Vitamin E has a protective effect on oestrogen. Controlled scientific studies have shown that vitamin E is effective in relieving menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, vaginal dryness and breast tenderness. Foods that are rich sources of vitamin E include whole grain cereals and flours such as whole wheat flour (atta), wheat germ oil, unrefined oil or filtered oil (ghani tel), nuts, peanut butter, fish and sprouts particularly sprouted wheat.
Essential fatty acids obtained from foods such as vegetable oils, nuts, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, fish and fish oils help reduce vaginal dryness and have the added benefit of reducing hot flushes by enhancing and balancing the production of sex hormones and prostaglandin.
Consumption of soya products has been a part of the traditional diets of Japan, China and other East Asian countries. Several studies on those who eat a lot of soya suggest that soya may help reduce menopausal symptoms. Soya bean contains a variety of phytochemicals that have been found to have beneficial effects on one’s health. Among them are the isoflavones – genistein, daidzein and glycitein which are potent phytoestrogens or compounds that have oestrogen like activity when ingested. These isoflavones have been reported to reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancers, lower total serum cholesterol and raise the HDL cholesterol, slow bone density loss in menopausal and post-menopausal women and lessen menopausal symptoms like hot flushes and mood swings. However the efficacy of soya foods in improving menopausal symptoms is still unclear as research studies have shown conflicting results. Soya bean and soya products such as soya milk, tofu (soya paneer), soya curd, soya chunks or granules are rich sources of protein, calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese and B vitamins. Soya and soya foods are rich sources of fibre and PUFA both omega 3 (alpha linolenic acid) and omega 6 (linoleic acid) but are low in saturated fats.
About six to eight glasses of water should be consumed in addition to other beverages in order to keep the tissues and skin well hydrated.
Menopause usually worsens headaches and migraines, and foods like cheese, pickles, chocolates and alcohol that are rich in amines need to be avoided. Excessive amounts of coffee and spicy foods also need to be avoided as they cause increase in hot flushes.
Exercise is particularly important for women as it helps eliminate hot flushes. Sedentary women are more likely to have moderate or severe hot flushes as compared to those who exercise regularly. Exercise increases the production of HDL cholesterol and reduces LDL cholesterol and has a positive effect on blood pressure, blood lipids, cholesterol and blood sugar, all of which affect cardiovascular health.
To conclude, menopause is not a disease and should be viewed as the next, natural phase of life. The most important thing to do is eat the right type of food and exercise regularly so you can reduce menopausal blues.
(The writer is a consultant nutritionist with 17 years of experience, practising at Panaji and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org)
Eat to beat menopausal blues