Perimenopause, also called the menopause transition, is the time around menopause. In fact,. It is that period when your body is transitioning to menopause. The estrogen and progesterone levels responsible for several body functions begin fluctuating in perimenopause and eventually decline.
When so much is happening in your body, you are bound to experience several physical changes. The common signs are hot flashes, night sweats, sleep problems, mood fluctuations, etc. There are many lesser-known symptoms, too, like dizziness, burning sensation in the mouth and tongue, change in body odor, pin-and-needle sensation, etc.
You cannot stop the hormones from doing their job. It is a biological process and is bound to happen. But what is under your control is a healthy lifestyle. When you eat well, sleep sufficiently, exercise well, and stay fit, it is possible to keep most of the symptoms at bay or at least lessen their incidence.
Focusing on the appropriate foods will help you cope with the troublesome symptoms when discussing diet. Let us take a look at how important diet is during perimenopause. We will also learn about the best diet in the menopause transition phase.
What is the Importance of Diet in Perimenopause?
When in perimenopause, your body goes through several troublesome symptoms that could hamper your daily life. By eating the proper diet, you can manage many of your perimenopausal symptoms, if not eliminate them.
Hot flashes occur due to fluctuating hormonal levels. The diet plays a significant role in affecting the severity. And frequency of hot flashes. Many doctors have suggested eating fresh fruits and veggies before sunset will help normalize blood flow and lessen hot flashes.
Focus has also been laid on having a Mediterranean diet comprising whole grains, lean meat, fish, olive oil, vegetables, and fruits. A study suggested that women having this kind of diet were at a lessened risk of hot flashes by around 20%.
Let’s discuss another troublesome menopausal symptom – vaginal dryness due to reduced estrogen levels. It leads to a burning and itching sensation in the vagina, alongside other uncomfortable symptoms. When you eat the right kind of diet, it will benefit your vaginal health too. Cranberry juice, rich in antioxidants, helps to prevent bacterial growth in the bladder and vaginal walls. Sweet potatoes have a high Vitamin A and beta carotene content. Getting these nutrients in sufficient amounts helps keep the body’s mucous membranes, including the vagina, healthy. In this way, you can lessen the chances of vaginal infections during menopause.
So, it is evident from the above mentioned facts that a healthy diet helps you manage most of the disturbing symptoms. That’s why it is essential to eat healthy in the perimenopause phase.
What to Eat in Perimenopause?: A Brief Guide
As mentioned, in perimenopause, your body goes through several symptoms; to combat them, you must take special care about what you eat. Here is a guide on the perfect diet to follow during the menopause transition phase.
1. Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet stresses a plant-based diet comprising whole grains, vegetables, fruits, herbs, and beans. Besides these, the Mediterranean diet even includes eggs, poultry, dairy, and seafood. The fat source is mainly derived from nuts and olive oil. It has been observed that opting for a Mediterranean diet is beneficial in many ways during perimenopause and menopause. It helps to lessen hot flashes, mood swings, and other symptoms.
A study conducted on 6040 women showed that those on a Mediterranean diet were at a lessened risk of night sweats and hot flashes than those who ate a diet high in fat and sugar. The fruits that are a part of the Mediterranean diet include:
The veggies which are an integral part of the Mediterranean diet are:
- Collard Green
- Mustard Green
- Sweet Potato
Other foods that are a part of the Mediterranean diet include:
- Poultry ( Duck, turkey, chicken)
- Dairy (Milk, cheese, yogurt)
- Seafood (Mackerel, clam, shrimp, oyster, sardine, tuna, trout, salmon)
- Whole grains (Barley, brown rice, buckwheat, rye, corn, barley, oats, pasta, whole wheat bread)
- Spices and herbs (Rosemary, nutmeg, basil, garlic, mint, sage, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg)
- Seeds and nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)
2. Protein-rich Diet
In menopause, hormonal imbalances lead to several changes in your body. Moreover, you may require specific nutrients in more significant amounts to cope with hormonal level fluctuations. In menopause, low estrogen levels lead to a reduction in the strength and muscle mass.
Researchers have deduced that the body’s protein requirement is high in perimenopause. When the body’s protein requirement isn’t met correctly, it is substituted with fats and other energy forms that aren’t too healthy when overeaten. Moreover, researchers have highlighted that the body doesn’t lose energy in the same way as it gains. That’s why consuming more protein and less carbohydrates and fats is advised.
Some foods that are a good source of protein and a preferred choice in perimenopause and menopause include:
According to a reputed dietician, it is advisable to equally distribute your protein intake over the three meals you have, alongside the snack you eat in between. Smearing your toast with peanut butter would be fine. A chicken or baked salmon salad for lunch would be another good option.
Some beans would serve as an excellent appetizer for dinner before you move on to a full-course meal.
3. Fiber-rich Foods
Like protein, eating fiber-rich foods will also help in many ways during perimenopause. It allows you to remain full and lessen your cravings. Menopause leads to weight gain. Increased estrogen levels and high food cravings are some of the many reasons for the same. That’s why adding fiber to your diet will help you cope with weight gain in menopause and its transition phase. Adult women who have experienced menopause or are nearing it require a daily fiber intake of around 21 grams.
