Managing Perimenopause Symptoms

Published on: 05/26/2023

Menopause is when your MENstrual cycle PAUSEs—for good. It’s not a disease to be treated, but rather a normal stage of life. Menopause “officially” starts 12-months after your last period. That happens, on average, around the age of 51.

This change doesn’t happen overnight, though. There are usually a few years of the menopausal transition, sometimes called “perimenopause.” Perimenopause often starts in the early- to mid-40s. This is when you may start feeling symptoms like:

  • Weight gain—especially around the midsection
  • Hot flashes and night sweats
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Moodiness

Once perimenopause finishes and menopause officially begins, your risks for heart disease and osteoporosis rise.

Why does this even happen? Some of the reasons behind all these changes include your changing hormones, metabolism, stress levels, and lifestyle. 

Because your body goes through all these changes, nutritional needs also change. Here are some expert nutrition tips to help you get through perimenopause.

Nutrition tips for perimenopause

Drink enough fluids

As you age, you may slowly lose your sense of thirst. This means you can become less hydrated without even noticing it, through no fault of your own. Plus, some key menopausal symptoms may be improved simply by drinking more fluids. If hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, or bladder infections are affecting you, try drinking at least six 8-oz glasses per day to help hydrate you. Ideally, that drink is water or herbal tea. Try one of my favorite Chai teas to sip on (contains an affiliate link to Amazon).

Avoid alcohol

You know that alcohol isn’t the best drink for your health—especially too much. Alcohol can worsen hot flashes and make it harder to stay asleep. It can also increase your risk of getting or worsening many health conditions. Not to mention it can make you forgetful and confused, and even lead to muscle mass loss, balance problems, falls, and accidents. Plus, it has nutrient-free calories that can contribute to weight gain. Try this recipe guide for creating your own delicious mocktails!

Cut down on spicy foods, caffeine, and sugar

If hot flashes bother you, consider avoiding common triggers like spicy foods and caffeine. Try this easy lentil soup for a hearty dish – leave out the red pepper flakes!

When it comes to sugar, the simplest way to cut down is to replace sugar-sweetened drinks with water or herbal tea. If the thought of cutting out all desserts doesn’t sound fair, try eating smaller portions or even half-sized desserts. A recent study showed that menopausal women who ate more sweets, fats, and snacks suffered from menopausal symptoms more than those who ate more fruits and vegetables. We’re talking hot flashes, night sweats, muscle and joint problems, and bladder issues were all worse for the dessert-lovers. Instead of a sugary cake, try these lemon chia coconut bites instead.

Eat smaller quantities of food

Did you know that at 50 years old you need about 200 fewer calories per day than you did during your 30s and 40s? That’s assuming you were a healthy weight and you want to maintain a healthy weight as you get older.

This means that you’ll start gaining weight by continuing to eat the same amount of food as you did in your 30s and 40s. On average, women in their 50s and 60s gain about 1.5 pounds every year.

If, on the other hand, you’re looking to lose weight, try to eat about 500 calories less than what you need to maintain your weight. Book a free discovery session with me and let’s chat about how you can do this!

Eating less food can be really hard! Try having smaller portions and using mindful eating techniques to help you get used to it. In our nutrition subscription program, we dive into how to eat more mindfully.

Pro Tip: Avoid eating large meals close to bedtime, particularly if you have trouble sleeping.

Eat higher quality foods

Eating less food doesn’t mean you need less nutrition, though. That’s why it’s really important to eat quality foods with a lot of nutrients (i.e., nutrient-dense foods). These include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. When it comes to protein for your muscles and bones, eat legumes, nuts, seeds, fish, and/or poultry. 

A recent study showed that menopausal women who ate the most greens had the fewest complaints about typical menopausal symptoms like hot flashes. 

By eating more nutrient-dense foods like these ones you’ll get more vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein—all of which are very important to maintain your health at and beyond menopause.

Fun Fact: Your bones love calcium and vitamin D. Some of the richest sources of these are dairy products, fish with bones, and foods fortified with these nutrients (check your labels).

