Life after menopause…
By Laura Cipullo and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team
Menopause, the permanent end of menstruation and fertility, is defined as occurring 12 months after your last menstrual period. Women typically enter peri-menopause and then menopause in their 40s and 50s. The average age for menopause is 51.1 The transition into this phase in a woman’s life cycle and living optimally thereafter can be ameliorated through diet and physical activity. Embrace life after menopause by following these five tips for living life healthfully.
- Eat your estrogen through soy! Soybeans contain a hormone-like substance called phytoestrogen. It can mimic the effect of estrogen and have a vast impact on your overall health before, during, and after menopause. Fermented forms of soy are ideal. So choose miso, tempeh, natto, tofu and young soybeans in the pod known as edamame. Stick with eating soy in the real form rather than via supplements and bars.2
- Stand up straight. Now is the time to use light weights to counter osteoporosis. Osteoporosis, otherwise known as weak bones, is due to risk factors such as age, genetics, and dietary deficiencies in both calcium and Vitamin D. Women experience an increased rate of bone loss during menopause and for the ten years thereafter. Though osteoporosis is not reversibleat this age, woman can manage, slow and or even stop it by strength training among other things. The act of weight training increases the activity of osteoblasts (bone building cells) and increases muscle strength which counters the effect of gravity. The effect of gravity on weak bones is observable as “hunch back.” So stand strong—and be sure to incorporate light weights or resistant weight training twice a week.3
- Prevent weight gain in the waist area that is often associated with menopause. All you have to do is curb carb consumption at meals. With a decrease in estrogen, women are likely to see an increase in belly fat. While you cannot reverse aging, you can prevent a wide waist by limiting carbs at mealtime. When you eat carbohydrates and even protein, a hormone known as insulin increases to transport the carbohydrates (also known as sugar) into your blood cells. When insulin levels rise, research demonstrates there is likely an increase in belly fat deposition. Therefore, if you prevent insulin from spiking by minimizing the amount of carbohydrates you eat at a meal, not only will you be cutting calories, but you will also be preventing excess belly fat deposits. Women should use 45 grams of carbohydrate per meal and 15 grams of carbohydrate per snack as a guide.4
- Stay happy and heart healthy with essential fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are associated with decreased depression, inflammation and triglyceride levels.5 And women are more likely to experience both depression and heart disease after menopause.6 The key to omega 3 fatty acid intake is first ensuring that you are eating the right form—the fish form such as wild salmon, trout, bass and canned chunk light tuna. These fish contain higher amounts of the omegas known as DHA—docosahexaenoic acid. DHA is the specific fatty acid studied whereas the vegetarian sources of omega 3 fatty acids (pumpkin seeds, walnuts and even algae) contain ALA—alpha-linoleic acid. Only ten percent of ALA gets converted to the beneficial form of DHA. So go fishing for dinner.5
- Decrease vaginal discomfort…including dryness and incontinence. Some tricks of the trade help to reduce the pain and improve your sex life. During and after menopause, there can be thinning and inflammation of the vaginal walls. The decrease in the hormone estrogen affects the moisture level causing vaginal dryness and “pelvic relaxation.” Incontinence is the inability to hold urine from your urethra due to pelvic relaxation.7 The positive news is that research from the Mayo Clinic suggests limiting alcohol, caffeine and or acidic foods to lessen irritation. Practicing yoga and kegel exercises and participating in vaginal physical therapy can reduce pain and even incontinence.8
1. “Menopause.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 24 Jan. 2013. Web. 26 May 2014. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menopause/basics/definition/con-20019726>.
2. Hyman, Mark, MD. “How Soy Can Kill You and Save Your Life – Dr. Mark Hyman.” Dr. Mark Hyman. DrHyman.com, 25 Feb. 2013. Web. 24 May 2014. <http://drhyman.com/blog/2010/08/06/how-soy-can-kill-you-and-save-your-life/#close>.
3. “General Facts on Osteoporosis.” National Osteoporosis Foundation (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 24 May 2014. <http://nof.org/files/nof/public/content/file/2681/upload/899.pdf>.
4. Cipullo, Laura. The Diabetes Comfort Food Diet Cookbook. New York: Rodale, 2013. Print.
5. “Fish Oil: MedlinePlus Supplements.” MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 04 Sept. 2013. Web. 26 May 2014. <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/993.html>.
6. “Depression in Older Persons Fact Sheet.” NAMI. NAMI – The National Alliance on Mental Illness, Oct. 2009. Web. 24 May 2014. <http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=By_Illness&template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=7515>.
7. “Urinary Incontinence.” NAMS. The North American Menopause Society, n.d. Web. 23 May 2014. <http://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/causes-of-sexual-problems/urinary-incontinence>.
8. “Yoga, Kegel Exercises, Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy.” NAMS. The North American Menopause Society, n.d. Web. 23 May 2014. <http://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/effective-treatments-for-sexual-problems/yoga-kegel-exercises-pelvic-floor-physical-therapy>.