I have a client who is finding it hard to lose weight since she has been on hormone replacement tablets. She has now decided, along with her doctor’s advice, that the small amount of benefit she is getting from the HRT does not outweigh the negative side. The advice she was given is just to eat food that would help with her hormones (e.g., hot flashes, mood swings). My question is this: do you know where I would be able to find any information on diet/healthy eating that is aimed for women with hormonal problems?
Apparently, your client was on HRT (hormone replacement therapy) to treat menopause. Menopause, which typically occurs between the ages of 48 and 52, signals the end of a woman’s fertility and is characterized by a drop in estrogen production and cessation of the menstrual cycle. Commons symptoms of menopause include:
- Irregular periods or no periods at all
- Mood swings
- Decreased sex drive
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness and soreness
- Sleep irregularities
- Bone loss (osteoporosis)
HRT is usually used to restore estrogen levels, minimizing the unpleasant effects of menopause and offering protection from osteoporosis. In recent years, HRT use has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, leading to increased interest in alternative methods of dealing with menopause. A woman should thoroughly educate herself and discuss with her doctor all available options before deciding on how to manage menopause. There are risks and benefits associated with any method chosen. Diet and exercise are definitely important factors in the management of menopause, and aging in general. Exercise can lower the risk of weight gain, heart disease and osteoporosis, all of which are common problems associated with menopause.
On the diet front, dietary soy intake has been linked to managing the symptoms of menopause. Soy products (soybeans, tofu, soy milk) contain phytoestrogens, which have weak estrogen like activity in the body. Although not conclusive, many studies have shown a reduction of the symptoms of menopause in women not using HRT. Additionally, there is evidence that phytoestrogens from soy may protect against bone loss. One symptom that appears to be reduced in the majority of studies is the occurrence of hot flashes. Including soy foods into your diet can be very simple, especially with the wide variety of specialty foods now available at your normal grocery or health food store. Adding as little as one to two servings of soy products can help. This would include eight to 16 ounces of soy milk, a half to one cup of tofu or toasted soybeans. There are also soy cheeses, soy meats (not-dogs, fakin), often called TVP (textured vegetable protein), soy snacks and chips, soy protein powders and soybeans (order the edemame at Japanese restaurants).
Fluctuating serotonin levels often causes mood swings. A high carbohydrate snack can often prove helpful. A plant derived dietary supplement called 5-HTP (hydroxytryptophan) could also increase serotonin levels and may also aid in controlling appetite.
You have probably already surmised that calcium is an important mineral for the menopausal woman. Shooting for 1500mg through diet and/or supplementation should be the goal. Look for a calcium supplement that includes vitamin D to ensure utilization.
Of course, a multivitamin and mineral formula should form the foundation of any supplement plan. B vitamin intake (especially folate, B6 and B12) is linked with heart disease risk and is typically low in the diets of Americans.
So there you have it, the recipe for optimizing health during menopause. Exercise, eat a healthy, well balanced diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables, include oen to two servings of soy products, take your multivitamin and mineral, and ensure adequate calcium intake. Throw sufficient water intake in there, and we are done.
The preceding information is not meant to dissuade one from using HRT. As mentioned earlier, there are risks and benefits to all forms of treatments. One should work together with their doctor to determine the best plan for management.
For more information on menopause, try these sites:
There are many others, but these offered a wide range of relevant articles. Good luck.