Friday, January 29, 2010

Food and Health: Managing Menopause Through Food

Managing Menopause Through Food


     Have you come to this stage--menopause? I have. The hot flashes have been trying to bother me for more than three years, but since I lifted this up to the Lord, it becomes a simple phenomenon that comes but goes away faster. I thank God I don't have those mood swings and my blood pressure is normal, in Jesus' name.

     Remember this: "Every woman experiences different menopause symptoms", according to Elaine Magee, in her article in MedicineNet.com. "Most have hot flashes, some feel irritable, a smaller number battle headaches, nausea or night sweats. What works for one woman may not work for another, and what works for you now may not work as well a year from now". 

     According to Epigee.org, menopausal symptoms include hot flashes and mood swings due to fluctuations of hormones in the body. Some of these mood swings may also lead to menopausal depression. (I say, lift it to the Lord and He will do His part.) Another symptom is weight gain which probably goes hand in hand with menopause . As estrogen levels decrease, fat redistributes itself around the stomach, hips and breasts; muscle mass decreases slowing metabolism ending in unwanted weight gain. Complications in menopause are due to lowered estrogen levels which put menopausal women at higher risk for heart disease, high cholesterol levels, clogged arteries, heart attack and stroke. Another complication is the risk of osteoporosis as menopausal women tend to lose bone mass at a higher rate at this stage. 

     So what do we do? Of course, you can consult your doctor who in most cases will recommend you to use hormone therapy. However, if you are not up to it or you would like to use alternative means to ease your menopausal symptoms, the following paragraphs may help you. 
     
     Current Food Pyramid by US Department of Agriculture Diagram courtesy of Wikipedia

      Eating the right food may help alleviate or fight menopausal symptoms and complications, according to many sources. Epigee.org says that the key to having manageable menopause is to keep your diet as balanced as you can. Remember all the basic food groups when you eat at least 3 meals a day. Many sources have recommended small frequent feedings as the best way to keep our metabolism going and maintain our body weight. Based on the web pages of Epigee.org and the article of Elaine Magee on MedicineNet.com, the following should be taken into consideration if you are going through menopause:

AVOID or REDUCE INTAKE of the following:  
     
     1) Caffeine or any stimulants to reduce hot flashes and mood swings --coffee, tea, alcohol, colas, spicy foods, refined sugars. Caffeine also causes the body to not absorb calcium properly. Alcohol and carbonated drinks have been known to make bones brittle and weaker.

     2) Fat intake especially saturated fats --fats from meats lead to clogged arteries, hypertension, and of course, weight gain.

     3) Processed flour --white bread, cakes, etc. 

INCLUDE IN YOUR DIET the following:

     1) Fruits and Vegetables --Aside from fiber, vitamins and minerals and naturally, low-fat, many  fruits and vegetables contain phytoestrogen--plant estrogens that can bind estrogen-receptors in the body relieving you of menopausal symptoms. Some of those which have phytoestrogens are plums, prunes, strawberries, apples, pears, grapes, asparagus, beets, bell peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli stems, cucumbers, beans and legumes, as well as soybeans. Boron is another mineral found in fruits and vegetables which seems to increase body's ability to hold on to estrogen. It also keeps the bones strong by decreasing the amounts of calcium excreted each day. 

     2) Soy and tofu, beans -- Aside from containing phytoestrogens, soy and tofu may help protect our heart and arteries by lowering bad cholesterol. Beans also have phytoestrogens and helps in the slow absorption of glucose in the blood stream, thus curbing the appetite longer. These are also rich in fiber and are good sources of minerals such as calcium, folic acid and Vitamin B6 and a low-fat source of protein. 


     3) Right Fats -- Right fats from fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel, contain omega-3 which may protect against heart disease. Use olive oil, canola oil if you need to saute foods or better, use the grill. Also, choose leaner meats and low-fat dairy products but eat more fish. In addition, studies are now being done with regards to the benefits of flaxseed in the diet for its cholesterol-lowering benefits and tumor-reducing properties. It is recommended that we grind the seed and taken by starting with 1/4 tsp. and increasing gradually. However, this grows only in cool climates and I have not yet researched it's availability in the Philippines.


     4) Calcium-rich foods, a must-- They claim that 50% of women will be affected by osteoporosis in their lifetime. Menopausal women need 1,200-1,500 mg. Calcium per day. Sources of calcium include milk, low-fat yogurt, soy milk, cheese, sardines, salmon with bones, prunes, figs, leafy green vegetables.


     5) Increase water intake and choose beverages wisely --At least 8 glasses per day is needed for good hydration. Take juices, instead of sodas and alcoholic drinks, because they contain phytochemicals. Aside from a refreshing drink, grape juice also contains the antioxidants contained in red wine.


     6) Choose whole grain breads and cereals, brown or basmati rice -- These foods helps raise the level of serotonin, a chemical in the brain associated with depression.


Well, another important thing that we need to help us fight against menopausal symptoms and complications--exercise, exercise, exercise. Everyone needs exercise, most especially me!

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