When many people think of the transition into menopause, they think of infertility and emotional highs and lows but there are plenty of other health issues that accompany this stage as well. Weight gain, hot flashes and the risk of various diseases, such as heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer, all rise during peri-menopause, menopause and post-menopause. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to seek the help of a specialized expert to help bring your hormones back into balance. A solid nutrition plan is one of the best ways to alleviate some of the effects of menopause and make this transition as smooth as possible. Many women don’t realize that one of the most efficient ways to naturally balance hormone levels is through diet. Here are five dietary guidelines that will help you make the switch into menopause as seamlessly as possible.
Keep Track of Your Calorie Intake to Prevent Weight Gain and Night Sweats
One of the common problems women experience during menopause is weight gain. This is due in some part to hormonal factors, but more commonly due to over-eating. Weight gain is one of the most common complaints we hear from women in the course of menopause. Hormonal balance does have a significant effect on your weight but much of the time, these imbalances are accompanied by overindulgence.
There are two major causes of this and they are:
- As you age, fewer calories are needed to sustain bodyweight. This is because of a minor decline in your metabolism as well as a decrease in muscle density.
- The other reason should be recognizable to some of you. The stress you go through during these hormonal shifts can often lead to emotional eating. Most will choose to eat foods high in carbs, sugar and fat when trying to find comfort in their kitchens.
As a rule of thumb, try to let eighty percent of your diet consist of protein (I.e. lean meats), fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy fats (like those found in avocados and healthy nuts). And ALWAYS be sure to read the nutrition labels on the foods you purchase. So many foods nowadays will have the word “organic” or “healthy” on them as a marketing gimmick but the requirements for this marketing is weak at best. Avoid consuming large amounts of starch and carbs, and more so if you do not participate in regular physical activity. You may notice your mood stabilize, blood sugar balance and night sweats lessen or dissipate completely when you begin eating this way!
Keep Healthy “Snack Packs” at Hand to Avoid Impulsive Food Decisions
First off, we do not mean the pudding packs you got in your sack lunch as a kid. It needs to be a healthy snack that fits into the guidelines above. If you are unfamiliar with nutrition, click the link to find FDA’s Guide to Nutrition Labels. Not scheduling your snack or having a game plan for major meals is a surefire way to fall off track and over consume or break from your diet principles. Sharp changes in blood sugar levels combined with these shifting hormones can bring about severe mood swings. Due to the major hormonal fluctuations, having the right vitamins and minerals at your disposal and sticking to a well-planned, nutritionally sound diet are crucial to your success in managing your menopausal symptoms. Although this may entail more effort and preparation than you were thinking, I promise you that it will be well worth it in the end. This is why it is smart to compile snack-packs before hunger hits and to bring these with you whenever you will be away from home for an extended period of time. Some ideas include dried fruit and nuts as these are all portable and long-lasting. A few suggestions when creating your snack packs are dried fruits (not overly processed or coated in sugar of course), healthy nuts and organic granola to help add fiber and keep you satisfied for longer periods.
Add Estrogen Rich Foods to Your Diet
Many nutritional professionals suggest females experiencing pre-menopause and menopause to ingest foods containing phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are believed to impede the body’s uptake of “bad” estrogens and deliver an alternative source wherever there is an insufficient amount. There are also other practices for blocking bad estrogens and supporting healthy hormone equilibrium. These options should be discussed with a specialist in the field and may require you to get your hormone levels tested.
Participate in Regular Physical Activity – Especially Resistance Training
No matter what your health concern, consistent physical activity should be one of main focuses. This becomes even truer when you begin to experience signs of hormone imbalance. It will help your body improve in most every way. Your muscles will get bigger and stronger, your organs will function at a more efficient rate, toxins and oxidants will be expelled and you may even experience a new lease on life! This can be the magical component that magnifies the hard work you are already putting in with your new healthy diet. Past the age of thirty, the body begins to deteriorate and both muscle and bone density begin to decline. As I stated earlier, the less muscle you have the slower your metabolism will become. This will cause you to have less energy for everyday activity, including exercise. As your bones become less dense and deteriorate, your frame weakens and the risk of osteoporosis goes up. Strength training (or weight lifting) has been shown to radically delay this process. You do not have to try to become Arnold Schwarzenegger to see these great benefits either. Just doing moderate training like push ups and squats can be very advantageous to your skeletal health.
Limit Your Alcohol Intake During Menopause
There is additional strain put on your liver and other organs during intense hormonal changes. This could be why many women experience a lower tolerance to alcohol during these transitions and why it is important to keep an eye on your alcohol consumption. Milk thistle is a great supplement to support your liver function and has been used by alcoholics for years to help fix the damage they have caused. Talk with someone who specializes in diet, nutrition and natural hormone replacement therapy for women. This can be an amazing time of life when you are properly supported and know what to expect.
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