Perimenopause is considered the transitional phase on the way to menopause. It can last between 1-10 years and during these years the majority of menopause symptoms may occur such as hot flushes/flashes, irregular periods, decreased libido, mood swings, fatigue, sleeping issues and more.
Once a woman has not menstruated for 12 months she is considered to be in menopause and she is no longer fertile as her ovaries have run out of eggs. The period of her life after menopause is called post menopause and for most woman, this can be when her symptoms of menopause will decrease.
During perimenopause, certain aspects of her health are about to change. Her oestrogen levels may be slowly dropping, but it’s only a matter of time before they reach an all-time low… and stay there for the rest of her life. As a result, her risk for health conditions like osteoporosis and heart disease are about to go up.
That might sound scary, but by making some changes to her eating habits she might be able to ease a lot of the discomfort and keep her body healthier as she ages, says Sherry Ross, MD, an ob-gyn at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.
Let’s discuss some foods you can eat during your perimenopause years to help smooth out the symptoms.
- Eat more calcium
The official word from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is that your calcium needs increase to 1,200 mg per day (from 1,000 mg) starting at age 50. But don’t wait until 50 to focus on this important mineral: As soon as you enter perimenopause your oestrogen levels start declining and as that happens your bones have a harder time retaining calcium. That puts you at risk for thinning bones, AKA osteopenia or osteoporosis, which can later lead to debilitating fractures.
Fortunately, calcium is pretty easy to consume: eat salmon or sardines which contain bones rich in calcium; include kale, broccoli, bok choy, silverbeet, cucumber, celery and chickpeas in your regular diet; eat more almonds, dried figs and dried apricots.
· Include protein at every meal
According to the CSIRO, from the age of 40 onwards, skeletal muscle mass decreases between 3-8% every decade. That’s why eating good quality protein at every meal is so important as it can help counteract the loss of bone strength and muscle mass which occurs during the perimenopause and post-menopause years. Studies have shown that eating proteins such as fish, meat, chicken and eggs or a vegetarian alternative may improve muscle protein synthesis.
· Add Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Healthy fats can help improve some menopause symptoms — especially omega-3 fatty acids. Also, the consumption of healthy fats is important for the health of our brains and hearts. Omega-3 fats are found in fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines and anchovies), organ meats, eggs, leafy greens, flaxseeds, nuts and seeds.
- Hydrate more
Drink as much water as possible. The reason? Hormonal changes during perimenopause can result in water retention and increased gas, both of which lead to bloating. The perfect antidote to water retention and bloat, strangely enough, is to drink even more water. Try sipping two to three litres every day or eating water-based foods like berries, celery, cucumber, lettuce and watermelon. Drinking green tea—a natural diuretic—may also help banish bloat.
· What about fruits and vegetables?
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is crucial at any stage of life but even more so as you approach menopause.
In a study of more than 17,000 postmenopausal women, eating fruits, veggies and soy led to a 19% decrease in hot flushes/flashes compared to the control group.
The healthiest fruits and vegetables are the ones that are the most colourful. That’s because the pigments in these foods are very powerful antioxidants. Go for broccoli, red, yellow and green capsicum, dark leafy green vegetables and tomatoes.
Every day the list of benefits from the natural antioxidants found in pigment-rich foods grows. They help to balance hormones, protect the skin from sun damage, keep the skin and eyes radiant and help prevent varicose veins. They also boost the immune system and help the body resist cancer and other degenerative diseases.
Foods to avoid in perimenopause.
So now you know which foods can potentially be effective during perimenopause, let’s talk briefly about the ones that are best avoided.
Most perimenopause symptoms will respond to a diet that keeps your blood sugar and insulin levels stable. Conversely, a diet high in refined carbohydrates, such as muffins, rolls, biscuits, crackers and most processed foods will cause an increase in blood sugar levels which will exacerbate menopause symptoms.
Cutting down on sugar also means eliminating or decreasing alcohol. Alcohol is nothing but sugar in a form that is so absorbable that its effects are felt within minutes in the brain. Many women find that when they eliminate alcohol their hot flushes/flashes go away. That’s because alcohol significantly interferes with oestrogen metabolism and causes a hormonal imbalance with too much oestrogen in the blood relative to progesterone levels which also increases a woman’s breast cancer risk.
Avoiding spicy foods is a common recommendation for women going through menopause. As your reaction to spicy foods may be individual, use your best judgment when it comes to including spicy foods in your diet and avoid them if they seem to worsen your symptoms.
As you can see there are quite a few things that you can do to smooth out your perimenopause experience. But remember to always listen to your body and notice how certain foods make you feel.
If you want to learn more about perimenopause, why not join the ‘Unleash Your Phenomenal 40s’ Online Perimenopause Summit which is streaming March 20-22, 2020? Copy and Paste this link to find out more https://bit.ly/37KDD9D
“The wisdom of menopause”, Christiane Northrup, MD,2012 Bantam Books
Medical Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. For medical advice always consult your physician. The information provided in this blog is based on the best knowledge of the author at the time of writing and we do not assume liability for the information within this blog, be it direct or indirect, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages.