Want to know about healthy foods for perimenopause women?
A woman goes through many reproductive and hormonal changes throughout her life. Some of them last for months. While some processes can go on to transpire for years or even decades. Perimenopause for one is a natural coming of age in women. It’s a near-decade-long period of reproductive change in a woman’s body that affects everyone differently.
Several studies have been conducted in the medical community to understand why its symptoms vary from person to person. As a result, we now know that genetic factors, lifestyle habits, personal behavior and environment, medical conditions, and diet play a major role in the way these natural changes affect an individual.
Moreover, perimenopause is not a medical condition. Neither is it something triggered by external forces like surgery or accident. It is a natural process. Therefore, it can be managed by making a few changes in your daily habits. The United States National Institutes of Health has confirmed a direct association between dietary patterns and menopausal symptoms that may show up during perimenopause. But before we get into the right food for perimenopause, let’s understand it a little more clearly.
Experts confirm a direct association between dietary patterns and menopausal symptoms that may show up during perimenopause.
What is Perimenopause?
Perimenopause is an unavoidable period of reproductive change in a woman’s anatomy. It usually begins in the early 40s, but may also begin as early as in your mid-30s, as claimed by the Cleveland Clinic and many others. Perimenopause being the first stage of this lengthy reproductive change, can go on to last until menopause.
Menopause refers to the ceasing of menstruation for 12 consecutive months which marks the end of your reproductive years and usually occurs around the age of 50-51.
But not only does perimenopause set the stage for menopause, but it also prepares your body to adjust and adapt to the hormonal changes associated with it. It can also trigger many menopausal symptoms to appear well before the actual year-long event of menopause. And hence the term, Perimenopause or Menopause Transition.
Many women go through these natural changes feeling fine with little to no menopausal symptoms. Whereas some complaint about bothersome ones, severe enough to hurt both their physical and mental health.
What’s common though is the fact that most of these symptoms are a consequence of the decline in your hormonal levels, especially estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone as mentioned by the Mayo Clinic.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these symptoms that may range from being subtle to not so subtle.
Symptoms of Perimenopause
Or vasomotor symptoms are the foremost menopausal feature. As per stats, it’s experienced by about 30-70% of perimenopausal women around the world as claimed by the National Institutes of Health. It is the feeling of overwhelming heat and sweatiness, followed by a chill or a few shivers that comes out of nowhere.
Hot Flashes is the feeling of overwhelming heat and sweatiness, followed by a chill or a few shivers that comes out of nowhere.
Is another common challenge for women entering their 40s. Surprisingly, hot flashes play a major role in triggering many sleep disorders. The more severe the hot flash, the more likely you are to come across some or other sleep-related issues.
Vaginal dryness, in particular, is yet another typical menopausal symptom that every 3rd or 4th woman complains about. Vaginal Irritation and dysuria (painful urination) among others. Also known as GSM or Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause, these vaginal symptoms may occur relatively early in your menopausal transition.
This symptoms also happen to be quite normal during perimenopause.
Menstruation cycles and sexual activities
Perimenopause may also impact your menstruation cycles and sexual activities. In worst scenarios, it may also decrease fertility well before menopause.
A decline in estrogen can also put you at risk of osteoporosis. It is a condition in which your bones become brittle and fragile due to tissue loss. Low levels of estrogen may lead to changes in your blood cholesterol levels as well.
Last but not the least, is the stress caused by these symptoms. It further makes you eat more and affects your BMI (Body Mass Index), or makes you over-weight. Another sound reason to start eating consciously to avoid or at least manage many of the menopausal symptoms!
Besides, most of the pharmacological treatment options revolve around treating menopausal symptoms. The reason being the fact that changes in the hormonal environment and chronological aging works by the law of entropy and are bound to happen.
Clearly enough there’s nothing much medical science can do here. What you can do though is work upon other self-imposed habits.
For instance, your dietary patterns. In other words, eating healthily is something that you can do to better manage the natural afflictions of menopause transition.
After all, “you are what you eat, and you become what you think.”
With that being said, let’s find out a healthy lot of ideal food for perimenopause.
Stress makes you eat more and affects your BMI.
What to eat during perimenopause?
Along with a significant decline in estrogen, perimenopause and menopause can lower many essential vitamins and nutrients in your body. Mainly, vitamin K2, vitamin D, calcium, omega-3, B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, and iron. Therefore, it’s important to consume food items rich in these nutrients. Phytoestrogens can also be included in your diet to balance the decline in your estrogen levels. Keeping that in mind, let’s get started:
1. Plant-based, low-fat and high-fiber diet
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine recommends a strict plant-based, low-fat and high-fiber diet when looking to ease perimenopause symptoms. Animal-based meals on the other hand can raise serious health concerns for you during this stage.
2. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
National Institutes of Health also recommends a low-fat, high-fiber diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to be able to meet the declining levels of nutrients.
