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Johns Hopkins Bayview News - Managing Menopause

Winter 2013

Managing Menopause

By: Jessica McQuay
Date: February 4, 2013

What you choose at mealtime may help reduce symptoms

Older African American woman
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Hot flashes, night sweats,mood swings—the symptoms of menopause can be hard to cope with at times. But women’s health specialist, Betty Chou,M.D., FACOG, says that certain dietary changes may help reduce menopausal symptoms for some women. She suggests eating a variety of foods to get the proper nutrients, and following some sound guidelines:

Boost your calcium and Vitamin D. An adequate intake of calcium for women aged 51 and older is 1,200 milligrams per day. Eat and drink two to four servings of dairy products and calcium-rich foods daily to help prevent bone loss and osteoporosis. Calcium is found in dairy products, fish with bones (such as sardines and canned salmon), broccoli and legumes. If needed, talk to your doctor about a daily calcium supplement.

Replace natural estrogen with plant-derived estrogens (called “phytoestrogens”). Foods high in phytoestrogens include yams, eggs, flaxseed, soy products, potatoes, oats, tomatoes, eggplant, apples, pomegranates, dates and cherries. Ground flaxseed and soy products in particular are widely used to help relieve hot flashes and other symptoms (though the research showing their effectiveness is not conclusive).

Pump up your Vitamin B and omega-3. Eating at least three servings of Vitamin B- and omega-3-rich foods a day may help improve your mood (though research proving this also is not conclusive).Vitamin B is found in whole, unprocessed foods, such as lean red meat, poultry, liver, whole grains and lentils. Look for omega-3 in salmon, tuna, flaxseed or flaxseed oil.

Round out your diet with plenty of fiber. Help yourself to foods high in fiber, such as whole-grain breads, cereals, pasta, rice, fresh fruits and vegetables (at least 1.5 cups of fruit and 2 cups of vegetables each day). Most adult women should get about 21 grams of fiber a day.

Limit amounts of caffeine and alcohol, as well as salt intake. Caffeine and alcohol can trigger or increase symptoms associated with hormonal changes. Excessive salt intake can increase water retention and bloating.

“These dietary guidelines support a healthy diet for women over the age of 50,” says Dr.Chou. “However, we’re all different. Though some of these diet and supplementary changes are widely used among menopausal women to decrease symptoms, there’s no conclusive evidence showing they’ll definitely improve hot flashes or mood swings. If you feel you need more guidance, contact your physician.”

What Is Menopause?

Menopause is a time in a woman's life when she stops menstruating because her ovaries have stopped producing eggs. Estrogen and progesterone (female hormones) levels also decrease.

The average age for menopause is 51. Symptoms typically vary, but may include hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, difficulty sleeping, decreased libido, vaginal dryness and dry skin. Some women experience concentration or memory problems. Menopause also may increase osteoporosis or bone thinning, as well as urinary leaking.

To schedule an appointment with Johns Hopkins Women’s Services at Johns Hopkins Bayview, call 443-997-0400.