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Navigating Perimenopause and Menopause: A Comprehensive Guide to Nutrition and Lifestyle

Menopause is a significant transition in a woman's life, marking the end of her reproductive years. Women spend an average 40% of their lives in menopause and it's unfairly little talked about. If you search Pubmed (a source of biomedical and life sciences literature used by health and medical professionals for supportive data) for 'pregnancy', you get around 114,000 articles. If you search for menopause, you get around 9,700 articles. If you search for menopause and nutrition, you get around 550 articles- clearly a scientific research area that lacks funding and attention.


Understanding what happens during perimenopause and menopause period and how to manage it through nutrition and lifestyle can significantly enhance woman's well-being. This article explores the stages of peri-menopause and menopause, the changes in a woman's body, and provides actionable tips for maintaining health and vitality.


How to navigate with your health and nutrition in perimenopause and menopause?

Photo source: Unsplash


Understanding Perimenopause and Menopause


Perimenopause is the period leading up to menopause, often starting in a woman's 40s but sometimes as early as her mid-30s. During this time, the ovaries gradually produce less oestrogen, leading to irregular menstrual cycles and a range of symptoms.


Menopause is officially diagnosed after a woman has gone 12 months without a menstrual period. The average age for menopause is 51. This stage signifies the end of ovarian function and a significant drop in oestrogen and progesterone levels in a woman's body.


Changes in the Body During Menopause

The hormonal shifts during peri-menopause and menopause (decline in oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone) cause various physical and emotional changes, including:


  1. Hot Flashes and Night Sweats: Sudden feelings of heat, often accompanied by sweating and redness, are common.

  2. Mood Swings: Hormonal fluctuations can lead to irritability, anxiety, depression and brain fog.

  3. Sleep Disturbances: Many women experience insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns.

  4. Weight Gain: A slower metabolism can lead to weight gain, especially around the abdomen. Women have a higher risk developing type II diabetes in this stage of life.

  5. Bone Density Loss: Decreased oestrogen levels can result in weakened bones, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.

  6. Frozen Shoulder (you feel pain and like your arm is stuck)

  7. Cardiovascular Changes: The risk of heart disease increases in menopause due to increases in cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

  8. Hair Loss, Brittle Nails and Wrinkles

  9. Vertigo and Tinnitus: changes in oestrogen can affect the inner ear, also having an impact on our balance

  10. Vaginal Dryness


Both oestrogen and progesterone have a health protective role in a woman's body. Testosterone decline in menopause affect drive for life and also our sex life.


Approaching Nutrition During Menopause

A well-balanced diet can help manage symptoms and reduce health risks associated with menopause. Here are key nutritional strategies:


  1. Eat 80% Plant Based and 20% Animal Based Foods- think Mediterranean menu

  2. Focus on Calcium and Vitamin D together with Vitamin K2: Essential for bone health, these nutrients help prevent osteoporosis. Include dairy products (fermented dairy (kefir, plain yoghurt), goat cheese, cottage cheese, leafy greens (cooked kale, spinach, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts), beans, sardines with bones, sesame seeds, almonds. K2 vitamin you can get from natto, sauerkraut, chicken, beef liver, eggs, cheese (Pecorino, Gouda, Gruyere, soft cheese) etc.

  3. Prioritise Protein: Adequate protein intake supports muscle mass, which declines with age. Incorporate lean meats, fish, seafood, beans, lentils and nuts. Aim for 1g per body weight kg a day, so if you weigh 60kg, aim for 60g of protein spread out during your meals of the day.

  4. Healthy Fats: Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, anchovies), cod liver, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds and walnuts, can reduce inflammation and improve heart health.

  5. Fibre-Rich Foods: Whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables aid digestion and help manage weight. Aim for 25g of fibre a day.

  6. Phytoestrogens: Plant-based oestrogens found in soy products (tofu, edamame, tempeh), flaxseeds, sesame seeds, dried apricots, cashews, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts and legumes may help balance hormones.

  7. Phytoprogestins: Green and black tea, parsley, celery, artichokes, rosemary, arugula, kale, capers, oranges

  8. Reduce or Avoid Added Sugar: Aim not to consume more than 25g of added sugar a day

  9. Reduce or Avoid Ultra-Processed Foods

  10. Consume Fermented Foods and Drinks as well as Prebiotic Foods for gut health

  11. Stay Hydrated: Drink adequate amounts of water to manage bloating and dry skin. The amount depends on the person's weight, where they live, how much they exercise etc. Consider adding electrolytes to your water. Learn more about water and electrolytes here.

  12. Intermittent-Fasting: Take a break from food for 12h each night to support body detox, cell renewal. If you are not experiencing a lot of stress and are eating a healthy-balanced diet, you can try 14-16h fast at night during 2 days a week, where you eat your meals in 8-10h window during the day. But it's important to note here, that you get the necessary protein from your meals during these hours.


Lifestyle Changes to Embrace

Adopting a healthy lifestyle can alleviate many menopausal symptoms and enhance overall well-being. Consider the following:


  1. Regular Exercise: Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity most days. Resistance training 3 times a week, walking with weighted vest, are particularly beneficial for bone health.

  2. Mindfulness and Stress Management: Practices such as yoga, meditation, pilates and deep-breathing exercises can help manage mood swings and stress.

  3. Adequate Sleep: Establish a regular sleep routine (aim for 8 hours a night) and create a restful environment to improve sleep quality.

  4. Avoid Triggers: Identify and avoid triggers for hot flashes, such as spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol.

  5. Quit Smoking: Smoking can exacerbate menopausal symptoms and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.

  6. Regular Check-ups: Routine health screenings for bone density, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure are crucial.

  7. Have an open discussion about Hormonal Replacement Therapy (HRT) with your gynaecologist. For many women it could be life-saving during menopause. For some women it could be counter-intuitive.

Menopause is a natural phase of a woman's life, but it comes with its challenges. By understanding the changes happening in your body and proactively managing your diet and lifestyle, you can navigate this transition with much more confidence and grace. Prioritise a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients, stay active, and practice self-care to maintain your health and well-being during peri-menopause and menopause.


If you need a professional to analyse your current diet, provide guidance where to improve it, support you on your journey towards better health, don't hesitate to reach out to me at info@katrinpeo.com.


I was recently asked by Dr. Mari Laasma to be part of their longevity program 'Reverse' team as a nutritionist to support women aged 40+. If you are a woman living in Estonia, you are in perimenopause or menopause and want to learn and practice better health, visit the Longevity page to read more and sign up.

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