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Diet and Menopause

Some people say menopause is a natural, positive experience. Fair enough, But the symptoms and side-effects
of menopause can be bewildering both to women patients and their doctors. Fortunately, a healthy diet combined with regular physical exercise really does make a difference. So whether you are in the perimenopause, menopause, or post-menopausal stage, take my advice: eat healthily and get fit.

Food and mood

As hormones fluctuate, so does brain chemistry, including a powerful nerve chemical called serotonin. Peri- and postmenopausal women who struggle with mild depression might have lower serotonin levels than other women. While low levels of the chemical may cause a woman to crave sweets and feel grumpy, an increase in serotonin turns off the cravings and restores a more agreeable mood. If serotonin is at the root of the mood swings, then including a carbohydrate-rich snack, such as a bagel with jam or a bowl of fat-free popcorn, could be all it takes to boost serotonin levels and mood.

Boning up on calcium

During and after menopause, women face some important health issues, including a higher risk of osteoporosis. Women who consumed ample calcium throughout life enter menopause with strong bones and are at lower risk of developing osteoporosis. Unfortunately, most women don't get enough calcium. In fact, one out of every two postmenopausal women consumes less than half the recommended calcium allotment (1,200 mg to 1,500 mg) needed to prevent age-related bone loss.

Nonfat milk or calcium and vitamin D fortified soymilk are good sources of calcium and vitamin D, a nutrient essential for transporting calcium into the bones. Drink at least three glasses a day or take a supplement that contains 500 mg of calcium and no more than 400 IU of vitamin D.

Protect your heart

Your risk for heart disease escalates quickly as estrogen levels drop after menopause. Hormone replacement therapy, diet and exercise can significantly reduce heart disease risk. Adopting a low-fat, high-fiber diet that includes a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals, legumes including soybeans and nonfat dairy products, can help keep blood-fat levels low and heart disease at bay.

Apples and pears

Weight gain is a problem after menopause. In addition, postmenopausal women's figures begin to change as they gain more weight above the belt.

Apple-shaped people carry most of their weight in the waist and chest, while pear-shaped people store fat below the belt. Pears are less likely to develop heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and gallbladder disease. Pear-shaped people are also less likely to die prematurely from disease than apple-shaped people. In addition, diseases in pear-shaped people progress more slowly and less seriously than apple-shaped people, even if they have similar body weights and body fat percentages. Therefore, apple-shaped women may want to consider losing as little as 10 percent of their body weight to reduce disease risk.

Should women supplement?

While anyone worth her weight in nutrition credentials will advise women to first turn to food for their nutrition needs, in reality many women don't get enough nutrients in their daily diet from food alone. Approximately one-half of middle-aged women do not consume even two-thirds of the recommended amounts of many vitamins. Marginal dietary intake is linked to many mental, emotional and physical problems, including memory loss, mood swings, depression, irritability, osteoporosis. Taking a moderate-dose multivitamin and mineral supplement that contains extra vitamin E, plus a second supplement of calcium and magnesium, will help provide nutritional insurance.

Eating right can definitely ease the various discomforts of menopause including hot flashes, bloating, and mood swings. The menopause diet is all about achieving a balance by eating certain types of food while foregoing others. The right balance can alleviate most symptoms and make the individual simply feel better.

Recommended Foods
Fruits such as melons and citrus are highly recommended; they are high in potassium and balance sodium and water retention. People should also include dried fruit like apricots and figs. Vegetables including yams, collard greens, and broccoli may also make menopause more pleasant. Soy products, seaweed, and oily fish like tuna and salmon are some other beneficial foods that can help make this diet successful. For a complete chart, people should consult a physician.

Alleviating Menopause Symptoms
The lack of fattening foods and complex carbs is obvious. Like many diets, people are encouraged to minimize the consumption of such foods and food groups. Doing so will provide your body with a more chemically appealing balance and, hopefully, alleviate some of the symptoms typically associated with menopause.

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