Menopause Diet: Eating Well to Manage Your Symptoms
By: Mallory Junggren
You’re probably familiar with the most common menopause symptom, hot flashes, but, as if they weren’t enough to cope with, they’re only one of many symptoms of menopause. In addition to hot flashes and night sweats, you may also experience dry skin, irritability, trouble sleeping, fatigue, anxiety, weight gain, vaginal dryness, lack of sex drive and a decrease in bone density.
On the bright side, making simple changes to your diet may help to alleviate some of these symptoms.
The Best Diet for Menopause Symptoms
Foods for Hot Flashes
If you’re the one who always wants to lower the thermostat or open all the windows, you’re not alone. Hot flashes are experienced by more women than any other menopause symptom.1 There are a number of foods that may ease hot flashes, and others that could make them worse.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are often suggested as a supplement that can lower the amount of fat in your blood (triglycerides), which can help maintain a healthy heart. They may also work to help reduce the number of menopause-related hot flashes, as well.2 You can find Omega-3 in foods like flaxseed and fish. You can also take Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, available online and at pharmacies and health food stores.
- Vitamin E may also help to potentially reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes both during the day and at night. It can be found in almonds, sweet potatoes, and avocados. Or, if you don’t like any of those foods, you’ll find vitamin E supplements at any store that sells vitamins.
Foods to Avoid
Hot flashes can be intensified by certain foods, so you may want to try cutting out or consuming less of these foods:
- According to Mayo Clinic, caffeine can intensify your hot flashes.3 Try to drink less coffee, caffeinated tea and soda for a while, to see if you notice a difference
- Spicy foods can also elevate your body temperature, so if possible, try to avoid eating them
- Alcohol has been shown to elevate body temperature, so stick with an occasional glass of wine and avoid drinking too much
Memory Loss and Confusion
The part of your brain called the hippocampus plays an important role in memory. Experts believe that the hormonal changes that occur during menopause have an effect on the way the hippocampus functions.4 This may not only affect short term memory, it can also cause confusion – you may feel you’re not thinking straight. Luckily, like other symptoms of menopause, this is often temporary. There are some diet changes you can make in the meantime to help improve your memory.
Foods rich in the antioxidant resveratrol could do the trick. Fortunately for us, wine and dark chocolate are loaded with resveratrol! Try not to go overboard, but adding a glass of wine to dinner now and then along with a little dark chocolate is a pleasant way to consume more of this antioxidant. If wine and dark chocolate aren’t your thing, you can also find resveratrol in berries (cranberries and blueberries) as well as peanuts, pistachios and unpeeled grapes.5
Dry Skin and Vaginal Dryness
Your body’s decrease in estrogen is what can contribute to both dry skin and vaginal dryness. Drinking enough water is one of the best things you can do for your skin and can also help combat vaginal dryness.
Menopause Weight Gain
The hormonal changes of menopause may make you more likely to gain weight around your abdomen than your hips or thighs. However, menopausal hormone fluctuations don’t actually cause weight gain, contrary to popular belief. Weight gain at this time of life generally is caused by less activity and a slow-down in fat-burning due to aging. No matter what the cause is, most of us would rather see the extra weight disappear. Some of the recommended dietary changes already mentioned are helpful for weight management.
Eating low-calorie vegetables and fruits can make you feel fuller. They also provide a lot of vitamins and other nutrients important for overall good health. Drinking the recommended eight glasses of water a day also helps to fill you up while keeping your body hydrated.
Loss in Bone Density
The hormone changes experienced during menopause years can affect bone density. While this is one menopause symptom you can’t feel or see, it’s nevertheless extremely important to be knowledgeable about. Most women going through menopause typically aren’t given bone density tests, since the NIH recommends them only for women 65 and older.6 Despite this testing standard, the National Osteoporosis Foundation says that approximately one in two women over age 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis.7 If you are concerned your bone density might be low, be sure to talk to your doctor about your options.
Testing aside, you should be sure you’re getting enough calcium in your daily diet. Calcium is present in:
- Milk and milk products
- Foods that have been fortified with added calcium, such as some cereals and orange juice products
- Some vegetables, such as dark leafy greens, spinach, bok choy and green beans
- Fish, that are canned with their bones, such as sardines
It’s not always easy to consume enough of these foods to get the recommended daily amount of calcium (1,000-1,200 milligrams a day).8 You could consider adding to the calcium you’re getting in your diet with calcium supplements. These typically come in the form of pills or chewables.
Women experience menopause symptoms in different ways and to different degrees. Everyone also has different taste preferences, so you may like some of the foods mentioned but loathe others. Try testing out these menopause diet suggestions to find out what works for you. We also advise discussing these recommendations with your doctor and learning more about the other options available to help relieve symptoms of menopause.