Perimenopause —the point in life where a woman’s worries shift from her period to hot flashes, mood swings, memory loss, and vaginal dryness. Although you cannot control when your ovaries produce fewer hormones you can control how you handle it. Understanding how your behaviors and dietary habits influence perimenopause symptoms is the beginning of managing life during menopause.
What does food have to do with perimenopause?
When your ovaries estrogen and progesterone production slows, you have entered perimenopause and started the journey towards menopause. In addition to impacting your sexual and reproductive development, estrogen and progesterone affect the urinary tract, the heart and blood vessels, bones, breasts, skin, hair, pelvic muscles and the brain. The absence of these hormones can lead to mood swings, hot flashes, memory loss, urinary tract infections (UTIs), less vaginal lubrication and more.
Estrogen and progesterone can be found in other sources besides your ovaries. Supplements are a common way to replace these hormones during menopause, but they’re not the only way. Consuming estrogen-rich foods is a simple way to boost your hormone levels.
What foods should you be eating during perimenopause
To compensate for the changes in your bodily functions during perimenopause, it is important to prioritize proper nutrition to help manage symptoms and adjust to life during perimenopause. Your daily food consumption should include healthy fats, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and quality protein. Good sources of these include:
- Fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, anchovies
- Seeds like flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds
- Brown rice
- Whole-wheat bread
Consumption of these foods can help manage symptoms like weight gain from slowed metabolism, cardiovascular diseases and weakened bone strength.
You can also increase your estrogen levels by consuming estrogen-rich foods. Some of these foods include:
- Flax seeds
- Dried fruit specifically apricots, prunes and dates
- Nuts specifically pistachios, peanuts and walnuts
What foods should you NOT be eating during perimenopause
While some foods can be helpful for perimenopause symptoms, certain foods can make the transition worse. Added sugars and processed carbs lead to high blood sugar. An increase in blood sugar has been linked to a higher incidence of hot flashes and increased weight gain in perimenopausal women.
Caffeine and alcohol consumption can lead to disrupted sleep, and perimenopausal women often experience abnormal sleep patterns. If you’re struggling with your sleep schedule, try to eliminate or decrease the amount of alcohol and caffeine consumed around bedtime. Keep track of your progress and monitor any changes in quality of sleep to better understand what works for you.
Due to decreased levels of estrogen, perimenopausal women have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure. Limiting your salt intake may help lower that risk. High-salt foods have been linked to lower bone density, so limiting your sodium intake may help lower that risk as well.
Entering perimenopause does not have to be a dreaded time in your life. Perimenopausal women can still enjoy life’s pleasures while being conscious of their new bodily changes. Including proper nutrition in your daily food choices can help keep you feeling like yourself as you adapt to perimenopause. Start a conversation with your healthcare provider about food choices that can be specifically beneficial to your perimenopause experience.
Do you have more questions about perimenopause? Are you looking for a group of supportive women, experiencing the same things and looking for a space to share? Join Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and Functional Medicine/Holistic Health Practitioner, Krista Margolis, for our Perimenopause Workshops.