Nutrition for Menopause

Written by
Kat Georgeou

Menopause can be a challenging transition for some women marking the end of their reproductive life. Additionally, many women face other challenges which may be personal, physiological, and different social perspectives.

On the flip side, it can be an opportunity for women to reflect and make changes to enhance and improve their quality of life. Understanding hormonal changes can help to support health during this pivotal time.


Understanding Hormonal Changes in Women

Women go through three main phases of hormonal changes throughout their lives: reproductive age, perimenopause, and menopause. Perimenopause is marked by a decline in estrogen, irregular cycles, and symptoms like vasomotor symptoms (VMS), which can last several years. Menopause, on the other hand, is characterised by the cessation of the menstrual cycle for 12 consecutive months, typically occurring around age 51.

During perimenopause and menopause, the body undergoes various changes. The ovarian follicle numbers decrease, which ultimately leads to less estrogen production. This hormonal shift can result in symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, anxiety, depression, low libido, fatigue, and palpitations.


The Role of Estrogen

Estrogen, a steroid hormone produced by the ovaries, plays a crucial role in various bodily functions. It helps in bone development and maintenance by inactivating osteoclast activity, which can degrade bone. Estrogen also impacts cardiovascular health by improving plasma lipid profiles, leading to increased high-density lipoprotein (HDL), aka ‘good’ cholesterol and decreased low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, aka ‘bad’ cholesterol.


Importance of Understanding Hormonal Changes

Understanding these changes is crucial for promoting healthy ageing and quality of life. While menopause marks the end of the reproductive age, it also signifies the beginning of a new phase of life with many decades ahead. However, the decline in estrogen levels during menopause increases the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis, highlighting the importance of proactive health management.


Common Nutritional Challenges

Maintaining bone health is essential during menopause, as estrogen decline increases the risk of osteoporosis. Adequate intake of calcium (from dairy, fortified foods, leafy greens, almonds, and fish) and vitamin D (from sunlight, fortified products, and mushrooms) is crucial.

A heart-healthy diet rich in complex carbohydrates, polyphenols (found in plant foods), antioxidants, and unsaturated fats can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The Mediterranean diet, which emphasises fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, fish, lean protein, and olive oil, has shown benefits in reducing cardiovascular risk factors.


Dietary Recommendations

While there is no one-size-fits-all diet, the Mediterranean diet is often recommended for its health benefits. It includes high amounts of polyphenols, antioxidants, and unsaturated fats. However, individualization is key, and other diets like the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet or adherence to national dietary guidelines can also be beneficial. Limiting alcohol and spicy foods, managing stress, and incorporating regular physical activity can also improve well-being during this phase.


Addressing Body Composition Changes

During perimenopause and menopause, women may notice changes in body composition, including increased abdominal fat and decreased muscle mass. Maintaining muscle mass is crucial for overall health and can help mitigate some of the body composition changes that occur during menopause. Adequate protein intake, along with resistance exercise, can help preserve muscle mass and support long-term health.



While supplements can be useful to bridge gaps in the diet, a food-first approach is recommended. Supplements such as fish oil (for omega-3 fatty acids) can be beneficial if oily fish intake is low. Calcium and vitamin D supplements may also be necessary, especially as dietary requirements increase with age. However, it's essential to discuss supplement use with a healthcare provider or dietitian to ensure they are appropriate for individual needs.

Navigating hormonal changes during perimenopause and menopause is a natural part of a woman's life. By understanding these changes and adopting a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients, women can support their health and well-being during this phase. With the right approach to nutrition and lifestyle, women can embrace this new chapter with confidence and vitality.

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