Experiencing Menopausal Symptoms? Start with Nutrition!
By Carolyn Suerth Hudson, RDN, LD
April 17, 2019
Menopause has a major impact on many women. It can cause a variety of problems including weight gain, sleep problems, memory issues, low libido, vaginal dryness, hot flashes and osteoporosis. While that list is all too familiar to many menopausal women, what isn’t familiar is how food choices can impact each and every one of these bothersome symptoms.
That’s right. What you ate for lunch could be causing the hot flash you’re fanning yourself through come mid-afternoon. Perhaps you’ve started to notice the connections yourself. That glass of wine after dinner is often followed by a restless night of sleep, accompanied by, you guessed it, more hot flashes.
If you are experiencing common menopause symptoms, nutrition is a great place to start. (If you want more information than a blog post can provide, consider joining us for our next Menopause Survival Seminar, Saturday, May 18. This popular class typically sells out and is designed as an approachable and comprehensive way to manage hot flashes, mood swings, insomnia and weight gain, for women of all ages.)
Nutrition to Combat: Weight Gain, Fatigue and Mood Swings
If weight gain, fatigue or mood swings are affecting you, we’d suggest taking a closer look at the carbohydrates you are eating. For instance, if you ate granola and yogurt for breakfast, that turned into seventeen teaspoons of sugar rushing into your blood stream. On the other hand, if you had a two-egg omelet with sautéed veggies cooked in butter or a chicken breakfast sausage and one-half cup of sweet potato with butter, your blood sugar levels would remain stable. The more your blood sugars soar and plummet, the more weight gain, fatigue and mood swings you may experience.
Nutrition to Combat: Hot Flashes and Sleep Problems
High blood sugars can also lead to hot flashes and sleep problems. Many common foods, such as a blueberry muffin or a cereal bar, are high in sugar. A large blueberry muffin has 36 grams of carbs, which turns into 9 teaspoons of sugar. Even a mini blueberry muffin has 9 grams of carbs, which turns into 2.5 teaspoons of sugar. Most cereal bars contain 28 or 29 grams of carbs, which turns into 7 teaspoons of sugar.
Sleep is the most common complaint we hear from our menopausal clients. We suggest having a bedtime snack with a healthy carbohydrate and fat, like one-half apple and one or two tablespoons of peanut butter. This will help stabilize your blood sugar through the night to help you sleep soundly. It surprises many people to learn that a blood sugar crash is often the cause of wakeful nights! Additionally, some women who are very sensitive to coffee might need to give it up completely and substitute an herbal tea.
Last, magnesium is a mineral that is important for sleep. We often suggest supplementing with Magnesium Glycinate. Not only can it help you stay asleep, but many people also report that magnesium helps them relax and fall asleep quicker. Start with 200 mg, but many people need 500-700 mg for insomnia. Increase up to 1,000 mg per day. Take it before bed for the benefit of better sleep.
The Importance of Healthy Fats and Bone Broth
Eating healthy fats, such as olive oil, butter, coconut oil, avocados, olive, and nuts and seed, will help manage many menopausal symptoms. We encourage you to eat about one tablespoon of healthy fat with each meal and snack. Stay away from any low-fat food, refined oils, margarine and fake creamers.
Another great habit is to sip on bone broth instead of soda because bone broth helps support bone health. For more on bone broth benefits and a video on how to make your own, look here.
If you’re overwhelmed by the suggestions and just want to start feeling better, we’d encourage you to schedule an in-person or phone consultation with one of our nutritionists and dietitians who can help review your personal health history and get you on track to feeling great.