Thousands of women take to Google every month trying to find ways to ease their menopause symptoms through dietary changes.
There was an average of 3,120 searches for ‘menopause diet’ and ‘menopause diet plan’ on Google in the UK each month this year.
But can switching up what you eat and drink really have a noticeable effect on the most common menopause symptoms, including hot flushes, irregular periods, sleep problems, mood changes, night sweats, and weight gain?
We’ve drafted in not one, but two of the UK’s leading experts on menopause to share their vast knowledge on the subject, and provide some valuable information on how optimising your diet can positively impact menopause.
Introducing Dr Louise Newson and Emma Ellice-Flint, who kindly agreed to be interviewed by us this week.
Dr Newson is considered the UK’s leading menopause specialist and is author of two menopause books, including the Sunday Times best-seller Preparing For The Perimenopause and Menopause. She has also appeared as an expert on BBC Breakfast, ITV’s Lorraine, and Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.
Meanwhile, Emma Ellice-Flint works closely with Dr Newson and is the perfect expert for this article too because she’s a qualified nutritionist, experienced chef, and nutritional therapist with a special interest in women experiencing perimenopausal and menopausal change.
In this article, they explain:
- What particular type of diet they recommend to help women best manage their menopause symptoms.
- What foods and drinks should be avoided to best support your body
- What other lifestyle changes should be made
- The misconceptions around HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and what you really should know
Menopause and Perimenopause: Facts And Figures
The menopause occurs when your ovaries stop producing eggs and the levels of hormones oestrogen and progesterone falls. The average age this happens for women is 51.
However, the average age for the perimenopause to occur is 45, and this is when women experience menopausal symptoms due to hormone changes, but still have periods which differ in nature and frequency.
An estimated 1 in 20 women will go through the menopause between the ages of 40 and 45, and 1 in 100 before the age of 40, as explained in Dr Newson’s
book Preparing For The Perimenopause and Menopause.
Louise and Emma work hard to reduce the stigma around the menopause, insisting that society needs to stop labelling it a natural process where women are stuck with years of misery and have little control of their bodies.
Instead, they argue that the menopause should be recognised a long-term hormone deficiency where women have the power to manage their symptoms with the right support, treatments, and lifestyle changes.
The Importance Of Good Nutrition To Support Your Body’s Changes
Dr Newson said: “Good nutrition is really important for everyone and is especially important during the perimenopause – which is when hormone levels start to decline and menopausal symptoms occur – and also the menopause.
“The perimenopause can last for several years, even a decade, and during this time many women find that their metabolism changes and they are more likely to put on weight, especially in the midline.
“This abdominal fat actually produces inflammatory chemicals in the body which can actually then increase risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
“Many women find that they crave more sugary foods when they have low oestrogen levels in their bodies. And women who experience menopausal symptoms such as poor sleep, fatigue, irritability and reduced self-motivation are often more likely to eat ‘comfort’ foods which tend to be more processed and less healthy.
“Replacing the missing oestrogen by taking HRT can often really improve these symptoms and reverse the metabolic changes that occur.
“However, choosing a whole foods, more plant-focused, way of eating is important to consider whether or not you take HRT. Eating these foods are less likely to lead to the abdominal fat gain, blood glucose imbalances, energy dips and poor sleep.
“An anti-inflammatory, Mediterranean-style eating is more likely to mean you will have improved energy, less likelihood of low mood, and can even reduce aches and pains.”
Nutritionist Emma Ellice-Flint emphasised the importance of introducing more Mediterranean-style foods, adding: “The Mediterranean way of eating specifically means eating more vegetables, legumes/pulses/beans, nuts and seeds, whole grains, fermented foods such as yoghurt and kefir, herbs and spices, fresh fruit, olive oil, and fish.
What Foods And Drinks Should You Avoid During The Menopause
It’ll come as no surprise that both health experts recommend you minimise the amount of alcohol you drink as it can easily contribute to weight gain, blood sugar imbalances, poor skin, and disturbed sleep.
They also advise avoiding or at least reducing the amount of “ultra-processed foods” such as fast-food, fizzy drinks, cakes etc which contain high amount of sugar, unhealthy fats, artificial sweeteners and chemicals that damage health and negatively affect the gut microbiome.
“These foods are linked to ‘bad’ gut microbes that are associated with poorer health markers,” said Emma.
“Eating these regularly can potentially lead to blood glucose imbalances, weight gain, lack of energy, poor skin health and low mood.
“By avoiding these foods, you can help support your body because, by making healthier food choices, this nourishes your mind, body and gut microbiota.”
“Making the change to this way of eating is best done gradually, especially if you are not used to these foods.
“Initially, minor gut issues might occur. Symptoms such as abdominal bloating and/or changes in bowel habit may occur. As you adjust to the new way of eating then these symptoms usually fade and most people feel so much better.”
HRT And Menopause: Misconceptions Women Should Be Aware Of
Dr Newson, who also hosts a podcast discussing all topics around menopause, says that there are still many misconceptions about the perceived risks of HRT.
“For the vast majority of women, the benefits of taking HRT outweigh any risks,” she argued. “All too often, women are not informed about the benefits of taking HRT which include reducing future risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, dementia, and clinical depression.”
We asked the experts what other key pieces of advice they would share around health and lifestyle for women in relation to the menopause.
Dr Newson said: “The beneficial changes a woman can choose to make – HRT, nutrition, exercise, connectedness and community – are all linked in terms of the menopause transition.
“An example is reduced hormone levels negatively affect the gut and its microbiota, potentially leading to gut dysbiosis and mood changes.
“Gradually changing what you eat, as well as increasing your exercise and activity can really help a great deal. These benefits can be both physical and emotional. Sharing how you feel with friends and family is really important too.”
Where Can I Learn More?
You can download the free menopause support app called ‘balance’ app via this website. Launched by Dr Newson, it can help empower you with useful information about the perimenopause and menopause, along with numerous videos, podcasts, articles and booklets to learn from about hormones, nutrition and treatment choices.
For more information on Dr Louise Newson and Emma Ellice-Flint, check out their websites: www.balance-menopause.com and www.emmasnutrition.com