It turns out that what you put on your plate can help fight fatigue, mood swings, belly bloat, hot flashes, and even vaginal dryness that menopause brings many women. The secret, according to clinical nurse specialist Nora Gedgaudas, author of Primal Body, Primal Mind, is to eat foods that support your adrenals.
“The health of your adrenals and adrenal functioning is the health of your menopause,” Gedgaudas says in her book.
The adrenals- two small walnut-sized glands that sit on top of each kidney- are responsible for balancing the lower production of ovarian hormones in menopause, like estrogen and progesterone. If the adrenals aren’t functioning optimally, an imbalance occurs, and can cause debilitating menopause symptoms. By eating to support healthy adrenals, you can have a much easier time in menopause.
Wondering which foods can help heal your adrenal glands? Here’s a list of five foods you’ll want to add to your diet:
1. Fresh fruit. Manage mood swings by feasting on fruit- the sugar and fiber can help keep blood sugar levels steady, and researchers at Ohio State University found that low evening blood sugar levels led to an increase in angry behavior.
2. Choose chocolate. Fight fatigue and brain fog with chocolate. A study found that chocolate containing medium to high levels of cocoa flavonols could boost attention and verbal skills in older adults. Cocoa powder added to smoothies is a great way to get the benefits without the added fat found in chocolate bars.
3. Switch to Soy. Swapping your morning cow’s milk for soy may help reduce hot flashes and night sweats, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. While research on soy supplements to reduce menopause symptoms is mixed, clinical studies show that women who eat high amounts of soy protein experience fewer hot flashes and night sweats in menopause than women who consume less. Get your fill from dietary sources like soy beans, soy milk, and tofu for the highest protein and isoflavone (phytoestrogens with estrogen-like effects) content.
4. Savor salty snacks. The adrenal glands play a major role in sodium retention, and when hormones are imbalanced or low, sodium can be excreted along with water, leading Dr. James L. Wilson, author of Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome to recommend adrenal fatigue patients drink a glass of salted water (to taste) first thing in the morning to improve their ability to function. Dr. Wilson says that if you’re eating a whole foods diet without processed foods, your desire (or lack of desire) for salt will guide you in your sodium consumption. In fact, the Institute of Medicine recently reported that there is no benefit to limiting salt to the very low levels recommended by the National Heart Association. Committee chairman and professor of public health at the University of Pennsylvania Dr. Brian L. Strom explained in the report that going too low (below 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day) could result in increased risk of heart attacks and death. So go ahead and savor health salty snacks like olives, tuna jerky, and hummus.
5. Prioritize protein. Load up on omega-3 fatty acids like tuna, salmon, white fish, oysters, soybeans, egg yolks, and spinach. Low levels of omega-3s are associated with inflammation, which is linked to health issues in postmenopausal women such as vaginal dryness, hot flashes, mood disorders, and even osteoporosis. A study in Menopause found that omega-3s were an effective treatment for major depression in menopausal women. And while a diet that supports your adrenals can help address visceral fat storage attributed to hormonal changes in menopause, overall weight gain that occurs with age is associated with the loss of lean muscle mass. Bumping your overall protein intake at each meal to 25-30 grams helps maintain muscle by promoting muscle protein synthesis, according to a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
Adding these foods to your diet can help reduce or prevent menopause symptoms. Support your body and your adrenals as you transition into the menopause years stress-free.