Another reason to include fiber in your diet is that women in perimenopause are more susceptible to bloating due to the fluctuating hormone levels. So, a high-fiber diet helps to boost your digestive health and bowel movements. When opting for a diet high in fiber, the foods that you should keep on your list include:
- Vegetables (broccoli, beets, carrots, collard greens, Swiss chard, artichokes)
- Fruits (Strawberry, banana, apple, orange, raspberry, mango, guava, persimmons)
- Whole-grain breads,
If you are on a low-fiber diet and wish to increase your fiber intake, do it slowly and gradually. Adding too much fiber in a go might be difficult to digest, resulting in stomach disorders. You can also talk to a doctor to increase your fiber intake.
4. Foods High in Calcium
With menopause, your bone health goes for a toss. The low estrogen levels can be blamed for the same. It increases your risk of osteoporosis, which means weak bones that could be broken and fractured easily. To maintain your bone health, it is a mandate to include a sufficient amount of calcium. Women in the perimenopause and postmenopause phase require at least a daily intake of 1200 mg of calcium. Some of the calcium-rich foods you may opt for include:
- Dairy products
- Canned salmon, sardine, and other fish with bones
When concerned about upping your calcium intake, it is essential to seek your healthcare provider’s advice, who would decide on your daily intake. If needed, your doctor might prescribe calcium supplements.
5. Soy Products and other Phytoestrogen-rich Foods
Soy products have isoflavones, which is an essential phytoestrogen alongside lignans. Phytoestrogens are compounds derived from plants that function similarly to estrogen. Menopause means low estrogen levels. Eating foods containing phytoestrogen compounds may help compensate for the lessened estrogen.
Soy products like tofu, soybeans, tempeh, and soymilk are good options. Soy foods significantly function towards lessening night sweats and hot flashes. Clinical studies revealed that postmenopausal women with a daily intake of 30-60 grams of soy protein experienced fewer hot flashes than those who ate few amounts of soy; besides, a diet that contains soy foods is considered the best diet for perimenopause. There are other foods rich in phytoestrogen alongside soy. These include:
- Sesame seeds
- Dried beans
- Mung beans
- Wheat germ
6. Foods Containing Omega-3 Fatty Acids
In the perimenopause stage, there is a decline in estrogen levels, which leads to deteriorated bone health, mood swings, and aches and pains. When you include sufficient omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, it helps to lessen inflammation and improve your mood. It allows you to cope with depression and manage hot flashes symptoms.
Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids. There are other fish on the list, like mackerel, herring, oyster, and sardine. Then, there are flaxseeds, chia seeds, soybeans, walnuts, and dairy products on the list. To balance your omega-3 fatty acid, it is necessary to have at least two servings of fish each week of a four-ounce measurement. Flaxseed oil helps in boosting mood. Adding it to your diet may help.
7. Iron-rich Foods
You should take care of your iron intake in perimenopause as you are still menstruating. Three servings of foods containing iron are ideal. Some foods with iron include poultry, eggs, lean red meat, leafy greens, fish, and nuts. Older women need, at most, 8 mg of iron daily.
What Are the Foods to Avoid During Perimenopause?
We discussed the foods you should eat in perimenopause to be healthy. Likewise, there are certain foods to avoid, too, as having them could worsen your symptoms. Here are some foods that you must avoid in perimenopause.
You can have alcohol in menopause but in moderation. Many healthcare providers have advised having no more than one drink daily. Different women have different triggers. Alcohol is one of them and is known to aggravate specific perimenopausal symptoms like night sweats and hot flashes.
So, if your hot flashes worsen after a drink, it is better to avoid them altogether. Your sleep is also affected in perimenopause, and drinking alcohol, particularly before bedtime, could make things miserable.
2. Spicy Foods
This one is another no-no in the menopause transition phase when you are susceptible to hot flashes. Hot foods could make you feel more desirable and more flushed. In perimenopause, your digestive system gets sensitive. Eating spicy foods may trigger digestive disorders and acid reflux, worsening things.
Coffee and caffeinated products are also triggers that could worsen your hot flashes, night sweats, and sleep problems. So, if you swore by a cup of coffee to date, it is time that you reformed your habits. Many prefer decaf coffee as an alternative. However, it is essential to know that decaf coffee also contains caffeine. The better substitute would be herbal or fruit teas.
4. Sugary and Foods
As you near menopause, you should make a conscious effort to adopt a healthy diet sans any processed or junk foods. So, the potato chips, cakes, cookies, hot dogs, etc., should exit your food list. Eating foods high in salt and sugar could affect your health adversely.
When too much sugar gets into your system, it could worsen several menopausal symptoms. Similarly, increased salt intake may trigger dehydration, intensifying your night sweats, hot flashes, and anxiety.
There are ample healthy breakfast options to opt for when you are in the perimenopause phase and nearing menopause. You could go for a bowl of oats and nuts. You could even add flax, sunflower, sesame, or pumpkin seeds. Some unsweetened yogurt and a plate full of healthy fruits would complete your breakfast.
Certain cooling foods are said to lessen the intensity and severity of hot flashes. These include:
• Green Tea
When you eat healthy in perimenopause, bid adieu to all the unhealthy foods, and you will be able to deal with most of the symptoms your body goes through in the transition phase.
Remember, you must also stay hydrated. This will help you cope with the moisture loss that your body goes through due to night sweats and hot flashes. Moreover, low estrogen lessens your body’s ability to remain hydrated. That’s why drinking sufficient fluids is a mandate.
However, consulting a doctor is of utmost importance whenever you plan to make any significant dietary changes.