When we go through major changes in our lives, it makes a huge difference to our ability to cope if we have the basics in place – healthy eating habits, movement, time in nature, time to rest, and time to relax and de-stress. And this is especially true when we’re navigating peri-menopause and menopause.
These stages come to all women in time, so it’s never too early to put these nourishing and supportive wellness habits in place. However, when we start moving into peri-menopause and noticing the classic symptoms, such as hot flushes and insomnia, we want to make those habits even more of a priority.
May draws on her professional experience as a nutritionist, but also on her personal journey navigating menopause. She offers practical, actionable advice to women in or approaching this stage of life, as well as organising wonderful yoga menopause retreats.
Most recently, May joined me to discuss coping with the symptoms of menopause. She shared her advice on the foods we should eat during peri-menopause and menopause, and the foods we should avoid.
You can catch up with the full episode here. It is worth a listen – as well as the tips on food that I’m going to share with you in this blog post, we discussed the best forms of exercise and the importance of relaxation.
But in this post, I want to focus on May’s advice on what to eat to help you cope with peri-menopause and menopause.
Exaggerate the Good Habits
Before we get onto specific foods, I want to share a bit of May’s philosophy around coping with the symptoms of menopause. I love her approach, which is not to try to do a major overhaul of your life all in one go, but instead to simply exaggerate and enhance the healthy habits you already have.
Healthy habits aren’t always the easiest to do, but it makes such a difference to how we feel when we make them a priority. When our bodies are going through such big changes, making sure we have the basics in place can really influence our ability to cope.
As well as eating well, May talked about the importance of exercise and self-care to how we feel and how well we can cope with the hormonal changes going on in our bodies.
But we generally find it easier and more sustainable to build on what we already do than to introduce a completely new habit. So, if you already enjoy walking, maybe make that a daily habit. If you already avoid sugar most of the time, extend that so eating it becomes an even rarer occurrence. If yoga or face yoga help you feel calm and relaxed, try to do them more often.
It’s not about being restrictive or making strict rules for ourselves. Instead, it’s about leaning into what we already do and exaggerating those good habits. Focus on what you can add in, not what you need to take away.
3 Foods to Eat During Peri-menopause and Menopause
With that positive focus in mind, let’s start by looking at the three food groups May recommends eating as you approach and go through menopause.
Vegetables are so good for us for so many reasons, and it isn’t just when we’re approaching menopause that we want to make sure we have plenty of them on our plates. They contain loads of vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to function well.
When it comes to menopause, vegetables are even greater stars. During menopause, our oestrogen levels decrease to a very low level. However, vegetables contain phytoestrogens – plant-based compounds that behave like oestrogen.
While these phytoestrogens won’t replace our natural oestrogen in the way that hormone replacement therapy does, they can help to balance our levels.
Often, it isn’t the level of oestrogen itself that is the issue, but the proportion of oestrogen compared with other hormones, such as cortisol, progesterone, and testosterone. Eating a diet that is rich in vegetables can help balance this out a little.
2. Soy Foods
Vegetables are vital but the best sources of phytoestrogen are foods derived from soy, such as soy milk, soy yoghurt, and tofu. So, this is another group of foods we want to incorporate into our meals.
However, we do need to be a bit careful with soy as it is easy to go overboard with it. You don’t need to replace all your dairy products with soy alternatives, for example. Just look to add some into your existing diet.
Look for high-quality soy products too. Check the labels – you want items that are made with soy derived from soybeans. Many cheaper or mass-produced products are made from soy isolate instead. Ironically, these can actually disrupt our hormone balance instead of stabilising it, so be careful which products you choose.
3. Beans & Pulses
A third food group that is great for our health at any time, but especially during peri-menopause and menopause, is legumes – i.e., beans and pulses. There are so many different ones to choose from and they are a great staple to have in your pantry too.
Beans and pulses are packed with fibre and protein, so they’ll help to fill you up. And they are another food group that contains phytoestrogens to help balance your hormone levels.
Food to Avoid During Peri-menopause and Menopause
So, we’ve looked at the foods you should eat, what are the foods to avoid? Remember, this isn’t about setting strict rules for yourself. It is just bringing a bit more awareness to what you’re eating and how it might affect your ability to cope with the symptoms of menopause.
I doubt anyone will be surprised by this – we’ve all heard that sugar is bad for our health. In the case of menopause, the specific problem with refined sugar is that it can cause spikes and drops in our blood sugar levels.
When this happens, we experience symptoms like heart palpitations and hot flushes – which are also symptoms of menopause. So, it makes what we’re already experiencing much worse.
You can keep your blood sugar levels more balanced by avoiding foods like sweets, chocolate, cakes, fizzy drinks, etc.
Alcohol is such a part of our culture and social lives that it can be a difficult topic to talk about. However, alcohol is a gut irritant that can really sabotage our gut health and contribute to digestive issues. It also leads to disrupted sleep – which is already a symptom of menopause too.
When our sleep is disrupted, we don’t get as much of that deep, rejuvenating REM sleep. This means we wake up feeling groggy and fatigued, which makes it harder to cope with the symptoms of menopause.
3. Excess Carbohydrates
Excess is the key word here – carbs are often vilified but we need them in our diet to provide us with energy. However, our energy needs change as we get into peri-menopause and menopause, and we don’t need to eat as many carbohydrates as we did previously.
When we eat an excess of carbohydrates, our bodies turn it into fat, and it is stored around our tummies and middle. This is why so many women find that they gain weight in the tummy area when they reach menopause.
We don’t need to avoid carbohydrates altogether. But we do need to review our lifestyle and energy needs and eat accordingly.
Taking Care of Yourself
Eating well is just one of the ways we can take care of our health and wellness as we navigate peri-menopause, menopause, and beyond. I’m passionate about the impact of regular, daily wellness habits on our physical and mental health, and I love to help others find ways to make this a priority.
The Danielle Collins Face Yoga Method is all about these deeper wellness benefits. To learn more, visit my online shop to explore the resources I have on offer.