- Menopause is a natural part of aging that causes many changes in the body, primarily the cessation of menstrual cycles and periods.
- During menopause, you may experience changes in sleeping habits, energy levels, body weight, and mood.
- A registered dietitian nutritionist can work with you to create a nutrition plan that may improve menopause symptoms.
Menopause is not a disease or a disorder; it is a natural part of aging for women and can include many changes in the body. These include changes in hormone levels, bone integrity, cardiovascular risk, metabolism, sleeping habits, mood, and the eventual cessation of menstrual cycles.
In this article, you’ll learn how to recognize the signs of menopause and why working with a registered dietitian nutritionist can be helpful.
Nourish offers personalized nutrition counseling and accepts the most popular insurance carriers. If you want to take the next step in your health journey, consider booking a virtual appointment with a registered dietitian.
Transitioning into menopause can cause a change in menstrual cycles, and your periods can become closer or farther apart. Most women experience the transition, called perimenopause, between the ages of 45 and 55, and it can last for an average of 7 years, although, for some people, it can be longer.
During perimenopause, your cells use energy differently, which may contribute to changes in your metabolism. Reproductive hormone production will also decline, and eventually, your periods will stop. You reach menopause when there have been 12 months from your last period.
What Are the Symptoms of Menopause?
Below are five classic symptoms of menopause. You may or may not experience all of these symptoms, and the duration will vary per person.
1. Change in Periods
Changes to your period during the transition are normal and can include:
- Shorter than regular periods.
- Longer than regular periods.
- Less time between periods.
- More time between periods.
- Changes in blood loss.
It can be surprising when your cycle changes, and speaking with a healthcare provider can help ease any concerns.
2. Hot Flashes
An unexpected heat traveling up your neck and upper body is a classic symptom of a hot flash. They can last for thirty seconds or can stay for ten minutes, and a brief cold shiver often follows them.
Some women will experience hot flashes during sleep, called night sweats. They can occur several times within an hour and disrupt sleep. Scientists suspect this rapid temperature change is related to changing estrogen levels during menopause.
3. Changes in Sleep
Night sweats may not be the only factor keeping you up at night because your natural sleep cycle can change during menopause. It can be challenging to feel your best when you aren’t sleeping well, and your doctor may recommend a sleep aid to help restore your regular sleep schedule as closely as possible.
4. Mood Changes
Changes in hormones and decreased sleep can contribute to changes in mood. Decreasing estrogen levels can impair neurotransmitter communication in the brain, making it harder to signal the production of happy hormones. Mental health counseling may be helpful, and your healthcare team can review other appropriate treatment options with you.
5. Vaginal Dryness
Decreasing sex hormones can contribute to vaginal dryness, making sexual intercourse painful. If you are trying to have sex but feel uncomfortable, you can discuss treatment options with your physician.
Can a Nutritionist Help with Menopause Symptoms?
A nutritionist does not have formal clinical training and is not a protected title, but a “registered dietitian nutritionist” is a protected title that requires licensure to practice.
A registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) is a licensed healthcare professional who is eligible to work in medical clinics alongside doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, and social workers to provide you with the best possible care.
Some research has shown the benefits of changing your diet to improve the symptoms of menopause. For example, increasing your fruit and vegetable intake and following a plant-based diet can help. Making dietary changes under the guidance of an RDN can make these changes easy to follow. Working with an RDN can help you make nutrition changes that may help with symptom relief.
You can access a registered dietitian nutritionist through Nourish, an online platform that connects people with reliable and compassionate nutrition experts. Click here if you’re ready to get individualized nutrition support to manage your menopause symptoms.
Ways a Nutritionist Can Help With Menopause
A benefit of working with a registered dietitian nutritionist is receiving individualized care through nutrition counseling. One-on-one sessions with a health professional with special training in diet and nutrition are an excellent opportunity to ask questions, increase your knowledge, and learn strategies to manage your menopause symptoms.
Most appointments are 60 minutes and will review your health goals, current dietary habits, food preferences, and overall health status. During your appointment, you may want to ask:
- Are there any supplements that can help with menopause symptoms?
- Why is my weight changing so much during menopause?
- What types of foods should I be eating right now?
- Are there any tips for improving sleep?
Creating an Eating Plan for Managing Menopause
You can create an eating plan to help you stay on track with your nutrition goals. Try to include foods from different groups and eat colorful fruits and vegetables throughout the day. Your appetite may change during menopause; on some days, you may eat more than others - this is normal.
Below is a three-day sample eating plan for managing menopause. It includes omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce inflammation, and foods rich in calcium, vitamin D, and fiber, essential for your bones, heart, mood, and satiety.
The following meals are a guide, and your dietitian can recommend specific serving sizes appropriate for you.
- Breakfast - Overnight oats made with milk (or a plant-based alternative), topped with a handful of mixed nuts, fresh raspberries, lemon zest, and hemp hearts.
- Lunch - Vegetarian chili with kidney beans, quinoa, carrots, bell peppers, onion, and garlic. If desired, add a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of shredded cheese.
- Dinner - Grilled lemon, garlic, and dill salmon served over brown rice, with a side of shredded kale salad with sliced almonds, a spoonful of feta cheese, fresh blueberries, and red onion.
- Breakfast - Homemade Greek yogurt parfait topped with mixed nuts, diced apple, ground cinnamon, toasted large oat flakes, and chia seeds.
- Lunch - Whole grain pita pockets stuffed with tuna salad, fresh spinach leaves, sundried tomatoes, and goat cheese.
- Dinner - Chickpea curry served over brown rice and a side of fresh green salad with diced orange and fennel. Top with fresh cilantro and mint to naturally enhance the flavor of your dish.
- Breakfast - Whole grain toast with mashed avocado, sliced hard-boiled eggs, fresh tomato, paprika, lemon juice, and a pinch of garlic powder.
- Lunch - Mixed bean salad with cucumber, bell peppers, green onion, corn, and roasted red pepper. Top with a homemade salmon patty (mash the bones into the salmon for extra calcium.)
- Dinner - Whole grain penne pasta with asparagus, olive oil, minced garlic, fresh tomato, and basil leaves. Top with a red sauce with lean turkey mixed in, and finish your meal with grated parmesan.
Other Strategies for Managing Menopause
Hormone replacement therapy (also called menopause hormone therapy) can help manage menopause, but it may not be the right option for everyone. You can talk to your doctor and healthcare team to help you find the best solution.
Find a Dietitian Covered by Insurance
Making dietary changes under a registered dietitian nutritionist's guidance may help ease symptoms related to menopause. You can create a nutrition plan that addresses all areas of your health, including weight management, healthy bones, and cardiovascular health.
Nourish offers one on one nutrition counseling, and currently, 94% of patients are covered by insurance and pay zero dollars out of pocket. If you’re ready to start making nutrition changes, consider booking a virtual appointment with a registered dietitian nutritionist.
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