While a few women will sail through the menopause, most of us experience symptoms that can be quite severe and have a significant impact on everyday life. These can begin months or even years before your periods stop and last around four years after your last period, although some women suffer them for much longer. Hot flushes and night sweats are high profile, but other common problems include reduced libido, vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex, low mood or anxiety, as well as weight gain, sluggishness and problems with concentration.
The drop in oestrogen that occurs during the menopause can cause you to age more rapidly. “While men tend to age at a steady rate from their thirties, women often age 50% faster for five years after the menopause,” says Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London. This could have serious knock-on effects on your health as well as your looks. But don’t worry – a few simple dietary tweaks could help you emerge unscathed. The anti-ageing superfoods currently recommended by experts for menopausal women include the following:
High in vitamins C and B9, and packed with fibre, potassium and the antioxidant manganese, beetroot is said to guard against cancer (particularly breast and pancreatic cancers), boost liver and brain function and ease stress and anxiety. Eat it raw for maximum benefits – try grating it into a salad or making your own coleslaw with natural yoghurt.
Coconut oil helps to banish the harmful abdominal fat which tends to accumulate around the time of the menopause, according to experts. It also makes a great moisturiser for dry menopausal skin.
Their high silica content boosts collagen production, essential for maintaining healthy hair, skin and nails during the menopause.
Edamame beans, linseeds, sesame seeds, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage
These foods are all naturally high in phytoestrogens, which mimic the effects of oestrogen in the body.
Berries are packed with antioxidants thought to help combat degenerative neural conditions, memory loss and poor concentration.
During menopause, ensure your snacks and meals include the following:
Complex carbohydrates like wholegrains and green veg help to prevent hair thinning and loss of condition. Avoid extreme low-carb diets, says trichologist Anabel Kingsley: “An energy deficit affects the production of hair cells before it affects any other cells in the body.”
Lean meats, fresh seafood and/or beans and pulses.
Essential fatty acids
Oily fish, avocados, whole olives, nuts and seeds.
A rainbow of vegetables
The more colourful the better. These foods support growth and repair, reduce sugar cravings, keep you full and support your skin health with a cocktail of anti-ageing nutrients.
Foods To Reduce
Often full of added salts and sugars which zap our hormonal vitality.
Keep your blood-sugar levels balanced by eating fruit only in moderation – one or two portions per day, and no processed fruit juice.
If You Do Just One Thing…
Cut back on the sugar, particularly in processed forms – it leads to glycation, which is damaging to the skin, and increases weight gain.
Eat lots of sugar and refined carbs and blood sugar soars. Glycation is where sugar molecules bond to proteins (that includes collagen in the skin) making it stiff and inflexible. Hello premature ageing and wrinkles!
Add more bone-boosting, calcium-rich foods – yoghurt, almonds, leafy greens, fish and sesame seeds. A few squares of high-quality dark chocolate can also give bone-boosting zinc levels a helping hand.
Reduce your tannin intake by switching some of your regular tea and coffee to herbal options to further minimise your risk of osteoporosis.
Create A Supplement Super-Plan
“You need to focus on strengthening the adrenals – the glands that will continue to make progesterone and oestrogen after the ovaries have retired,” says nutritionist Sarah Bowles-Flannery. Get started with vitamins C, B5 and B complex – try Life Extension Fast-C, £30 for 120 tablets; and Viridian High Five, £14.30 for 60 capsules.
Try a multivitamin with a high level of Bs and vitamin C, like Nutri Advanced AdrenoMax, £26.28 for 90 capsules. Vitamin D3 with added K2 encourages calcium uptake in the bone; try Nutri Advanced D3 Drops with K2, £14.95 for 30ml. If you’re suffering from anxiety and a lack of sleep, boost your magnesium levels with Nutri Advanced MegaMag Calmeze, £29.90 for 262g.
“Maca is super for helping balance hormones, particularly during the
menopause,” says herbalist Tipper Lewis. “It also helps to build
vitality and energy, contains calcium and even has aphrodisiac
properties.” Use it straight – up to one teaspoon a day in smoothies or
drinks. Find it at nealsyardremedies.com from £2 for 50g.
Dr Marilyn Glenville suggests a good maintenance programme, including a multivitamin and mineral with antioxidants for a healthy heart, B vitamins for energy plus calcium and vitamin D for bone health. Try Healthy Woman Support by NHP, £22.97 for 60.
Omega 3 fish oils “have an anti-inflammatory effect. Control inflammation and you also control the ageing process from the inside out,” says Dr. Glenville. Try Viridian 100% Organic Scandinavian Rainbow Trout Oil, £24.70 for 200ml.