Nutrition for Women during Menopause

Do you feel like no matter what you do to lose weight, your body is working against you? Well, this might be partially true if you are going through menopause. Women from the age of 40-55 years, experience dynamic changes within their bodies as their hormone levels change.  These hormonal changes can affect how your body’s metabolism works.

What most women do know is that with these changes in Oestrogen levels may cause symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, lethargy and a decreased sex drive.  But what they might not know is that menopause increases their risks of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.  A healthy diet and regular exercise can help to improve menopausal symptoms and prevent weight gain which may reduce the risks of developing these chronic diseases.

When oestrogen levels decrease during menopause, the bones lose calcium and other minerals at an accelerated rate resulting in a bone loss of approximately 2% per year.  Certain conditions and medications may further accelerate bone loss such as Corticosteroids used to treat osteoarthritis and other inflammatory conditions as well as asthma.  Osteoporosis is often called the ‘silent disease’ as it goes undiagnosed unless a person suffers a fall and subsequent fracture.  Osteoporosis affects around 1 in 3 women.  In order to prevent Osteoporosis, a combination of increased dietary intake of Calcium of 1300mg/day in women over 50 years of age, normal Vitamin D levels and specific weight-bearing exercise is required.  Sources of dietary Calcium include; 3 -4 serves of dairy products per day such as 250ml milk, 200g tub yoghurt, 40g cheese, plus fish with bones including salmon and sardines, broccoli, almonds, bok choy and chickpeas.

Vitamin D is also essential for bone health as it increases the absorption of Calcium in the intestines, regulates levels of Calcium in the blood and supports growth and maintenance of the skeleton.  Vitamin D comes from exposing your skin to the sun for 7-30 minutes per day depending on the season and a person’s skin colour. Dietary sources of vitamin D alone are not adequate to meet daily requirements although this may come from oily fish such as mackerel and herring, liver, eggs and some fortified food products. Interestingly, mushrooms, if put out in the sun can also harvest Vitamin D and may be beneficial to increasing dietary intake. 

Bones become stronger with exercise and weight-bearing exercise has the greatest effect on bone mineral density. Increasing overall body strength and balance is also important for falls prevention due to increased fracture risk with the gradual loss of bone mass with age.  Similarly, exercise is important in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and avoiding excess weight gain.   Several other dietary changes can be made for reducing the risk of Cardiovascular disease including reduced intake of saturated and trans fats and replacing these with mono-unsaturated fats as well as an increased intake of dietary fibre and anti-oxidants from whole-grains, fruit and vegetables.  Cardiovascular disease is the greatest killer of women over the age of 60 years and the prevention of weight gain in itself is cardio-protective. 

So if you feel that you are approaching menopause and that your hormones are affecting your ability to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, come and chat to one of our experienced Dietitians to get an individualised eating program.