Consume calcium-rich food such as nuts and seeds, beans, and green leafy vegetables to maintain your bone health. Milk and dairy products also contain calcium but in much lower concentrations than the other foods mentioned.
4. No to red meat, carbonated beverages, and foods high in phytates
Say NO to red meat, carbonated beverages, and foods high in phytates as it makes it difficult for your body to absorb the essential calcium.
Include iron-rich food like whole cereal and pulses, lean meat, egg, spinach, nuts, and seeds in your diet to counter heavy menstrual bleeding.
Use magnesium-rich food such as green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, and legumes. Magnesium helps in relieving many menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, insomnia, palpitations, and irritability.
Eat calcium-rich food such as nuts and seeds, beans, and green leafy vegetables.
Phytoestrogens or plant-estrogens are essential given the declining levels of estrogen. The two main types of phytoestrogens are isoflavones and lignans. Isoflavones are found in chickpeas, and other legumes. Lignans are found in flaxseed, whole grains, and some fruits and vegetables. Although not a replacement, these plant-based substances produce similar effects to that of your own estrogen.
8. Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency is common among both perimenopausal and menopausal women. And the best way to overcome this drop in vitamin D is, yes you got it right, through Sunlight!
As soon as the sun touches your skin, it starts producing Vitamin D in your body which improves the digestion and absorption of calcium. You can also use a vitamin D supplement or a multivitamin containing vitamin D if necessary. Vitamin D which is a hormone in medical terms is vital for maintaining your bones and joints.
9. Vitamin K2
It’s essential for your bones and heart plus it helps in the function of vitamin D in your body. It also helps regulate calcium levels and prevents its accumulation in arteries thus reducing the risk of many heart diseases.
Vitamin K2 is abundant in fermented foods such as natto (fermented soybeans), sauerkraut, dairy products especially hard cheese and fermented milk, and kefir.
10. B Vitamins
Can help with mental health by reducing the withering of brain cells thus improving your intellect. B vitamins such as B12, B6, and folate (B9) could prove to be extremely useful in coping up with many of the mental sufferings such as stress, anxiety, and depression.
Some highly rich food items with B vitamins are citrus fruits, avocados, and fortified cereals.
The B vitamins could prove to be extremely useful in coping up with many mental sufferings such as stress, anxiety, and depression.
It’s crucial for cardiovascular health, brain function, skin health, mental wellbeing, bowel function, and bone and joint health. Plus, it helps with weight management.
But the key with omega-3 lies in the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. This should be 1:2 but in developed countries it can go up to 1:20 because of our poor eating choices.
The consequences for our general health are disastrous. Omega-6 is proinflammatory and a ratio that’s steadily out of whack can lead to the development of chronic diseases such as metabolic disease.
Furthermore, a high omega-6 to 3 ratio is a major contributor to weight gain and obesity. This is particularly worrying for perimenopausal and postmenopausal women who are more prone to weight gain due to their lower levels of estrogen and progesterone.
So, most of the times, the focus should be placed on reducing omega-6 rich foods rather than increasing the intake of omega-3 rich ones. But this depends on your current dietary habits.
Seafood, oily fish, cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines are a great source of Omega-3. Then there are nuts and seeds such as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts are nice choices you can include in your diet to increase your levels of omega-3.
But, if your case requires a reduction of omega-6, then you should look to cut down the consumption of foods that either don’t have omega-3 in them or whose omega-6/3 ratio is higher than 2:1. Some of these foods are: processed snacks, some cooking oils (sunflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil, and cottonseed oil), soybeans, tofu, eggs (from commercially fed chickens), certain parts of chicken (those with more fat) and fatter pork cuts.
Seafood, oily fish, cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines are a great source of Omega-3.
This is another essential mineral that might drop during your transition. It could have a massive impact on your mood and behavior during perimenopause.
It’s known to be quite effective for your endocrine system. It also plays a vital role in the metabolism of androgen hormones, estrogen, and progesterone.
Shellfish, legumes, seeds, nuts, dairy products, and whole grains are some of the easily available food items that are loaded with zinc.
13. Avoid spicy food
Say no to spicy food, alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine at all costs to get relief from hot flashes. Limit your intake of sugar, salt, and processed foods to be on the safer side.
14. Drink water!
Last but not the least, drink ample water (at least 2 liters per day).
The perfect buffet for perimenopause
Dietary management could be your very own, safest, cheapest, and the best self-treatment option to deal with perimenopause and menopause.
A healthy plant-based diet rich in fibers and antioxidants, but low on fat could prove to be instrumental in passing through this reproductive change without facing a hard time. Eating healthy and consciously will not only help you cope with the menopausal transition but will also help you live with content after menopause, or during post-menopause which can last forever.
A freelance writer, a poet and an avid reader. He’s a passionate wordsmith who believes in writing content which is simple, beautiful and informative. He’s a practised communicator coached by British Academy.
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