Eating a healthy, nutrient-rich diet is essential for women at any age. However, as women begin to age, nutrient needs change. In the second and final part of this women’s health blog series, learn about key nutrients and supplements to help you feel your best as you transition through menopause.
As you age, your body starts transitioning to menopause. Some women may enter “perimenopause” as early as their mid-thirties, while others may not experience perimenopause until their mid-fifties. During this time, your ovaries produce less hormones and your cycle becomes irregular and unpredictable. When you haven’t had a period in 12 consecutive months, you’ve reached menopause.
As you journey through your transitional years, eating a healthy diet and participating in regular physical activity is still a vital component of your overall health and wellbeing. Calcium and vitamin D continue to be essential for bone health.
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 high-quality whole soybean extract supplement if you experience menopausal hot flashes.
Sleep is one of your fundamental needs – it helps support healthy brain function, immune health, and even emotional stability. But unfortunately, the hormonal, physical, and psychological changes that accompany perimenopause and beyond can impact your sleep.
Proper sleep hygiene becomes even more important during your transitional years. Here are some tips that may help support healthy sleep patterns:
- Limit screen time before bed
- Develop a consistent bedtime routine
- Practice meditation or other relaxing activities before bed
- Keep the bedroom cool and comfortable
- Avoid caffeinated foods and beverages after your morning cup of coffee or tea
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. Estrogen plays a huge role in maintaining bone strength. But after menopause, your estrogen levels drop. Consuming enough calcium and vitamin D during this time can help keep your bones strong and healthy 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 soluble A-type proanthocyanidins (PACs). Research shows that you need at least 36 mg of PACs per day to support urinary tract health.
While cranberry juice is a popular way to include cranberry in your diet, many opt for a high-quality cranberry supplement instead. According to the FDA, limited scientific evidence shows that by consuming 500 mg each day of cranberry dietary supplement, healthy women who have had a urinary tract infection (UTI) may reduce their risk of recurrent UTI.
But remember, not all cranberry supplements are created equal. Be sure to choose a product with 500 mg of cranberry and at least 36 mg PACs per daily dose. For added peace of mind, look for the NSF International or USP seal on the bottle – this ensures that your product contains what it should and nothing it shouldn’t.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s are essential fats that play an important role in your body’s cell membranes and are beneficial for joint and heart health. Foods high in omega-3s include fatty fish, nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds, flaxseed oil and some green vegetables, like kale, Brussels sprouts, and spinach. Many people do not consume enough omega-3s from food, so a high-quality omega-3 dietary supplement may be a good addition to your daily routine.
While multivitamins can’t replace a well-balanced diet, they can act as your safety net and fill any nutrient gaps. Your nutrient needs are specific to your life stage – your multivitamin should be, too. Once you no longer have a regular menstrual cycle, your iron needs decrease significantly, so you may want to consider a high-quality multivitamin without iron.
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 exercising regularly, as well as choosing the appropriate nutritional supplements at every age, will help you stay healthy and live your best life.