AthletaWellTeam
Community Manager

Does what you eat really affect your menopause symptoms? It may be more connected than you think. Learn more on what it means to maintain optimal gut health to help regulate your body as it transitions. 

 

Stacy London is the former co-host of TLC’s What Not to Wear. Now the founder and CEO of State of Menopause, a beauty and skincare brand designed to target the effects of “the change,” Stacy has made it her mission to help women face this important life change with poise and optimism. Here’s what Stacy has to say about diet and menopause: 

 

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State of Menopause on Weight Management and Nutrition

Written by Dr. Joy'El Ballard

 

During perimenopause, estrogen levels go on a roller coaster ride, rising and falling at an unpredictable rate and then eventually start to decline. Progesterone and testosterone levels gradually decline at a slower rate than estrogen. In menopause, all three hormones are at low levels and remain there. The main source of these hormones are the ovaries but the regulation of these hormones is not solely controlled by the ovaries. Our gut also plays an important role in regulating the amount of hormones circulating in our bodies, which means it’s another system in the body we should be aware of and tend to as we move through the menopause transition. 

 

Some experts have referred to our hormone-regulating gut as the “estrobiome.” You can think of it as the soil to a garden — a garden needs healthy soil and microorganisms to create good health. 

 

This gut microbiome plays an integral part in the appropriate function of many body systems including the metabolism and elimination of estrogen. It contributes to the regulation of estrogen levels in our body. A healthy gut needs a collection of different kinds of bacteria for optimal hormonal balance. An unhealthy gut leads to reabsorption of higher amounts of estrogen therefore lesser amounts are being eliminated which causes an imbalance between estrogen and other hormones. This results in “estrogen dominance” which ultimately can lead to menopausal symptoms, fibrocystic breasts, obesity, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). 

Given this, it’s important to eat foods that support our gut health while avoiding foods that promote unhealthy bacteria. There are foods that work for us and foods that work against us as we enter perimenopause and subsequent menopause. Sugar, the processed kind, is definitely one that works against us when ingested in excessive amounts. Processed sugar and added sweeteners are not very sweet to the inside of your body or to your overall health. Excess consumption of sugar can lead to acne, weight gain, and heart disease. And it can make menopausal symptoms worse. Recent studies suggest sugar can make hot flashes more intense and more frequent. Eating refined carbs can also cause a rapid rise in sugar levels which can worsen perimenopausal symptoms. Some people report experiencing an increase in hot flashes after ingesting alcohol, particularly wine. There are studies that suggest alcohol worsens hot flashes and night sweats. Other studies suggest alcohol intake can actually decrease the number of hot flashes you experience. In my own clinical experience, I have seen patients experience more or more intense hot flashes after drinking alcohol. Remember, every person is different. 

 

In order to ease the discomfort of the menopausal transition or perimenopause and subsequent menopause, I advise women to avoid or minimize in their diet the following: 

 

  • Processed sugar like white sugar, added sugars 
  • Refined Carbs like all things white-bread, pasta, and rice 
  • Processed foods 
  • Trans fats found in crackers, baked goods, and fried foods 
  • Caffeine 
  • Alcohol 

To support a healthy menopausal transition, you should eat the following: 

  • Healthy fats like avocado and omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish like salmon, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds. 
  • Dairy or nondairy sources of vitamin D, calcium and magnesium like milk, cheese, green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach. 
  • Fiber found in whole oats, black beans, nuts, prunes, fruit skins. 
  • Whole grains like brown rice or quinoa. 
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, collard greens, arugula. 
  • Dark berries like blueberries and blackberries. 
  • Protein-rich foods like eggs, meat, fish, nuts, legumes. Plant sources of protein are ideal. Limit red meat to once or twice a week. 
  • Fermented foods/drinks like sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, miso, yogurt. 

I cannot overestimate the power of food in helping you maintain your health during the menopause transition. Healthy food has a significant impact on our wellness while unhealthy food can increase our risk for worse menopausal symptoms and even illness. 

 

So, is there a “menopause diet”? It’s not a “diet” but a lifestyle that involves us being intentional about what we put in our bodies, both food and drinks. So, eat the rainbow! We need colorful whole-food, plant-based meals because plants support a healthy gut environment and have phytoestrogens which have estrogen-like activity. And don’t forget water, aim to drink half your body weight in ounces! We need water for hydration and appropriate detoxification. Be intentional about what you eat and drink in order to support your mind and body from the inside out as you enter the menopausal transition. 

 

 

What shifts have you noticed in your relationship to your body and food during (peri)menopause?

Share your experiences in the comments below!

 

*Read more on Weight Gain and Diet

 


Disclaimer: Even though you may receive advice, insight, or guidance from experts in the AthletaWell Community, please note that this is not medical advice and we always recommend speaking with your doctor.

 

10 Comments
Deannabfit
Member

Ive def noticed more bloating, cravings for carbs & chocolate, & a belly “pooch” different from what i considered a pooch in my 20’s and 30’s. 
i am definitely more lethargic, my environmental allergies are worse, i am so much slower to get goin every morning. And my moods overall tend to be on the lower side especially during the phase just before my period. Periods are heavier the first 1-3 days. They last longer overall & arent as regular as they use to be even just a year ago. 

