Nutrition During Menopause
The nutritional needs for women in menopause are important to understand. As women reach the time in their lives where their bodies stop producing estrogen, their physical makeup and needs begin to change, and nutrition during menopause becomes important. There are some naturopaths and doctors who believe that menopause is a window of opportunity for eliminating toxins from the body, and that’s just one part of how menopausal women can focus on getting healthier than ever. First we’ll focus on some of the key nutrients that are vital to women going through menopause.
Calcium, Vitamin D, and Iron
Calcium is a very important mineral for menopausal women to consume, as there is a major decline in bone mass during menopause, which can lead to brittle bones and injury. Brittle bones tend to fracture very easily, so an increased intake of foods rich in calcium and vitamin D are crucial as preventive measures. Strong food sources of calcium are green leafy vegetables and grass-fed organic dairy. Herbs such as watercress, alfalfa, parsley, and dandelion (to name a few) are also known to be high in calcium and vitamin D.
Of course, the easiest and most natural way to get vitamin D is by exposure to sunlight, which helps the body to absorb calcium. The ideal time of day for sun exposure is between 12:00pm and 2:00pm. 15 to 20 minutes of sun per day is all that is needed to get a full day’s supply of vitamin D.
Iron is another important nutrient that menopausal women should consume; this mineral plays a key role in keeping hemoglobin levels stable in the blood, a process which is necessary to support the respiratory system. Other reasons to take iron include the prevention of mood swings, weakness, and irritation, which are all symptoms of iron deficiency. Food sources of iron include: organic grass-fed liver, eggs, and green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin E and B-Complex
Taking vitamins is a healthy habit that should be embraced by menopausal women, specifically vitamin E. Hot flashes are a common and well-known side effect of menopause, and lack of vitamin E is a major contributor. When the function of reproductive organs starts to decline, vitamin E deficiency causes mixed signals in body temperature, which affects the hypothalamus (a section of the brain responsible for the production of many hormones).
Vitamin E can be taken as capsules but can also be found in food sources such as broccoli, kale, avocado, parsley, almonds, and spinach. Menopausal women should make a great effort to consume foods and herbs that contain important vitamins and minerals. Cooking with herbs can provide another great benefit for women going through menopause: some herbs contain saponins, which are believed to act as hormone stabilizers. Herbs like wild yam, licorice, ginseng, passion flower, sassafras, black cohosh, dong quai, and lady’s slipper all contain saponins.
- Evening Primrose: A rich source of EFAs valuable in maintaining hormonal health, in their purest, solvent-free supercritical form
- Schizandra: Treasured Oriental fruit which aids liver detoxification and is traditionally revered for promoting healthy sexual function
- Black Cohosh: Europe’s most popular phytoestrogenic, balancing tonic
- Vitex: Scientifically shown to promote hormonal balance, assisting women through all the changes of life
- Ginger: Counters a wide range of inflammatory compounds, offers many anti-aging constituents that inactivate disruptive free radicals
- Rosemary: Nature’s rich source of anti-aging constituents, including phytonutrients that optimize memory
Be sure to discuss any herbal supplements with your doctor before adding them to your dietary regimen, especially if you take other medications.
Probiotics are another important supplement for menopausal women. Not only are they important for keeping the bowel regular but, with the right balance of beneficial microflora, the body can more successfully fight off allergens and infections (including viral, fungal and bacterial infections).
Sample Meal Plans for Women in Menopause
Here are some examples of meals (including supplements) rich in nutrients valuable to menopausal women:
- Probiotic supplement
- Two eggs with 4 oz. of liver
- Mixed green leafy vegetable salad with almonds
- Tea made with ½ oz. elderflower, ½ oz. black cohosh, ½ oz. motherwort, and ½ oz. partridge berry
- 4 oz. of grass-fed meat
- One wild yam
- Salad with dandelions, green leafy vegetables, fermented cabbage (contains probiotics and live enzymes), and a hard-boiled egg
Closing Recommendations for Women in Menopause
For long term well-being, through menopause and beyond, it is beneficial to consume nutrient-dense food every day, get plenty of rest, daily sun exposure, and exercise. Avoid caffeine, salt, and sugar, as they deplete the body of important vitamins and minerals and accelerate the aging process. Drink plenty of clean water, and always project a positive attitude.