Nutrition tips for perimenopausal and menopausal women

Navigating the challenges of perimenopause and menopause can be daunting. Nutrition expert Millie Gardner has some advice on foods that can help.

Stressed woman

 

Perimenopause, the lead-up to menopause, can be a really challenging time for many women. Whether it’s struggling with hot flushes, joint pain or fatigue, many of the symptoms experienced can interfere with the working day.

Menopause is characterised by a drop in the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. Many of the difficult symptoms are due to the lower levels of oestrogen. This is why doctors may prescribe oestrogen creams or medications to women suffering during this period.

Phytoestrogens found in food

In nutrition, however, there is something called phytoestrogens. These are compounds that are found in plants that mimic oestrogen in the body. There are many different types of phytoestrogen, including:

  • Isoflavones
  • Lignans
  • Coumestans

Consuming phytoestrogens has been shown to reduce hot flushes, protect heart health, and may reduce blood pressure and improve glycaemic control. It is important to note, however, that despite rising evidence supporting the use of phytoestrogens for the reduction of perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms, more research is needed into the efficacy of this as a sole treatment option.

What kinds of foods might help during menopause?

Here is a deeper look into each type of phytoestrogen. Try incorporating these powerful compounds into your daily diet, to amplify the oestrogen-rich properties of your meals, boost your energy levels, and prepare yourself for a productive workday ahead.

Isoflavones

Isoflavones are probably the most commonly known and most studied phytoestrogen, they can be found in:

  • Soybeans and Soy Products: Soybeans are one of the richest sources of isoflavones. Foods such as tofu, tempeh, soy milk, edamame, and soy-based meat substitutes contain high levels of isoflavones
  • Legumes: legumes such as chickpeas and lentils, also contain moderate amounts of isoflavones
  • Legume sprouts: such as alfalfa sprouts and mung bean sprouts contain higher levels of isoflavones compared to their unsprouted counterparts

Try this: Try sprouting legumes yourself with sprouting kits or a sterile mason jar, and enjoy your homemade sprouts in salads, sandwiches, stir-fries, or even as a nutritious snack.

Lignans

  • Flaxseeds: Flaxseeds are one of the richest sources of lignans. They contain high levels of secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG), a type of lignan that is converted by bacteria in the colon into oestrogen, which is then absorbed into the bloodstream.
  • Sesame Seeds: Sesame seeds are another excellent source of lignans. They contain sesamin and sesamolin, two types of lignans
  • Legumes: Some legumes, including lentils, chickpeas, and kidney beans, contain lignans, although in smaller amounts compared to flaxseeds and sesame seeds
  • Cruciferous Vegetables: Certain cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, and kale contain lignans, albeit in lower concentrations compared to seeds and grain

Top tip: Mix together flax seeds and sesame seeds and aim for 1 tablespoon daily to boost your lignans intake. Blend the mixture for better absorption of healthy fats. Add it to smoothies, soups, yoghurt, porridge, or salads. Store the pre-blended mix in the fridge or freezer to prevent the fats from going rancid.

Coumestans

While coumestans are less well-studied compared to other phytoestrogens, some sources which you could include in your diet are:

  • Split Peas: Split peas, particularly yellow split peas, are one of the richest sources of coumestans.
  • Alfalfa Sprouts: Alfalfa sprouts contain coumestrol, a type of coumestan compound. These can be used in salads and sandwiches.
  • Brussels Sprouts: Brussels sprouts contain small amounts of coumestans. These cruciferous vegetables are also rich in many other beneficial nutrients.
  • Spinach: Spinach contains trace amounts of coumestans, although the levels may vary.

Navigating the challenges of perimenopause and menopause can be daunting, but understanding the role of hormones like oestrogen can help you cope better during this transitionary period. While conventional medicine offers one route with oestrogen-based treatments, the world of nutrition offers a natural alternative in phytoestrogens.

By incorporating phytoestrogen-rich foods into your diet, you can potentially alleviate symptoms and support hormonal balance. Remember, you’re not alone on this journey, and there are holistic approaches available to help you thrive through perimenopause and tackle your work week hot flush-free!

*Millie Gardner is a certified Naturopathic Nutritional Therapist (DipCNM, mANP, mGNC). She specialises in women’s health issues, supporting women with period and hormonal imbalance issues, including perimenopause and menopause. If you are interested in working with her to receive tailored nutrition and supplement advice, you can book a free 30-minute connection call here to find out more. https://www.minutrition.org/



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