Can Your Diet Help Menopausal Symptoms?

September 17, 2012 3 min read

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This extreme heat is taking its toll on just about everyone, and if you are a woman who is suffering from hot flashes, it must be even worse. These flashes, common menopause-related symptoms, are very troubling to many and can make coping with the current hot weather very difficult. When it comes to diet as an antidote, there are lots of theories with some working better than others for some people. A recent study presents a possibility for some relief.

This study, in the journal Menopause, suggests that a low-fat, high-fruit, vegetable and whole grains diet may help reduce these hot flashes and night sweats. The researchers looked at data from more than 17,000 post-menopausal women in the Women's Health Initiative Study who participated in a dietary modification program to see if a low-fat, high-fruit, vegetable and fibre diet had an effect on some of the menopausal symptoms. The women studied were not taking hormonal therapy.

While the study was designed to see the effect of this healthy diet strategy on symptoms, they found that women in the healthy diet group did lose weight. In fact, a significant finding was that women who lost 10 or more pounds or more than 10% of their body weight were significantly more likely to see their night sweats and hot flashes reduced or in some cases disappear than women who maintain their weight over the study period.

One theory is that having more body fat causes the body to retain heat and losing some weight helps the body dissipate the heat more easily. This is not the first study that has looked at weight loss and reduction of hot flashes. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine following a smaller group of overweight and obese women, found that those who enrolled in a weight loss program and successfully lost both pounds and inches around their waist reported greater improvement in their hot flash symptoms. However, it's the new study that analyzed a specific diet strategy - low fat, high fruit and vegetables - that could lessen symptoms. Weight gain around menopause is not uncommon.

So, taking steps to intervene by making your diet more healthy - fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds and less fatty foods -- can have positive results,. It may help with some of the troubling symptoms and may also help keep your weight in check. It's a diet that I've written about often and it comes with no side effects. And, not only can it help reduce symptoms, it is also related to lowering risk of many other health issues that are more common as we age.

Another strategy to help is exercise - both resistance training and some cardiovascular. Resistance training -- doing some weights, taking a fitness class, playing a sport -- can help retain muscle mass as you age which can help with weight control and also helps with keeping your bones healthy, an important issue for woman in mid-life. I recently wrote about the benefits of keeping a food journal. I suggest it's a good time to try this. Your journal can help you see places where you could add more fruits, vegetables and grains and cut back on fats. Slowly over time, making small changes can add up and the overall benefit will start to be seen....read more