Spthomas1970
Member

Ditto to every symptom you noted, other than my periods are nearly non-existent.  I am 52 and started HRT about a year ago.  Realizing it’s an extremely personal choice and effects everyone differently, I am happy to say it helped immensely with insomnia and night sweats.  I still do get sweats, but more sporadically and less severe so I can sleep.  HRT has also helped my mood swings tremendously; I felt I was losing my mind before.  As for diet, I’ve had to simply limit intake of calories to maintain my weight.  My body just is not responding to my workouts and activity the same way.  For example, I’ve had a trainer for strength training for over 20 years; schedule and approach has not changed, but my muscle mass is a bit reduced these days.  Thank you for this space and wonderfully helpful comments! 

MeganMorgan
Member

I’m 48 and in peri-menopause. I’ve gained weight that I can’t seem to lose for the first time in my life, and in areas that are opposite to my typical body shape. I’ve always had a heavier bottom and thighs, and now it’s all in the belly, waist, chest and arms and my legs and bum are much slimmer. (What!?)

I suffered from hot flashes and night sweats for about 6 months last year, daily, and almost on the hour. It was torture. Eliminating alcohol completely and then seriously cutting back to only little amounts at social events seems to have helped me there. 

 

Similar to other posts here, I’d like to know how to get my energy back! I’m exhausted in the am, despite 8+ hours sleep, and have gone from being a person who ran or did vinyasa yoga everyday, to someone who can only manage a walk or gentle yoga  now, I get overheated quickly and feel like I’m going to pass out. 

What foods or supplements would you recommend to help bring energy? I also have celiac so have to stay away from gluten. 

JamieK
Member

I’m 44 and pretty sure I am in peri- or close to menopause my mom went through young and my symptoms night sweats, migraines sporadically, weight gain in my abdomen especially when I run daily and always have a deficit of calories so I shouldn’t be gaining, bloated and I just feel off. I take daily vitamins I am adding magnesium citrate to see if that will make any difference. Does anyone have suggestions to curb symptoms or help with the weight gain? 

Lucytee
Member
I’m 50 and I am in peri-menopause. Last year, I suffered with anxiety attacks and depression. My doctor took me off work so I could adjust to this new journey. With the help of therapy and Paxil to help ease my symptoms I’ve been doing much better. My periods are irregular (40-60) days which is highly annoying. My symptoms vary to sometimes insomnia for 2 weeks then switches to being really exhausted. I have noticed bloating and a lot of cravings for carbs which is unusual for me because I’m not usually a junk food eater. I’ve just started the green smoothie cleanse and I feel so much better. The cravings for sugar is gone and I have more energy. I have an appointment in 2 weeks to discuss HRT. If anybody has any suggestions I can do before HRT please share. I’m so thankful I stumbled across this group, well wishes to everyone🙏🏼❤️
Dreamhome
Member
I am 62 and lost my period at 50. I chose not to use HRT. At the onset of menopause, the night sweats, hot flashes, and over all fatigue were frequent. However, with time they subsided. I also gained 10 pounds at that time but with time have returned to my normal weight. I feel like my body needed time to adjust to its new evolution. The only thing my gynecologist (she is also a woman in my age group) suggested I take was a woman’s multivitamin. I take Vitafusion Women’s Multivitamins daily. Best of luck during this journey!
StephanieEw
Member
@JamieK I’ve been reading and learning about this because I gained 28lbs over two years after menopause. Next Level by Stacy Sims is a great book to understand why and how our bodies change during periods and post menopause. The way you workout and the timing of your carbs makes all the difference and getting enough protein is key- especially for weight loss. Adaptogens like Schisandra, rhodiola, ashwagandha can also be helpful. I just got my masters in nutrition at 50- I don’t recommend Willy Nilly supplementation. Work with a trusted practitioner to figure out what your body needs.
maryjblake
Member

Trans fats are banned now correct? That shouldn’t really be an issue anymore. Registered Dietitian here. I find that the more I restrict or count a food as “unhealthy” the more I want it. Naturally I eat less sugar when I eat by Intutive Eating principles. I feel best by listening to my body and what it needs, hydration, sleep, exercise (cross training). I don’t consider size as indicative of health and I don’t consider weight gain as a bad thing but as a normal thing. If we listen to our bodies we will be the best size for our bodies. 

Eld3
Member

I would love to find a nutritionist to help me travel this journey. I’m 45 and already experiencing excessive weight gain, mood swings and occasional night sweats. I feel more resistant than ever to the type of diet mentioned above, wanting to manage all of these symptoms yet enjoy food and the pleasure it brings in my life. Sharing a meal with my family is important and I don’t want to always feel restricted by the list of foods to avoid. Trying to make a mental shift feels difficult at this point in my life. 

KCassidy
Member

I'm 60, and have been in menopause for about 6 years.  Yes to all the symptoms you listed, and to the foods that can cause them. It's important to figure out your triggers.  My symptoms have largely subsided , but a couple of glasses of wine with dinner almost always cause hot flashes, and if I eat a lot of sugar, I'll put weight on around my middle.  One other thing I've noticed is how much harder I have to work to maintain muscle - I'd love to know the physiology behind that.