Menopause should be a time to thrive, not just survive. For too long, this natural process has been hidden, and mostly misunderstood. While we’ve been moving in the right direction with so much more awareness and compassion for what can be a difficult process… we still have a way to go.
With almost 8 in 10 women in menopause being in work and menopausal symptoms sometimes lasting for years, it’s inevitable that this will affect organisations. In fact, a 2019 Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) report found that three in five women going through the menopause were negatively affected at work. BUPA found that nearly 900 000 women left their jobs due to menopausal symptoms.
This puts a huge strain on workplaces, with valued and experienced employees leaving. Even where women are not leaving, symptoms can have an impact on resilience, performance and on absenteeism.
The impact of nutrition
Understanding, openness and compassion is, of course, essential here. But what if more practical support could be available, which actually helps alleviate some of these symptoms which are causing women to leave?
It doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, simple nutrition changes and habits can reduce menopause symptoms as well as increase energy levels and improve gut health, weight management and mood.
Furthermore, many of these simple changes and habits improve health overall and are fantastic to take into later life.
This is not a diet. It’s not a fad. It’s inclusive, delicious and built around each person. We all have different preferences, lifestyles, favourite cuisines, and favourite foods. Building in more healthy food will look different for everyone, but we can all get a result.
Why plant-based wholefoods can alleviate menopause symptoms
Regardless of your nutritional preferences, why do we want to eat more plant-based wholefoods in menopause to alleviate symptoms?
- We need to maintain good gut health. This affects our hormones, some of which are made in the gut. The gut affects our immunity, digestion, sleep, mental health, anxiety, focus and much more. When our gut is disrupted, it can affect all areas of our health. Good gut health means a thriving gut microbiome i.e. having lots of good gut bacteria and a diversity of these bacteria in our gut. The good bacteria feed off prebiotics in the form of fibre – which can only be found in plants. This doesn’t just mean greens. It includes grains, beans, fruit, nuts and seeds.
- Certain compounds, called phytoestrogens, are important for alleviating menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes. Many plant foods are rich in these phytoestrogens (and these compounds can only be found in plants). This includes foods like linseed/flaxeed, soy and beans.
- Plants are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients. This is critical for keeping our cells healthy, keeping our bodies strong and for overall performance. Eating foods high in antioxidants – plant foods – is associated with fewer menopausal symptoms.
- Plant based wholefoods help fill you up and help you maintain a healthy weight. Bulking out our plate with more fruit, vegetables and beans will help stop the cravings and can help us maintain a healthy weight..
Does it mean eating salad all day? Certainly not!
However, it is possible to alleviate menopausal symptoms by changing some habits and incorporating more healthy foods into our day.
But how do we make these changes, and how do we make them easy, tasty, filling and nourishing?
Top tips for thriving nutrition in menopause:
- Start adding more fruit and vegetables to every meal. Not only are plants very important to gut health, but they’ll make you more full and give you great nutrients.
- Eat more phytoestrogen-containing foods, such as flaxseed/linseed, edamame beans, grains and garlic. This could be as simple as adding edamame beans to your stir fry.
- Make sure you’re staying hydrated. We often forget to drink water, especially when we’re stressed, but this is key to gut health, focus and even good skin.
- Enjoy the treats and foods you love, and don’t deprive yourself. But build these around health habits. For example, if you’re a cake lover (like me!) then have that treat after a proper balanced meal. Or try one of my healthier, but still naughty tasting, cakes in my Facebook community.
- Cut back on refined sugar, alcohol and other products that could be disruptive to the gut. Nothing has to be given up completely, but a few reductions can be super helpful. And remember it’s more about what we ADD to our food habits, such as all these wonderful healthy plant foods, that has the most impact.
About the author
Vanessa Sturman helps people get rid of fatigue, get a healthy weight and never diet again using healthy habits and building in more delicious plant based wholefoods (whatever your preferences). She is a Plant Based Health Coach and Award-Winning Expert Speaker; a regular on BBC Radio and featured on Sky News, LBC, Times Radio, Metro and more. She helps organisations like Cambridge University Press with Menopause Nutrition and was recently contracted by Michigan State University to teach their future medical students how to implement healthy eating.
Her background as a Workplace Change Manager in behaviour change, plus running a plant based recipe website for five years, has made her successful at building in healthy foods to people’s lives in a fun, sustainable way that gets them results. She’s educated at Cambridge University in Social and Biological Anthropology to Masters level, and she lives and breathes healthy eating herself within her busy life.
If you want to know more about what she can do for you and your workplace, have a look at her website here. You’re welcome to join her free community full of health advice and recipes here or connect with her on LinkedIn.