Did you know certain foods in your diet can help alleviate the dreaded symptoms of menopause?
Dietician Kamura La Fauci says what you eat can play an important role in reducing the severity of your symptoms - namely hot flushes, mood swings and sleepless nights.
"While no single ingredient can cure you entirely, you can actively manage sweats, sleep, and mood by opting for certain foods over others,” Kamyra said.
However, according to new research, conducted by Master Menopause Australia, two in three Australian women (66%) don’t realise that the food you eat can influence the severity of your symptoms.
While for many women, side effects may be nominal during menopause, for others, they can have debilitating impacts on quality of life.
Here are Kamura's top foods to inckude in your diet to boost mood and address some of the more challenging symptoms of menopause.
1. Hot flushes: Hot flushes, one of the more common symptoms associated with menopause, are thought to be caused by a drop in oestrogen levels. Phytoestrogens, found naturally in plant foods can be a natural way to combat these unexpected, and often uncomfortable side effects of menopause by mimicking your body’s own oestrogen hormones.
According to Kamyra, two phytoestrogens in particular have been shown to be helpful in alleviating the discomfort of hot flushes, including isoflavones (found in soy foods and other legumes e.g. chickpeas) and lignans (found in flaxseeds, wholegrains and fruit, particularly berries).
“Try incorporating at least one to two servings of phytoestrogen-rich foods daily to experience the benefits. Phytoestrogens are also thought to help support heart and bone health which are especially important during menopause when women are at an increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease,” Kamyra said.
2. Sleeplessness: For many women, the biggest challenge they face through menopause is getting a good night’s rest. As hot flushes are one of the main contributors to poor sleep during menopause, avoiding triggers such as spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine is key.
Kamyra says research shows that foods such as fatty fish, kiwifruit, and nuts such as almonds and walnuts may improve your chances of not only falling but staying asleep.
“Adding ground flaxseed to your meals can also help to reduce insomnia, and swapping red meat for poultry, which is rich in amino acid tryptophan can help to increase your feel-good hormone, serotonin, and importantly, create more melatonin, which helps to control your sleep cycle,” she said.
3. Mood: It’s not uncommon to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression during menopause. With fluctuating hormones, and poor sleep coupled with life stresses, it’s little wonder your mood might dip during this time of transition.
“Recent research tells us that the foods we eat can have a direct impact on our mood, given our brain and gut are directly linked via the “gut-brain axis,” Kamyra said.
Fermented foods such as yoghurt, sauerkraut and kimchi are good sources of probiotics which support the growth of beneficial bacteria in our gut and boost our gut microbiome.
According to Kamyra, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are also key, as these fibres are used as fuel for the gut bacteria, and when digested produce compounds which can increase feelings of happiness and decrease the blues.
Oats, berries, bananas, green leafy veg and oily fish, like salmon, can also support a better mood. “While caffeine has been shown to boost mood, it’s best to avoid alcohol, especially if you’re feeling low, and instead check in with your healthcare team if you start to feel you’re struggling to shake the blues,” she said.
4. Bone health: As oestrogen levels decline, so does our bone density, “As bone loss significantly increases during menopause, so does the risk of osteoporosis. In fact, it’s estimated that women lose up to 10% of their bone mass during this time,” Kamyra said.
Eating calcium rich foods such as dairy products, firm tofu, unhulled tahini, dark leafy leg and tinned salmon is important to ensure you meet your daily calcium requirements (1000-1300 mg/day depending on your age).
“As vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, it's also important to get your daily dose of sunshine. If you’re concerned about your bone health, or ability to meet your calcium and vitamin D requirements, supplementation may be worth exploring with your doctor,” Kamyra said,
Kamyra said it’s important to remember that everyone’s experience with menopause is different, and it’s always best to speak to a dietitian or your doctor to ensure your transition through menopause is a smooth one.
Kamyra La Fauci is a dietician with online health program, Master Menopause Australia, a 26-week online program that focuses on helping people experiencing menopause to lead a healthy, and sustainable lifestyle. Find out more here.