Menopause is part of the natural aging process and yet what happens to a woman during this time hardly seems natural from her usual state.
Menopause officially is termed “menopause” when periods cease without a spot for at least 12 months. But this is not determined by a straight line, one day you are menstruating and the next day you aren’t. What hits between the lines is called perimenopause which is characterized by discomfort, irregular periods, either shorter or longer cycles, hot flushes, irritability and more.
Hormones may be in complete disarray. The physical and emotional symptoms of menopause can disrupt sleep, cause low energy and — at least indirectly — trigger mood swings and feelings of sadness and loss. Because of these symptoms, many women seek treatment in the form of medication, supplements, and dietary changes. The following suggestions may help you feel at your best and maintain optimal health as your body changes.
-Eat a healthy and balanced diet. Cliché. But apt. You may see weight changes, let this not trigger emotions that make you feel like you need to starve your body to maintain those numbers on the scale. Eat clean, eat healthily, your body will finally settle down. Stick with those foods that you are comfortable with and seek professional help if you feel that despite your best efforts your weight seems to be on the rise.
-Follow a heart-healthy diet. Perimenopause & menopause could raise your risk of heart disease. Limit saturated fat, trans fat, too much sugar, and carbohydrates. Replace these with a mix of omega 3 fats like nuts, fish and an eclectic mix of ghee & nut/seed oils for cooking, dark chocolate is a brilliant addition that acts like an antioxidant and a service for sweet cravings!
-Meet your calcium and vitamin D needs. This is important to maintain healthy bones and prevent bone loss that can happen after menopause. Good food sources of calcium include dairy products (panir, yogurt, and cheese), seeds and nuts, fish with the bones. Do explore omega 3 supplements and do not shy off regular Vit D supplementation.
-Being physically active is important. Physical activity helps to maintain that healthy weight, keeps bones strong and energy levels up, decreases the risk of heart disease and other age-related complications. When you exercise, think FIT: “F” for frequency, “I” for intensity or pace, and “T” for time. All are important, but frequency comes first so aim for a small amount of exercise every day. As you get used to moving more, you can quicken the pace and keep going a little longer. Do not over-exercise. It will just tire you out. A combination of cardio and weights (twice a week) backed by good food eating practices may be ideal for most.
-Flaxseeds, sesame seeds, methi, oat, and barley are phytoestrogens that could raise estrogen levels in the body which may be useful during perimenopause but its effects have not been really understood completely. Yet including a small amount of these regularly (2-3 times a week) in your diet as a group may prove to be beneficial.
-Vit E, magnesium, calcium, B6, B12 & other b-complex vitamins are important during this phase, speak to your doctor about how you can supplement these with a regular multivitamin.
Perimenopause is a phase but can be a difficult one. A woman needs support from family and close ones during this time. Her body may change in more ways than she understands or can handle. And hence this article is not just for a woman. It’s for the family that she has helped nurture for the better part of her life.
By Anupama Menon
Nutritionist and Food Coach
Anupama Menon is a nutritionist and food coach based in Mumbai and Bangalore offering sustainable nutritional plans with 3 chEATs per week.