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How to eat when you start the menopause

By Emma Drackford, Nutritionist, NBE Nutrition Coaching

Although managing menopause can feel like you’re on an emotional roller coaster, the ride might feel a little smoother if you make a few simple dietary changes.

The menopause is a natural stage of life when your periods stop because your estrogen

levels fall. It can affect women at any point between the ages of 40 to 60, but sometimes

starts even earlier. It actually takes 10 years to go through all the hormone changes involved in the menopause – these 10 years are known as perimenopause.

Whilst everyone experiences perimenopause/menopause differently some of the symptoms you might experience include:

  • Hot flashes

  • Night sweats

  • Difficulty managing your weight

  • Increased levels of tummy fat

  • Joint aches and pains

  • Loss in libido

  • Increased anxiety

  • Brain fog

If not managed, this period of your life can set you up for long term illnesses, like diabetes

and cardiovascular illnesses, which makes it really important that you take this period of your life seriously. Most of these symptoms can be eased through your diet, which also prevents long term illnesses.

Working with a nutritionist can be a quick and easy way to get a grip with the changes you need to make as you go through perimenopause/menopause, but if you take a sensible approach you can deal with them yourself.

Many people opt for a low carb/keto approach to manage weight, without realising that this makes other symptoms of peri/menopause worse, particularly hot flushes and night sweats.

What most people don’t realise is that hot flashes and night sweats are predominantly caused by unstable blood sugar levels and less blood glucose in the brain,

(worsened by low carb/keto diets).

In addition, a lack of sleep (which is often experienced during the menopause), is made worse by lower levels of melatonin being produced, and is exacerbated by a low carb/keto approach.

What this ultimately means is that you need carbs in your diet. So rather than opting for a low carb/keto diet you are better off taking a more balanced approach and focusing on eating balanced meals.

How can you take action?

To get a grip on your symptoms whilst going through the menopause, whilst also improving your health there are a number of things you can do with your diet and lifestyle.

1. Focus on a healthy, balanced diet

Eating a diet high in protein, vegetables, fats and a small amount of carbs in each of your

meals will often lead to weight loss, and can improve your insulin sensitivity, giving you better glucose control and improving the way that your body is responding.

Focusing on more wholefoods – lean meat, fish, eggs, vegan/veggie alternatives, potatoes, oats, fruit, veggies and healthy fats - will provide a lower calorie balanced meal that will help to keep you fuller for longer, meaning you are more likely to stay in control of your appetite.

Structuring your meals this way will also have less of an affect on your blood sugar response than if you opted for rice/pasta or bread based meals.

For portions, aim for around 100g lean meat, fish, eggs or vegetarian/vegan alternatives or 200g low fat Greek Yogurt/Skyr, alongside a moderate amount of fats and a clenched fist size portion of carbs as a starting point and adjust from there. Everyone requires a different amount of calories – but this is a sensible place to start.

As well as controlling your blood sugar response, picking lean protein reduces the level of

saturated fat that you are consuming - which will in turn help to reduce the level of saturated fats that you are eating, which can cause high cholesterol and higher levels of visceral fat (which sits around your organs and shows around your tummy).

Adding a moderate amount of healthy fats like nuts, olive oil, avocado or oily fish, gives you a good level of heart healthy fats, which will help to keep your blood sugar levels more stable.

2. Avoid Fructose

When you go through the menopause you don’t deal with fructose as well as before this

stage of life. That doesn’t mean avoiding fruit, which is full of fibre, nutrients and goodness, but it does make fruit juice out of bounds.

Drinking a glass of fruit juice contains a much higher level of fructose with less fibre, it will

elevate your triglycerides and will also give you a big spike in your blood sugar levels.

3. Exercise

Exercising is key to health, but it is particularly important when you go through the

menopause. When you go through perimenopause/menopause your body breaks down your muscle more quickly, meaning that without exercise your muscle mass will drop more quickly, causing your metabolism to fall, which then often leads to an increase in weight.

Resistance training, as well as deep breathing, meditation and yoga can play a crucial role in managing weight, improving bone density, reducing anxiety, lifting your mood and

importantly, improving your insulin sensitivity.

4. Moderate alcohol

For women going through the menopause, alcohol can exacerbate symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats because it impacts on your blood sugar levels. As well as this, drinking alcohol raises your triglycerides and your cholesterol levels, which can then mean that your visceral fat levels increase – which all then shows as tummy fat. Reducing the amount of alcohol you drink will significantly ease all of this.

5. Reduce caffeine

Caffeine is often a menopausal women’s best friend – lack of sleep means that people will reach for 3-6 cups of coffee a day – which then leads to even worse sleep. To break the cycle put a limit of the time that you will drink caffeinated coffee. Aim for no later than 2pm, so that the caffeine has time to get out of your system before you go to bed. It takes on average 6 hours for caffeine to get out of your system.

Unfortunately, too much caffeine can also cause hot flushes/night sweats because it has an impact on your blood sugar levels.

Aim for a maximum of 2-3 coffees a day, and take note of how your hot flushes/night sweats are. If you can switch to decaf and you will start to feel a lot better.

Whilst perimenopause/menopause can bring with it a lot of unwanted symptoms there is a huge amount that you can do to make things easier on yourself. Forget the faddy diets,

opting instead to follow a diet that has less processed food in it and you’ll fair a whole lot

better. If you need more help, you can book in at and get a tailored diet from a registered nutritionist, or join our Facebook group Nutrition Support for

About Emma Drackford, BA Hons, IOPN, PN1

Emma works with clients on a range of issues, providing practical solutions that fit with their lifestyle. As well as general nutrition qualifications she also has a specialism in sports and exercise nutrition.

Common issues she helps clients with are peri menopause/menopause issues food sensitivities and sustainable weight loss.

She has also worked with athletes across a range of sports and abilities including, general fitness enthusiasts, runners, sailors, taekwondo athletes, body builders, MMA fighters, strongman competitors and powerlifters, helping to optimise their diet so they make weight safely when needed and for general health and performance. Website


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