Nutrition and Menopause

Every year 4,000 or more women enter menopause and spend about a 1/3 of their life time in that state. For some women, menopause causes no major changes in their lifestyle and has little effect on their mood or physical well being. For others, the symptoms and emotional upheaval can be overwhelming. Some of the most common symptoms of menopause include:

-Hot flashes

-Vaginal dryness

-Bone loss

-Increased risk of urinary tract infections

-Painful intercourse

For most women, menopause may cause no symptoms at all. For as many as 20% of women, however, menopause can be disabling. Some of the symptoms can be made worse by the emotional changes that the woman is also dealing with at the same time. (Source: Christine Ammer. The New A to Z of Women’s Health. Fifth Edition. Check Mark Books, New York, New York)

Soy proteins have phytoestrogens in them that can create a 45% reduction in hot flashes as well as reduce the risk factors for cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. Soy-based protein may also have a number of other benefits related to menopause. These include a decreased risk of certain cancers, reduced risk of diabetes, increased control over existing cases of diabetes and a reduction in kidney stones and/or gallstones. It also has benefits related to blood pressure and the overall lipid profile.

Miso, a fermented soybean paste, is eaten frequently by women in Japan, who may have several bowls of miso soup each day. It has been shown to be beneficial for treatment not only of menopause, but also to reduce the risk of breast cancer and to increase bone density in post-menopausal women. (Source: Creighton University School of Medicine, Alternative Medicine. Soy Protein and Menopause)

In addition to eating more healthy diets, doctors also encourage women to continue or begin exercise programs because many women start gaining additional weight as their metabolism slows down. Activity can also make the symptoms of menopause seem less severe. Daily exercise also plays a role in better heart health, helps control of diabetes and can also prevent other health conditions. It may also help to make the woman feel more energetic and youthful, which has also been shown to improve the severity of menopausal symptoms.

Beginning a walking program is a good start, but women should also be doing some weight training exercises as well.

Supplements

Many women, especially those who are concerned with gaining weight, may stop eating the right foods or eating enough, slowing their metabolism and causing the weight gain they were trying to avoid in the first place. The body needs to have the right fuel to work correctly and will do whatever it takes to receive this energy. Having enough protein in the diet is important not only because it is vital to every cell and function in the body, but also because it plays an important role in metabolism and hunger control. Starting the day with a protein and carbohydrate rich breakfast can give you the energy needed to get moving and to keep going throughout the whole day. If you are not allowing yourself to go too long without eating, you will not have problems with cravings and won’t need to rely on willpower to avoid the candy machine or the fast food restaurants.

Supplements are a great way to make sure that you are getting enough protein in your diet, and can come from one of four sources: whey, soy, rice and egg. All protein supplements have their pros and cons that should be carefully considered before they are added to the diet. In addition, it is important to know how much protein is required for your individual dietary needs.

Soy and rice protein are acceptable for those who are following a vegan or vegetarian diet, while whey and egg are only acceptable to certain types of vegetarians. Because food allergies can be a problem, it is advisable to start these supplements with great caution and only after talking to a doctor first.

In addition to these, there is another option, one that is much smaller and can be more convenient than the others. Profect, from Protica, is a small protein supplement shot that is less than three ounces in size and only one hundred calories. It delivers 25 grams of protein per serving, however, and is available in a number of fruit flavors.

Protein and Menopause: A Case Study

After a year of hit or miss menstrual cycles, Shirley is sure that she has finally managed to make it through “The Change,” as menopause is often called. While her sister had no symptoms at all, Shirley finds herself soaked with sweat when everyone else around her is perfectly cool and comfortable. She has been back and forth to her doctor for a urinary tract infection that just comes and goes all of the time and has been irritable and weepy with her friends and family. She is most upset by the fact that she has gained 20 pounds in a year-long period.

After talking to her doctor, who confirms that she is indeed going through menopause, Shirley will start a new diet plan and will be exercising as well. In place of her fatty fried foods, she will eat fresh vegetables and greens and will opt for whole grain breads and pastas in smaller serving sizes than she had previously used.

In addition, her between meal snacks will now be servings of Profect, which will give her the protein she needs as well as keeping her fuller for longer. This way she keeps her metabolism working the way it should without overeating or starving herself. It also will help her have the energy that she needs to exercise during the day.

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