Menopause is a stage which all women will go through (just incase periods and child birth weren’t enough for us). It is caused by a decline in oestrogen levels and usually occurs at around 45 – 55 years old.
Along with hot flushes, low moods and difficulty sleeping, many women will also experience weight gain and find it very difficult to lose anything (1). So I am going to explore why that is and what you can be doing to combat against it.
As you get older, the amount of lean body mass or muscle in your body will naturally reduce in a process known as sarcopenia. Muscle burns a lot of calories and so if you have less of it then you naturally begin to burn less, your metabolism is slower (2).
This means you must start doing regular exercise to prevent muscle loss and maintain that metabolism. Good exercises would be a combination of cardiovascular e.g. swimming/walking/running and weight-bearing exercises e.g walking/pilates/free weights.
Women experiencing menopausal symptoms are likely to have problems sleeping due to stress, anxiety and hot flushes. One study has shown that we eat around 385 extra calories per day when sleep deprived, this is 1-2 lbs weight gain every 9 day (3).
Sort out your sleep hygiene;
- avoid caffeinated drinks after lunch time
- limit day time naps to 20-30 minutes
- stay away from heavy foods in your evening
- get a bed time routine
- make your bedroom comfortable – no lights overnight and not too warm
Menopause can have a psychological impact, causing stress and or anxiety (1). When we are experiencing these emotions, a hormone known as a cortisol is released which has been shown to increase appetite and make us want sweeter foods (4).
Regular exercise and better sleep hygiene will help to manage stress and those pesky hormones. However, it is unrealistic to expect to never be stressed so to avoid overeating and gaining weight, check out my top tips to manage it effectively. (Click here).
- Calcium: bone health is an important issue in menopause. As oestrogen levels fall, the rate at of calcium loss from the bones increases and so adequate calcium in the diet is really important in preventing osteoporosis. 1200mg per day is needed for post-menopausal women and while you can get a decent amount through dairy intake, it is difficult to consistently maintain such a high level (6). Therefore, you may want to consider a supplement to meet part of your needs, whilst your diet meets the other part. Good sources of calcium can be seen here.
- Vitamin D: vitamin D is also important in bone health and it has been recommended that the general population take a supplement of 10 micrograms/day (7).
- Plant Oestrogen’s: plant oestrogen’s work in a similar, but weaker way to human oestrogen and some women choose to supplement their diet with foods high in them in the hope to control their symptoms. However, there is no real conclusive evidence in this area yet to show that this helps (5).
If you are experiencing problems with menopause and would like support with your diet, please contact me today.
- NHS. 2015. Menopause. Accessed 15 January 2017 at http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/menopause/Pages/Introduction.aspx
- Kohrt, W. (2009). Exercise, weight gain and menopause. Geriatrics 64(6): 28-29.
- Al Khatib, H. K, Harding, S.V. Darzi, J. and Pot, G. K. (2016).The effects of partial sleep deprivation on energy balance: a systematic review and meta-analysis. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition advance online publication 2 November 2016; doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2016.201.
- National Sleep Foundation. 2017. What is sleep hygiene? Accessed online 15 January 2017 at https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/sleep-hygiene
- Epel, E., Lapidus, R., McEwen, B. and Brownell, K. (2001). Stress may add bite to appetite in women: a laboratory study of stress-induced cortisol and eating behavior, 26(1):37-49.
- BDA. 2015. Menopause. Accessed 15 January 2017 at https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/Menopause.pdf
- SACN. 2016. Vitamin D and Health Report. Accessed online 15 January 2017 at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sacn-vitamin-d-and-health-report
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