Unexplained weight gain? Ugh. Here are food options to help manage the risks of menopause

Menopause happens so gradually that we almost don’t know it’s happening until our body weight changes and nothing we’ve done to control our weight doesn’t work anymore.

Our Type A personalities can’t understand why eating exactly the same things and exercising the same way don’t produce the results they used to. Other menopausal dangers begin to emerge—hot flashes, sweating, body aches, insomnia—opening a pit of helplessness and frustration.

Dr. Susan Oakley, a female urologist from St. Elizabeth who specializes in pelvic reconstructive surgery, addresses these concerns and more on her podcast, The Lady Bod. Through its input and other resources, The Enquirer wants to help women navigate menopause as it relates to food and fitness. (Middle-aged men can also use these nutritional tips.)

Blueberries are a superfood antioxidant that many doctors dealing with gut health recommend as breakfast.

What are some sudden symptoms of menopause?

Menopause occurs 12 months after the last menstrual period. Perimenopause – the period before menopause when the ovaries gradually stop working – begins between the ages of 40 and 44 but can occur as early as the 30s. Night sweats, belly fat, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood changes, changes in body fat distribution, sleep changes and weight gain are the most common symptoms of this stage of life.

However, don’t necessarily expect some to come: joint pain. Food intolerance. Hair growth and hair loss in unwanted places. brain fog Pelvic muscle spasms (vaginismus). Gum disease. body odor. tingling in your extremities Heart palpitations.

It’s important for your mental health to remember that weight fluctuations around menopause have more to do with hormones like insulin, cortisol, and leptin than willpower, although regulation of these hormones can often be done through proper nutrition and exercise.

What is leptin and how does it affect menopause?

A lesser-known hormone that wanes slightly with menopause is leptin, which wanes along with estrogen. In short, Leptin is your body’s stop sign that tells you when you’ve had enough. Overeating and restrictive diets may be a cause of imbalanced leptin levels.

You may be eating healthy foods but not paying attention to how much you’re eating because, well, you don’t feel full. Eat plenty of high-quality protein — poultry, red meat, eggs, and Greek yogurt — and try to use smaller plates or bowls when limiting portions.

What can you do to help with insulin resistance?

What nutritional supplements or increased use in food can relieve menopausal symptoms?

Sometimes a woman in menopause can’t get all the nutrients she needs through food, so supplementation is a must. Vitamins and supplements are considered drugs when filling out doctor or hospital paperwork, so be sure to check with your primary care physician to see if any of these suggested nutrients, in food or supplement form, might be right for you. Here is a sampling of supplements that can help before and after menopause.

  • magnesium Besides helping to maintain strong bones to ward off osteoporosis, magnesium helps treat menopausal symptoms such as difficulty sleeping and depression. These heart-healthy nutrients can be found in dark chocolate, leafy green vegetables, seeds and whole grains.

  • Vitamin D While vitamin D is best found through sun exposure, the vitamin can help postmenopausal women with infections, hot flashes, maintain brain focus, depression, bone health, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Many foods are fortified with vitamin D, such as milk, cereal, and orange juice, but it can also be found in fatty fish like salmon.

  • Omega 3 Women who suffer from joint pain, hot flashes, depression, vaginal dryness, and osteoporosis may find relief by taking omega-3 fatty acids. It also helps lower triglycerides, which is good for heart health. Foods rich in omega-3s include chia seeds, flaxseeds, oily fish such as tuna or sardines, walnuts, spinach, eggs and soybeans.

  • calcium Another important reason to take vitamin D is to help absorb calcium, which is vital for maintaining bone mass and preventing osteoporosis. Sources of calcium include dairy products, beans, nuts, dark leafy green vegetables, and fortified orange juice.

  • Vitamin C Vitamin C is known to boost immunity, and is also important for collagen production in the body, which is essential for skin vitality. The antioxidant nutrient is another way to help with hot flashes.

  • biotin –

  • Vitamin B6 or 12

  • turmeric –

  • Prenatal vitamin – Dr. Oakley said you can get most, if not all, of these supplements simply by taking a prenatal vitamin, which should not only be used by expectant mothers.

  • strofen She also suggested using Estroven, which is a botanical supplement that helps relieve common symptoms. Depending on the version purchased, the product can target specific symptoms or provide comprehensive help. Some oncologists may not recommend this for cancer patients, she said, so it’s best to check with your doctor before trying this over-the-counter supplement.

What can I do now?

  • drink water“Dilution will always be the answer to pollution,” said Dr. Oakley. She said menopausal women really need to drink 64 ounces of water a day for bowel and bladder health. She said to avoid coffee, tea and soda.

  • Watch for inflammation: Estrogen is a natural anti-inflammatory. When the estrogen hormone starts to wane in the body, the joints and other parts of the body start to ache. Check out anti-inflammatory diets — like the Mediterranean diet — or be aware of foods that reduce inflammation like tomatoes, dark chocolate (not a typo), berries, and fatty fish (salmon, tuna).

  • Discover a new food intolerance: OB-GYNs may recommend a FODMAP elimination diet to help with this task, bloating, or other gut health issues. Simply put, you stick to a certain list of foods for a few weeks and then reintroduce the prohibited foods into your diet to see what causes the problems. You might be surprised to learn that foods you tolerated before without issue are causing you problems now. Gluten, enriched flour, dairy products, and refined sugar are a few examples. Once you cut them out of your diet, you will be shocked to find that your body isn’t inflamed and your joints don’t ache like they used to.

  • Phytoestrogen foods: Dr. Oakley recommends incorporating phytoestrogens into your diet such as leafy green vegetables, garlic, and soybeans.

  • clean eating Avoid processed foods, fried foods, and products that contain preservatives. Focus on fresh meats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Read labels to see what ingredients are in foods. Replace unhealthy ingredients with healthy versions, such as extra virgin olive oil for vegetable oil, oatmeal or almond/nut flour instead of enriched flour, or Greek yogurt for sour cream.

  • proteinBe intentional about eating good protein at every meal. Small changes in your macronutrients (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates) can go a long way in controlling midlife weight gain.

  • Added sugar, added pounds: Those who follow Dr. Marie-Claire Haver, M.D., board-certified in ob-gyn and certified in culinary medicine, on her various social media platforms have heard her discuss tracking her intake of fiber, omega-3s, magnesium, and vitamin D. It also recommends consuming less than 25 grams of added sugar per day. Again, you might be surprised at how much extra sugar is in some “healthy” foods like yogurt. These added sugars can help create insulin resistance, which is a major hurdle to weight maintenance.

What then?

Another batch in June will address fitness, mental health, exercise, and cortisol.

Melanie Loughman is a 31-year-old veteran journalist for the Cincinnati Enquirer and dance fitness instructor. Do you have any questions you would like answered? Email her at [email protected].

This article originally appeared on The Cincinnati Enquirer: How to Overcome Menopausal Frustration Through Nutritional Choices

Unexplained weight gain? Ugh. Here are food options to help manage the risks of menopause

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