading up to menopause, known as perimenopause, can last several years, during which symptoms begin to emerge. As the ovaries stop producing an egg each month, they reduce the production of numerous hormones, mainly oestrogen. Oestrogen not only affects the reproductive system but is involved in many systems throughout the body, affecting everything from temperature regulation and metabolism to bone density and heart health (Bermingham et al., 2023; Santoro et al., 2021).

COMMON SYMPTOMS OF MENOPAUSE

This fall in oestrogen causes many menopause symptoms. Vasomotor symptoms are the most common and include hot flushes and night sweats. Other menopause symptoms may include calcium loss from bones, higher blood pressure, changes to cholesterol levels, skin changes, hair loss, mood swings, stress and anxiety, memory problems, tiredness, vaginal dryness, sleep disturbances, weight gain, and more (Greendale et al., 2019; NICE 2015).

NUTRITION CAN EASE MENOPAUSE SYMPTOMS

Diet plays an essential role in balancing hormones, easing symptoms, and reducing disease risk associated with menopause such as cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis (Bermingham et al., 2023). Research indicates that vasomotor symptoms are exacerbated by obesity and a high intake of fat and sugar (Herber-Gast et al., 2013). Consequently, weight loss and improved dietary habits have been shown to reduce symptoms (Yelland et al., 2023; Kroenke et al., 2012).

WHAT TO EAT TO HELP MENOPAUSE

Phytoestrogens are plant-based compounds that mimic oestrogen in the body. Incorporating phytoestrogen-rich foods such as soy and linseed / flaxseed regularly into the diet can help mitigate vasomotor symptoms such as hot flushes (Barnard et al., 2021).
To support heart health, including omega-3 fatty acids (found in oily fish such as salmon and mackerel) and dietary fibre (found in plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, pulses, nuts, and seeds) is crucial (NICE 2008).
Adequate calcium and vitamin D intake is essential for bone health (Cano et al., 2018). Calcium-rich foods include dairy products (yoghurt, milk, cheese etc.), dairy alternatives fortified with calcium, and fish with edible bones such as sardines and tinned salmon. Vitamin D aids calcium absorption and small amounts are found in oily fish, cod liver oil and some fortified foods. However, the main source of vitamin D is made in the skin under sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency is common and so, including a supplement can be beneficial here (Holick et al., 2007).
The microbes in the gut microbiome play a role in maintaining hormonal balance (Bermingham et al., 2023). Good bacteria found in probiotics and fermented foods such as kefir and kombucha and prebiotic fibres such as inulin and fructooligosaccharide (FOS) help to keep the gut microbiome healthy.
Hydration is important for all bodily systems; even mild dehydration can impact mood and alertness. Aim to drink at least 1.5 – 2 litres of water daily and more when the weather is hot.
Embracing dietary patterns from the Mediterranean or Nordic Diet, which emphasise an abundance of plant-based foods (providing fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants), along with lean proteins and healthy fats, can aid weight loss and alleviate menopause symptoms while promoting heart, gut, and skin health (Cano et al., 2020; Herber-Gast et al., 2013).
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE GUT MICROBIOME AND HEALTH

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE GUT MICROBIOME AND HEALTH

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TAKE A HOLISTIC APPROACH FOR A POSITIVE MENOPAUSE

While diet is pivotal, managing menopause symptoms requires a holistic approach. Regular physical activity, especially weight-bearing exercises such as walking, running, lunges, squats etc., supports bone health, helps to maintain muscle mass, boosts metabolism and improves mood (WHO 2020; Anderson et al., 2013). Practices like yoga and meditation can help manage stress and improve sleep quality. Ensuring consistent, quality sleep is essential to allow the body to recover and regulate hormones effectively (Watson et al., 2015).
Adopting a holistic approach with a focus on good nutrition and lifestyle habits can help you to navigate this natural phase of life with confidence and wellbeing.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Caroline Cummins MSc is a Registered Nutritionist and a member of Oriflame’s Nutrition Council.

REFERENCES

Anderson, E., and Shivakumar, G. (2013). Effects of exercise and physical activity on anxiety. Frontiers in psychiatry, 4, 27. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2013.00027
Barnard, N. D., Kahleova, H., Holtz, D. N., Del Aguila, F., Neola, M., Crosby, L. M., and Holubkov, R. (2021). The Women's Study for the Alleviation of Vasomotor Symptoms (WAVS): a randomized, controlled trial of a plant-based diet and whole soybeans for postmenopausal women. Menopause (New York, N.Y.), 28(10), 1150–1156. https://doi.org/10.1097/GME.0000000000001812
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