Hot flashes, weight gain, mood changes, and so much more begin to plague women in their early 50’s and some even in their 40’s. It all begins with the less talked about perimenopause. Perimenopause is where estrogen levels begin to decrease and the woman’s body begins to make the very much erratic transition to menopause. Progesterone, which is the female hormone that regulates ovulations and menstruation also begins to decline once menstruation ends. According to the Mayo Clinic, Perimenopause usually begins in a woman in her 40’s but can begin as early as mid-30’s. One year after the last period is when menopause officially begins. Hooray!
It is no secret that most women who enter menopause start to notice weight gain. This is mostly due to the decrease in estrogen. According to Colleen Keller, Professor and Director of Arizona State University’s Center for Healthy Outcomes in Aging, states that “due to a loss of estrogen, fat is metabolized differently. It’s actually laid down differently in the body as subcutaneous fat,” which is the deepest layer of fat.” So, what can you do to avoid this weight gain? Well, while you can’t avoid menopause, you can help reduce symptoms and weight gain through proper nutrition and exercise.
Of course, you want to consume a well-balanced diet consisting of foods high in vitamins, minerals, and other vital nutrients, but you might also want to consider adding soy into your diet. Soy has been found to reduce menopausal symptoms due to soy containing chemical compounds called isoflavones. According to Webster’s Dictionary, Isoflavone is a plant compound possessing antioxidants and estrogenic activity in the body. Once in your body, soy isoflavones essentially bind to the same receptors as estrogen. Because they mimic estrogen, soy might help reduce hot flashes and other symptoms that come along with menopause. Try consuming more foods such as tofu, edamame, soy milk, and even supplements to help alleviate the not so pleasant symptoms.
Next up is foods to avoid. It is no surprise that foods high in sugar lack nutritional value, but did you know they can actually worsen your menopausal symptoms? High blood sugar has been linked to higher rates of hot flashes. Consuming highly processed foods or foods with added sugars can rapidly raise your blood sugar levels, therefore, limiting your intake of added sugars from foods such as white bread, baked goods, crackers, chips, sodas, etc. can help reduce hot flashes. US guidelines recommend keeping your added sugar intake to less than 10% of your daily caloric intake – so, if you eat a 2,000-calorie diet, less than 200 calories should come from added sugars. Lastly, caffeine.
Studies have shown that caffeine can trigger hot flashes in women going through menopause. Another factor to consider is that caffeine is known to interrupt sleep depending on the timing of consuming. Depending on how much coffee you drink, it can take up to 8 hours for it to completely work its way through your system. We already know that women going through menopause have sleep issues, so I recommend eliminating caffeine to see how it affects your hot flashes and other symptoms.
Although diet is important to pay closer attention to when going through menopause, physical activity is as well. I would be remised if I ended this here without at least mentioning the importance of exercise. As you age, you lose bone and lean muscle mass and tissue. It is important to include weight training into your exercise routine to maintain muscle. Cardio is equally as important not only for weight management, but also for your mental health as well. Menopause can leave you with unstable moods, so incorporating jogging, walking, biking, and other activities into your routine can help stabilize your mood and weight at the same time.