How can nutrition help to alleviate perimenopause and menopause symptoms? Viridian Nutrition’s Jenny Carson shares her top 5 nutrients to support you through.
Menopause – the basics
During perimenopause and menopause our bodies stop producing as much oestrogen and progesterone hormones. The result can be dozens of symptoms including irregular periods, hot flushes, unexplained bloating, headache or migraine, or dizziness, besides low mood, fatigue or feelings of irritation and tension.
The NHS estimate that 8 in 10 women will be symptomatic. What’s more, these symptoms can be experienced up to 10 years prior to a confirmed menopause, and they can continue for up to 4 years after the end of menstruation too.
In total, that could be up to 14 years of symptoms, which can have a huge impact on quality of life, mood, and health.
Many women choose Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) to help with symptoms, while for others it’s not possible or they may decide HRT isn’t for them.
Either way, for all women it’s important to look at how your whole lifestyle is contributing to easing or worsening your symptoms. This includes looking at your activity & exercise levels, diet, and sleep routine.
Top 5 Nutrients for perimenopause and menopause to help with your body’s transition
Magnesium is involved in over 300 body processes, including hormone production. Check your diet for foods which contain magnesium, such as leafy greens, avocado, nuts, and seeds. If they are few and far between then a few tweaks and possibly a food supplement can help. Research reported that magnesium with vitamin B6 gave relief to anxiety-related premenstrual symptoms that are also experienced during menopause, such as nervous tension, mood swings, irritability, or anxiety. The Migraine Trust also says that magnesium may offer relief from migraines, this evidence is supported by research which showed a reduction in pain severity of migraine plus other menstrual symptoms in response to magnesium.
Essential fatty acids are dietary fats. Our body needs a good balance of omega 6 and omega 3 essential fatty acids, which are termed ‘essential’ as the body cannot produce them and so, we must consume them. Western diets tend to contain omega 6 fatty acids in processed foods made with vegetable oils and packaged snacks. It’s important to also get enough omega 3 too – and a healthy ratio of 2:1 omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids is considered the best balance to support your body’s needs.
How is this linked to the menopause, you may ask? Oestrogen has an anti-inflammatory effect, so menopause can be considered ‘inflammatory’ since oestrogen production is lower. This may contribute to menopausal symptoms, especially tension, anxiety, mood, and fatigue. Omega 3 fatty acids are associated with lower levels of inflammation and with improved cellular structure. Omega 3 food supplements are either fish oils or marine alga, where just one teaspoon can provide the perfect dose.
Sage is an age-old remedy for menopausal symptoms, commonly used by herbalists. This is because of its phytoestrogen content. Phytoestrogens are ‘plant derived non-steroidal oestrogens’ that are far milder than our own oestrogen. So, phytoestrogens during and after menopause may buffer the symptoms of menopause. A recent study confirmed these considerations, it reported improved menopausal symptoms such as flushing, night sweat, heart palpitations, muscle and joint pain, depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, and sexual desire in response to sage extract.
Red clover, is another traditional herb. What makes red clover so special is that its beneficial effects are not just due to the phytoestrogen content but also to the isoflavone irilone. These compounds are considered to buffer both oestrogen and progesterone. A 2014 report combined the findings from 11 research trials to conclude that red clover had a positive effect on hot flushes and a small, beneficial change on hormones.
Maca root is a parsnip-like root vegetable that grows in several colours in the Andes within Peru. It is considered that the best maca grows at 4,000-4,500 metres altitude. Maca has historical native use for energy and stamina, however in recent times it is used to support the stress response. Researchers suggest that maca may support our brains in how we respond to stress, which in turn may improve perimenopausal symptoms. This is supported by a two-month intervention trial which reported a reduction in body weight, blood pressure, was supportive of balanced hormones and alleviated negative physiological and psychological symptoms, such as, the frequency of hot flushes, incidence in night sweating, interrupted sleep pattern, nervousness, depression, and heart palpitations in perimenopausal women.
Making changes to your diet and nutritional intake can help during perimenopause and menopause, however it is also important to support this with lifestyle adaptions.
Hormone changes can place additional load on the liver, so it would be worthwhile reducing your alcohol consumption.
Look at swapping to natural and chemical-free personal and cleaning products to reduce toxin exposures and ultimately reduce the load that the liver must process to efficiently detoxify the body.
Menopause is a physical stressor and so stress management techniques may also be useful, such as mindfulness, walking in nature, yoga, reading or meditation.
A good sleep routine is really important – as sleep during both peri- and menopause can be disrupted. Ensure you have a quiet, dark and cool bedroom, while reducing your exposure to blue back lit screens (i.e our mobile phones!) and running a bath can help you to unwind and encourage sleep.
It can sound like a lot of dietary and lifestyle changes to implement. However, start with just one or two things and over a period of weeks slowly add more – and be kind to yourself if you forget some or progress isn’t as fast as you would like.
Overall, a few dietary and lifestyle tweaks should offer some help with menopausal symptoms. Especially if you choose one of the suggested food supplements.
- Omega-3 essential fatty acids
- Red Clover
Look for high quality food supplements which provide 100% nutrition and are free from additives, sugar and bulking or flow agents. Botanicals such as sage, red clover and maca are available certified organic, as is fish oil from organic river fish. To discuss your personal food supplement requirements, contact your nearest local health food stores by visiting www.findahealthstore.com
Author: Jenny Carson, MRes, BSc (Hons) is a Senior Nutritionist at ethical vitamin company Viridian Nutrition. She has over 5 years’ experience supporting people with nutritional health advice. She recently completed a Master of Research(MRes) in Public Health, giving her a wide understanding of public health nutrition. Her other focus areas include ageing, dealing with stress, peri and post-menopause, detox and mood. For more information visit www.viridian-nutrition.com
This article is for information purposes and does not refer to any individual products. The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a health practitioner. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have a pre-existing health condition or are currently taking medication. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet.
This article is a paid partnership with Viridian Nutrition
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