You thought puberty was long gone in the rearview mirror? If you are entering perimenopause (or in labor) it may be time to reconsider as your body is going through another round of hormonal changes.
“Perimenopause is often referred to as ‘second puberty,’ and just like the first time, food, drink, stress, and lifestyle choices will affect us more than we did in our twenties and thirties,” says Functional Health Coach Christine Garvin.
And just like puberty, the onset of perimenopause (or the transition to menopause) is different for everyone – although it most commonly affects women 40 and over. “The transition can take an average of four years, but it can be an 8-10 year process for some women,” explains Dr. Gretchen San Miguel, MD and Chief Medical Officer of Medi-Weightloss.
Symptoms can also vary depending on the stage of perimenopause, but some of the most commonly reported side effects are hot flashes, irregular periods, mood swings, low sex drive, fatigue, weight gain, and trouble sleeping. While these symptoms can be very bothersome, many can be alleviated with strategic diet.
“Food is an effective medicine – every woman has the power to take control and make sure that she is giving her body the nutrients it needs to best cope with these hormonal changes,” says Holistic Nutrition Coach Shannon Vitale, CTNC, BCHN. “Women can empower themselves to transition smoothly into menopause by paying attention to the foods they eat.”
Prepare the way with this expert-curated list of healthy foods that can keep perimenopause symptoms at bay.
Whole bean soy
When estrogen production slows down, perimenopause symptoms typically increase – but it doesn’t have to be. Eating foods high in phytoestrogens can help increase the availability of estrogen and stave off symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, and low sex drive. “Soy is by far the food with the highest phytoestrogen content. So focus on foods like tofu, tempeh, and edamame to increase your soy intake, ”suggests nutritionist Erin Skinner, adding that smoothies are a great way to add tofu to your daily diet.
Skinner cautions, however, that not all soybeans are made the same way: be sure to choose whole grain soy over soy isolate (soy protein), which has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. Also buy organic / GMO free soy to avoid high pesticide content.
Related: 33 Podcasts, Books, and Instagram Accounts That Go Real About Menopause
Vitamin B6 has a powerful effect during perimenopause – it helps fight depression, boosts energy, and even reduces the severity of hot flashes – but is often scarce at this stage in a woman’s life. “When we do the Dutch hormone panel on women in perimenopause, I see low B6 levels in about 90% of the cases,” says Christine Garvin, functional nutritionist. “Salmon is one of the foods with the highest levels of B6 and other B vitamins.”
Salmon is also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which San Miguel of Medi-Weightloss says play key roles in reducing mood swings and reducing the risk of depression.
A glass of red wine a day can help keep perimenopause symptoms at bay, according to Skinner. Not only does red wine contain resveratrol, which has been shown to reduce the occurrence and intensity of hot flashes, but it can also help promote the storage of the beneficial E2 estrogen.
“After estrogen is produced by the ovaries, it eventually clears from E2 estrogen to E1, then on to either 2-OH, 4-OH, or 16-OH,” explains Skinner. “A decrease in estrogen metabolism – conversion to E1 and beyond – increases availability and improves perimenopausal symptoms; Red wine in moderation is one way of reducing this conversion. “
Off to the farmers market! Charging cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage is a smart move, according to Vitale. Broccoli is particularly rich in content Diindolylmethane (DIM), which supports proper estrogen balance. “Cruciferous vegetables help detoxify the liver, which helps balance your hormone levels,” says Vitale.
Experts estimate that a woman’s skin loses about 30% of its collagen in the first five years of menopause and then 2% more annually for the next 20 years. Translation? Fine lines, sagging appearance and larger pores. But here’s the good news: supplementing with collagen during perimenopause not only helps rejuvenate your skin, but it can also prevent weight gain from lack of estrogen.
To repair your collagen, Garvin suggests adding collagen powder to things you already consume frequently, like coffee, tea, yogurt, or cereal. Bone broth, seafood, and chicken can also be great sources of collagen.
Related: 10 Best Collagen Supplements of 2021
When it comes to perimenopause, cholesterol can be more of an ally than an adversary. “A significant amount of estrogen” comes from cholesterol, so a low-fat / low-cholesterol diet can negatively affect estrogen levels, ”explains Skinner. “Don’t be afraid to use olive oil, avocado oil, butter, ghee, and coconut oil while you’re cooking, including frying your vegetables.”
Related: These are the best and worst edible oils for heart health
Do you want to plant the seeds for a healthier menopause? Fill your pantry with a variety of seeds! Garvin touts the benefits of sesame seeds and sunflower seeds for their ability to increase progesterone production, while a 2015 study found that women who consumed flaxseed for three months had decreased menopausal symptoms and improved quality of life. “Flaxseeds can be ground and used in baking, or added to smoothies, oatmeal, or yogurt,” suggests Vitale.
Some women even swear by the practice of seed cycling, which involves eating different seeds at different times of the month in order to achieve optimal hormone levels.
Foods low in histamine
Are you struggling with brain fog or anxiety? They may have a histamine intolerance which, according to Garvin, becomes more common in women “the deeper they get into perimenopause”. A low histamine diet can include a variety of foods, including leafy greens, apples, brown rice, and oats.
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When in doubt, go really blue. Blueberries contain quercetin, which Vitale calls a “powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound”. Not only does quercetin help detoxify the liver, but the bioflavonoid has been shown to reduce oxidative stress on the ovaries (and help them age faster).
Next up: 50 quotes about menopause that will resonate with every woman