Menopause Symptoms And Nutrition

For many years, many doctors and healthcare professionals dismissed the concept that nutrition can have an impact on menopause. Part of the reason may be that physicians and other healthcare professionals get surprisingly little training and education in nutrition. 1 2 3 Another reason may have been that menopause had been characterized as an “estrogen deficiency” and there was a drug to treat that—the drug being the conjugated estrogens derived from animals or synthesized in the lab. Why worry about nutrition if all a physician had to do was write out a prescription?

Many in the healthcare fields began to notice the increase in a number of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity seemed to be related to the change in diet since the early 20th century—this change has been called the “nutrition transition”. 4 5 6 7 Others noticed that in countries that had recently gone through this “nutrition transition” began to experience the same increase in these diseases.

Now, menopause is most definitely NOT a disease, but people also began to notice that menopause seemed to be more difficult for more women than it has been historically. Why? Was it because no one had talked about menopause in polite company? Was it because women and their symptoms were ignored? Were women tougher then, and ignored symptoms or just accepted them? Or, was it because the number of women having difficulties was increasing? Currently, it does appear that the number of women experiencing the estrogen dominant type of menopause seems to be increasing. 8 9 10

Why?

Why would the numbers of women with too much unopposed estrogen (aka estrogen dominance) be increasing? There are a number of theories about this.

  • Diets low in fiber may cause estrogen dominance because estrogen is excreted by the bowels—and low fiber diets mean fewer bowel movements. This means that the estrogens could be re-absorbed because they are not excreted efficiently or quickly enough.
  • Xenoestrogens in the environment may be the source of increased estrogens in women’s (and men’s) bodies. Xenoestrogens are natural or synthetic compounds that act like estrogens. (The prefix “xeno” means “foreign”). Xenoestrogenic compounds include phthalate, dioxin, BPA, DDT and its breakdown product DDE), and PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls). These compounds are everywhere and can be stored in fat cells, remaining there for decades. The xenoestrogens are also implicated in a number of cancers, precocious puberty, decreasing sperm counts and other diseases or conditions.
  • Overloading the liver. One of the main functions of the liver is to eliminate any toxins that are byproducts of normal biochemical processes. It can also act on foreign substances such as drugs and environmental toxins to reduce their toxicity and help eliminate them. Sometimes—perhaps often—the liver simply can’t work fast enough to remove all the toxins we absorb!

So what can you do?

Diet can address all of these potential problems. Overall, you should make sure you are eating a wholesome diet, rich in complex carbohydrates (think whole grains and non-processed foods), quality protein, healthy fats (olive oil, fish, omega 3 fats), and lots and lots of fruit and vegetables. Take a quality multivitamin/mineral supplement and minimize snacks, junk food and sugar. You also want to nurture your normal gut bacteria—feed them with prebiotic foods such as asparagus, bananas, oatmeal, beans and legumes. Probiotic foods (those that provide you with healthy bacteria) include yogurt, sauerkraut, miso soup, and soft cheeses (gouda, brie, havarti).

  • Increase the amount of fiber in your diet by:
    • Increasing whole fruit (with rinds, if edible) and fresh vegetables
    • Increase the amount of whole grains consumed
    • Stay away from processed foods.
      • This reduces the amounts of pesticides and additives in your diet and also increases the fiber—processing often decreases the amount of fiber in foods.
      • This also will reduce the amount of sugar in your diet—take a few moments to read the labels of processed foods (you know, the ones that come in packages or boxes). You will likely be amazed at the amount of sugar that is in these foods.
  • Buy organic whenever possible.
    • Organic farmers don’t use pesticides or herbicides on their crops. Many of the most common pesticides contain xenoestrogens.
    • Buy from local farmer’s markets—especially if some of the organic products seem too expensive. Chances are you can find a local organic farmer who charges a bit less.
  • Increase the types of foods that help the liver.
    • Foods and Herbs that Love the Liver
      • Beets (don’t forget the beet greens!)
      • Leafy greens including spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, lettuce, turnip greens, kale, swiss chard.
      • Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage (green and purple)
      • Garlic and onions
      • Artichoke
      • Herbs such as turmeric (and curry), parsley, cilantro and milk thistle
      • Walnuts
      • Avocados
      • Grapefruit and lemons
      • Green tea
      • Dandelion root tea

These dietary habits will be beneficial long past your menopause. For more detailed information, read the article on the Anti-inflammatory diet and menopause!

Notes:

  1. Frantz DJ, Munroe C, McClave SA, Martindale R. Current perception of nutrition education in U.S. medical schools. Current Gastroenterology Reports 2011;13:376-9.
  2. Daghigh F, Vettori DJ, Harris J. Nutrition in medical education: history, current status, and resources. Topics in Clinical Nutrition 2011;26:147-57.
  3. Adams KM, Kohlmeier M, Powell M, Zeisel SH. Nutrition in medicine: nutrition education for medical students and residents. Nutrition In Clinical Practice: Official Publication Of The American Society For Parenteral And Enteral Nutrition 2010;25:471-80.
  4. Shetty P. Nutrition transition and its health outcomes. Indian Journal Of Pediatrics 2013;80 Suppl 1:S21-S7.
  5. Sharma S, Gittelsohn J, Rosol R, Beck L. Addressing the public health burden caused by the nutrition transition through the Healthy Foods North nutrition and lifestyle intervention programme. Journal of Human Nutrition & Dietetics 2010;23:120-7.
  6. Popkin BM, Adair LS, Ng SW. Global nutrition transition and the pandemic of obesity in developing countries… [corrected] [published erratum appears in NUTR REV 2012; 70(4):256]. Nutrition Reviews 2012;70:3-21.
  7. Mattei J, Malik V, Wedick NM, et al. A symposium and workshop report from the Global Nutrition and Epidemiologic Transition Initiative: nutrition transition and the global burden of type 2 diabetes. British Journal of Nutrition 2012;108:1325-35.
  8. Singh A, Kaur S, Walia I. A historical perspective on menopause and menopausal age. Bulletin Of The Indian Institute Of History Of Medicine (Hyderabad) 2002;32:121-35.
  9. Jasen P. Menopause and historical constructions of cancer risk. Canadian Bulletin Of Medical History = Bulletin Canadien D’histoire De La Médecine 2011;28:43-70.
  10. Dillaway HE, Burton J. “Not done yet?!” Women discuss the “end” of menopause. Women’s Studies 2011;40:149-76.

Speak Your Mind

*