Menopause is basically the cessation of menstruation characterised by a drop in the levels of hormones estrogen and progesterone, typically occurring at the age of 45-55 years. Estrogen is mainly a female sex hormone associated with normal menstruation and more importantly with maintenance of skin tension, stabilizing the bones, preventing bone loss, increasing good (HDL) cholesterol, decreasing bad (LDL) cholesterol levels in blood, and protecting against heart problems. Lowering of the normal estrogen levels is responsible for the noticeable increase in waist circumference among postmenopausal women. Basically, all the protective functions of estrogens are lost once women enter into menopause which requires women to take greater care of their diet and lifestyle.
Common symptoms of menopause include:
- Heart pounding or racing
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Skin flushing
- Sleeping problems (insomnia)
Other symptoms may include
- Forgetfulness (in some women)
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Mood swings including irritability, depression, and anxiety
- Urine leakage
- Vaginal dryness and painful sexual intercourse
- Vaginal infections
- Joint aches and pains
- Irregular heartbeat
Possible dietary measures to control menopause symptom:
Soy– Soy contains phytoestrogens which have estrogen like properties. Some experts believe that consuming soy on regular basis can help provide relief from hot flashes but this theory still needs to be substantiated. Meanwhile, soy has cholesterol lowering properties and has a meat-like texture which makes it a better substitute to red meat as a good source of protein. Soy milk in different flavours is now available which can be consumed on a daily basis by menopausal women.
Fruits and vegetables – Fruits and vegetables contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals and are low in fat. Plums, prunes, strawberries, apples, grapes, tomatoes, beet, cabbage, onion, carrots, etc contain boron which has estrogen binding properties and prevents loss of calcium from the body thereby preventing bone problems. Fiber from fruits and vegetables can help in weight loss, lowering blood sugar and reducing risk of metabolic disorders.
Good quality fats– It is important to avoid foods that contain saturated fats such as butter, ghee, margarine, full fat milk, red meat, etc which increase the risk of developing heart problems. Food sources that contain omega 3 fatty acids such as rice bran oil, mustard oil, soyabean oil, flaxseeds (alsi), fatty fish (salmon, mackerel,etc), walnuts, and almonds should be encouraged in the diet of menopausal women so as to protect them form inflammatory conditions and cardiovascular diseases.
Choosing right beverages– The most nourishing fluid for the body is water; hence it is vital to maintain a good intake of atleast 6-8 glasses in a day to flush out toxins from the body. Also, green tea, fresh fruit juices, lime juice, etc can help reduce the heat generated in the body during menopause.
Calcium rich foods- Since estrogen plays a role in preventing calcium loss from the body, post-menopausal women are at increased risk of osteoporosis. They should make conscious efforts to increase calcium intake through diet. Food sources rich in calcium are low fat milk, curds, dark green leafy vegetables, etc.
Menopause is a very significant phase in every woman’s life, both physiologically and mentally. Before menopause, women are naturally protected from several metabolic disorders compared to men due to their hormonal constitution. The hormonal alterations require tremendous diet and lifestyle modifications. Emphasis on small frequent meals to prevent weight gain is very vital with the incorporation of more fiber, vitamins, and minerals in the diet. In this phase, it is of utmost importance to incorporate regular exercise plan into the daily routine so as to maintain long term good health. Increased physical activity through exercise not only gives a boost to the metabolism but also relaxes the body warding off risk of stress related diseases. Yoga and pranayama are also beneficial in relieving stress. Family support and co-operation along with positive encouragement can help women overcome the various side effects associated with menopause.
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