18 Oct 2021 World Menopause Day – food, mood & those menopause blues
Who would have ever thought the words ‘happy’ and ‘menopause’ could go together?
What was once considered a taboo subject has now ‘happily’ become a mainstream discussion for women, men, and indeed employers, the world over.
Celebrated author and Registered Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Jackie Lynch, has an impressive list of female health and menopause credentials to her name with 3 leading titles: ‘The Right Bite’, ‘Va Va Voom – The 10 Day Energy Diet’ and her latest release ‘The Happy Menopause’, as well as her hugely popular podcast of the same name. Jackie runs a busy nutrition clinic, winner of the 2021 Prestige award for ‘Menopause Nutrition Clinic of the year’, specialising in supporting women through all stages of the menopause using diet and lifestyle recommendations. In this article she takes us through her top tips for supporting mood, food and mental health considerations for this year’s World Menopause Day.
World Menopause Day is held every year on the 18th October. The purpose of the day is to raise awareness of the menopause and the support options available for improving health and wellbeing.
3 Ways to Beat the Menopause Blues
By Jackie Lynch
Mood swings, anxiety and brain fog are incredibly common issues for women in their early 40s onwards, which can come as an unwelcome surprise. It’s not always easy to join the dots and realise that you’ve started the perimenopause, especially if your periods are still regular and you think you’re too young. These early warning signs of the menopause are commonly due to a drop in progesterone, which is typically the first hormone to start fluctuating.
A carefully chosen diet can be a key player in helping to balance your hormones and address any deficiencies that may be affecting your mental health and I explore this in more detail in my book The Happy Menopause: Smart Nutrition to Help You Flourish. To get you started here are three ways that your food choices can help to calm your nerves, regulate your mood and clear your brain:
BRING ON THE B’S
B vitamins are a key player in mental health and wellbeing, because of their role in converting nutrients into serotonin, the good mood neurotransmitter, and a deficiency in one or more could lead to emotional disturbances, depression and poor cognitive function. Vegetables are a great source of most B vitamins, so try skewing your 5-a-day in favour of veg rather than fruit, but be careful how you cook them – B vitamins are water soluble, so try steaming or steam-frying instead of boiling, to avoid losing up to 40% of the goodness when you’re draining your veg. They can also be depleted by chronic stress and regular alcohol consumption, so it’s worth taking a hard look at your lifestyle, in case you need to make some changes.
Low levels of vitamin B12 can leave you feeling exhausted, as well as triggering issues of low mood, loss of motivation, poor memory and concentration, all common concerns for the midlife woman. A simple blood test from your doctor will identify a deficiency. This is becoming increasingly common with the trend towards plant-based diets, because B12 is only found in animal food sources, such as meat fish or eggs, so vegans may benefit from taking a supplement.
Every menopausal woman’s best friend, magnesium is a brilliant all-rounder that can support your energy levels, relieve headaches, relax your aching muscles and tune up a sluggish bowel, all of which could affect your mood. If you’re feeling jittery and anxious, magnesium can be a big help, because of its role in calming the nervous system and regulating our body’s response to stress. Low levels of magnesium might also result in anxiety and panic attacks and inhibit the production of serotonin.
Leafy green veg, such as spinach, rocket, watercress and kale, are great sources of magnesium, as well as being a one-stop shop for other menopause-friendly nutrients such as calcium, iron, vitamin K and vitamin C. What a great reason for eating your greens every day! Almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, pulses and brown rice are all good sources too.
Or you could treat yourself to a bit of ‘me’ time, and have an Epsom Salts (magnesium sulphate) bath or foot bath, because the magnesium will absorb through the skin, calming you and relaxing your muscles, so that you feel like a whole new woman after a stressful day.
PUMP UP THE PROTEIN
In my clinical experience, many women simply don’t eat enough protein and it’s incredibly important that we do, because the human body is made of protein and we need it for the growth and repair of our cells, especially if we’re recovering from illness or injury. Our skin, hair and nails (which can often be affected during the menopause) are made of protein and we need it for healthy muscles and bones too.
But it’s also essential for our mental health, because the body uses the amino acids found in protein to generate neurotransmitters. Serotonin isn’t the only neurotransmitter that improves your mood and banishes the blues. Adrenaline, noradrenaline and dopamine all have the feel-good factor and help to improve motivation, concentration and memory, as well as contributing to stress management. Low levels of these neurotransmitters can leave you feeling lethargic, distracted and demotivated.
Aim to eat some protein with every meal and snack, to give your body the tools that it needs to support your brain and nervous system. Protein-rich foods include meat, fish, eggs, dairy, pulses, hummus, soya, quinoa, nuts and seeds. Complete proteins, found in all the animal foods, plus soya and quinoa, contain all the essential amino acids in one easy package. However, many plant proteins contain some, but not all the amino acids, so you need to have a good variety in order to access everything you need, so it’s wise to include a complete protein in your diet at least once a day, to cover all the bases.
#makemenopausematter #personalisednutrition #lifestylemedicine #nutritionaltherapy #foodforyourhealth
For more nutritional evidence on menopause:
- Read our latest Nutrition Evidence Alert
- Download our NED InfoBite with the latest nutritional research on menopause.
For more BANT resources:
If you’re looking for more free resources to help you take those first small steps to optimising your diet then visit our website and download the guides below, or use our Find a Practitioner function to book a consult with a Registered Nutritional Therapy Practitioner to receive more personalised recommendations.
- BANT Wellbeing Guidelines
- BANT ‘Eat a Rainbow‘ Infographic
- ‘Food for your Health’ campaign Food Guides
- Weekly Meal Planner
About the Author
Jackie Lynch is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, Fellow of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and founder of the WellWellWell nutrition clinic, where she specialises in women’s health and the menopause.
Since 2012 she has been the Chair of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, the renowned training provider of accredited nutritional therapy training. During her tenure she has overseen the transition from the ION Diploma in Nutritional Therapy to a BSc, in partnership with the University of Portsmouth, an immensely proud moment for the organisation. In May 2021 she was recognised as a Fellow of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle medicine (BANT) for her contributions to the nutritional therapy profession.
Keen to break the taboo about discussing the menopause, Jackie launched the popular diet & lifestyle podcast The Happy Menopause in 2019 and her latest book The Happy Menopause: Smart Nutrition to Help You Flourish was published in 2020. She is also the author of Va Va Voom: The 10-Day Energy Diet and The Right Bite: Smart Food Choices for Eating on the Go.