For half of all women, menopause takes place by age 50. While some experience this change of life several years earlier depending upon their lifestyle and genes. Some women hardly notice a difference during this time but for many it can be a very painful and unpleasant experience. We can trace most of these unpleasant side effects to plummeting hormone levels, especially oestrogen and once your oestrogen production tapers off, you are at greater risk of heart disease
Oestrogen keeps your LDL cholesterol levels low and HDL levels high and keeps the fibrinogen levels low (the sticky substance that helps your blood clot) the excess of which can lead to heart disease. Because of falling levels of oestrogen, heart disease is a threat to women after menopause.
Oestrogen also helps your body absorb calcium better; that means without enough oestrogen, osteoporosis, the crippling, and bone thinning disease could be just around the corner. While each woman experiences menopause in a unique way, all women need a healthy and balanced diet during this transition because good nutrition can keep you feeling well and happy during this important time of change.
Nutritional help to fight symptoms of menopause
Phytoestrogens - You don't have to despair when your personal supply of oestrogens runs low because eating plant foods with phytoestrogens can give you some of the protective benefits of oestrogen like oats, wheat, corn, apples, almonds, peanuts, etc.
Iso flavones, a specific kind of phytoestrogen, are found mostly in soy-based foods like soybeans, tofu, and soy nuts.
Calcium - More than ever, your body needs calcium during menopause to keep your bones strong and to avoid osteoporosis. In addition to building strong bones, it is also believed that calcium might also help with hot flashes. Calcium is very easy to find in milk products (choose low fat), Chinese cabbage, spinach, legumes, seeds, almonds, fresh orange juice.
Vitamin E - You can counter attack the threat of post menopausal heart disease with vitamin E, a natural aid to your heart. As an anti-oxidant, it fights potential cancer causing substances and keeps blood cholesterol from damaging the arteries. To lessen those bothersome hot flashes and keep your skin feeling soft and looking younger, eat more vitamin E. Good sources are nuts, seeds, creamy salad dressings, mayonnaise and avocados and products made with canola oil but always remember that all these foods are also high in fat so you need to monitor the consumption.
A word of caution
Too much salt in your diet will make you feel bloated and might make hot flushes worse and excess salt is bad for your heart and can contribute to bone loss by chasing away calcium. If you crave salt, try using different herbs and spices on your food instead and drink lots of water as it will help flush extra salt out of your body while keeping your skin and internal organs in shape.
Monika Seth/Nutritionist and diet consultant specialising in weight loss at Al Raffah Hospital