Thursday, July 3, 2014

Food and the menopause

Menopause is a term used to describe the last menstrual cycle in the life of a woman. The average age of women that have entered menopause is around 50, which means that women spend around 1/3 of their lives in the so-called post-menopause period. In modern developed societies, around 20% of the total population belongs to the group of women in post-menopause. It is interesting to know that the period when menopause happens is genetically determined and women simply cannot avoid this transition. This means that menopause doesn’t depend on the number of ovulations, the number of childbirths, taking contraceptives or anything similar. The process of decreasing of reproductive abilities in women starts around ten years before the last menstrual cycle – the ovulary functions are slowly shutting down and the level of production of certain hormones rapidly drops. This is a period known as perimenopause.

A lot of researchers have confirmed that certain food can help with menopause. For example, soya can reduce some of the menopause symptoms and difficulties. The good thing about soya is that it can be used in different dishes) together with rice, salads, vegetables etc.). Of course, food and drinks like alcohol, coffee, sugar, and spicy food can even increase the usual symptoms like heat waves, insomnia, mood swings etc.

In the past two decades the most common method of treatment of postmenopausal symptoms is by using hormonal products. The procedure is also known as hormone replacement therapy. It’s good to point out, that women from different ethnic backgrounds experience different levels of difficulties. Asian women have least difficulties in the postmenopausal period and this is probably because of the diet that they practice throughout their life. The main reasons for these difficulties are the unstable levels of estrogen and progesterone in women. They can cause feeling of heat especially in the upper part of the body and even cause redness on the face and on the neck. These so called heat waves can last up to half an hour. These difficulties occur because of the proportional decrease of the level of estrogen when the glands secrete other hormones which eventually lead to fluctuations in body temperature.

It is a well known fact that healthy diet and regular physical exercises can solve many health problems. Some experts consider that a lifestyle of this kind can reduce the risk of coronary diseases and osteoporosis (two diseases that often attack women in menopausal period). That’s why it is highly recommended to take food low in cholesterol and saturated fat. Probably the best way to calculate the optimal level of fat intake is to take less than 1/3 of daily intake of calories.

The activity of phytoestrogens can be estrogenic or antiestrogenic. In the menopausal period women have fewer estrogens, and the phytoestrogens found in the food bind with receptors exhibiting estrogenic activity.

Fruit, vegetables, cereals are especially rich in carotene, vitamin B, zinc and vitamin C, substances that can ease the postmenopausal difficulties.  

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