Don’t let (the emotional turmoil of) Menopause Get the Best of You!

By JoAnn Ridout, MPH, RD, LD
September 1, 2015


Now that you are in menopause, do you find that you’ve had a personality change? Are you easily irritated, feeling uptight and having mood swings? You may have seen your doctor for relief from anxiety or depression, but you don’t want to be on one more medication.

In the past, many women sought relief from these menopause symptoms and started hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or estrogen replacement therapy (ERT). Sometimes hormone replacement therapy provided short term relief, but often it created long term health issues. In 2002, the Women’s Health Initiative research discovered that estrogen therapy increased the risk of breast cancer, stroke, blood clots, and heart attacks.

Many women come to Nutritional Weight & Wellness desperate for relief from the emotional turmoil that can occur during the menopause years. Our nutritionists help women turn these challenging years into more positive, stress-free years by changing their diets to real foods, and we can help you, too.

Foods that create more stress and anxiety for you

Menopause-Emotional_Woman-ProcessedCarbs.jpgMany of us turn to sugar and processed carbohydrates, such as muffins, chips, pasta and brownies, when we are anxious and stressed. However, sugar and processed carbohydrates are major contributors to anxiety and sleeplessness. Excess sugar also leads to insomnia, mood swings, hot flashes and night sweats, and weight gain.

Don’t let holidays or weekends sabotage your efforts

With many of my clients—not just those going through menopause—I hear that holidays and social situations can be a challenge. When you are at a social event, pay close attention to the effect alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, and additives (such as MSG) have on your mood, anxiety, sleep, and your body temperature. All of these foods can increase unpleasant and emotionally-draining menopause symptoms. For example, I have noticed that when I have a glass of wine, a late dinner, or eat chocolate or sugar that I am much more anxious and more likely to have a sleepless night. Which foods and drinks trigger your menopause symptoms?

Stay hydrated!

Menopause-Emotional_Woman-DrinkingWater.jpgCoffee drinks (mochas, lattes, etc.) and alcohol increase your blood sugar and both are dehydrating. For a woman going through menopause, this can be a big problem. Dehydration also causes fatigue, headaches, constipation, and can increase wrinkles, too.

At Nutritional Weight & Wellness, we recommend drinking 8-10 glasses of water each day or half of your body weight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 180 lb., drink 90 oz. of water each day. Be careful not to restrict water so you don’t have to get up as often in the middle of the night. Drink the bulk of your water earlier in the day to prevent this from happening.

Eating in balance

To balance your blood sugar, balance each meal and snack by including a quality protein, healthy fats, and vegetable carbohydrates such as:

  • Protein: Steak, eggs, chicken and salmon
  • Fats: Olives, olive oil, avocado, coconut oil, nuts and butter
  • Carbohydrates: Choose primarily vegetables; small amounts of fruit

Stay mentally sharp; Healthy sleep tips

Menopause-Emotional_Woman-TroubleSleeping.jpgMany menopausal women I work with complain of insomnia or restless sleep. Is this an issue of you? Sleeping less than 6.5 hours sets you up for a slurry of menopause symptoms because it decreases your overall brain function and your ability to fight stress. It also drives your blood pressure up, creates low grade inflammation, and makes it harder to regulate your blood sugar. For better moods and less anxiety:

  • Plan for 8-9 hours of sleep (set a bedtime for yourself)
  • Follow a regular sleep schedule
  • Eliminate sugar from your diet and follow a balanced eating plan
  • Eliminate caffeine from your diet
  • Eat a balanced bedtime snack (such as berries and cream or ½ apple with nut butter)
  • Turn off the TV, computer, and cell phone at least one hour before you go to bed. The light interferes with your sleep.

As a result of poor sleep, the sugar cravings increase, and the possibility of weight gain in menopause is even greater.

Respect your body. Make peace with your weight

Menopause-Emotional_Woman-OnTheScale.jpgYes, your metabolism does slow down a little after the change. Accept this fact and make peace with your current weight; show yourself respect and love. If you want to lose weight, start a healthy, balanced eating plan. Remember, balancing your blood sugar is so important for reducing or eliminating menopause symptoms, but also for losing weight. The Nutrition 4 Weight Loss Program is a great way to learn an eating plan that will keep your blood sugar balanced and help you lose weight at a healthy pace. Be patient! Remember, the faster you lose weight, the faster you can gain it back!

Exercise as you are able. Start with a 30-minute walk three times a week and build up to include strength training and flexibility exercises.

There is a lot you can do to make the menopause years happy and healthy!

For additional help with your menopause symptoms…

  • Book a one-on-one consultation with a nutritionist Make an appointment with a nutritionist to help you individualize a plan specific to your needs. We are the experts in helping you with anxiety, balancing blood sugar, and lifting your moods.
  • Take the Menopause Survival Seminar Consider taking The Menopause Survival Seminar on September 19 (sign up by September 9 and you save $10). You will experience a whole day of learning about menopause and what you can do to feel better in a fun and relaxed environment. Share the day with our menopause experts and a group of like-minded women. An organic lunch and healthy snacks are provided.

For more information, listen to our podcast: The Emotional Connection to Menopause with special guest Ann Louise Gittleman. 


About the author

JoAnn has always appreciated the value of good nutrition because diabetes and cancer run in her family. Not only does JoAnn understand chronic diseases, but also she has taken on challenging and complex health conditions when she worked as a registered dietitian at Courage Center for 25 years. JoAnn brings extensive experience, along with compassion and understanding to your health concerns. JoAnn graduated from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor of science in nutrition and dietetics and a master of science in public health. As a registered dietitian and nutrition educator, she has experience in therapeutic nutrition counseling, weight management, and nutrition education.

View all posts by JoAnn Ridout, MPH, RD, LD

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