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Posted at: Mar 18, 2017, 2:29 AM; last updated: Mar 18, 2017, 2:50 AM (IST)WELLNESS

Preparing for a pause

Menopause can be a life-altering experience for many women. However, it can be tackled effectively with modifications in diet and other habits

Anjali Mukerjee

Menopause can mean different things to different women. Each woman’s journey through menopause is unique. On an average women achieve menopause at the age of 50-52 years However, some women go through premature but natural menopause around the age of 40. 

For some women menopause is only a flutter in their biological rhythm but for a large number of women it may cause tremendous upheaval in their lives in physical and emotional terms. Women experience some discomfort around three to four years before menopause. This stage is called peri-menopause, when there is a notable decline in hormone production. This can prove to be the most difficult time for some women.

The discomfort may be mild, moderate or severe. Their periods may get delayed or come early but these are erratic for sure. The periods may either get scanty or in some cases quite heavy. Some women experience depression, mood swings and reduced sex drive. This may affect their personal life and even relationships with family and close friends. Others may experience no significant changes. These are the fortunate few who live their whole lives without any discomfort. They breeze through their periods, don’t have any trouble and slip into their menopausal phase without much ado. And there are those women who make a dramatic entry into menopause. They experience severe depression and anxiety, which tends to play havoc with their personal lives. Some women are awakened during sleep due to hot flushes, light sweats, etc. This can lead to sleep disturbances that further can lead to mood disorders and a constant feeling of tiredness. Memory impairment, difficulty in concentrating, lack of mental clarity are few of the other common changes experienced by women approaching menopause. In some cases there may be excessive hair growth in areas such as the upper lip, chin, around the belly button, midline of the chest etc. All these problems only add to the depressive states that exist around menopause. Fortunately, there is nothing ‘serious’ about these problems and the solutions are straight forward and effective.

Eat right

The most important dietary advice for all menopausal women is to increase intake of foods that are rich in phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are weak plant estrogens that have only a fraction of the strength of true estrogen. These phytoestrogens have both an ‘estrogenic effect’ as well as an ‘anti-estrogenic effect’. Phytoestrogens are present in virtually every plant. Most fruits and vegetables like onions, apples, carrots, grapes, etc. contain small quantities of plant estrogens. Most beans contain higher quantities of plant estrogen, rajma, kabuli chana, black whole urad dal, chowli, moth, matki, sprouted moong beans are good sources of phytoestrogens. However, the richest sources of plant estrogens are soya beans, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, methi seeds.

Dietary guidelines

  • Eat at least one phytoestrogen-rich food everyday. (e.g. soyabeans, flaxseeds, sesame seeds etc)
  • Drink a glass of  carrot juice every day. It provides you with calcium and phytoestrogen.
  • A quarter cup of roasted soya nuts can meet your daily requirement of phytoestrogen.
  • Eat a bowl of sprouted moong every day.
  • Eat more whole dals, beans, fruits, vegetables, nuts & seeds.
  • A bowl of low fat curd will keep your bones healthy.
  • Limit your intake of caffeine, soft drinks and alcohol as these leach out the much-required calcium from your body.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • A sedentary lifestyle adversely affects bone mass.
The above recommendations will require a few changes in your present lifestyle. Women should be educated about their bodies so that they are able to make the necessary changes well in advance. Fluctuating hormone levels can play havoc with some women. These suggestions may help save you of needless hormone related problems. 

— The writer is nutritionist, founder director-Health Total


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