6 step menopause diet plan
Updated: Jun 15, 2021
Menopause is a natural part of every woman's life which isn't talked about as often as it should be! No wonder so many women are unaware that what they eat and drink can significantly affect the symptoms they experience during perimenopause and menopause.
Menopause is defined as the time when your period stops, which on average is around age 51. You must have 12 months without a period before you know that you are post menopausal. Many women start to experience symptoms around the age of 42 because this is the age where our ovaries are starting to make less of our reproductive hormones (perimenopause).
Symptoms are caused by the natural fluctuations and subsequent decline of estrogen and progesterone. Managing the symptoms of peri-menopause and menopause is a common reason why women come to see me in my clinic.
Herbal medicine can be an excellent way to manage symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats. However I find that many women can manage mild to moderate symptoms with a combination of diet changes and herbal tea, without ever needed additional support.
The following is a guide to the 6 step diet plan that I often give to my clients:
1. Eat foods to help to balance hormones
Large scale population studies tell us that following a Mediterranean style of diet can lead to improvements in hormonal symptoms at menopause.
A Mediterranean diet has a wide variety of vegetables, fruit, herbs and healthy fats such as olive oil, oily fish, avocado, nuts and seeds. The Mediterranean diet is also low in processed foods and refined sugar. If you don't like vegetables or you are trying to find foods for the whole family, you might like to read my blog how to eat more plants.
I also recommend menopause clients consume foods that are high in phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) and to make them a part of every meal. Phytoestrogens can assist with balancing estrogen levels.
This can be as simple as adding ground flaxseed to breakfast, slicing fennel into a coleslaw for lunch, having some sprouts in a salad with dinner, and drinking sage, red clover or fennel teas throughout the day.
Some women who have suffered breast, ovarian or endometrial cancer are recommended by their doctor to stay away from phytoestrogen foods. If this is you, seeking good advice for your individual circumstances is recommended.
2. Eat foods to support liver health
Your liver, along with your ovaries and fat cells, plays an important part in balancing estrogen. It makes sense to look after our liver health during menopause. A sluggish liver can impact adversely on menopause symptoms, cholesterol levels, bowel health and the proper digestion of food.
I usually recommend that cruciferous vegetables be eaten everyday. Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts and cabbage all contain antioxidants that are excellent for supporting liver health and estrogen metabolism.
Other liver loving vegetables include beetroot and bitter greens including rocket lettuce and dandelion leaves.
3. Eat foods to stabilise blood glucose levels, support metabolism, manage weight gain
Keeping your blood glucose levels stable during perimenopause can help to reduce menopause symptoms; protect against insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes; manage your weight; increase your energy and stabilise moods.
As our estrogen levels decline, insulin resistance can increase, leading to metabolism changes and weight gain. It is important during perimenopause to realise that the way you have been eating and managing your weight in the past may no longer work for you. This can be an extremely frustrating time for many women.
The nutrition advice I most often give for managing blood glucose levels is:
eat a good breakfast that fills you up and fuels you for 5 to 6 hours
eat a small amount of protein with every meal (e.g. egg, fish, chicken)
eat a small amount of healthy fats with each meal (e.g. avocado, olive oil, seeds)
limit alcohol and refined sugar consumption
eat 2 to 3 satisfying meals per day and eliminate snacking
4. Eat foods to support bone health
Calcium is the main mineral contained in our bones. Estrogen plays a role in directing calcium into bones throughout our lives. Post-menopausal women have low levels of estrogen and can suffer from weaker bones as a direct result.
Consuming foods that contain calcium such as sardines, green leafy vegetables, almonds, broccoli, yoghurt and egg yolks is important for bone health.
Many additional vitamins and minerals are needed as part of the process of ensuring that calcium is absorbed from the diet and deposited in the bones. This is why I recommend following a Mediterranean style of diet with a wide variety of healthy foods (as well as spending some time in the sun every day).
I also recommend that women continue to eat foods high in phytoestrogen after menopause. Read more about this topic in another blog about supporting bone health after menopause.
5. Avoiding refined and processed foods
The transition through menopause seems to leave many of us with an extra spare tyre around the middle. This extra fat can actually be beneficial during menopause! Fat cells make estrogen and this can be just what we need to lessen menopause symptoms as our ovaries start to make less.
But since none of us really like the extra rolls of fat, my recommendations are to follow all of the above advice for stabilising hormones, liver support and managing blood glucose levels.
Additionally, weight gain can be avoided by cutting down on alcohol and processed foods. Processed foods include muffins, bread, crackers, cereal, cakes, biscuits, pasta and chocolate bars.
6. Make diet changes to suit your individual needs
Every woman is different. From working with menopausal women I have discovered that no two women experience menopause in the same way. We all have different lifestyles, different biochemistry and different levels of stress in our lives.
Because you are different to your friends, and your hormone fluctuations are different as well, I recommend focussing only on what works for you. This means paying attention to what you eat and how you feel. If you feel the need to snack after dinner, experiment with eating more earlier in the day. You may find that you sleep better and avoid the night sweats.
Some women will need individualised dietary advice to help them cope with other existing conditions such as thyroid, worsening allergy symptoms, histamine intolerance, depression, low energy, reflux or other digestive problems.
Have you tried these tips before and you can't get into a regular habit? Or have you tried these ideas and your symptoms are still bothering you? Then I recommend that you get in touch with a naturopath to get some additional advice.
Please contact me if you would like to arrange for a one on one consultation. I would be delighted to help you transition through menopause by supporting you with diet and lifestyle changes.
I'm Simone. I am a naturopath, nutritionist, herbalist and certified wellness coach.
Menopause and peri-menopause are areas of women's health that I treat regularly. This blog contains information from my B. Health Science training and from experience gained from working with women during menopause.
The blog is not intended as specific health advice and you should seek assistance if you have any medical conditions.