Menopause: The time in a woman’s life when her body changes (again), weight gain is near impossible to stop, emotions swing like a Foucalt Pendulum, and every night she wakes up soaked in sweat even when the temperature is 70 degrees.
While the hormone changes are inevitable, there are ways to combat or at least minimize the symptoms of menopause.
Not only do hormones cause weight gain during menopause, but the simple fact is that our metabolism slows down every year as we get older. Certain foods may also exacerbate symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and, of course, weight gain. The most common culprit is sugar. To help mitigate symptoms during menopause, reducing intake of sugar is important. In addition to sugar, alcohol (which gets metabolized as sugar), and starchy carbohydrates (again, gets metabolized as sugar) should also be reduced. Even though women may feel the need to drink alcohol to cope with the mood swings, the body converts the alcohol into sugar, exacerbating the symptoms, thus a vicious cycle.
Another important thing to consider as women start to go through menopause is the loss of bone strength. Foods and supplements containing calcium and vitamin D are even more important as estrogen levels drop during menopause to prevent or reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
To counteract the mood swings and fatigue, women in menopause should make sure their diets contain plenty of B-6 and B-12 to help with serotonin levels and overall energy levels.
- Eat plenty of plant-based foods (fruits, veggies, nuts, legumes)
- Avoid excess sugars (starchy carbs, sweets, alcohol)
- Eat lean meats
- Increase Vitamin D, Calcium and B-Vitamin intake
Another way to fight back against the symptoms of menopause is through consistent exercise. As mentioned above, dropping estrogen levels cause bone loss and strength training is a great way to at least maintain or slow the loss of strength and bone density. Performing 1-2 days a week of strength training is beneficial both in building muscle mass, improving metabolism and reducing the symptoms of menopause.
In addition to strength training, cardiovascular or aerobic exercise is also important for women going through menopause. The combination of resistance and cardiovascular training will help minimize weight gain that usually occurs during menopause as well as hopefully stimulate weight loss after menopause.
And, if anything, consistent exercise during menopause helps with the emotional ups and downs experienced during this time.
While menopause can turn a woman into a wild animal prone to a flaring temper with an internal furnace burning inside her body at the same time leaving her crying at a sappy commercial and sleepless from night sweats, the benefit of eating a balanced, variety of food, lots of fruits and vegetables, minimizing sugar intake and getting consistent exercise will help women win the battle and tame the beast known as menopause.