Nutrition for Menopause

by Thera Kusch
women holding a sandwhich

As you enter your fifties, studies suggest that many women experience a profound sense of fulfillment and happiness in their lives. However, this period also brings significant changes to your body and overall well-being due to menopause.

Menopause can cause weight gain, increase your risk for chronic diseases, and many other symptoms. Nutrition is a powerful tool in menopause symptom management.

Continue reading to find out more about menopause, the importance of nutrition during this time, and the support a Registered Dietitian (RD) can offer you in managing it all.

 

How to Know if You’re in Menopause?

Menopause is usually classified as the period in life when you have not menstruated in a year. Leading up to menopause, many people feel changes in their bodies and irregular menstruation, a time classified as perimenopause.

Usually, people experience the beginning of menopause between the ages of 45-55, but it can occur earlier or later. The transition from perimenopause to menopause can take anywhere from 7 to 14 years.

During this time, estrogen levels decrease which can impact many areas of the body. Some symptoms include:

If you think you are experiencing perimenopause or menopause, be sure to talk to your doctor.

 

The Importance of Nutrition in Menopause

The changes in the body during menopause can lead to a variety of symptoms and even increase your risk for some chronic diseases such as osteoporosis and heart disease. Proper nutrition can be a great tool to help you healthily navigate this period in your life.

Weight Management

Weight gain is often a main concern for people going through perimenopause and menopause. Many people think hormonal changes and aging make weight gain unavoidable, but Christina Dupont, MSc, RD, CDE, says this does not have to be the case. 

Christina provides the example of the SWAN study, which follows women’s health over time. This study emphasizes the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle to manage or reduce menopausal symptoms and improve overall well-being. It also shows the importance of following a healthy lifestyle before reaching menopause to set yourself up for success in terms of weight management and overall health.

Bone Health

Osteoporosis and reduction in bone strength are often concerns during perimenopause and menopause. This can have consequences such as increasing your risk for fractures.

Proper nutrition can help mitigate the extent of these symptoms. RD Lindsey McGregor points out that a vitamin D deficiency, inadequate calcium consumption, and chronic diseases can exacerbate menopausal reductions in bone health. Ensuring proper vitamin D and calcium intake, engaging in physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding excess alcohol, and managing chronic diseases are key to maintaining bone health throughout this life period.

Learn more about osteoporosis management here.

Soy Products

Some soy products contain isoflavones which have a similar structure to estrogen and can attach to estrogen receptors in the body. Soy isoflavones can have both similar and different effects as estrogen. For this reason, many people have questions about the safety and purpose of consuming soy products during menopause.

Serena Benali, RD says soy products can be a beneficial part of a balanced diet during perimenopause and menopause. Studies have suggested that soy products can help reduce the frequency of hot flashes, maintain bone health, and protect heart health during menopause.

Additionally, soy products can be a source of protein, calcium, fibre, and other plant compounds which can enhance our health.

Learn more about soy product here.

Cardiovascular Health

Estrogen can play an important role in protecting you from heart and cardiovascular disease. Reduced estrogen levels during menopause can place you at an increased risk for developing various cardiovascular diseases.

A healthy diet and proper nutrition can be an excellent tool in preventing and managing cardiovascular disease. Lindsey McGregor, RD says there are many steps you can take to eat for cardiovascular health.

It is often recommended to increase your consumption of plant-based foods when eating for cardiovascular health. Studies suggest those who eat more healthy plant-based foods are at a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular disease mortality. Find out more about plant-based protein sources here.

Dietary fibre can also be an important tool to protect your health. Diets high in fibre have been found to be protective against cardiovascular disease. High fibre foods include legumes, whole grains, and some fruits and vegetables.

Monitoring your sodium intake may also help to improve your cardiovascular health. A reduction in sodium consumption has been associated with lessening your risk of developing high blood pressure, experiencing a stroke, and experiencing a heart attack. Find more tips for reducing your salt intake here.

A diet lower in saturated fat may also be protective against cardiovascular disease. When eating for heart health, you should focus on fat sources such as nuts, seeds, lean proteins, and vegetable oils.

How Can a Registered Dietitian Help You?

Balancing your health and happiness during menopause can be a learning curve. A registered dietitian has the expertise and experience to help you find the best way to take care of yourself through food during menopause.

Christina Dupont, MSc, RD, CDE recommends clients work with a registered dietitian during menopause. Christina says registered dietitians can “provide personalized nutrition guidance tailored to individual needs and preferences” through their sessions. Dietitians can offer you strategies for maintaining weight, ensuring proper nutrient intake, and addressing specific menopause-related concerns. Christina places emphasis on helping clients navigate this life stage with confidence and vitality through personalized nutrition care. If you’re in Ontario, book a session with Christina here.

Serena Benali, RD says that working with a dietitian can not only help clients address common concerns such as body changes, weight gain, and hot flashes but also support them in ensuring long-term longevity. Longevity through menopause might look like maintaining bone health, improving heart health, and developing nutritional strategies to prevent brain fog. Serena has a keen interest in women’s health and menopause with specialized training in menopause nutrition. This allows her to offer evidence-based advice to her clients to ensure each of their transitions into menopause is informed and graceful. If you’re in Nova Scotia, Northwest Territories, Alberta, or Saskatchewan, book a session with Serena here.

 

Learn More

The Menopause Mission is focused on “Making the M Word Mainstream” by breaking down stereotypes and empowering change. Serena Benali, RD recommends this organization because it includes the input of experts such as dietitians, naturopaths, and pharmacists to offer advice on navigating menopause.

My Menoplan is a source of evidence-based, up-to-date resources on menopause. The organization is led by doctors and scientists and offers toolboxes and real-life stories to help you navigate menopause.

Read our other article on menopause written by Jessica Odyjewski here.

Find a dietitian from all over Canada and the US here.

 

About the Author: Thera Kusch is a third-year Dietetic student at the University of Saskatchewan.

Reviewed by: Lindsey McGregor, RD 

Images from Unsplash and Pexels

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