Get more with plant-powered protein containing these ingredients in my free recipe book!

What about soy and phytoestrogens?

Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that mimic the effects of estrogen—the hormone that your body slows down the production of during menopause. Soy is the best-known food containing these phytoestrogens and is often recommended for menopausal symptoms like hot flashes. In addition to food sources, you can also find dietary supplements with high amounts of phytoestrogens. Some women choose to take these supplements instead of hormones. 

Research shows inconsistent results when it comes to phytoestrogens for menopausal symptoms. That means some studies show a small reduction in hot flashes, while others don’t.

A recent review of 23 studies examined the effect of phytoestrogen supplements on postmenopausal women. It found that some women (those who had diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol) who took the supplements weighed about 2 pounds more than women who were not taking phytoestrogen supplements. This was the opposite for healthy women taking phytoestrogens, who tended to weigh less about 0.6 pounds less than those not taking phytoestrogens.

If you’re interested in taking these phytoestrogens, speak with your healthcare professional first.

Final thoughts

When it comes to nutrition, a few simple changes can help you navigate perimenopause weight gain. 

Be sure to drink enough fluids, but not alcohol; cut down on spicy foods, caffeine, and sugar; eat smaller quantities of higher-quality food; and have soy if you enjoy it, but don’t expect it to miraculously solve any bothersome menopausal symptoms.

If menopausal symptoms are bothering you, book an appointment with us to see if our services can help you.

References

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2018, December). The Menopause Years. Retrieved from 

https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/The-Menopause-Years

Mayo Clinic Healthy Lifestyle Women’s Health (2016, April 21). Menopause weight gain: Stop the middle age spread. Retrieved from

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/menopause-weight-gain/art-20046058

Medscape. (2018, July 27). Weight Effects of Plant-Estrogens May Vary After Menopause. Retrieved from

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/899858

Medscape. (2018, March 19). Mediterranean Diet May Help Protect Bones in Postmenopausal Women. Retrieved from

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/894109

Medscape. (2018, November 6). Diet Rich in Fruits and Vegetables Tied to Fewer Menopause Symptoms. Retrieved from 

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/905407

Medscape. (2017, October 10). Docs Call Attention to Women Piling on Pounds in Midlife. Retrieved from

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/886795

Medscape. (2017, June 8). Heavy Drinking Increases Postmenopausal Sarcopenia Risk. Retrieved from 

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/881339

NIH National Institute on Aging. (n.d.). Menopause: Tips for a Healthy Transition. Retrieved from

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/infographics/menopause-tips-healthy-transition

NIH National Institute on Aging. (2017, June 27). What is menopause? Retrieved from

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-menopause

NIH National Institute on Aging. (2017, June 16). What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Menopause? Retrieved from

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-are-signs-and-symptoms-menopause

NIH National Institute on Aging. (2017, June 26). Hot Flashes: What Can I Do? Retrieved from

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hot-flashes-what-can-i-do

NIH National Institute on Aging. (2017, May 13). Sleep Problems and Menopause: What Can I Do? Retrieved from

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/sleep-problems-and-menopause-what-can-i-do

NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2017, March). Treatment for Bladder Infection (Urinary Tract Infection—UTI) in Adults. Retrieved from

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/bladder-infection-uti-in-adults/treatment

NIH National Institute on Aging. (2017, May 16). Facts About Aging and Alcohol. Retrieved from

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/facts-about-aging-and-alcohol

NIH National Institute on Aging. (2019, April 29). Choosing Healthy Meals As You Get Older. Retrieved from

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/choosing-healthy-meals-you-get-older

NIH National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health Clinical Digest. (2016, February). Menopausal Symptoms and Complementary Health Practices:

What the Science Says. Retrieved from

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/providers/digest/menopause-science

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Nicole Roesch, RDN, LDN, CPT provides nutrition counseling services in-person and virtually in Palm Beach County, FL. She specializes in helping families create a positive relationship with real, wholesome food – through education, meal planning & behavioral changes that fit their lifestyle.

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