The diet in menopause must be planned taking into account all the physiological and paraphysiological changes that occur in the female organism.
The hormonal alterations that characterize menopause significantly change the nutritional needs and health risks of women; the dietary planning in this period of life has precisely the objective of fully complying with all the necessary needs, and guaranteeing the woman a good general state of form.
Calcium and Vitamin D
The most important change, on which most of the small differences between pre- and post-menopause depend, is represented by estrogen deficiency; estrogens are typically female gonadal steroid hormones that act on a systemic level.
One of the most important (and also best known) disorders related to estrogen deficiency is the alteration of bone calcification which, if neglected (or in the presence of other risk factors), can lead toOsteoporosis: in order to prevent its onset, it is possible to administer hormone replacement therapy to postmenopausal women.
At this point, once hormonal homeostasis is guaranteed, it is essential to ensure that the synthesis / bone remodeling ratio is not altered due to a mineral (calcium - Ca) and / or vitamin (Calciferol - vitamin D) deficiency; in this regard, the diet in menopause plays a fundamental role.
In menopause, the dietary requirement of calcium - a mineral essential for the synthesis of hydroxyapatite in the skeleton - is 1200-1500mg / day, while that of vit. D is 10microg / day. In this regard, it is advisable for women in transition to evaluate together with their doctor and / or nutrition specialist whether, in addition to the diet for menopause and exposure to sunlight - useful for the endogenous synthesis of vit. D - it is advisable to increase the intake of the mineral and calciferol through the intake of drugs or food supplements.
Estrogen replacement therapy (HRT) is recommended for the reduction of symptoms related to menopause and, as already explained, for the reduction of the risk of osteoporosis; However, it should be added that exogenous estrogens are also capable of limiting the increase in the incidence of endometrial (uterus) cancer that occurs in the case of progestogen-only HRT; however, some experiments have shown that estrogen hormone therapy administered massively and for a long time can significantly increase the risk of breast cancer incidence. This eventuality is influenced by numerous variables, including the presence of other risk factors such as hypertriglyceridemia (see above) and the density of estrogen receptors on breast tissue.
Fat and Cholesterol
No less important is the biochemical aspect linked to lipids, lipoproteins, and therefore to risk cardiovascular. In fact, it is known that during the entire fertility period, estrogens play a sensibly protective role against blood vessels; these hormones act on the hepatic receptors of low density lipoproteins (LDL) favoring their removal from the bloodstream and promoting the preservation of a good cardiovascular system. However, as estrogen production decreases, a pathological increase in blood lipids may occur, consequently an increase in the risk of cardiovascular complications; in this regard, the diet in menopause must avoid:
- The increase in total blood cholesterol and especially LDL cholesterol
- The relative excessive weight gain of the visceral deposit (android type)
Diet in menopause must also consider that, as some studies show, one of the predisposing risk factors to breast cancer it is represented by the increase in blood triglycerides. This means that, in addition to limiting exogenous cholesterol and saturated fats to avoid hypercholesterolemia, the type of food and the portions of carbohydrates prevalent foods must also be carefully dosed; this is because the tendency to hyperglycemia favors the synthesis of triglycerides, significantly increasing their blood concentration.
Through nutrition it is NOT possible to significantly reduce the symptoms related to menopausal syndrome: hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, anxiety, irritability, mood alterations, poor memory, reduced concentration and decreased sexual desire. However, the diet in menopause could positively assist drug therapy by ensuring a good supply of plant estrogens or phytosterols. These molecules, already known for their ability to reduce the intestinal absorption of cholesterol, can also simulate the estrogenic action at a systemic level, calming (more or less sensibly) the symptoms related to menopause. Phytoestrogens are widely present in legumes (especially soybeans) and can also be found on the market in the form of food supplements (soy isoflavones, red clover, black cohosh).
The only positive aspect linked to menopause, therefore to the interruption of the menstrual cycle, concerns the need for iron (Fe); with the elimination of blood losses linked to the mucous flaking of the uterine endometrium, the iron intake drops from 18mg / day for the fertile woman to 10mg / day for the postmenopausal woman.
What to eat
Read the article: Diet example in Menopause »