Have the unbearable hot flushes started? Do you find you can’t concentration as well as you use to? Or how about the restless nights of laying in bed, struggling to fall asleep? If you have gone a year without getting your period, it’s safe to say you might be going through the dreaded menopause.
What is menopause? Menopause is when your Oestrogen and Progesterone levels slowly start to decline, causing cessation of your menstrual cycle and no longer being able to ovulate. Menopause normally occurs between the ages of 40-50 years and comes with a variety of different symptoms.
These symptoms may include:
- Irregular/lost of period
- Hot flushes/night sweats
- Brain fog
- Weight gain, especially around the abdominal area
- Irregular sleeping patterns
With so many fad remedies and information out there on social media, it can be hard to dictate what advice is useful and evidence-based, but that’s why we are here to help!
When women begin to go through menopause, they might start to notice a change in their bodies including more weight gain, mainly around the abdominal area. This is because as hormones start to decline, the body becomes more sensitive to carbohydrates, especially simple carbohydrates or what is also known as high GI (fast digesting). So do we need to go low carb? No. It is focusing on choosing more low GI…think oats rather than nutrigrain, legumes in your soup over toast, heavy grain toast over fluffy bread. And making sure you get a good variety of vegetables and fruit (1)! PLUS increase exercise to help with insulin sensitivity (more information on exercise below). Also a quick note…carbohydrates are typically high energy foods and irrespective of menopause you need to check in with your energy needs; are you as active as you once were to need the same serving sizes? Could you reduce your portions as you find yourself more desk bound?
Try aim to have a low GI carbohydrate at most main meals to sustain you, and if you need a starting point, we’d suggest a portion size of around 1/4 of your meal, or a cupped handful. However, it is important to note that everyone and their body is different. So listen to your fullness cues and allow them to gauge how much fuel you need, especially with exercise.
Did you know that most women lose 1/3 of their bone mass in the first 5 years of menopause? (1) That’s insane, and a bit scary! But with the right nutrition and exercise, we can keep our bone health in check!
Oestrogen aids in maintaining bone structure, strength and integrity. When oestrogen levels decline during menopause it increases bone turnover, speeding up bone loss (2). Therefore, an increase in calcium intake is crucial for reducing the risk of bone loss. The recommendation for women going through menopause is to consume 1000mg -1300mg of calcium daily (example shown below). Foods high in calcium include; milk, yogurt, cheese, nuts/seeds and tofu.
Calcium should be supplemented with vitamin D as it helps promote calcium absorption and therefore, improve bone health. Our main vitamin D source comes from sun exposure, however, you can also get in foods such as oily fish, eggs and milk products. However, especially in winter, a vitamin D supplement may be recommended (make sure to talk to a professional Dietitian/Nutritionist before purchasing).
Oestrogen is anabolic, which means it supports muscle building, therefore, when oestrogen starts to decline, so does lean muscle mass. Women need higher amounts of protein (relative to per kg body weight – 1.2-1.5kg/bw) when going through menopause as there is no longer the role of oestrogen to build lean mass as fast. It is important for menopausal women to have an increase in protein intake to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Aiming to get around 25-30g of protein at each main meal, and a source of protein with snacks, is a good goal to aim for. Protein, in particular, Leucine, a BCAA, helps to attenuate brain fog and lack of concentration. This is because BCAA’s help to counter central nervous system fatigue. These foods include dairy and meat products, however, supplementation can be used (make sure to talk to a professional Dietitian/Nutritionist before purchasing).
It can be hard to feel full and satiated when we decrease are carbohydrate intake. Therefore, making sure to have a diet high in fibre will not only help with feeling satisfied but will help promote a better gut microbiome (3).
A note about the following. We do not typically encourage measuring/weighing/nutrient counting etc when planning your meals however this infographic will provide you with knowledge so you are better informed around what foods provide.
Exercise is essential for bone health, muscle tone, balance, and mental-wellbeing. Doing exercise you love such as walking or running is great, however, supporting it with resistance, high intensity, and plyometric training will help with maintaining bone mass andfast twitch muscle fibres activation (1). Changing up your exercise routine can be a bit scary and intimidating, therefore, seeking help from a professional to guide you into a gradual progression of 3 days/week of resistance training would be recommended.
The research and advice around menopause can be misleading and confusing! If you are looking for information around menopause and want professional advice, contact our Dietitian, Kate – firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Stacy Sims, 2019. Beyond Running: Menopause with Stacy Sims -R4R 151. [podcast] THE RUNNING FOR REAL PODCAST. Available at: <https://runningforreal.com/stacy-sims/> [Accessed 12 April 2022].
- Rizzoli, R., Bischoff-Ferrari, H., Dawson-Hughes, B. and Weaver, C., 2014. Nutrition and Bone Health in Women after the Menopause. Women’s Health, 10(6), pp.599-608.
- Stacy Sims, 2019. Episode 50: Dr Stacy Sims – Menopause Nutrition and Female Physiology. [podcast] Fit n’ Chips Chats. Available at: <https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/episode-50-dr-stacy-sims-menopause-nutrition-and/id1294337640?i=1000436485087> [Accessed 12 April 2022].