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Eat to Beat the Menopause - Guest Post by Henrietta Norton

Updated: May 2, 2021

We are delighted to welcome Henrietta Norton, Founder of Wild Nutrition in this guest blog post about using nutrition to support the transition into the menopause. Do also check out our previous posts on the menstrual cycle and the menopause.


Menopause is a natural, transitionary stage moving a woman away from the child-bearing years into a stage that, according to Ayurvedic and traditional chinese medicine perspectives, is characterised by ‘soul development’. Indeed Dr Christiane Northrop beautifully states that “Our fertility stops being about having children and starts being about what we create for ourselves that benefits us and the people around us.”


None-the-less, this transition is also characterised by physical symptoms that can be deeply uncomfortable for some women.

What is the menopause?


Full menopause is usually determined by the absences of a menstrual period for more than 1 year and your GP may conduct a blood test to measure changes in determining hormones such as oestrodial, LH and FSH. This usually occurs between the ages 45 and 55, with the average age being 51 years in the UK.


Prior to full menopause is a stage known as the peri-menopause. Women moving into peri-menopause may experience almost PMS type symptoms rather than classic menopause symptoms – so these are not to be confused. Symptoms of peri-menopause may continue for many years before full menopause is reached. It is thought that 80 % of women experience vasomotor symptoms during this time. Vasomotor symptoms are more commonly referred to as ‘hot flushes’ or ‘night sweats’ where women may experience, often rapid, changes in body temperature, palpitations and a shift between experiencing heat and chills. It is thought that the hypothalamus (which controls body temperature) is affected by a change in oestrodial and LH.


Women should seek advice as soon as they begin to see changes in their cycle. Peri-menopause can go on for some time, but its not to be confused with PMS symptoms and only a professional will be able to support deciphering the difference. The nutritional therapist may also recommend some hormone testing, either through the client’s GP or privately. Some changes in cycle and symptoms may be better managed naturally if dealt with earlier on. Very often women who are very tired, stressed and overworked will begin to find peri-menopause a challenge and supporting the adrenal glands and energy systems should begin early.



What can you do to support your experience?


Whatever a woman’s experience it is vitally important to remember that this is not a disease, it is a natural progression to a different stage of a woman’s life cycle and that it is mind, body and spirit experience. This means that any support programme should be holistic and that supporting the emotional and spiritual experience of menopause is just as important as supporting the change in body chemistry.


Therapeutic Foods for the menopause, peri-menopause and post-menopause


Phytoestrogens (Isoflavones, lignands & coumestans)

Portion sizes of grains: 2 tablespoons

Portion sizes of pulses: 1 tablespoon

Foods to eat:

Miso soup, edamame beans, chickpea, wholemeal bread, sprouts (alfalfa, beansprouts, chickpea), lentils, splitpeas.

Research suggests that brown rice, oats, garlic, fennel, celery, rhubarb & parsely are also effective phytoestrogens for menopausal symptoms.

What they do:

High in isoflavone & coumestans thought to be protective against hormone related cancers as well as moderate symptoms associated with hormonal imbalance (hot flushes) & reduce cholesterol.


Vitamin E

Foods to eat:

Sunflower seed oil, tuna, sardines, salmon, wheat germ, sesame seeds, unsalted/un-roasted peanuts.

What they do:

Shown to reduce vaginal dryness & hot flushes as well as reduce risk of heart attack (natural anti-coagulant) in post menopausal women.


B Vitamin family (especially B1, B2, B6, B12)

Foods to eat:

Wholewheat, wholegrain rice, barley, oats, amaranth rye, quinoa, brewers yeast.

What they do:

Support adrenal gland thereby reducing symptoms such as irritability, tension, anxiety & poor concentration & energy.


Magnesium

Foods to eat:

Wheat germ, almonds, cashew nuts, buckwheat, brazil nuts, raisins, beans (esp. anasazi, adzuki, black, chickpeas, black-eyed peas & lentils.

What they do:

Needed during stages of menopause to form heathy bone density & cardiac support. Can be used as natures tranquilliser to support stress/anxiety symptoms associated with menopause.


Calcium

Foods to eat:

Cheese (esp.Swiss & cheddar) almonds, brewers years, parsely, corn tortillas, globe artichokes, prunes, pumpkin seeds.

What they do:

Helps to regulate blood levels of calcium & phosphorus for bone health. Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium.


Vitamin D

Foods to eat:

Alfalfa, kelp, cabbage & leafy greens

What they do:

Helps to regulate blood levels of calcium & phosphorus for bone health. Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium.


Folate

Foods to eat:

Beans (anasazi, adzuki, black, chickpeas, black-eyed peas & lentils), kale, wheat germ, spinach, peanuts, sprouts, asparagus, sesame seeds, broccoli.

What they do:

Folic acid can reduce homocysteine levels in postmenopausal women. High homocysteine has been associated with increase in bone loss.


Boron

Foods to eat: Alfalfa, kelp, cabbage & leafy greens

What they do:

Needed for metabolism of calcium & magnesium. Research has shown it can reduce the risk of osteoporosis.


Vitamin B6

Foods to eat:

Watercress, cauliflower, cabbage, peppers, bananas, squash, brocolli

What they do:

Deficiency in Vitamin B6 has been associated with increased risk of bone fractures in post menopausal women.


Zinc

Foods to eat:

Oysters, pumpkin seeds, wholewheat, rye, oats, almonds, peas.

What they do:

Supports vitamin D absorb calcium. Needed for proper absorption of osteoclasts & osteoblasts for bone turnover.


Iodine

Foods to eat:

Organic yoghurt, organic milk, strawberries, iodized salt & seaweed

What they do:

Essential for thyroid function & therefore for hormonal equilibrium. Stress & lifestyle factors can undermine thyroid function.


Isothiocyanates and indole-3-carbinol

Portion size: 1 cup.

Foods to eat:

Brassica family: Bok Choy, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Collards, Colza, Hanover Salad, Kale, Kohlrabi, Mustard, Rutabaga, Turnip

What they do:

Research has shown the active compounds encourage the metabolism of old-hormones & oestrogen by products linked to oestrogen dependent conditions.