We wrote about the sort of foods we should be eating during perimenopause and into menopause, but are there foods we should be avoiding? Can the foods we eat have a significant negative effect during this time of life?
Diet plays a vital role in our health at every stage of life, when we're young we need to be eating more protein and getting higher levels of calcium because we're growing and building muscle and bone. In later life we also need to eat a good amount of protein and calcium to help fight against the effects of ageing and menopause on our muscles and bones and maintain a healthy body.
During menopause we can experience negative effects from what we eat and drink. Spicy food is a major trigger for hot flushes, and caffeine can also play a part. As we are more at risk of developing heart disease and osteoporosis due to lower oestrogen levels, reducing or cutting out caffeine can help reduce the risk of heart problems. We're better off having a decaf tea or coffee with skimmed milk (or a non-dairy alternative enriched with calcium) than a double shot latte with full fat milk.
Alcohol consumption can be a contentious subject, with some believing it can make hot flushes more frequent while others tout the health benefits of light drinking. Drinking alcohol regularly affects the quality and duration of our sleep and contributes to depression and low mood (no-one is happy with a hangover), so binge drinking is definitely out. Some women can see a definite link between drinking and their hot flushes while for others it's not so clear cut.
Perimenopause can trigger the onset of joint pain due to a combination of factors. Hormone levels play a part in joint maintenance and in the ability of our bodies to produce natural anti-inflammatory compounds that also ease joint pain. The natural ageing process is also involved as our cartilage and bone doesn't regenerate like it used to, leading to lasting damage from everyday wear and tear. What we eat can help reduce inflammation, so avoiding processed foods, those high in sugar and fats, red meat and refined carbohydrates can help reduce inflammatory joint pain.
Frequent steak sandwiches on white bread slathered with butter, washed down with a sugary drink may be out, but a salmon salad packed with tasty fresh vegetables and a side of fruit is definitely in, so you don't have to forego taste to eat an anti-inflammatory diet. Of course, eating healthily helps us manage our weight too, and being overweight is a contributing factor to joint pain, but even when obesity is taken into account, the foods we eat have a significant impact on the levels of inflammation in our bodies.
The menopause process can last for several years, so make sure you find a style of eating that you enjoy and that is sustainable. There's nothing wrong with a few treats now and then but we can't eat like we used to in our twenties! A great start is to tweak your favourite dishes to make them better for you, and swap one sugary snack for our chocolate MenoShake. Once you feel the health benefits, you'll find it easy to stick to your new lifestyle.