Dr. Sharolyn Dihigo, DNP, RN, CPNP-PC,FNP-C // Jun 05, 2019

Although menopause is a rite of passage for all women and some even celebrate this moment, the weight gain and hot flashes that come with it are not welcomed with as much enthusiasm.  Mood swings, irritability, and insomnia can take the merry right out of your holidays.  Add in a little holiday stress, and this can be a challenging time for most women, but you can take charge of your symptoms and help manage them through the food choices you make.

 

Hormone Balancing Foods for Perimenopause/Menopause

We’ve all heard it a thousand times – eat more fruits and vegetables!  But what I’d bet you didn’t know are which fruits and vegetables are best for keeping hormones balanced.

Phytoestrogens and cruciferous vegetables top the list.  Phytoestrogens are plant-based estrogens found in soy milk, tofu, pumpkin and sesame seeds, celery, rhubarb, and green beans.  These phytoestrogens can act like estrogen in the body and help diminish hot flashes and lessen the effects low estrogen levels can have on the body.  This type of plant-based estrogen is still considered controversial, but there are large amounts of research suggesting phytoestrogens actually lower the risk of breast and other cancers and help protect the heart and bones.

Green leafy vegetables supply vitamins A, K, and E and are rich in magnesium and calcium which help fight against menopausal bone loss.  Eating green leafy swiss chard helps fight off hot flashes.  

Cranberries really are great for the bladder, and many women tend to have more urinary tract infections post menopause.  Cranberries contain proanthocyanins, a substance which keeps bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall.

Apple and avocados provide fiber and help reduce inflammation, the root cause of most disease.  Apples also contain potassium, and avocados are a source of healthy fats.  Both are important for balanced hormones.   

Did you know red, irritated eyes can be a sign of menopause?  Eating heart-healthy fats such as salmon, coconut oil, olive oil, and nuts are high in omega 3 fatty acids.  The American diet is too high in omega 6 fatty acids which cause inflammation.  Omega 3 fatty acids help provide balance and protect the eyes and heart.

I also bet you did not know turkey can increase your libido!  Turkey has high amounts of the amino acids tryptophan and arginine. Tryptophan is an amino acid which helps your body create serotonin and melatonin, two very important neurotransmitters for happiness and sleep.  Arginine, another amino acid, increases blood flow and is known for increasing libido.

 

Foods to Avoid During Perimenopause/Menopause

Certain foods can make menopausal symptoms worse.  Processed foods, fast food, and foods high in carbohydrates contain a lot of sugar, trans fats, and salt.  When these foods are eaten, they cause spikes and crashes in the blood sugar.  This drastic rise and fall of insulin interfere with other hormones which in turn increase inflammation.  This chronic cycle can lead to weight gain and an increased risk of diabetes.

Drinking alcohol causes similar spikes in blood sugar and also disrupts hormones, but alcohol is best known for making hot flashes more severe.  Why is this?  A single cocktail, a glass of wine, or beer causes blood vessels to expand bringing more blood supply to the surface of the skin.  The skin starts to flush or increase in redness and warmth, therefore, making hot flashes worse.  The more cocktails you drink or the frequency of alcohol intake can increase the number of hot flashes and night sweats experienced. 

Hot beverages can cause the body temp to rise ever so slightly or make the skin flush which can cause a hot flash to begin. Have you ever enjoyed a cup of hot coffee until beads of perspiration developed? Hot beverages induce a feeling of warmth you may not want to have when you are peri or menopausal!

Hopefully, these tips will help you manage your symptoms so you can enjoy time with family and friends during any time of the year!  Eat well and be merry!

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