This month we talk to nutritionist Kirsten Chick who over the years has developed a way of applying the science of nutrition and health that encompasses the psychology of eating and how to approach nutrition in a stress-free way.
A self-care plan for menopause might include nutrition, exercise, meditation, herbal support, talking with friends and journaling. I’m going to stick to my specialist subject here: nutrition. I’ve been a nutritional therapist, teacher and writer for 17 years, which means 17 years of research into and working with women who need hormonal support.
In perimenopause, your levels of oestrogen usually fluctuate a lot more erratically than usual, and eventually will drop, along with progesterone. These hormonal changes are responsible for so much more than stopping your periods, though.
Oestrogen helps to regulate inflammation levels, temperature, bone density and tissue lubrication throughout your body. It is also protective against memory loss, urinary tract infections, cardiovascular disease, weight gain and possibly even schizophrenia. Progesterone influences skin health and elasticity, bone strength, brain and nerve function, temperature, mood and behaviour, as well as reducing muscle spasms and gallbladder activity.
That paragraph alone may explain why you’re experiencing some of the many joys that perimenopause and menopause can bring!
It can be a bumpy ride, but with supportive nutrition, you can smooth it out in a number of key ways.
You actually have different types of oestrogen, the main ones being E1, E2 and E3. E2 is the strongest acting, and so dominant through your fertile years, especially just before ovulation each month. After menopause, you can still make plenty of oestrogen, but it’s now mostly E1, a weaker form. To make sure you’re making enough to sustain its health protective effects, add green leafy vegetables, seaweed, nuts and seeds into your daily menu.
Additionally, you can supplement your own E1 levels with foods that contain a similar substance called phytoestrogens. You can find these in:
- Soya, mung beans, lentils
- Flax/linseeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, almonds
- Oats, barley
- Yams, carrots, cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower)
- Apples, berries, grapes
You don’t want to go overboard on any of these, but including small amounts regularly in your diet can be really helpful.
Your liver is pivotal in hormone regulation, so some support there is usually sensible too. It thrives on good quality proteins, including organic or wild meat and fish if you eat them, plus green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts.
Broaden this to a rainbow of fruit and vegetables and you’ll also get a healthy intake of natural anti-inflammatories and antioxidants to help keep your skin, brain, nerves, bones and other tissue in top condition.
A similar menu of foods will give you everything you need to make serotonin, your happy chemical, to help with low moods.
Menopause is a natural and necessary transition, but if you nourish yourself though it, you can make a substantial difference to how you experience it.
You can find out how to nourish yourself thoroughly in my new book, Nutrition Brought to Life, which has chapters on hormones, stress, liver support, inflammation, the immune system and much more, as well as 50 delicious recipes.
I also run online Menopause Nutrition workshops and offer one-to-one nutrition consultations. Find out more on my website www.connectwithnutrition.co.uk.