Menopause is a time when a woman’s body goes through major changes. Some may be due to the natural transformations that come with aging. Others are produced when a woman stops generating the hormones that regulate her menstrual periods. In many women, these changes can trigger vasomotor symptoms (VMS) such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, insomnia, night sweats, depression, and loss of interest in sex. Weight gain is common among women going through the change.
Fortunately, a healthy diet can help you weather these symptoms, and it can also help ward off heart disease and osteoporosis, two of the biggest health threats facing all women as they age. Although there isn’t much science to back up many of the claims that what you eat can definitely prevent menopausal symptoms, you can help yourself by eating the right diet and avoiding foods that can make your symptoms worse.
Can diet help control hot flashes?
What you eat may not be as important as eating regular meals. Much of the research available today about the effect of different foods, such as soy, on menopausal symptoms are inconclusive, but at least one small study found that eating regular meals may help to suppress hot flashes, while going without food for too long may increase the number of hot flashes.
It’s also a good idea to limit alcohol, caffeine, and spicy food. If you’re a smoker, you should try to quit. Cigarette smoke can trigger hot flashes in some women.
As more research is done into the connection between diet and menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, researchers are starting to conclude there is no single food or diet plan that will work for all women.
A range of factors from climate to lifestyle and attitudes about aging may also influence symptoms. Some researchers believe that foods rich in soy protein minimize hot flashes because they contain soy isoflavones, which can act like estrogen in the body. But studies on this effect are inconclusive.
Flaxseed, an alternative to soy, is getting increasing attention, however. One small study found that flaxseed decreased the frequency of hot flashes by 50 percent in menopausal women not taking hormone replacement therapy. Ground flaxseed can be sprinkled over salads or cereal, blended into smoothies, or taken as a flaxseed oil supplement.
An herbal supplement commonly taken to treat hot flashes is black cohosh. However, the studies that have been done on black cohosh were small and produced inconsistent results. Herbal medicines are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so you should talk to your doctor about any herbal product you take.
How can I keep my bones strong?
Calcium is critical to maintaining healthy bones, particularly during and after menopause when the body stops producing estrogen. There is a clear relationship between menopause-related estrogen deficiency and the development of osteoporosis. Try to eat or drink