Talking hormones: Foods to avoid and eat during menopause

“Get me a fan, crank up that aircon, pass the chocolate and pour me a wine pronto,” I bark to no one in particular as I am heading into hot flush number 500 for the day.

As I tell this to my doctor, he recoils in horror. Firstly, you need to cut the wine, reduce your sugar intake and try and destress. De-stress, is he kidding? How can I destress when I have no idea if the dreaded bleeding will return at the most inconvenient of times, or if I’ll get a decent night’s sleep or if I’ll start dripping with sweat in the middle of a meeting? Hmmmmm – it’s a tad difficult I tell him.

Not sure he understands, he’s never been through it.

However, I have to concede that the good doctor was right about the chocolate and wine. Here are some quick tips I was given, which have helped immensely.

It’s hard to exercise when you feel like crap, but once I started, and also started eating the right foods, I did notice a difference. I also felt like I was taking control back – which is important when your body seems to be taking over and you are in this strange hormonal vortex.

For me it was vitally important to feel like I was in control, and a way of doing this was to keep active, and eat right (most of the time). But also don’t be hard on yourself, because there will be days when you just can’t be bothered – and that’s okay, because we are all human! Give yourselves a break.

1. Exercise

It will help you sleep better, will help reduce stress levels, keep weight down is good for overall health. Start with something light like walking or swimming. Introducing weights is a great idea – even light weights. We need to build muscle mass as we age – because we lose it. Try walking with friend after work, exercise in the early evening can also help you sleep, and catching up with a friend is great for stress levels, plus who doesn’t need a good hormonal bitch session. For me, I love walking with friends, swimming and aerial yoga – I’m a little bit too hyperactive for normal yoga, so this keeps me on my toes, helps with strength and great for the stress levels.

In my aerial yoga classes.
One of my favourite poses.

2. Drink lots of water

Not only is this better for us than coffee or sugary drinks, it helps because during menopause, we can often experience dryness. This is most likely caused by a decrease in estrogen levels. Drinking 8–12 glasses of water a day can help with these symptoms. Drinking water can also reduce the dreaded bloating that can occur with hormonal changes. I definitely noticed dryness, my lips and skin were dry and I just wanted to keep drinking water.

3. Lay off the sugar

To reduce weight gain, fight fatigue and control our blood sugar levels, we need to lay off the sugar, sugary drinks and food. If you feel like something sweet have a piece of fruit. You can still have something sweet (maybe a small piece of chocolate – just not the whole block). It is all about balance, and depriving ourselves won’t help. It’s all about being sensible, just don’t grab that bag of lollies or package of biscuits – it won’t help.

4. Banish the refined carbs

Refined carbs such as white bread, potatoes, white rice and pasta can cause moodiness and fatigue. The last thing we need when we already feel like crap. How about replacing with wholegrains. You don’t need to give them up altogether, just make different choices.

5. Can the caffeine

When you are tired with first thing you want is a cup of coffee. STOP right there. That cup is only making things worse. Caffeine contributes to a lack of sleep and those hot flushes, it will only make them worse. As boring as it sounds, try herbal tea. Trust me, you’ll feel much better. Caffeine is not your friend while going through menopause. I drink a ton of ginger and peppermint tea.

6. Booze is not your pal

Most of us love a glass of wine or two. However, if you have bad menopause symptoms it is suggested that you lay off the alcohol. It will only add to your fatigue and moodiness. If you really want a wine, how about diluting it with sparkling water.

7. Spicy foods

If you are experiencing hot flushes – stay away from spicy foods. Spicy goods make your core body temperature go up, and you will start sweating, which is exactly what happens when you have a hot flush. If you love hot food, you can still have it, by including it in your food, just don’t over do it.

…Foods to eat

Here is a list of foods that are suggested to be good for you, especially while going through menopause. This is just a small list, and I suggest checking out menopause diets – there are a heap of great books on the market. If in doubt, consult a doctor, qualified nutritionist who specialises in menopause.

Nuts (Almonds are great)
Whole grains
Leafy greens (especially anything from the cauliflower family)
Chia seeds
Colourful fresh fruits and vegetables
Water – and lots of it
Cooked dried beans and peas, such as black beans, kidney beans, lentils, split peas
Eat a lot of veggies and fruits

Most importantly, everyone is different. Do what feels right for you, what works for you and if in doubt, see a professional who can help guide you. For me, it has been a great help to lay off the alcohol, chocolate and sugary foods. I also don’t eat red meat, but have a lot of oily fish and a lot of greens.

If I am hungry and craving something sweet, I have a protein shake in the blender.

Here is my favourite recipe that’s ready in seconds. It tastes great, is low in sugar, high in protein and keeps you feeling full for longer and reduces cravings:

  • Ice
  • 2 scoops of protein powder
  • 1 large tablespoon of cacao powder
  • Top up with tap water

I also keep a stock of frozen grapes in the freezer. I love snacking on these.

Good luck and let me know what has worked for you.

Remember, we’re in this together.