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Menopause and the Middle Age Spread

26 March 2021

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Ensuring that you eat well during your peri-menopausal phase is important for not just your long-term health status but also supporting the transitional side effects of moving from perimenopause to menopause. Most women will gain additional weight during this phase due to a change in hormonal balance, but there are several approaches to diet as well exercise that can help to mitigate this potential weight gain.

What causes menopause weight gain?

Hormonal changes of menopause tend to promote weight gain around the abdomen rather than on the hips and thighs. However hormonal changes alone doesn’t dictate menopause weight gain. Weight gain is usually related to aging, as well as lifestyle and genetic factors.

For example, muscle mass typically diminishes with age, while fat increases. Losing muscle mass slows the rate at which your body uses calories (metabolism). This can make it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight. If you continue to eat as you always have and don’t increase your physical activity as well as modify your food choices, you’re likely to gain weight.

Foods and Lifestyle Choices to Include and Avoid

Phytoestrogens

One of the key foods to include in your diet are foods containing Phytoestrogens. These foods respond and adapt to your oestrogenic needs, put simply they help balance hormones. These support typical symptoms of menopause including hot flushes, night sweats, memory changes and weight gain, without risking oestrogenic receptive risk factors such as female hormone related cancers. There are three types of Phytoestrogens:

· Isoflavones: Found in legumes such as soya, chickpeas and lentils

· Lignans: Found in Flaxseeds (linseeds) but also in oils such as sesame and sunflower seeds, cereals such as rice, oats and wheat and vegetables such as broccoli and carrots

· Coumestans: Found in sprouted mung and alfalfa beans

Try to include these types of foods in your daily diet to help support your lowering oestrogen levels.

Other foods to include or avoid in your diet:

· Increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables. Try to eat a rainbow of plant-based foods daily. These foods are anti-ageing and help to fight free-radical damage. Aim for at least 5-7 portions of fruit and veg per day. Portion = 80-100g

· Carbohydrates: Try to switch from refined carbohydrates to unrefined/complex carbohydrates as they behave differently in regard to insulin response. For example, switch from white rice to brown rice, white bread to Granary Bread

· Organic: Try if you can to buy organic foods. Theses don’t contain herbicides, pesticides and xenoestrogens which is linked to hormonal disruption

· Saturated Fats: Reduce your intake of Saturated Fats found in foods such as butter, lard, ghee, fatty meats and cheese. Avoid foods that contain Trans Fats such as packaged biscuits and cakes, as these are extremely damaging to your gut terrain. They are often listed as ‘Hydrogenated Fats’

· Omega 3: Eating more Omega 3 fats such as Oily Fish, Flaxseeds, Walnuts helps reduce inflammation.

· Ensure you drink enough fluids: Water helps the body metabolise stored fats making it crucial to weight management. Water and Herbals Teas are ideal. Try to aim for a minimum of 2 litres of fluids per day

· Increase your fibre: Insoluble fibre such as whole grains and vegetables and soluble fibre found in oats, beans and fruit help the body to bind and excrete cholesterol. They also keep you fuller for longer so you tend to snack less

· Additives: Try to eliminate food that contain chemical additives such as food colouring and e numbers. Try to eat real, whole foods

· Caffeine: Avoid or reduce your caffeine intake. It can stimulate the adrenal glands and cause a more elevated menopause symptom, i.e. hot flush, night sweat etc. It also promotes the body to release glucose stored which can affect your insulin sensitivity

· Alcohol: Reduce or eliminate alcohol. Inclusion of this will make menopausal symptoms much worse and will create imbalance in your electrolytes, i.e. dehydrate you and disrupt the adrenal glands, again prompting stored glucose to be released which can prompts weight gain. Wine in particular is problematic because it contains sulphites which increase the severity of hot flushes

· Avoiding refined sugar: Sugar is just empty calories with no nutritional value and plays havoc with your insulin activity

· Moving More: All types of aerobic and strength training should be considered, and you should aim for a minimum of 150 minutes a week of jogging, brisk walking, HIIT as well as strength training such as Resistance band work, Yoga, Pilates. All of these increase your muscle mass. As you gain muscle, your body burns calories more efficiently which makes it easier to control your weight. It also promotes insulin sensitivity.

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