By Anjali Mukherjee
The journey through menopause can be traumatic for some women and hassle-free for others. Dr Anjali Mukherjee advises on the right diet to cope with the trying changes
Menopause can mean different things to different women. Each woman’s journey through menopause is unique. On an average, women experience menopause at the age of 50-52. 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 most, it may be an all-consuming passage causing tremendous upheaval in their lives. Women experience some discomfort around three to four years before menopause, (perimenopause), when there is a notable decline in hormone production. This proves to be a most difficult time for some women.
The discomfort may be mild, moderate or severe. Periods may be delayed or come early, sometimes scanty, sometimes heavy. Some experience depression, mood swings and reduced sex drive. This may affect personal life and relationship with close friends. Others may experience no significant changes. These are the fortunate few who go through it without any discomfort. These lucky ones breeze through their periods, have no great trouble in pregnancy or post childbirth, 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, leading to sleep disturbances, which lead to mood disorders and a constant feeling of tiredness. Memory impairment, difficulty in concentrating, a lack of mental clarity is also a common change experienced by women approaching menopause. In some women, there may be excessive hair growth in areas such as the upper lip, chin, around the navel, midline of the chest, etc. All these problems only add to the depressive state that exists around menopause. Fortunately, these problems are not serious and with some effective solutions, menopause can be managed without too much problem.
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 ‘antiestrogenic effect.’ Phytoestrogens are present in virtually every plant. Most fruits and vegetables like onions, apples, carrots, and grapes contain small quantities of plant estrogens. Most beans contain higher quantities of plant estrogen. Rajma, kabuli channa, whole black urad dal, chowli, moth, matki, sprouted moong are good sources of phytoestrogens. However, the richest sources of plant estrogen are soya beans, flax seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and methi seeds.
• Eat at least one phytoestrogen rich food everyday. (e.g. soybeans, flaxseeds, sesame see ds, etc.)
• Drink a glass of carrot juice every day. It provides you with calcium and phytoestrogens.
• Just a quarter cup of roasted soya nuts contains your daily requirement of phytoestrogens.
• Eat a bowl of sprouted moong every day.
• Eat more of whole dals, beans, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
• A bowl of low-fat curd will keep your bones strong.
• Limit your intake of caffeine, softdrinks and alcohol as they leach out the much-required calcium from your body.
• Do not smoke.
• A sedentary lifestyle adversely affects bone mass so make exercise a part of your daily routine.
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 so make sure you incorporate the suggestions given and enjoy this as yet another phase of your life.
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