Eating a healthy, nutrient-rich diet is essential for women at any age. However, as women transition through perimenopause and beyond, nutrient needs change. In part two of this two blog series, we will focus on key nutrients and supplements to help you live your best during your transition through peri- and postmenopause.
Transition Years (Perimenopause)
Perimenopause is the time when women experience a natural decline in reproductive hormones. It usually starts when a woman enters her 40s, but this transition can start earlier. Perimenopause lasts up until the point when the ovaries stop releasing eggs, and a woman no longer experiences a menstrual cycle.
During this time, eating a healthy diet and getting your daily physical activity is strongly encouraged. Calcium and vitamin D continue to be essential for keeping your bones strong. Other nutrients that may be beneficial during this time are:
Perimenopause can bring with it the dreaded symptom of hot flashes for some women. Hot flashes are described as a sudden feeling of heat, often with heavy sweating, and sometimes followed by cold shivering. When hot flashes happen during the night, they are called night sweats, making a good night’s sleep quite difficult.
Several nutritional ingredients (soy isoflavones, black cohosh, and red clover, to name a few) are marketed to reduce menopausal hot flashes. A recent in-depth assessment recommends soy isoflavones as a first-line of treatment of hot flashes. The research is based on evidence showing that soy isoflavones help to reduce their frequency and severity. Research is mixed for black cohosh and red clover.
Choose whole soy foods such as tofu, tempeh, edamame, and soymilk, or a whole soybean extract supplement if you experience menopausal hot flashes.
Many women experience the start of sleep problems during perimenopause, which often sticks around throughout the transition and continues after menopause. We all know that sleep is vital to our overall health and well-being. For some women, regular exercise is key to helping them fall and stay asleep. For others, it can be more challenging.
Some tips that may help women are limiting screen time before bed, trying meditation or other relaxing activities before, and staying away from any caffeinated food or beverages starting as early as in the afternoon. Caffeine is a stimulant and remains in your bloodstream for six to twelve hours. Steer clear of caffeinated coffees, certain teas, chocolate, and sodas that contain caffeine.
Perimenopausal women may also want to consult with their health care provider about taking a high-quality melatonin supplement. Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced by the body at night. Studies show that taking melatonin before bedtime can help support a night of healthy sleep.
Beyond Menopause, Your Best Years Are Ahead of You
Menopause marks the end of your menstrual cycle, which for many women is a cause for celebration. American anthropologist Margaret Mead refers to it as “menopausal zest” and speaks about menopause being a natural time for women to reexamine their lives. It is a time for women to take a fresh look at their relationships, their professions, the way they care for themselves, and the way they want to spend their time.
Many women find they have more time to focus on themselves. They make goals to eat healthier, start exercising regularly, and make other positive changes to improve their health. Nutrients that are especially important during this time are:
Calcium and Vitamin D
These essential nutrients for bone health move to the top of the list. After menopause, women are more prone to bone density loss because of the drop in estrogen levels. Consuming enough calcium and vitamin D during this time can help offset the bone loss that naturally occurs as you age.
Another concern for women during this time is urinary tract health. Cranberries are well-known for their urinary tract health benefits because of the natural compounds they contain known as proanthocyanidins (PACs). To keep your urinary tract healthy:
- Add some cranberry to your day, whether it be through drinking juice, having some cranberry sauce, or a handful of dried cranberries. If you are concerned about these cranberry products’ sugar content, you may want to consider a cranberry supplement.
- Be aware that the quality of cranberry supplements varies greatly.
- Choose a cranberry supplement with the appropriate dose of PACs.
Omega-3ss are essential fats that play an important role in our body’s cell membranes and are beneficial for joint and heart health. Foods high in omega-3s include fatty fish, vegetable oils, nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds, flaxseed oil, and leafy vegetables. Many people do not consume enough omega-3s from food, and therefore a high-quality omega-3 dietary supplement may be a good choice.
It is important to make sure you take good care of your body, mind, and soul every day, no matter your stage of life. Eating well and exercise regularly, as well as choosing the appropriate nutritional supplements at every age, will help you stay healthy and live your best life.
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