Symptoms when menopause begins range from mood swings, depression, and fatigue, to sleep problems, brain fog, memory loss, and hot flashes (including night sweats). According to Medichecks, which offers at-home menopause blood tests, 70% of women going through perimenopause say it has affected their self-esteem, while 46% say it has hurt their career.
By writing an open letter to the UK Government, Alexia Inge, co-founder, and co-CEO of Cult Beauty, hopes to spark a change in the treatment of this natural transition. ‘The point is, she writes, ‘that there are many solutions to support and facilitate women in this period, but many GPs are not sufficiently trained to recognize or treat the symptoms.
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Inge adds that ‘most private insurance policies don’t even cover menopause, and most workplaces don’t have a menopause policy’, even though it affects 51% of the population and causes an out of ten women to leave the workplace due to a lack of support for these issues.
There is also a general lack of knowledge about how to manage the symptoms of menopause. In addition to hormone replacement therapy and regular exercise, the diet must be taken into account. With the rise of stores creating menopause-specific sections in brick-and-mortar stores and online, talk to the experts to find out their recommendations on foods to combat menopausal symptoms, along with the best supplements to take, to make sure you feel supported at all times.
Take care of your digestive system
Gut health is important and supports many key systems in the body. “Research has discovered a special subset of microbes in the gut microbiota, called a strobolome, that plays a crucial role in detoxification and hormone clearance”, says author and nutritional therapist Eve Kalinik. ‘Estrogens, as well as other hormones and toxins, are excreted through the bile from the liver to the intestine, where they end up being eliminated from the body through the feces. Therefore, constipation can cause estrogen dominance which is common during perimenopause and postmenopause. If the gut microbiota is out of balance, it can lead to the reabsorption of hormones—particularly estrogen—which can increase menopausal symptoms.
The gut is also responsible for the production and management of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin (responsible for happiness), dopamine, and melatonin, which influence mood and sleep, so it is important to keep the gut happy for a healthy body and mind.
Take a multivitamin for women
To maintain energy and mood, women’s health and emotional wellness expert Judith Forsyth says it is important to take a good mix of vitamins, especially B6 and B12. “They are often combined with botanicals, such as Siberian ginseng (for energy) and alfalfa for hot flashes”, she says.
Red wine, coffee, strawberries, nuts and seeds, oatmeal, wheat, licorice root tea, and olive oil are all phytoestrogens; that is, compounds of plant origin that have properties similar to those of estrogen itself. There is evidence to suggest that they can help prevent osteoporosis and reduce hot flashes.
Proteins are important
Eating enough protein is essential, as it helps stabilize blood sugar levels, makes us feel fuller, and plays a key role in the production of neurotransmitters. Kalinik advises that the daily goal is 1g for every kg of weight (or the size of the palm). “Eat a wide variety of foods”, he says, advising on everything from poultry and oily fish to eggs, yogurt, and cheese. “Vegetable sources can be tofu or tempeh, as well as legumes and vegetables”.
Try sleep better
Magnesium is a great supplement to try if you have trouble falling asleep, as it helps relax your muscles and promotes deeper, more restful sleep, while also balancing your blood sugar levels. “Some studies have also shown that foods rich in the amino acid glycine (found in milk and cheese) can also help menopausal women sleep more soundly”, says Forsyth. “Another good botanical to incorporate is valerian root”.
Boost your polyphenols
‘Try to add foods that provide diversity and a boost of polyphenols in each meal’, explains Dr. Federica Amati, nutritionist and chief nutrition scientist at Indi Supplements. ‘For example, a mixture of herbs and spices added to scrambled eggs; frozen berries in overnight oats; a handful of mixed mushrooms added to a stir fry; nuts and seeds mixed with fresh basil, arugula, and extra-virgin olive oil for a quick pesto; or a tablespoon of kefir added to vegetable soup; the goal is to take 30 different plants a week, which provide different types of prebiotic fiber and polyphenols to ensure a healthy and diverse gut microbiota”. The doctor insists that eating many different plants is the key to significantly improving menopausal symptoms.
Eat fat with every meal
Kalinik advises consuming a serving of healthy fat with each meal, as it is crucial for hormone production. “Healthy fat sources include oily fish, grass-fed meat, eggs, olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, organic butter, ghee, or coconut oil”, she affirms.
The drop in estrogen and calcium levels during perimenopause causes bone health to suffer. Taking a vitamin D supplement (at least 600 IU) helps maintain it.
Omega-3 fish oils, which are anti-inflammatory and support joint health, are a good supplement to add to your diet. They can also help cognitive health.
Consider a menopause-specific supplement
To help mitigate the effects and frequency of physical symptoms, such as hot flashes, Forsyth recommends a menopause supplement that “ideally contains a blend of ingredients such as evening primrose oil and soy isoflavones”.
When perimenopause arrives, the skin and hair can be affected due to the aforementioned decrease in estrogen, which causes collagen levels to decrease. Look for hair, skin, and nail supplements that provide collagen, biotin, and zinc to help strengthen and support both.
What should be avoided?
Caffeine and alcohol. “Watch your intake, as both can worsen peri- and postmenopausal symptoms and increase cortisol, which can lead to further hormonal imbalances and disrupt sleep”, says Kalinik.