Exercise and diet tips for adapting to hormonal changes
Menopause and diet
During and after menopause, managing hormonal changes will become part of your daily routine and should also be considered in weight management12, 13. Menopause signals a new phase in a woman’s life in which diet and exercise can be an opportunity to reconnect to your body and bring back healthy lifestyle habits.
It is also important to consider diet during menopause to address not only weight gain but also bone and heart health13. Appropriate food intake combined with exercise can greatly help women experience menopause with as little discomfort as possible13.
Hormonal imbalances can lead to weight gain, especially in the belly area, due to changes in estrogen, which in turn increases insulin intake. This abdominal weight gain changes women’s bodies, which can sometimes cause distress1.
What food should you include when going through menopause?
A diet rich in green vegetables, protein, and healthy fat, like omega-3 fatty acids, is recommended to cope with some menopause symptoms such as hot flushes, and incorporating fruits and whole grains is also advised2, 17. Soy milk, cheese, and yogurt are well known for their high levels of calcium, which are crucial for bone health18.
List of foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids4:
- Fish and other seafood (especially cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines)
- Nuts and seeds (such as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts)
- Plant oils (such as flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil)
- Fortified foods (such as certain brands of eggs, yogurt, juices, milk, soy beverages, and infant formulas)
Consider adding phytoestrogens into your diet as well, which can be found in several natural foods like dried fruits, peaches, and tofu16.
There is also food that should be avoided / limited during the menopause transition.
Foods, which you should limit during your menopause transition5:
- Foods containing refined and added sugars/ processed foods – The excess of sugar can lead to a decrease of the levels of good cholesterol6 in your blood and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases during the menopause. Consider replacing those foods with fruits.
- Spicy foods, which are likely to trigger hot flushes. Instead of using them to flavor your meals you can use ingredients such as cumin, curry, turmeric, and basil.
- Caffeine – studies show that caffeine consumption may increase the hot flushes frequency. Consider walking around, stretching or jogging in place to wake up.
- Fatty meats – they contain fat that can raise the level of bad cholesterol in your blood, thus increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Alcohol consumption and menopause
Alcohol may often be a part of socializing and renouncing to it completely may be difficult. While you may not entirely exclude, you should limit its consumption to low/moderate levels15:
- Low/ moderate alcohol consumption corresponds to a maximum of 7 drinks a week
- High alcohol consumption is everything above 7 drinks a week
Did you know?
Low / moderate consumption of alcohol can even be beneficial during menopause: Studies show that low or moderate consumption of alcohol may help you increase the levels of estrogen in blood7,9, which is good. It may reduce your heart risks, osteoporosis, improve the brain function (low/moderate alcohol consumption reduces risks of dementia in post-menopause women)8,9. However, high consumption of alcohol during the menopause inversely increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and breast cancer8.
Be aware: alcohol consumption should be limited if you have chronic diseases such as diabetes14. Consult your doctor to determine if you can or not consume alcohol.
Menopause and exercise11
Menopause is a great time to get back in shape. Exercise can include walking, riding a bicycle, doing yoga, or any other stimulating activity.
For women struggling with menopause symptoms, regular exercise offers physical and psychological benefits. Indeed, exercise facilitates weight management, helps prevent osteoporosis by strengthening bones, reduces stress, and promotes a state of overall well-being3,10. A well-adjusted workout plan consists of mixing stretching (such as Pilates or yoga) and strength exercises (like walking, aerobic activity, and weight training).
Tip: When starting a physical activity, adapt its intensity and duration to your physical shape, and increase them gradually as you progress.
While diet and exercise may not relief you of all your symptoms, they may certainly provide a certain relief and improve the wellbeing. Discuss these topics with your doctor, dietician, and your sport coach to adapt the care plan that will fit you best.
- Parsley Health. Are Your Hormones Making You Gain Weight?, https://www.parsleyhealth.com/blog/how-to-get-rid-of-hormonal-belly/ Published August 2020, Accessed 30.10.2020
- Healthline. Menopause Diet: How What You Eat Affects Your Symptoms, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/menopause-diet Accessed 30.10.2020
- Healthline. The Best Activities to Do During Menopause. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/menopause-diet Accessed 30.10.2020
- National Institute of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. Omega-3 Fatty Acids, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-Consumer/ Published October 2020, Accessed 30.10.2020
- Everyday health. 6 Foods to Avoid During Menopause, https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/menopause-resource-center/foods-to-avoid/ Published April 2019, Accessed 30.10.2020
- WebMd. High-Sugar Diet Linked to Cholesterol https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20100420/high-sugar-diet-linked-lower-good-cholesterol#1 Published April 2010, Accessed 30.10.2020
- Purohit V. Moderate alcohol consumption and estrogen levels in postmenopausal women: a review. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 1998;22(5):994-997.
- Register T., Cline J., Shively C. Health issues in postmenopausal women who drink. Alcohol Res Health 2002; 26(4): 299-307.
- The North American Menopause Society. Drink to Your Health at Menopause, or Not?, https://www.menopause.org/for-women/menopauseflashes/exercise-and-diet/drink-to-your-health-at-menopause-or-not Accessed 30.10.2020
- Mayoclinic. Fitness tips for menopause: Why fitness counts, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/fitness-tips-for-menopause/art-20044602#:~:text=Exercise%20isn’t%20a%20proven,improve%20your%20quality%20of%20life Published August 2019, Accessed 30.10.2020
- Mishra N, Mishra VN, Devanshi. Exercise beyond menopause: Dos and Don’ts. J Midlife Health. 2011;2(2):51-56.
- Harvard Women’s Health Watch, Winning the weight battle after menopause, https://www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/winning-the-weight-battle-after-menopause, August 2019, Accessed 30.10.2020
- Australasian Menopause Society, Lifestyle and behavioural modifications for menopausal symptoms, https://www.menopause.org.au/hp/information-sheets/1087-lifestyle-and-behavioural-modifications-for-menopausal-symptoms, Accessed 30.10.2020
- Diabetes UK, Alcohol and diabetes, https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/what-to-drink-with-diabetes/alcohol-and-diabetes, Accessed 30.10.2020
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015
- Healthline, 11 Estrogen-Rich Foods, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods-with-estrogen, Accessed 30.10.2020
- Lucas M, Asselin G, Mérette C, Poulin MJ, Dodin S. Effects of ethyl-eicosapentaenoic acid omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on hot flashes and quality of life among middle-aged women: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial. Menopause. 2009 Mar-Apr;16(2):357-366.
- Harvard School of Public Health, The Nutrition Source – Calcium, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/calcium/, Accessed 30.10.2020