Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fearing Menopause

When I went through the menopause, my periods stopped. It was the best time of my life. I couldn’t believe I had such freedom. As I’d counseled many clients through the menopause and had heard horrors about all their symptoms, I was determined not to experience any. I followed my advice. I ate well, continued exercising, kept working and planned things I enjoyed. What do you know? Not a single hot flash, night sweat or depression. Was it easy? I can assure you, I kept focused and was determined. Yet many questions come in such as:

Question: “I have been gaining weight steadily since the onset of menopause. I am a 56 year old female with a physically active job, I find the extra 50 lbs to make my job more difficult, and has ruined my self esteem. Any stimulating thoughts would be helpful.
The once thin and now fat farmer.”

My suggestions are:
• Keep focused on healthy eating. You’ll be surprised at how little we need to eat to maintain our weight.
• Keep up your activity routines.
• Limit low fiber starches and sugars, which may lead to weight gain and subsequent mood swings.
• With increased risk for heart disease, keep the fruit and vegetable intake high and fat intake low.
• To lower risk for high blood pressure and stroke, keep up your potassium intake (from fruits and vegetables).
• Increase calcium intake with foods containing calcium.
• Postmenopausal, avoid iron supplements as they can be toxic. Iron overload interferes with the absorption of zinc and calcium, and can increase the risk of heart disease.
• Have a bone density scan done to determine your bone health.
• If on estrogen replacement therapy (ERT), calcium intake should be around 1200 mg per day and Vitamin D intake 400 IU (if not exposed to sun for 15 minutes a day).
• See a registered dietitian before taking a supplement.
• Lower salt intake (eat few crackers, chips, salty popcorn and processed foods)
• Increase your intake of soy foods.

More on Soy
During the menopause, natural estrogen levels decrease, which contributes to the symptoms women experience. Asian women, who tend to have higher intakes of soy foods, rarely experience the symptoms of the menopause, such as hot flushes and mood swings. The body may use isoflavones (from soyfoods) to compensate for the lower hormone levels. This action may help alleviate certain menopausal symptoms in women.
Isoflavones have a similar structure to the female hormone estrogen, but a weaker action. Preliminary clinical studies have shown that supplementing the diets of postmenopausal women with soy foods containing these phytoestrogens, resulted in a decrease in the incidence and severity of hot flushes. These results need to be confirmed with longer studies on larger numbers of women.

There is insufficient evidence for the use of soy isoflavone supplements as an alternative to estrogen for hormone replacement in postmenopausal women. If you’re at risk for osteoporosis, see your physician. You may need to take ERT.

The Final Answer
Should we eat more soyfoods or not? I’d say include soyfoods in your diet, but don’t expect miracles. If they help you get through the menopause, that’s fine. If they don’t, they’re still a good food to have in your diet.