Eating Your Way Through Menopause

Author: Angela Fleming   Date Posted:27 February 2018 

Edible ways to support you through your transition

Often information on how to consume a healthy diet is very general, its common sense; cut out sugar, increase fruit and veg, reduce saturated fats etc. How many of us actually take notice of this generalised information? And how exactly is it going to support my current condition? There is no specific reasoning behind it other than ‘because it’s good for you’. Yes, we know this, that’s what mum used to say right? Well I want specifics and reasoning behind why I am embarking on this edible journey, and I want it to be palatable, easy and certainly not time consuming! So what exactly are the specific nutrients required for menopause and how do they help?


Hormones & symptoms

Firstly, let’s take a quick look at our hormones and common symptoms. It is the declination and fluctuation of hormones, particularly oestrogen, testosterone and progesterone that are liable for the array of inconvenient and bothersome menopausal symptoms. Common symptoms include vaginal irritation, hot flushes, tiredness, weight gain, night sweats, mood changes and lowered libido.

When it comes to eating for menopause the main goal is to help ease these symptoms, support the body physically as well as mentally and improve wellbeing. It is important to note that foods do not contain the equivalent hormones, yet the nutrients required to support production, excretion, maintenance and stabilisation of hormones.     


Specific body systems to support and why

Nervous system; to support mood changes via regulating neurotransmitters and hormones. Progesterone and oestrogen receptors are broadly expressed throughout the brain. A reduction and fluctuation in these hormones can affect many neurons resulting in psychological changes.

Neurotransmitters play a pivotal part in the emotional response. Mood changes during menopause can have a substantial impact on the quality of life, and can affect those around us. Emotive neurotransmitters include noradrenaline, dopamine, GABA, serotonin and glutamate.   

Skeletal system; to improve bone mineral density and reduce risk of bone conditions. The loss of oestrogen is associated with large increases in bone resorption. Oestrogen promotes the activity of osteoblasts, which are cells specific for bone production. 

Cardiovascular system; to support heart health by minimising potential risk factors. Progesterone and oestrogen receptors are present in vasculature walls. It is suggested oestrogen assists in regulating blood pressure by modulating the renin-angiotensin system (hormonal system that regulates blood pressure and fluid balance), endothelin (a vasoconstrictor) and reducing oxidative stress.  

There is a link between the rise in elevated cholesterol and triglycerides and waning hormones during menopause. Oestrogen and progesterone assist in metabolising plasma lipids (triglycerides) and lipoproteins (cholesterol sub-types).

Gastrointestinal system; to improve bowel transit time in order to eliminate excess LDL cholesterol fragments and improve absorption of nutrients.

Endocrine system; the occurrence of hot flushes and night sweats in menopause is still not directly understood. The hypothalamus, a region in the brain that controls temperature and hormone secretion is said to play a role in hot flushes. It is also suggested that neurotransmitters and cortisol are also likely to contribute to thermoregulation. 

Weight gain can occur during menopause due to a number of lifestyle factors such as poor diet and lack of exercise. Even women who consume a healthy diet and exercise regularly, may see an increase in body mass. One factor may be due to insulin. Oestrogen may regulate insulin action directly via actions on insulin-sensitive tissues or indirectly by regulating factors like oxidative stress. Insufficient insulin levels may lead to elevated glucose levels, which in turn may be stored as excess fat.

Cortisol secretion is elevated during times of stress. Sustained cortisol release from the adrenal glands can disrupt the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis. Disruption may increase blood glucose levels, possibly leading to insulin resistance. There is a link between cortisol and weight gain. Cortisol facilitates visceral fat storage by mobilizing triglycerides in fat cells and relocating them to the visceral fat cells deep in the abdomen. Elevated cortisol can also have an unfavourable impact on blood pressure alongside a reduction in energy levels.  

Reproductive system; to support vaginal irritation due to dryness, maintain libido and urinary tract health. Oestrogen receptors are found in the vagina and urethra. These tissues depend on oestrogen stimulation to maintain normal structure and function. Oestrogen decline is responsible for losses in vaginal secretions, arousal, collagen production, ability to retain water and reduced skin elasticity in the vagina. This results in the epithelium to thin considerably, which may cause pain during intercourse. Pain during intercourse can be a factor in the reduction of libido during menopause.

The presence of oestrogen maintains an acidic vaginal pH which discourages the growth of pathogenic bacteria. A reduction in oestrogen alters vaginal pH, and may increase the risk of urinary tract infections.



How do nutrients help?

Specific foods can certainly make a difference to your overall symptomatic profile. Phytoestrogenic foods are a must when transitioning through menopause. Phytoestrogens are plant-derived compounds that behave like oestrogen, and are able to activate oestrogen receptors.

There are several different phytoestrogenic compounds, derived from various foods. It is recommended to consume 2 servings of phytoestrogenic foods per day to provide symptomatic relief, and hormonal stabilisation and maintenance.


Common phytoestrogen compounds and foods include;




Steroidal/triterpenoid saponins


Kidney beans


Liquorice root


Black-eyed beans

Sesame seeds



Mung beans

Sunflower seeds



Important nutrients to consider and why;




Food source


Skeletal health; maintaining bone density.

Greek yoghurt, dairy products, broccoli, sesame seeds

Vitamin D

Skeletal health; enhances calcium absorption and bone mineralisation.

Sardines, tinned salmon, butter, cod liver oil


Reduce stress by supporting adrenal function, support blood glucose, and improve energy.

Pumpkin seeds, green leafy vegetables, cacao, almonds

Vitamin C

Reduce stress by supporting adrenal function, reduce oxidative stress related to loss of oestrogens, support collagen synthesis, aids in the conversion of dopamine to noradrenaline.

Red capsicum, kiwi fruit, strawberries, spinach

Vitamin B1

Required for the production of glutamate, which is further converted to GABA, improve energy.

Whole grains, sunflower seeds, lentils, brazil nuts

Vitamin B6

Required for the production of glutamate, which is further converted to GABA, improve energy.

Avocado, chicken, beef, sweet potato, peas


Oestrogen decline/deficiency has been suggested to increase urinary loss of zinc, required for production of glutamate.

Red meat, oysters, plain popcorn, walnuts


Required for the synthesis and conversion of serotonin.

Bananas, oats, eggs, turkey, beans


Required for the synthesis of dopamine.

Turkey, cheese, seaweed, tuna


Improve bowel transit time in order to eliminate excess LDL cholesterol fragments and improve absorption of nutrients.

Fruit and vegetables, wholegrains

Healthy fats

Support cardiovascular health, and neurotransmitter function.

Olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, salmon


Support blood glucose regulation, neurotransmitter production, and formation of protein carriers.

Legumes, animal products, nuts and seeds


Obviously we can’t fit all these foods into one day, but be sure to concentrate on which ones to choose from when it comes to meal and snack times. But remember to keep everything in balance, a healthy diet is paramount. There are loads of different food options to choose from, this is just a taste of what you can consume. Get creative, start googling recipe ideas, the results are endless! Your body will love you for it! So don’t let your menopausal symptoms get the better of you, take control of your body and get the better of them!


Written by Angela Fleming
Angela Fleming

Angela (BHSc Naturopathy) is a qualified naturopath who strongly believes in living a healthy and happy lifestyle. Angela believes being active, taking time out for yourself on a regular basis and consuming a balanced healthy diet (with the odd sneaky treat included now and then) is the fundamental key to keeping our minds and bodies in good health.

Angela loves to pass on her knowledge of healthy and happy living to her two young children, who love to experiment in the kitchen with her and train alongside her in Karate.

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