There isn’t such a thing as a perfect diet for the menopause. Like at any other time in our lives we have to find a nutrition plan that suits us as individuals. This isn’t an answer that you probably want to hear. You want yet another diet plan to follow right??
One thing that is guaranteed is that the diet you followed in your 30’s will not serve you as well in your 40’s and beyond. What do I mean? Well when we are younger, our hormones are generally more in balanced, our metabolism is running higher and our bodies are more resilient we can ‘get away’ with eating more rubbish foods and perhaps doing hours of cardio.
As we enter the peri-menopause years our body’s needs change. The flux in hormones causes us to become more insulin resistant which means that we cannot get away with eating as many carbs. That sucks!! Our liver cannot deal with the toxins we used to throw at it in our 20’s and 30’s. Our liver is super important during the menopause transition. We need it to be working better than ever to keep doing its work including the processing and distribution of hormones and the removal of excess hormones. If our liver is overburdened with toxins from our diet it cannot function optimally and will make menopause symptoms worse. Our adrenals are feeling tired and our bodies cannot deal with stress the way it used to.
Like it or not we have to make some changes to our nutrition, not only to avoid weight gain but to have energy, sleep well and have buckets of menopausal mojo. Use the menopause as an excuse to take responsibility for your health and wellbeing and not as an excuse to give up!!
When making change to your diet we work in different ways; some like to go head first into a massive life change type of plan where you change everything overnight and some like to make gradual changes.
I have tried both ways with myself and clients and I see the most success long term with the slower approach. I understand that women sometimes want a quick fix to either feel better or to lose weight. Let’s get this straight…..nothing changes fast during the peri-menopause!! The majority of women who go on fast fix diets will only last a few weeks (if they are lucky). Willpower is not a great resource to rely on, it only last short term. We all have good intentions in the morning right? But by the evening we are sitting with a glass of wine and a packet of crisps feeling rubbish about ourselves that we have blown it again!
The way I find WORKS MUCH BETTER is to start to add nutritious healthy foods into the diet BEFORE we start to remove or cut down on our foody crutches. I call it ‘nutrient loading’ the body. You fill it with all the vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fibre, water etc that it is craving (those cravings we sometimes replace with eating rubbish). When your body has all the nutrients it needs it will naturally crave less crappy foods. No will power needed… cool huh?
So before even thinking about removing the crap add much more of the green stuff into your diet. Eat veggies with EVERY MEAL, yes including breakfast. How you start your day influences how you end it. If you start your day with a bowl of (pretty much nutrient devoid dead beige food ) cereal then you will probably crave starchy carbs all day. If you start your day with boiled eggs with asparagus soldiers then the opposite may be true. J
Once you have started consuming lots of different varieties of greens, think kale, spinach, green beans, broccoli etc. you will naturally start to balance blood sugar levels.
It is important to keep our blood sugar (glucose) levels balanced for a few reasons. It will reduce stress on your body, balance energy levels (especially the afternoon slump) and help cravings.
click here to read more about the importance of balancing blood sugar levels
Once you have added veggies and keep you blood sugar levels more balanced you should already be feeling much better, more energy and better sleep J
Now you are in a much better position and mind-set to start to think about removing or reducing the foods that are causing a burden on your body.
Are you ready for the list of things that need to go or lessen to support you during the menopause transition? No one likes to give up the things they love and perhaps rely on so we have to change our thinking about them. Try and think about this as a chance to show yourself some compassion and self-love. Take it easy on yourself, no punishing regimes!! Look after and love your body and it will forgive all the more harmful ways you have treated it in the past. The PM (peri-menopause) is an amazing opportunity to take charge of your wellbeing.
To reduce the burden on our bodies we need to reduce/remove caffeine, sugar, gluten, dairy, processed foods and alcohol. Yikes!!! That’s a lot of crutches right? How will I live without them I hear you cry!
Do not get rid of them all at once unless you have a sooper dooper mind-set and won’t end up bingeing on them all after a while. That’s can be pattern if I’m not vigilant. Hey, I‘m only human, tell me I can’t have something and I automatically want MORE, MORE, MORE!!
If you are a caffeine junkie then reduce caffeine slowly or you will feel like shit! Caffeine withdrawal headaches are hideous! BUT once your body gets used to running without it you will have MUCH MORE ENERGY J and a more restful sleep. You will be giving you poor overworked adrenals glands a well need holiday. More about this in another blog.
High gluten content can cause problems with the thyroid, something you need to love and cherish as it is the thing that keeps your metabolism running. Low thyroid means low energy, mood swings, weight gain, dry skin, constipation…..oh hang-on that sounds like menopause symptoms?? Coincidence? Nope! Again thyroid is another blog post!
Gluten sensitivity is more and more common for various reasons and causes different symptoms like gastric type issues (bloating, IBS etc), low energy, headaches, aches and pains. Hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease in 90% of cases. Studies show that there is a link between autoimmune hypothyroidism and gluten sensitivity.
Why does this happen? The molecular structure of gliadin, the protein portion of gluten, closely resembles that of the thyroid gland. When gliadin breaks through the protective barrier of the gut, and enters the bloodstream, the immune system attacks it. These antibodies to gliadin also cause the body to attack thyroid tissue.
The kind of dairy most people eat is pretty highly processed, it’s also high in carbs. Now I understand that calcium is important for us menopausal women but you can get you calcium from other foods. Check out these foods http://greatist.com/health/18-surprising-dairy-free-sources-calcium
Alcohol is empty calories, a HUGE load on the liver and lowers you defences to eating rubbish foods. There are other ways to relax and chill out. The occasional tipple won’t do you any harm but make sure they are occasional and watch your menopause symptoms disappear.
To wrap it up
- Balance blood sugar levels
- Eat foods as close to nature as possible
- Watch the old carb intake
- Keep your HEC in check
- Avoid food/drink that burden the body
- Add in lots of gorgeous green stuff to feel vibrant and kick cravings out
- Keep hydrated
- Be grateful for your food – yes sounds crazy but it works
- Use the hunger monitor
- Eat mindfully
- add good fats – omega 3’s from fish, flax seeds
- Increase your intake of phyto-oestrogens by eating more: fermented soy products (tofu, tempeh and miso), linseeds (flax), pumpkins seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, celery, rhubarb and green beans.
- Ensure you eat enough protein foods which contain the amino acid tryptophan.Tryptophan helps make the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin helps lift moods and may help control sleep and appetite.